A room with a view, especially a park view, ranks high on the wish lists of many apartment hunters.
But the buildings that ring Central Park and other popular stretches of green around town are often among the costliest in the city. An aerie over Central Park at the Time Warner Center, for instance, is currently listed at $68 million.
A discount in a nature-nuzzling building, though, doesn’t have to mean getting stuck with a window on an air shaft. Indeed, genuine park views can be had for far less than eight-figure price tags.
In a recent search of online listings for apartments with park views in Manhattan and Brooklyn, more than a few could be found for around $1 million or less, quite affordable relative to their exorbitantly expensive neighbors. So a feature generally associated with the fanciest homes may actually be within reach of average buyers, even if that view may require a little neck-craning from a terrace — often described by brokers as a “partial view.”
All it takes is a little leg work to determine whether a listing really has the advertised amenity — and some persistence. And while searching for such a view, pushing boundaries to find buildings beyond the prime spots around a park and opting for apartments on lower floors can also produce good results.
Park bargains can seem like even more of a deal when weighed against the average third-quarter sales price in Manhattan, which was $1.69 million, according to a report from Douglas Elliman, the real estate brokerage. And most of the apartments that sold in those months did not feature views of maple trees or meandering park paths.
“You can get a piece of the park without breaking the bank,” said Jon Phillips, an agent with Brown Harris Stevens, who has a one-bedroom listing on Madison Square Park that is the least expensive park-view apartment for sale there, at $1.1 million.
Nodding to that listing, which overlooks terra-cotta faces on the Flatiron Building, Mr. Phillips added, “you might even get a superior vantage point.”
The area around this rambling 36-acre spread on the Williamsburg/Greenpoint line in Brooklyn has added many residential buildings in recent years — glassy, colorful high-rises that gleam amid vinyl-sided rowhouses — as its surrounding neighborhood has blossomed.
Most of the construction in this corner has been of rentals, but for-sale properties do exist. Seven were available in a recent search using StreetEasy.com, with each listing double-checked to make sure it actually had some kind of park “vu” and was not just located near a park.
McCARREN PARK: $799,000
Nearly seven-foot windows reveal the park from the living room of a one-bedroom condo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A red track, lighted until 11 p.m., awaits runners.
The median list price for these was $979,000, which could buy a two-bedroom, one-bath unit in a Driggs Avenue condo building called Manhattan Park.
But the least expensive was a 460-square-foot studio in a blue-paneled condo at 415 Leonard Street built in 2008, with a washer and dryer, central air conditioning and a balcony, listed at $525,000, though a buyer had been found after just a few weeks of its going on the market.
The next apartment on the list, though, is still well below the median, at $799,000: a one-bedroom, one-bath condo at 20 Bayard Street, whose 660 square feet includes built-in bookshelves, hanging light fixtures and custom-built sliding doors.
“But I think the biggest selling point is the unobstructed views,” said Kevin Cargon, the agent with Nest Seekers International marketing the unit, as he pointed to nearly seven-foot windows. “In Brooklyn and Queens, it’s very rare not to look out on a brick wall or another building.”
Revealing a swirl of trees and fields, and in the distance, the spire of the Empire State Building, those views command a 20 percent premium compared with other units in the building that do not face the park, Mr. Cargon added.
Noise, though, can be a concern around some parks. That was especially true when McCarren Park was hosting boisterous outdoor concerts at a swimming pool down the block, which has since reverted back to its intended function. This section of the park, lined with a red track, is popular throughout the day with those looking to crack a sweat. But the tall, bright lights that allow for jogging at night are turned off around 11 p.m., Mr. Cargon said.
To ensure that this unit, which is on the fourth floor of an 18-story building — the first floor with apartments — does not become too much of a fishbowl in the evening, the lower panels of the bedroom’s window are frosted, so people cannot easily see in. Apartments on higher floors that are farther away from the action on the street and in the park would be pricier, Mr. Cargon said, adding that every floor up at 20 Bayard is equal to an extra $30,000 in price.
