This month in real estate history

The Real Deal looks back at some of New York's biggest real estate stories

TRD New York /
Oct.October 01, 2010 07:00 AM

Chrysler Building


The U.S. Department of Justice accused rental apartment landlord Trump Management of discriminating against black apartment applicants in housing in the outer boroughs, 37 years ago this month.

The agency filed suit in federal court in Brooklyn, on charges that the company violated the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in its management of 39 buildings, mostly in Coney Island in Brooklyn, and Forest Hills and Jamaica Estates in Queens.

The company owned and managed about 15,000 apartments in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island at the time.

Donald Trump, the company president, said at the time the charges were ridiculous. “We never have discriminated, and we never would,” he said. 

Two years later, Trump Management signed an agreement pledging not to discriminate against blacks, Puerto Ricans and other minorities, but not admitting any wrongdoing. As part of the accord, the landlord promised to give a list of vacant apartments weekly to the New York Urban League.

The suit was the second large suit brought by the Department of Justice in the city. The agency earlier sued the LeFrak Organization, and in 1971 the firm signed a similar agreement providing leasing oversight.


A partnership led by William Zeckendorf’s real estate firm Webb & Knapp paid a record $52 million for three Midtown office properties, including the Chrysler and Graybar buildings, 57 years ago this month.

At the time, the purchase by Webb & Knapp and an affiliate of investment bank Lazard Freres & Co. was the most expensive real estate transaction in New York City.

The 77-story Chrysler Building, at 405 Lexington Avenue, was the second-tallest building in Manhattan at the time, after the Empire State Building. The third building in the deal was the 32-story Chrysler Building East at 666 Third Avenue.

The most expensive transaction previously was two years earlier, when in May 1951 an investment syndicate paid $51.5 million for a controlling interest in the Empire State Building.

Zeckendorf struggled to hold on to the buildings he bought, and by 1960 he had sold them to real estate investors Sol Goldman and Alex DiLorenzo.


Real estate developers paid nearly $10 million for various tracts of vacant property in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx during one record week 106 years ago this month, just as the city’s new subway system was debuting.

Developers and speculators such as the future ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau Sr., president of Central Realty Bond and Trust, bought and sold about 2,700 parcels during those seven days.

“Never before in a similar period of the city’s history has there been any such volume of dealing in vacant property,” the New York Times reported at the time.

The boom was spurred by the development of the Interborough Rapid Transit subway system that opened in October 1904, bringing a trip downtown to about 30 minutes. Service to the Bronx started the following year.

One of the most important purchases during the month, which heralded a four-year boom, was Central Realty’s $1 million purchase of 145 lots between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue from 133rd to 136th streets.

The deal was considered significant because it was the first large purchase of high-quality vacant land at the southern portion of Washington Heights, in an area now considered part of Harlem. 

Compiled by Adam Pincus

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