The Real Deal New York

Off the grid

A look at New York City’s little known (and highly coveted) tucked-away streets

December 01, 2012
By Gabrielle Birkner

Sniffen Court hides between Lexington and Third avenues in Murray Hill.

In New York City, privacy is the ultimate luxury. So it makes sense that the demand for historic homes on New York’s secluded mews streets — often nestled off side streets, behind gates or old growth — would far succeed the supply.

“They come at a premium and they sell rather quickly because of the uniqueness — and because they come up so rarely,” Nest Seekers’ Natalie Weiss said about homes on Pomander Walk, the Upper West Side hideaway where she grew up and has brokered deals for nine co-op apartments.

Meanwhile, Jeff Wachtenheim, a salesperson with Town Residential, compared buying a home on a little-known New York street to buying a piece of artwork. “These are not cookie-cutter apartments in your typical glass-and-steel construction buildings,” he said. “There’s a lot of charm and Old World cachet to them.”

This month, The Real Deal explored some off-the-grid streets — looking at developments new and old, recent deals and available properties — to get a sense of how the market differs for these tucked-away corridors.

Murray Hill

Sniffen Court

The 10 carriage houses on Sniffen Court appear better-suited to London’s fashionable Notting Hill neighborhood than to New York’s post-collegiate mecca of Murray Hill. Situated between Lexington and Third avenues, the 115-foot street was designed in the 1860s as a way to keep the smell of horse manure off of the area’s main streets. Today, the stables have since been converted into exclusive — and coveted — single-family homes.

In 2008, the Hewlett-Packard scion Arianna Packard and her husband, Christopher Martell, purchased a 4,900-square-foot home, a combination of No. 7 and No. 9, for $4.75 million. A year earlier, No. 8, roughly 3,080 square feet, traded for $4.1 million. And one of Britain’s most popular talk-show hosts, Graham Norton, bought the 2,223-square-foot No. 6 in 2003 for $3 million.

Brooklyn Heights

Love Lane /College Place

The carriages on College Place in Brooklyn Heights.

These intersecting Brooklyn Heights streets — both fewer than 500 feet long — may not have the name recognition of nearby Henry and Hicks streets, but they are home to some of the neighborhood’s most coveted housing stock.

Love Lane Mews, the 38-unit prewar condo conversion of four adjacent buildings on College Place, launched marketing in early 2011. All but seven units at the full-service development have sold or have signed contracts out, said Carole Bloom, vice president of sales and marketing at Manhattan Skyline Management, which is marketing the property.

Prices for the available units range from $1.5 million for a 1,433-square-foot two-bedroom to $4.7 million for a 3,000-square-foot four-bedroom penthouse. Bloom said that Love Lane Mews has attracted a wide range of buyers, from young couples to empty nesters who have sold their homes in the suburbs. The attraction: “There’s very little pedestrian traffic. It’s so peaceful and so quiet that you have no idea that you’re anywhere in New York City,” she said.

Across the street, the 25-foot-wide townhouse at 14 College Place, a turn-of-the-century commercial building converted to fit in with the old carriage houses that surround it, is asking $5.2 million — and went into contract last month. The newly renovated home features 11-foot ceilings, a gas fireplace and a private terrace. Corcoran’s Lindsay Barton Barrett, Debra LaChance and Denise LaChance have the in-contract listing.

They also sold the adjacent townhouse at 12 College Place (situated in the same structure and renovated at the same time) for $4.9 million in August.

 

Upper East Side

Henderson Place

Nestled off East 86th Street, between East End and York avenues, is a short cul-de-sac home to six tall and narrow Queen Anne–style row houses. Now prime Upper East Side real estate, the homes were built at the turn of the 20th century for working-class families.

No. 10 Henderson Place hit the market in July, asking $4 million. Last month, the five-story, 3,000-square-foot house was in contract at a negotiated price that was “close to asking,” listing broker Maureen McCarron, a vice president with Stribling & Associates, told TRD.

“People like the privacy, that they don’t have to pass a [co-op] board and, architecturally, it’s what they want in a house,” McCarron said.

The Henderson Place townhouses were among the early commissions of the architecture firm Lamb & Rich, which would go on to design Theodore Roosevelt’s Long Island mansion Sagamore Hill as well as Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute.

Last year, another home on the cul-de-sac, No. 12, was placed on the market, asking $3.9 million. It has since been delisted and rented out for $12,500 a month, according to listings website StreetEasy.

 

The Tudor-style properties on the Upper West Side’s Pomander Walk.

Upper West Side

Pomander Walk

This quaint Upper West Side development bears the name of a romantic comedy that came to the New York stage in 1910. And if it weren’t for the high-rise apartment buildings that surround it, a passerby might mistake the string of attached Tudor-style properties for a village in the English countryside.

