The Real Deal New York

Unlocking Gramercy Park

With 18 Gramercy Park hitting the market, TRD analyzes the real estate surrounding the fabled private garden

September 01, 2012
By Leigh Kamping-Carder

18 Grammercy Park South

The on-site sales office at 18 Gramercy Park isn’t open yet — it officially launches this month — but four contracts are already out at the luxury condo conversion, according to developers Arthur and William Lie Zeckendorf.

What makes this building so special? Aside from its developers — whose résumé includes the indisputably successful 15 Central Park West — the project is one of the 34 residential buildings surrounding Manhattan’s only private park.

Apartments bordering Gramercy Park are relatively rare — especially since the area is a historic district, where many buildings are landmarked, and owners often stay put for years. The residences, mostly co-ops, also come with a much-coveted key to the park, which dates to 1831, when the attorney and landowner Samuel Ruggles divided the surrounding land into lots and created the park. (He was also responsible for establishing the park’s famed key system.)

In recent memory, two other new developments have appeared on the park. The most recent is Mann Realty’s ongoing 51-unit condo conversion of a rental building at 36 Gramercy Park East, which is almost 70 percent sold out. That followed Ian Schrager’s 50 Gramercy Park North, made up of 23 cond-op residences in the 180-room Gramercy Park Hotel. The building, which Schrager overhauled in 2005, is now sold out. The most expensive sponsor sale there was just under $13.3 million.

But 18 Gramercy Park South is looking to surpass previous price records. The majority of the building’s 16 units — all 4,200-square-foot, full-floor four-bedrooms — will go on the market for $14 to $18 million, with a smaller two-bedroom maisonette priced at $9.25 million and a much larger duplex penthouse asking $42 million, according to offering plan documents.

If the penthouse fetches anywhere near its asking price, it would blow away any other sale on the exclusive park.

From left: Arthur and William Lie Zeckendorf

“The market downtown for large, mint-condition apartments is in that price range,” Arthur Zeckendorf said when asked for the rationale behind the prices. In fact, he said, the brothers are already considering a price hike, possibly in October.

Carol Friedman, a Nest Seekers International broker who manages sales at 36 Gramercy Park East, said that the much-pricier Zeckendorf project will appeal to a different kind of buyer.

To date, the priciest-ever sale of a home in Gramercy Park is the $22 million penthouse at 50 Gramercy Park North, which closed in February 2011, and is currently on the market for $18.9 million.

But the scarcity of large, new apartments bordering the leafy enclave lends credence to the Zeckendorfs’ asking prices, sources said. The fact that the high-end market is strong and that the developers are once again collaborating with architect Robert A.M. Stern and money man Eyal Ofer — the team behind 15 Central Park West — also doesn’t hurt.

“He’s got everything in line to make those apartments reasonable to billionaires,” said Arlene Harrison, the president of the Gramercy Park Block Association and a friend of William Zeckendorf.

In the last decade, the median price for an apartment on the park has nearly tripled, from $339,000 in 2002 to $910,000 in 2012, according to data provided to The Real Deal by appraisal firm Miller Samuel (see chart). This year, there were 25 sales through Aug. 1 (or 42 on an annualized basis), compared to 60 in 2011 and 57 in 2002. However, the transaction volume and prices have tended to spike and fall in line with closings at No. 50 and No. 36, the data show.

This month, TRD examined the recent closings and listings around the perimeter of Gramercy Park to put the prices at the latest development in context.

 

No. 3

Like many apartments overlooking Gramercy Park, the apartments at 3 Gramercy Park West have rarely traded hands in the last few decades. In 1969, a group of four individuals purchased the four-story building, according to city records, and have since deeded their stakes to a handful of new owners. (Unlike co-ops, however, the residents own a percentage of the property, rather than shares in a corporation, records show.) One of those early owners, Richard McCabe, sold a first-floor studio for $775,000 in 2008 — the most recent sale in the building, city records show.

 

 

No. 8

One of only two rental buildings on the park, Stonehenge Partners’ 8 Gramercy Park South has 55 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Two studios are currently listed for $3,295 and $2,950 per month. In July, a studio in Gramercy/Flatiron rented for an average of $2,425, according to the latest monthly rental market report from brokerage Citi Habitats. Headed by Ofer Yardeni and Joel Seiden, Stonehenge bought the property in 2008 for $28.9 million from the trust of philanthropist Harold Steinberg and his late wife, Mimi. The residents’ entrance faces the park, but a restaurant called L’Express Café occupies a ground-floor retail space at 249 Park Avenue South.

 

No. 11

Grammy-winning bassist John Benitez listed the townhouse at 11 Gramercy Park South for $25 million in May, with the Modlin Group’s Adam Modlin and Marisa Sargent. Benitez bought the five-story property from County Dollar Corp. in 1992, paying an undisclosed sum. Dating back to the 1850s, the 11,610-square-foot townhouse is currently configured as three apartments, including two duplexes that span the fourth and fifth floors, according to the listing. One of the units is occupied by a rent-controlled tenant.

