The Real Deal New York

This month in real estate history

The Real Deal looks back at some of New York's biggest real estate stories
By The Real Deal | December 01, 2011 07:50PM


Seymour Durst
Thirty-eight years ago this month, developer Seymour Durst acknowledged that his lenders had begun foreclosing on about a dozen of his painstakingly acquired sites in Midtown, just east of Times Square.

Durst had purchased or taken control of 30 or more parcels between Broadway and Sixth Avenue and 42nd and 46th streets, with the plan to construct a massive commercial project to rival Rockefeller Center.

But with about 20 million square feet of office space available in the weak Manhattan market, he said he didn’t expect sufficient demand for years to justify the development. And holding on to the parcels was draining profits from his earlier successes on Third Avenue, he said.

“I can’t see any new commercial development,” Durst told the New York Times in 1973. “A good part of what [profits] came out of Third Avenue we have lost over here.”

He stopped paying the mortgage on sites like the Knickerbocker Hotel at 120 West 45th Street, and his lender foreclosed on the Woodstock Hotel at 127 West 43rd Street. The Knickerbocker was put in receivership, and the city ordered it shuttered in 1974.

Durst was not the only assembler stung by the downturn. The Rudins let a lease option expire on Lexington Avenue and 50th Street, while the Minskoffs sold the DePinna Building at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street.


Mayor Vincent Impelliterri
City officials proposed dividing New York’s five boroughs into 66 community planning districts 61 years ago this month. The intent of the proposal — made just after Mayor Vincent Impelliterri took the helm at City Hall — was to increase grassroots input for the development of projects like schools, hospitals and playgrounds, as well as to review land use and zoning issues.

City Planning Commission head Jerry Finkelstein said the proposal would “bring planning down to the community grassroots level, where the principles of democracy may have the fullest sway.”

The commission envisioned dividing Manhattan into 12 districts; Brooklyn into 19; Queens into 16; the Bronx into 11; and Staten Island into eight.

In 1951, Manhattan was the first to begin experimenting with the idea, when it created 12 community planning councils. But it was not until 1963 that all five boroughs took part, and were divided into 62 districts (rather than the 66 proposed by the commission 13 years earlier). That was revised in 1975 to the current 59 community boards.


12 East 41st Street
The Real Estate Board of New York, the industry’s top trade group, laid the foundation for a 17-story office building at 12 East 41st Street 86 years ago this month.

The 95,000-square-foot building — which it would own and partially occupy — sat just east of Fifth Avenue and cost $1.6 million to build. It opened in 1926, coinciding with REBNY’s 30th anniversary. The cornerstone contains copies of the minutes of the first meeting of REBNY’S predecessor association, the Real Estate Board of Brokers, which was founded in 1896.

But the Great Depression put pressure on the trade group, which had financed construction with about $200,000 in equity, $600,000 in second mortgage bonds and $850,000 in a first mortgage. A 1932 article in the New York Times reported that it planned to transfer ownership to the bondholders through a friendly foreclosure.

The outcome of that proposal was not clear, but in June 1943 a report said a foreclosure auction was scheduled for later in the month.

Despite apparently losing control of the property, the association remained a tenant in the building until the 1990s, when it moved to its current location at 570 Lexington Avenue.

Compiled by Adam Pincus

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