The Real Deal New York

This month in real estate history

December 08, 2010
By Adam Pincus

1980: City mulls selling schools for housing

The city disclosed plans to sell a handful of public schools 30 years ago this month as student enrollment declined and classroom consolidation was pushed to conserve dollars.

At the time, city officials and developers said that the five targeted school buildings would be put to better use as housing. Of those schools, several did become apartments, including 29 King Street in Soho, where a unit recently sold for $1.4 million, and 371 Madison Street on the Lower East Side, which was reconfigured for rental apartments.

The city Board of Education sought to sell or lease schools because by the end of 1983, the student population had fallen by about 10 percent, to 900,000 students from 1 million. Because of the decline in enrollment, the city either gave away, sold or closed about 100 schools between 1975 and 1982. In the 1980s, school enrollment began to rise again. And today there are about 1.1 million public school students at more than 1,600 city schools.

Some conversions are still taking place. A long-vacant building that has not been a school since the 1970s, at 220 West 148th Street, formerly P. S. 90, was sold in 2008 to L+M Development Partners, which converted the building to a residential condo.

1959: World’s Fair’s bid boosts real estate

City officials announced 51 years ago this month that they had applied to host the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The $500 million ultimately spent in infrastructure improvements spurred residential and hotel construction in Queens, where the two-year festival took place.

There was a brief contest among three U.S. cities to host the spectacle, but ultimately President Dwight Eisenhower backed New York over Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The final approval came in November 1959 from the international body in Paris overseeing fairs.

The price tag to build the site of the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park was estimated at about $500 million. The mostly undeveloped 1,257-acre park was redesigned and, two months before the fair opened in April 1964, renamed Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Residential developments in the mid-1960s in central Queens, such as the Carlyle Towers and Skyline Towers in Flushing, were marketed as being near the rehabilitated park. In Bayside, Muss Development built Country Village after road extensions to the Van Wyck and Clearview expressways were laid to facilitate driving to the fairgrounds.

In addition, hotels such as the Aqua Motor Lodge in Ozone Park, which opened in 1964, were built to cater to fairgoers.

The World’s Fair also helped the residential rental market in Manhattan. In anticipation of visiting executives and out-of-town employees coming to the fair in 1964 and 1965, corporations rented additional residential suites, the New York Times reported. The leasing helped absorb some of the oversupply that hit the market in the early 1960s.

1929: First real estate stock and bond exchange founded in Manhattan

The world’s first trading floor for buying and selling real estate securities was formed 81 years ago this month in Midtown, just weeks before the onset of the Great Depression.

The New York Real Estate Securities Exchange was created to bring greater liquidity to the property market, and was described as similar to the New York Stock Exchange.

With the exchange, real estate firms could sell shares, or brokers could trade bonds for properties nationwide. Sponsored by the Real Estate Board of New York, the exchange, located at 12 East 41st Street, had 181 members that each paid $5,000.

Former Governor Al Smith said the exchange would give “everybody a chance to make something out of the growth of New York.”

But trading was thin, and focused mostly on Manhattan properties such as the Equitable Office Building in Lower Manhattan, the Chrysler Building in Midtown, and 2 Park Avenue in Murray Hill. Trading was never sufficient, and the exchange folded in May 1941.

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