 

No. 19

Possibly the largest single-family home on the park, the Stanford White–designed townhouse at 19 Gramercy Park South last traded hands more than a decade ago. In 2000, fashion designer Richard Tyler sold the 37-room brick house for $15.8 million to Timber Falls Foundation, a charitable organization run by Henry Jarecki, the doctor, businessman and founder of the movie listing service Moviefone. At the time, the New York Observer reported that Jarecki planned to run the foundation out of the house. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

 

No. 22

Movie producer Eric Ellenbogen, whose credits include “Lassie” and “Underdog,” paid $2.1 million for 22 Gramercy Park South, an eight-unit building, in 1999, later converting it into two triplex condos. He kept the ground-floor unit for himself and sold the other in February 2011 for nearly $9.2 million to a buyer identified in city records as Bagliani Ririfi LLC. The two owners put the entire building on the market for $22 million with Brown Harris Stevens’ John Burger and the Corcoran Group’s Antonio Cosentino, giving buyers the option to purchase the units individually for $11 million each. (The entire building has actually been on and off the market since 2010.) Bagliani Ririfi sold the upper penthouse for $9.25 million this past March to Amangar Holdings LLC. Ellenbogen sold his triplex in July to a Palo Alto, Calif.–based LLC for slightly less.

 

No. 23

Investment advisor Carlos Alejandro Pérez Dávila, a member of the wealthy Santo Domingo clan, is in the midst of a $1.5 million renovation of 23 Gramercy Park South, city records show. Whether the renovation is needed is up for debate: The 27-foot-wide mansion was previously owned by Michael Hirtenstein, the technology mogul and nightlife impresario, who converted the former office building into a sprawling single-family home. He sold it to Dávila for $18.5 million in 2009.  Dávila received city approval to renovate the 1847 home in April.

 

 

No. 34

Known as the oldest surviving co-op in New York City, 34 Gramercy Park East was erected in 1883, when co-ops first emerged as a way for middle-class homebuyers to differentiate their multifamily dwellings from working-class tenements. A two-bedroom on the fourth floor of the 10-story building was on the market until June for just under $3 million. The owners had offered it as a potential combination with another unit they own in the building, but that apartment sold for $1.25 million this past December. The 45-unit building is also home to comedian and TV host Jimmy Fallon, who first bought there in 2004, then acquired another unit on a higher floor for $1.35 million in 2010, city records show. In the spring of last year, the city approved his combination of the two apartments, records show.

 

No. 36

Jim Parsons, star of “The Big Bang Theory,” is the most recent buyer at 36 Gramercy Park East, the 12-story building that Maurice Mann’s Mann Realty is converting from 51 rent-stabilized apartments to condos. Sales started in 2010, and 16 units are left, including 11 that are still occupied by tenants, said Nest Seekers’ Friedman. In the last year, closing prices have ranged from $1.6 to $4.3 million. Parsons’s $2.8 million purchase, which closed in June, is his second unit in the building. Three units are currently on the market, the most expensive of which is a 2,227-square-foot three-bedroom priced at $4.85 million.

 

No. 38

Three apartments at 38 Gramercy Park North have found buyers in the last 12 months, according to city records. In June, Alexander Rower, the grandson of sculptor Alexander Calder and head of a foundation dedicated to the artist, bought a first-floor unit for $575,000 — about 3 percent over the asking price, less than a month after it went on the market. In addition, a third-floor apartment sold for $575,000, and a fourth-floor unit sold for $585,000. Neither appears to have been publicly listed. Built in the 1850s, the five-story, 36-unit co-op now has one listing on the market — a one-bedroom and a studio first listed in July that’s being offered as a potential combination for $875,000.

 

No. 45

At 14 stories, 45 Gramercy Park North is one of the taller buildings on the park, and its 40 co-op units include some of the area’s pricier sales and listings in recent years. In the last 12 months, the sole closing was television reporter Stone Phillips’ $5.7 million sale of his two-bedroom penthouse last September. Phillips, the former host of “Dateline NBC,” was asking $5.8 million. The only current listing is a two-bedroom asking $3.2 million, down from $4.5 million when it was first listed in May.

 

 

No. 49

Better known as One Lexington Avenue, 49 Gramercy Park North is one of a handful of more luxury-oriented co-op buildings on the park. In the last year, actor Uma Thurman paid $1.5 million for a unit on the eighth floor, where she already owns another apartment. In early August, Thurman won city approval to combine them. She is a longtime owner at the 28-unit building, where she initially shared an apartment with her now ex-husband Ethan Hawke. (That unit sold in 2006 for $8.6 million.)  Meanwhile, the sellers of the apartment she bought purchased a duplex at No. 49 that spans the sixth and seventh floors for $3.1 million. Both sales closed in early July.

 

No. 50

In 2005, Schrager overhauled  the fabled Gramercy Park Hotel, converting it into 23 cond-op units. But resales there have tended to be less pricey than the sponsor sales. In November, a buyer — reportedly actor Jennifer Aniston — paid $7 million for a ninth-floor unit that went for $9 million as a sponsor sale. And fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld paid almost $6.7 million for his apartment, which is now listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Dolly Lenz for just under $5 million. One explanation is the property’s status as a cond-op, meaning the developer leases, rather than owns the land. As a result, monthly charges for unit owners have increased as lease payments have gone up, impacting resale prices. At one three-bedroom currently listed for $10.8 million, common charges are $12,000 per month, according to the listing.

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