Thanks for sending this Cristie. Does anyone have any name ideas? I’d be very curios to hear.Would it be bad to call it Wind Tunnel Alley?
All This Neighborhood Needs Is a Name
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Apartment buildings housing about 8,000 have taken over an old rail yard along the West Side Highway. This is looking north.
By ALISON GREGOR
Published: February 24, 2012
TWENTY years after Donald J. Trump envisioned a series of apartment towers on the old Penn Central rail yards south of 72nd Street on the Upper West Side, a small city has risen there, with some 8,000 people living in 4,000 apartments — and plans for thousands more on the drawing board.
Damon Winter/The New York Times
The new condo buildings along Riverside Boulevard in the mid 60s seem to be coalescing into a neighborhood.
Suggest a name for this new Upper West Side neighborhood.
The neighborhood, on 77 acres stretching from 59th to 72nd Street, doesn’t have an official name. Some brokers and residents refer to it as Riverside Boulevard, for the new street that runs along its western edge. Others jokingly call it the Strip, a reference to the dozen high-rises that march up the boulevard, a mix of condos and market-rate and subsidized rentals.
The buildings front the green lawns and ball fields of Riverside Park South along the Hudson River. Six more towers with about 3,000 apartments, along with an elementary school, retail space and a hotel, are planned between 59th and 62nd Streets.
From its inception, the Trump project faced stiff opposition from residents and preservation groups worried about overcrowding and the potential loss of light and views. It also ran into bigger roadblocks along the way. Mr. Trump lost control to the big developer Extell, and in 2009, some buyers at the Rushmore, one of the newest condos, sued to get their deposits back.
The litigation has dragged on so long — Extell is appealing a decision in favor of the plaintiffs — that those buyers may be regretting that they ever filed their lawsuit. In the last year, sales along Riverside Boulevard have outperformed the rest of the Manhattan market, and the condos, many with sweeping views of the Hudson, have attracted celebrities like Alex Rodriguez and Plácido Domingo.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the average price per square foot of a condo increased 10 percent from the previous year quarter, to $1,552. Meanwhile, in Manhattan as a whole, the increase was 4 percent to $1,417, according to data provided by the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, which is marketing Extell’s newest high-rises, the 40-story Aldyn and the 42-story Rushmore. The total number of sales increased 23 percent in 2011 over the previous year; Manhattanwide, that increase was 6 percent.
“All these many years of the neighborhood becoming a more mature, more accepted, more recognized neighborhood in New York have finally taken hold,” said Beth Fisher, a senior managing director of Corcoran Sunshine.
Sales at the Rushmore, which has 271 units, started in 2006, and 26 apartments remain, ranging from two- to four-bedrooms, said Donna Gargano, a senior vice president for development of Extell, which has four buildings in the area.
The 150-unit Aldyn, which is 68 percent sold, has 48 apartments remaining, ranging from two- to seven-bedrooms and including two duplexes with large terraces and private swimming pools, Ms. Gargano said. Both buildings have been selling at about $1,500 a square foot.
Gary Barnett, the president of Extell, says he believes the apartments are undervalued. He compared apartments at the Aldyn and the Rushmore favorably with those at the Laureate, a swanky new Upper West Side development on Broadway, or older apartments at Sutton Place on the East Side, which have views of Queens. Both sell in the mid-$2,000s per square foot, he said.
“The prices on Riverside are very low in comparison to comparable product in the rest of the city,” Mr. Barnett said. “It’s a great buy now, and I think it has a lot of room for appreciation.”
Brokers say Alex Rodriguez’s five-bedroom condo on the 39th floor of the Rushmore is a fantastic example of rising value — or maybe the power of celebrity. In mid-January Mr. Rodriguez signed a contract to sell the 3,600-square-foot apartment, asking price $8 million.
He bought the apartment last March for $5.5 million.
“That precisely speaks to my point,” Mr. Barnett said.
Spencer Sloan, an investment banker who has a wife and two small children, bought a three-bedroom apartment in the Rushmore almost two years ago after looking in other neighborhoods, including Battery Park City and TriBeCa. Mr. Sloan said Riverside Boulevard won out, in part, because of its many preschools and the child-centered amenities at the Rushmore.
“We throw a lot of events in our building in the common spaces,” he said. “Baby classes, birthday parties, holiday parties, music classes. We’ve become very close friends with a lot of the families in the building, in the same age bracket, and going through the same things.”
Damon Winter/The New York Times
Vasken Demirjian and Katerina Soukhopalova and their children live in the Aldyn.
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Mr. Sloan said he was particularly excited that a school, to house prekindergarten through Grade 8, is to be built nearby. He described the neighborhood’s access to both Central Park and Riverside Park South as its other draw.