MORNINGSIDE PARK: $839,000
In a two-bedroom condo on West 117th Street, a street-side living room is a crosswalk away from the park, which brokers say has its bloom back.
A parkside location, as desirable as it might be, doesn’t always guarantee panoramas. Even some apartments in upscale co-ops like the Dakota, on Central Park West at West 72nd Street, have no views of park trees.
And then there’s Park West Village, an austere red brick complex between West 97th and West 100th Streets that does offer park views, despite many of the homes in its four condo buildings being set back far from the park’s edge.
Put up in the late 1950s and early 1960s as part of a slum-clearance project by the master planner Robert Moses, Park West benefits from its campuslike property on which parking lots function to keep sight lines open.
For those willing to venture to the complex at the park’s northwestern edge, an alcove studio at 392 Central Park West, with wood floors, three closets and about 600 square feet, was the park’s least expensive, at $650,000. It went into contract last week after less than a month on the market. A half-block from the park, the building, which is entered from West 100th Street, still offers a sea of treetops from many of its apartments.
And the studio is no exception; while the bath and kitchen may be windowless, a large picture version makes up the northern wall, situated by the bed.
To put the price in perspective, the 85 apartments for sale recently on Central Park — one of the city’s most coveted addresses — had a median price of $4.4 million, which was for a two-bedroom co-op at the Sherry-Netherland, a residential hotel diagonally across from the Plaza Hotel.
Few, though, would confuse the bustling, architecturally varied blocks around that building with those around Park West Village, which is across the street from the Frederick Douglass Houses, a 17-building public housing project, and next to Columbus Square, a modern-day five-building luxury rental complex, where studios start at $3,215 a month.
Still, said Antonia Watson, the Keller Williams Realty agent who listed the studio, “to be this close to the park at these prices is an amazing opportunity,” she said. “Everybody who comes to see it comments on that.”
At a Park West Village alcove studio condo, a big picture window overlooks the complex and park in the not-too-far distance.
Madison Square Park
A lack of listings around a park might be because there were never a lot of homes there to begin with, like at Madison Square, which for more than a century was largely a commercial area.
After all, it probably wasn’t a draw to live next to Madison Square Garden, which had two successive homes on East 26th Street built in the late 1800s. Later, insurance and toy-making districts sprung up. Then, until the 1990s, neighbors say, the park was somewhat threadbare and a hotbed for drug-dealing.
But fueled by investment from landlords and businesses, the park has glamorously revived in recent years, adding new lawns, sculptures and the first outpost of the trendy burger chain Shake Shack. Developers, naturally, followed, with office-to-condo conversions.
Nine apartments were on the market there recently, at a median of $12 million. Some were tucked in historic edifices along the park’s northern edge, like the Whitman, at 21 East 26th Street, where the duplex penthouse was $22.3 million. On the other hand, One Madison at 23 East 22nd Street, a rare contemporary high-rise, was offering a duplex spanning its 55th and 56th floors for $37.5 million. And the media mogul Rupert Murdoch recently acquired the 6,850-square-foot triplex penthouse at the top of that sliver tower for $43 million.
The least expensive? A one-bedroom condo at 5 East 22nd Street, in a 1980s doorman building called Madison Green. The eighth-floor unit was listed by Mr. Phillips of Brown Harris Stevens for $1.1 million.
Madison Square cannot be savored from the angled living room; the unit is oriented west, toward the Flatiron Building. But a 60-square-foot terrace does allow a peek at the park to the north, and more.
In recent years, the closing of lanes of Broadway, to turn them into places to sit and hang out, has effectively allowed the park to spill over into the street. Below the terrace, in a frenzy of activity, bikes whooshed, cars honked, and what sounded like a marching band added a beat.
Mr. Phillips, who in the early 1980s worked in the MetLife clock tower, which is being transformed into a hotel, says the signs of life are welcome: “Madison Square should have developed into something really big for 150 years.”
