The Real Deal New York

Inside the Open Houses of Battery Park City

Rooms with a view of Lady Liberty
November 04, 2007 08:10PM

This month, Tracy McNamara drops in on some of the tallest open houses in Battery Park City
While remote and lacking retail, Battery Park City attracts residents with its vistas

Nestled far from the hustle and bustle found in most Manhattan neighborhoods, residents of Battery Park City (located on the western part of the island’s southern tip) seem to be mostly active young families and their pet dogs, who stroll the waterfront promenade and streets lined with new luxury buildings.

High above that scene floats Battery Park City’s other attraction: stunning views of the harbor, an amenity that plays the biggest role in determining prices in buildings there, brokers said.

Balance that against a perennial complaint about Battery Park City: its lack of supermarkets, drugstores, restaurants and boutiques that are abundant in other parts of Manhattan.

Another knock on the area is its high maintenance fees — some of the most expensive in the city — which can approach $4,000 a month. (However, at some of the newer condos, maintenance — without taxes — is much less. For example, at 1 River Terrace, maintenance is $1,075 for a 2,156-square-foot unit.)

Add to the mix new residential developments that are springing up throughout the rest of Lower Manhattan, giving Battery Park City stiff competition for buyers.

Battery Park City runs between the Hudson River and the West Side Highway, from Chambers Street to the southern edge of Manhattan. Many of its red-brick high-rise buildings south of the World Financial Center were built in the 1980s, while construction of more modern residential buildings north of the World Financial Center began over a decade later.

Now new high-end luxury residential buildings with all-glass facades have gone up, part of the rebuilding going on in the area in the wake of Sept. 11.

The south part of the neighborhood has several older condos built in the 1980s with a few rental buildings, said Victoria Terri-Cote of the Corcoran Group. She said buildings on the Hudson River are usually priced higher; those with direct water views are priced highest, with the units offering unobstructed southwest views the real prizes.

The far southern area of Battery Park City has three newer buildings all constructed within the past several years: the Ritz at 10 West Street; the Millennium Tower at 30 West Street; and the newest, the Visionaire at 70 Little West Street. These buildings, along with the Riverhouse at 1 River Terrace in the northern section, have many units with floor-to-ceiling windows and jaw-dropping views. “Talk about the wow factor,” said Terri-Cote.

The new buildings offer many other amenities, such as spas, high-end fitness clubs, yoga studios, pools, dog spas and screening rooms. Both the Riverhouse and the Visionaire are LEED-certified. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a voluntary green rating and certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. These buildings have fresh air supplies and exhaust systems, and centrally filtered water.

There are also new condo conversions that tout their views. A campaign by Shvo Marketing brags about the setting of 225 Rector Place, a condo conversion in Battery Park City with views of the Manhattan skyline, the Hudson River and Battery Park. The ads ask, “What’s outside your window?”

At the 306-unit condo, prices range from $480,000 for a studio of 519 square feet to more than $1 million for a two-bedroom of 959 square feet.

Nearby competition

However desirable, Battery Park City is getting more competition lately from the many condo projects springing up throughout Lower Manhattan. Nearby projects include a recent condo conversion, the Greenwich Club at 88 Greenwich Street.

Buttonwood Real Estate redeveloped the Art Deco building into 458 condo units with an average price of $1,104 per square foot, said Andrew Heiberger, founder and CEO of Buttonwood.

The Downtown Club, located at 20 West Street, is another condo conversion in the area, with 283 units.

Terri-Cote estimates that based on current listings, one-bedrooms in Battery Park City can sell from $450,000 to $1 million; two-bedrooms can fetch from $775,000 to $1.5 million; and three- or four-bedroom units can snag from $2.5 to $4 million.

Currently, Battery Park City still has very little retail, said Alan Napack, a senior director in the retail services group at Cushman & Wakefield.

But some new shops are coming to the area. A Whole Foods Market and a Barnes & Noble will be located on the lower level of 101 Warren Street. The new condo is being built just north of the World Trade Center site, at Greenwich and West streets. It is slated to open later this year.

Pierre Moran, an agent with DJK Residential who sells in Battery Park, said the area is not yet a mature neighborhood and remains a “construction site” because of the work at Ground Zero nearby.

“It still needs restaurants and grocery facilities, but it has gained recognition as a beautiful place to live,” said Moran. “As Lower Manhattan has more residential accommodations, Battery Park City stands out as the oasis on the Hudson” — thanks to its water views.

Although high-end developments are attracting more people to Battery Park City, only a handful showed up at open houses on a recent Sunday afternoon.