The brainchild of early 20th-century restaurateur Thomas Healy, Pomander Walk — once home to Humphrey Bogart, according to reports — rose on a vacant plot connecting West 94th and 95th streets, between West End Avenue and Broadway.

Today, the 27 houses with access to the private walk have been divided into 63 co-ops, most of which are small two-bedroom homes, said Nest Seekers’ Weiss.

Weiss had the listing for a two-bedroom co-op there that traded in June for $710,000. And in August 2010, a three-bedroom unit sold for $1.6 million, 7 percent above its list price.

A one-bedroom co-op, listed at $399,000, is currently in contract, according to Weiss, who is marketing the property.

 

Cobble Hill

Warren Place

The 34 homes dubbed Warren Place Mews in Cobble Hill were originally developed as workmen’s cottages.

There’s a lot to be said for the Warren Place Mews townhouses in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill.

“They are private, they are adorable, they are fairy-tale,” said Ellen Gottlieb, an associate broker with Brooklyn Bridge Realty. And the townhouses can be had for less than $1.5 million, a bargain in a neighborhood where single-family homes regularly sell for upwards of $3 million.

But there’s a rub: They’re tiny.

The 34 homes that comprise Warren Place Mews were developed as workmen’s cottages. Designed in the 1880s by builder Alfred Tredway White, most of the brick row houses measure just 1,050 square feet.

“Everyone wants it, everyone loves it,” said Gottlieb, who lives on Warren Place and who in May sold another home on the street, No. 1, for $1.3 million. “The only thing that keeps people from going forward is the size. …  It’s hard to put a family of four in them.”

Last year, No. 12 sold for $1.2 million to Simon Rich, the 28-year-old author and “Saturday Night Live” writer. The LaChance sisters marketed the property for Corcoran.

 

Tribeca

Collister Street

Collister Street, connecting Laight and Beach streets in Tribeca, is among Manhattan’s tiniest blocks. But it houses some of the borough’s priciest real estate.

Fifteen condominiums at 60 Collister, formerly the American Express Carriage House, hit the market in February, after VE Equities purchased the sponsor units at the then-troubled building. Marketed by Fredrik Eklund and John Gomes of Douglas Elliman, the project sold out in seven weeks — with one notable exception: the 9,200-square-foot triplex apartment known as the Marble House.

Named for the copious amounts of Carrera marble lining its interior, the Marble House — the brainchild of designer and film producer Stuart Parr, who is the owner-investor of the triplex — has been on and off the market since February 2009, when it was listed for $24.5 million. Once sales at the building were relaunched by Eklund and Gomes, the apartment came online again for $19.9 million; it has since undergone three price cuts, and is now listed for $14.9 million. It includes all the amenities of the full-service 60 Collister, in addition to a heated indoor pool and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar.

The only other availability in the development is No. 1AB, two apartments being marketed together for $15.9 million. Those apartments, purchased in August by an LLC, have a combined 7,000 square feet of interior space, seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

Zach Vella, a cofounder of VE Equities, said that 60 Collister’s location on a little-known street has been part of its allure.

“It’s more residential, more private,” he said. “You can pull your car over there, and no one seems to bother anyone. In the morning you’ll see four or five [drivers] on the street, waiting for tenants.”

In May, Elliman’s Raphael De Niro purchased a corner loft at 60 Collister for $3.53 million.

 

Brooklyn Heights

Grace Court Alley

Built in the early 19th century, Grace Court Alley’s stables once served the Remsen family, a prominent Dutch mercantile clan, and other wealthy Brooklyn Heights residents.

In November, a carriage house — this one built from the ground up in 1995 — was rented for its full $11,500 asking price. Brian Lehner, a senior vice president at Brown Harris Stevens, marketed the property.

Lehner also had the listings for the two most recent townhouse sales on Grace Court Alley. He brokered the deals for No. 6, which sold for $2.7 million in 2011 and for No. 8, which sold for $2.65 million 2010. He noted that house hunters like the dimensions of the two-story carriage houses, which have layouts that are more horizontal and open than the average prewar row house.

“They do come at a premium,” he said. “There is a very limited number of them in a very prime location. They don’t come up every day.”

 

Washington Heights

Sylvan Terrace

Twenty almost identical wooden row houses line this narrow cobblestone street, connecting St. Nicholas Avenue and Jumel Terrace in Washington Heights.

Before the homes were built in 1862, Sylvan Terrace was an artery for horse-drawn carriages, leading to the Morris-Jumel Mansion, which George Washington used as a base during the Revolutionary War. (More recently, the street served as a backdrop for the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.”)

While still a relative value for a single-family home in Manhattan, prices for Sylvan Terrace properties are on the rise. No. 18, a 1,425-square-foot three-bedroom home, is on the market for $859,000. Corcoran’s Nancy Brennan has the listing. Four years ago, the same property traded for about half of its current listing price. Another townhouse on the block, No. 10, sold for $730,000 in July.

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