“Everyone who has walked in has gone right to those windows,” said Tim Rettaliata, an agent with the Corcoran Group, about the living room at 92 Prospect Park West, a Beaux-Arts co-op in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The appeal seems obvious. At four stories, the building is the right height for the apartment to feel nestled in the trees, and not perched so far up that the park might resemble a map.
But if nature isn’t enough, the tree-line sash windows in this third-floor unit also neatly frame Litchfield Villa, a well-kept Italianate former mansion designed by Alexander Jackson Davis and located on a hill inside the walls of the park, which it predates. A playground is nearby.
The elegant one-bedroom unit offers molding, dark-stained floors and granite counters, as well as a dining room fashioned from a foyer, in a circa 1900 brick-and-limestone walk-up. Listed at $650,000, the unit received five offers after a mere week of being on the market, and by early this month, a contract had been signed. The listing was actually the second cheapest. The first, a studio with a sunken living room at 25 Plaza Street West, was $375,000, but views of the main expanse of Prospect Park are not front and center. Instead, the apartment directly takes in Grand Army Plaza, which despite being counted among the park’s 526 acres, is more a traffic circle than a place to picnic. However, Grand Army Plaza’s scattered greenery may be eye candy enough for those on the hunt for a deal.
Both of these listings stack up well. In total, there were 13 with views of Prospect Park, which has co-ops and condos on its northern and western flanks, but mostly rentals elsewhere. The median price, $975,000, was for a two-bedroom, two-bath postwar co-op at 10 Plaza Street East.
And Mr. Rettaliata and a business partner, Jessica Buchman, could also lay claim to the priciest property: 9 Prospect Park West, a four-bedroom co-op whose corner berth, and bird-worthy elevation — on the 10th floor of a 15-story building — provides a lot to look at.
MADISON SQUARE PARK: $1.1 MILLION
A one-bedroom condo on East 22nd Street faces the Flatiron Building, but the terrace peeks at a leafy edge of the park. An intersection-turned-urban-park bustles below at Broadway and East 23rd Street.
“It’s pretty dramatic, because the buildings aren’t that high around it,” Mr. Rettaliata said. “You can appreciate how massive the park is.” Then again, that view is listed at $3.7 million.
Considering the many children on swings and climbing structures in public parks today, it can be hard to believe some parks were considered so dangerous for many years that people would walk blocks out of their way to avoid them.
And this 30-acre version, which runs from West 110th to West 123rd Street, and from Morningside Drive to Morningside Avenue, was one of the most crime-ridden, according to historical accounts from as early as the 1930s.
Battles of other sorts were waged here, too. Harlem residents fought nearby Columbia University over plans to build a new gym by a rocky hill in the 1960s, which got as far as an excavation before protests stopped it.
But few noticeable traces of those bad old days remain today. Concerned neighbors rehabilitated the park, which has playful statues, grand staircases and a waterfall-fed pond, on the site of that defeated gym project.
For-sale apartments are still scarce; there were just three on the market recently, at a median price of $2.3 million for a three-bedroom condo at One Morningside Park, a new development at 321 West 110th Street.
The least expensive was a two-bedroom, two-bath unit at 371 West 117th Street, a 25-unit prewar condo conversion, priced at $839,000.
In the unit, some windows face air shafts. The front ones, though, look out over Morningside Avenue toward the park’s edge, and while the windows are at ground level, car noise has been dramatically reduced by a recent redesign of the street, said Francesca Segreti, its Halstead Property listing agent. “It’s really quiet, like it is now,” she said on a recent afternoon, with every window open.
Other recent condo projects around the park include 250 Manhattan Avenue, a 20-unit conversion of a rent-regulated building where a dozen apartments face the park. Units in the building traded for an average of $800 a square foot in 2012 when the building sold out, but resales have been closer to $1,200 a square foot, said Maor Shefer, a Nest Seekers agent who marketed the building.
Market-rate rentals have also sprouted, like 280 Manhattan Avenue, a 20-unit conversion project that leased up in 2013. “There’s a new beginning here, some magic,” Mr. Shefer said. “Park living has been made affordable.”
Saturday, October 18, 2014