The Real Deal New York

This month in real estate history

October 22, 2007 04:25PM

1987: Amsterdam Avenue in the midst of gentrification

A February 1987 article in the New York Times chronicled the changing face of Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 96th Street. Residents profiled in the article were worried the avenue would change in the same way as neighboring Columbus, where high-end housing and retail had displaced long-standing businesses and forced out many renters. Even though new commercial tenants sought to establish locations on Amsterdam and luxury apartment buildings were under construction, the avenue still teemed with crime and poverty. Commercial rents had risen sharply in the preceding few years and were now regularly topping $75 a square foot, although that was still far less than the $125-per-square-foot average that spaces on Columbus were commanding. John Bailey, the manager of a restaurant on 76th Street, said the fact that more babies could be seen on the avenue was a sure sign of its changing character. Bailey said that on one particularly noisy Sunday, “17 strollers — each with a crying baby — were rolled in for brunch.”

1967: Grand Central District a magnet for corporate HQs

A survey released in early 1967 by Seymour Durst, a partner in the Durst Organization, showed that more top corporations, 73, were headquartered in the Grand Central District than in Chicago and Pittsburgh combined, which were then the next two largest cities in the country in terms of corporate headquarters. The Real Estate Board of New York defined the district as running from 32nd Street to 50th Street, from the East River to Sixth Avenue. More office buildings had risen in the area from the late ’50s to the late ’60s than ever before, spurred in part by the demolition of the Third Avenue El. Seventy-two office buildings had been built in the district in the years following World War II, resulting in 25.5 million square feet of office space. After the Grand Central District, the areas of the city with the largest number of corporate headquarters in 1967 were the Plaza District, which had 36; Downtown, which had 11; and Times Square, which boasted seven.

1947: NYS assumes the administration of rent regulation

In February 1947 the future of rent regulation in New York City was unclear. The U.S. Office of Price Administration froze the rents of 1.4 million apartments in the city during World War II. In early 1947, when it appeared Congress would vote to relax federally mandated rent controls, tenant groups began to pressure Governor Thomas Dewey and Mayor William O’Dwyer to impose a New York State-run system of rent regulation. In February, the Republican-controlled state legislature rejected a Democratic proposal to make state rent controls operative in the event that the federal government abandoned its stewardship of the program. Later in the year, however, the state did decide to run its own rent-control system. According to “The Encyclopedia of New York City,” rent controls were placed on apartments built before 1947. The decision was significant because it was the first time that the year a housing unit was built played a role in its rent regulation status. The city did not take over the administration of rent regulation from the state until 1962.

1927: Brooklyn industry, commerce and construction thrive

Reports released in February 1927 by the Kings County Real Estate Corporation showed that Brooklyn’s industrial and retail markets were thriving. Brooklyn ranked fourth among American cities in industrial production in 1927, with industrial work employing 80,578 workers in the borough. Boot and shoe manufacturers provided the most employment in the borough. In terms of retail, the group noted that the Borough Hall district and Fulton Street were such successful shopping destinations that many stores wished to open in adjacent areas, and buildings were being constructed at a steady clip near the two retail centers. The 35-story Montague-Court skyscraper was also rising close to Borough Hall. Dubbed “Brooklyn’s Tower of Progress,” it was expected to encourage the development of other commercial spaces in the area. The building had state-of-the-art elevators designed by Otis, with a signal control system that allowed cars to travel at speeds of 800 feet per minute. The tower’s elevators were also the first to employ a new technology: When one pressed a floor number, they automatically stopped at the requested floor, and the doors opened up on their own.

Compiled by Gabby Warshawer

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