At the Millennium Tower at 30 West Street, a new building that opened this year located next to the Visionaire construction site, a three-bedroom listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman for $2.395 million had only one visitor. Chantal Bushell of Elliman explained they rarely have open houses in the building and were experimenting with holding one on a weekend.

The 1,700-square-foot unit is fitted with Sub-Zero and Viking kitchen appliances, Kohler tubs and striking floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty. The seller is an investor who has never lived in it, Bushell said.

The luxury building has the feel of a hotel, with a friendly concierge and doorman who will hustle a cab for residents, as well as a private fitness center and valet parking. The building seems to attract foreign families with young children, as well as athletic men and women equipped with sneakers and bikes for exercising along the promenade.

Down a few blocks from the Millennium Tower, the first open house at a one-bedroom condo at 250 South End Avenue, built in 1985, attracted only a few people on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, although Brown Harris Stevens broker Richard Rothbloom said on average, units in the building sell within three weeks of coming on the market. The 595-square-foot unit is listed at $490,000, a better value per square foot than new construction buildings like the Millennium Tower.

The building’s lobby is not fancy, but clean and well-maintained, with a doorman sitting behind a desk. The apartment’s living room, with an open kitchen featuring modern appliances and a new sink and faucet, has a wide window that faces the water with a view of the Statue of Liberty. The bedroom has a custom-built wardrobe unit as well.

“I like the price, the view is amazing and I like the way it was decorated,” said Vinod Tonangi, 28, who works in the telecom industry. He also said he enjoys the relative quiet of the neighborhood. But space may be an issue. “Since my wife and I work at home, I need at least something that can be used as a home office in addition to a bedroom. That is the main problem with the apartment for me,” he said.

He and his wife are currently renting a two-bedroom apartment in Midtown.

Down the block, past a small Gristedes supermarket, video rental store and a dry cleaners, another open house, at 200 Rector Place, a white-glove building built in 1987 that sits near a playground, basketball court and community garden, attracted about eight people on a Sunday afternoon. The high-floor one-bedroom, around 665 square feet, has a balcony overlooking the Manhattan skyline and is listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman for $699,000. It has a separate kitchen as well.

The building also resembles a hotel with its wide, carpeted hallways and large, well-attended lobby. It has a health club with swimming pool, which residents can join for around $800 a year, and a community party room and laundry rooms on multiple floors.

“I like it; I think I like the amenities more than the apartment, which is okay but nothing special,” said Sindu Ray, 32, who works downtown in finance and rents a one-bedroom in Battery Park City. “I love the neighborhood. People are very nice here, and I like that it is remote.”

“It’s a good apartment, laid out well,” said Luke Chen, who is in his early 30s, works in Jersey City, and currently rents a one-bedroom in Astoria, Queens.

Chen is looking at studios in the neighborhood, in addition to one-bedrooms. “I like the building; it seems a little high in price, and I think they’ll come down as it stays on the market. I like the gym, but I didn’t think you’d have to pay to use it.”

“It’s okay, pretty generic, but the price is okay. I like the neighborhood and don’t mind that it is out of the way since it already takes me 20 minutes to walk to the subway,” said Julie Bernard, 37, who works in retail and rents an apartment in the East 70s between York and East End avenues. “Maybe the bathroom is smaller than [those found in] many one-bedrooms, but otherwise, the size is around the same as what I’ve seen for the price.”

Around the bend, a three-bedroom at 377 Rector Place, built in 1987, attracted a few people, including a married couple who live in the neighborhood. The 2,170-square-foot condo is listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman for $1.96 million. The doorman building has a marble entryway, and is directly on the Hudson River Promenade and across the street from a patch of grassy Rector Park.

The condo has a sunken living room with a custom-designed ceiling and recessed lighting. The views of the water, along with a few leafy trees, were stunning and visible from most of the rooms in the unit. Still, the space had a cluttered feel to it because of the lowered ceilings and walls that were added to the apartment, a design that may not appeal to a wide range of buyers. As Elliman broker Helen-Lee Stevens said, “It is one of a kind.”

“It feels very claustrophobic, like the ceilings were caving in on you,” said Felix, 29, a Manhattan lawyer who did not want to give his last name. He and his wife, a dentist, rent a one-bedroom in Battery Park and are also looking at two-bedrooms in the neighborhood.

“I guess the price isn’t bad, but I feel like I should rent at this rate since my mortgage would be three times more than what we pay now,” he said.

He added, “I love this place. Everyone here in the neighborhood has two kids and two dogs.”

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