“During the spring, summer and fall,” Mr. Sloan said, “the whole area around the park is full of people. You have Pier i Café right on the water, which is a happening spot, with people drinking or eating along the water. They would also put up a big screen and have movies every week or two, and they would have fairs in the summer along the pier.”
This being New York, and specifically the Upper West Side, both the neighborhood and the park had contentious births. When Mr. Trump proposed a megadevelopment that included a 150-story tower for the former rail yards, many members of the public flat out opposed him and demanded instead that the rail yards be turned into a park. But Mr. Trump scaled back his proposal to 5,700 apartments in 16 towers of 30 to 40 stories, and offered to build a 21.5-acre public park in phases alongside the high-rises and to pay half of its annual maintenance costs, winning city approval in 1992.
Even with approval, however, Mr. Trump could not line up the financing to build his first two towers. He finally sold the 77-acre project in 1994 to Hudson Waterfront Associates, a consortium of buyers from Southeast Asia, staying on as the developer. Although plagued with issues including the seismic instability of the site, inferior and potentially dangerous concrete, and vociferous objections from neighbors angered by growing traffic snarls, the partnership built three rental buildings and four condo buildings now known as Trump Place over the course of a decade.
Then, in 2005, to capitalize on the raging real estate market, Hudson Waterfront Associates agreed to sell the entire project, including the land zoned for the remaining undeveloped towers, to Extell and the Carlyle Group for $1.76 billion. Mr. Trump tried to stop the sale with a lawsuit against Hudson Waterfront Associates, contending that it had worked out a deal with the buyers and failed to get top dollar. The sale eventually went forward.
Once Extell and Carlyle gained control, the three rental buildings were sold to Equity Residential, and an eight-acre parcel of the rail-yard site to the south was rezoned. The parcel had been approved for two apartment towers and a television studio, but Extell received approval for five residential towers, to include 3,000 apartments; the “core and shell” of a school; a hotel; and space for retail shops, restaurants and a cinema. The developers planned a 3.4-acre park winding among the buildings and about 500,000 square feet of affordable housing.
Extell and Carlyle now appear ready to sell the land approved for the two towers where the school and some of the affordable housing are to go; the buildings will still have to conform to those uses under new owners. Other than confirming the listing, neither Extell nor the Carlyle Group would comment on the sale.
But critics pounced on it. “We knew that once that land was zoned to maximize their building area, they weren’t going to build it,” said Batya Lewton, the president of the Coalition for a Livable West Side. “They went through the planning process to maximize their lot area and the value.”
The coalition has objected to Riverside Boulevard since the first Trump proposal back in the late 1980s, and Ms. Lewton said the group hadn’t grown any fonder of it in the interim. She said she was particularly offended by the 421a tax breaks given to the towers, which translate into huge tax breaks for buyers.
“When A-Rod bought an apartment there,” she recalled, “they talked about his real estate taxes, and people laughed.” Mr. Rodriguez was being billed about $1,500 a year when, without the tax break, he would have owed something like $60,000. “So taxpayers basically are subsidizing that luxury development.”
The Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, said he had repeatedly tried to get traffic lights, speed bumps and more enforcement along Riverside Boulevard.
“Riverside Boulevard is not a boulevard, it’s a highway,” said Mr. Stringer, who opposed the project as an assemblyman representing the area.
But current residents and their real estate brokers, when asked about traffic, seem to have other concerns. The lack of neighborhood restaurants and cafes frequently comes up.
“I think, really, we’re gastronomically challenged over here,” said Katerina Soukhopalova, who lives with her husband, Vasken Demirjian, and two children in a four-bedroom apartment in the Aldyn. She believes Riverside Boulevard could develop into something like the south bank of the Thames in London between the London Eye and the Tate Modern, an area full of residences, cafes, galleries and boutiques.
When Ms. Soukhopalova moved to Riverside Boulevard from Broadway and 68th Street last fall, she assumed she would continue to order takeout from her favorite Upper West Side restaurants. She had a rude awakening: no restaurant would deliver.
“They would say, ‘Oh, but we don’t go beyond West End Avenue; it’s one extra block too far,’ ” Ms. Soukhopalova said. “And I’m, like, yelling, ‘You’re missing out on incredible business — it’s a short strip, but there are so many residents here.’ ”
Ms. Soukhopalova didn’t give up, and quickly educated Cafe Fiorello, at Broadway between 63rd and 64th.
“I yelled at them, and I made them deliver,” she said. “And later, the manager called me back and said: ‘Thank you. I didn’t realize how many people live on that block.’ ”