The Real Deal New York

$53M Roosevelt Island park eyed as Manhattan condo and co-op sales booster

September 16, 2011 03:29PM
By Leigh Kamping-Carder


Clockwise from left: An aerial view of Four Freedoms Park, an interior view, a view from the East River and Kathy Sloane, senior vice president of Brown Harris Stevens

Top co-op expert Kathy Sloane, a senior vice president and managing director at Brown Harris Stevens, has high hopes for Roosevelt Island’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park.

Sloane, who sits on the board of the group spearheading the $53.4 million project, claims it will increase property values for the cluster of buildings across the East River, including Trump World Tower and One Beekman Place.

The 4.5-acre site, which juts into the water like a ship’s prow just north of United Nations Plaza, will incorporate a lawn and a granite “room” inscribed with the “four freedoms” Franklin D. Roosevelt advocated in his 1941 State of the Union speech: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

The project is 36 years in the making, stalled by a lack of financing and the 1974 death of its designer, the noted American architect Louis I. Kahn, among other things. Construction on the site finally got underway in March 2010, and the project is slated for completion in the fall of 2012.

In the last three years, supporters of the park — including board members William vanden Heuvel, a former U.S. Ambassador to the European office of the United Nations, and the Democratic organizer Sally Minard — have raised $47 million from public and private sources, among them a Chicago man who pledged $10 million after reading about the project, Sloane said.

Whether that investment will translate into a bump in residential values in surrounding neighborhoods is tricky to calculate, especially since the park is still a construction site.

“Whether it’s a total deal maker, that’s going to be hard to say,” said Sofia Song, vice president of research at Streeteasy. Like the High Line in West Chelsea, Song said the Roosevelt Island park will boost land prices.

Though the additional green space is a “great and much needed amenity” for Roosevelt Island and should benefit sales, the impact on properties across the river, in Manhattan, is less certain, she said.

The island’s population has grown to 14,000, up from 9,500, in the last decade, thanks in part to six residential condominium buildings developed by Related Cos. and the Hudson Cos. since 2003.

“[Four Freedoms Park] is definitely a plus that I’m sure real estate brokers can use to market their properties,” Song said, referring to Manhattan buildings parallel to the island. “Whether or not it actually has an apparent dollar value remains to be seen.”

Debra Stotts, the director of sales and leasing at Trump World Tower, at 845 United Nations Plaza, is one broker already touting the park at every showing, noting how the space will transform the neighborhood into more of a destination and enhance the view — which currently includes a crumbling smallpox hospital.

“Everyone suspects it might be a tall building, which would never be supported here,” Stotts said. “But this is an ideal usage of that point of Roosevelt Island, especially being Roosevelt Island.”

A representative from One Beekman Place wasn’t immediately available for comment, but Sachiko Goodman, a managing director of luxury residential investments at Prudential Douglas Elliman, is handling several apartment sales on Beekman Place. She has yet to talk up the park to prospective buyers. Instead, they bring it up themselves.

“Sometimes those buyers know more than we do!” she said.

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