The inspiration for street names like Canal and Spring may be lost to time and development. But the landscape feature that prompted Park survives, front and center.
The long avenue stretches nearly 10 miles, across two boroughs, from East 32nd Street in Manhattan to East 189th Street in the Bronx, where it ends near an Applebee’s. But it is perhaps best known for the section below 96th Street.
For much of that stretch, a ribbon of lawns, trees and hedges unfurls between the avenue’s northbound and southbound arteries. In recent weeks, slender tiny parkland has welcomed beds of scarlet tulips and sculptures with yellow rubber wrapped around poles.
E. 116TH ST.
EAST 96TH ST. PARK
E. 96TH ST.
Lenox Hill Hospital
W. 57th ST.
Park Avenue Armory
W. 34TH ST.
E. 42ND ST.
W. 23RD ST.
To be sure, there is not a lot of open space. Although the park runs on and off from Murray Hill to Carnegie Hill, it totals barely more than four and a half acres. And that acreage is squeezed into a space not much wider than a deli, with almost no place to sit.
But if the greenery must be enjoyed in passing, it still adds elegance, say brokers, shopkeepers and residents. Also attractive, they say, is the spaciousness afforded by the physical street, which is 140 feet across, making it among Manhattan’s widest, according to the borough president’s office.
Likewise, the obsessively maintained prewar buildings that line the three-and-a-half-mile stretch, Park Avenue’s most populous section, rarely top 20 stories, ensuring lots of light.
“We like the character of the street, and we like the scale of it. It’s one of the most appealing things about the neighborhood,” said Andrew Soussloff, an investment manager who has lived at his current home in a 12-story apartment house with a granite base and terra-cotta trim for 17 years, after 15 years at another Park Avenue address.
Mr. Soussloff, 65, demurred when asked to share apartment details. But a five-bedroom in his building is currently listed for $8.5 million.
Clouds may be on the horizon. Lenox Hill Hospital, which takes up a full block at East 77th Street, wants to expand its maternity ward and emergency department, along with other upgrades. Among the more contentious elements is a plan for a 200-unit condominium to help subsidize the $2.5 billion redevelopment. The Park-facing high-rise, to be built by an as-yet-unnamed developer, would soar 41 stories, more than double the height of the skyline now.
Mr. Soussloff calls the project “inappropriate” as currently scaled, though, like other opponents, he values the hospital’s proximity. He and neighbors in about a dozen buildings are girding for battle. “We want to push back,” he said.
On a project website, Lenox Hill, which is owned by Northwell Health, said it is under the same financial strain as nonprofits like the Brooklyn Public Library, which is developing a 134-unit condo in Brooklyn Heights. The expansion “cannot be achieved without monetization of a portion of the hospital’s valuable real estate,” the site says.
Although downtown may now be a trendier enclave, condo buyers would likely flock to a building on Park Avenue.
“Park is literally right in the middle of New York,” said Sara Kahen-Kashi, 34, an optometrist who in 2013 bought a studio co-op in a prewar former hotel for about $400,000, after five years of renting in the building.
The apartment, with a beamed ceiling and casement windows, might fetch $500,000 today. But Dr. Kahen-Kashi isn’t selling. Although she has rented out the unit for two years, since moving to Long Island, where she lives with her husband and two children, a future pied-à-terre has not been ruled out. “Park,” she said, “has cachet.”
What You’ll Find
From East 32nd to East 96th Streets, Park Avenue seems buttoned up, like a Brooks Brothers shirt.
Fashioned in serious brick and stone, residential buildings dating to the 1920s and 1930s are largely similar and kept looking their prewar best by numerous historic districts. (Lenox Hill Hospital doesn’t sit in one.) For metal facades or swooping rooflines, buyers should look elsewhere.
Blocks typically have no more than three apartment buildings. And some have only one — like Park Avenue between East 93rd and 94th, where the Gothic arches of the fortresslike No. 1185 guard a landscaped courtyard. Another desirable building, on an avenue filled with them, is No. 1088, at East 89th, which also has a peek-a-boo garden.
Today, financiers, fashion moguls and chemical tycoons call Park home. A century ago, the makeup wasn’t much different, with multimillionaires who hit it big in “oil, steel, railroads, mining, limber, motorcars, banking, real estate, moving pictures, foreign trade, speculating, the manufacturing of widgets, the marketing of toothpaste, the distribution of the assets of button kings,” writes Michael Gross in “740 Park,” his book about the limestone co-op at East 71st that may be the avenue’s most exclusive address.
Downstairs, the central stretch of the avenue can seem especially proper, thanks in no small part to the uniforms worn by so many of its doormen, whose caps and epaulets are a common sight. If the sidewalks look spotless, it is not because gum chewers wrap up their leftovers, but because those doormen hose down the pavement.
Other commonplace details include green awnings, brass door handles and medical offices — of chiropractors, dermatologists and plastic surgeons — tastefully announced by small, mounted metal plates.
“It’s just a whole different feeling, being on Park,” said Anthony Ortiz, 57, a florist whose store at East 82nd, Design By Anthony Ortiz, opened in 2013 and is one of the few places to shop. Besides providing bouquets for apartments and lobbies, Mr. Ortiz makes sure the avenue’s tree pits never look too bare.
A few condos, usually in older buildings, can be found up and down the avenue, including at Nos. 80, at 38th Street, and 1235, at 96th. But a new generation of super-tall buildings has also pushed in, among them No. 432, with 88 stories, and No. 520, with 54.
What You’ll Pay
As of April 30, there were 273 apartments, mostly co-ops, listed for an average of $4.84 million on StreetEasy (excluding new developments). In contrast, the average home price in Manhattan is $2.12 million, according to Douglas Elliman Real Estate; co-ops average $1.29 million. Still, more than a third of the apartments were listed for less than $2 million.
The priciest was a seven-bedroom, six-bathroom duplex at No. 515, a late-1990s condo, for $39.5 million; the least expensive was a studio at No. 7, a co-op, for $374,000.
Although high-end properties across the city are struggling to find buyers, the market on this stretch of Park Avenue seems strong. In 2017, the average closing price for co-ops there was $2.85 million, according to StreetEasy; by 2018, it had jumped to $3.27 million. Condos saw even bigger gains.
But some buildings appear to be weighted with inventory: Ritz Tower, at No. 465, has 18 units listed for sale; the Beekman, at No. 575, has 13; and Trump Park Avenue, No. 502, has eight.
Rentals are all over the map: One-bedrooms, for example, can rent for anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000 a month, according to StreetEasy.
From the East 40s to the East 50s, the avenue is mostly an office district. Glassy towers offer bank branches on the ground floor and investment banks above. A typical weekday scene finds executives hustling lunch in plastic containers back to their desks.
One of the only places to sit, other than those banks’ plazas, is a small park inside the avenue’s ribbon, at East 96th Street. The park, which sits astride a tunnel, offers an ideal spot to watch the trains below as they emerge into daylight.
A zoned option is the Ella Baker School, which offers prekindergarten through eighth grade on Second Avenue, in a six-school complex. On state exams last year, 68 percent of students there met standards in English, versus 47 percent citywide; in math, 48 percent met standards, versus 43 percent citywide.
Hunter College Campus Schools, which are public but require an entrance exam, offers kindergarten through 12th grade in a medieval-esque former armory at East 94th Street.
But many Park Avenue families prefer private schools, and often move to the area to be close to them. Examples include the Allen-Stevenson School, for boys, on East 78th Street, and the Hewitt School, for girls, on East 75th.
Except for a 6 train stop at East 33rd, no subways directly serve the avenue. But Lexington Avenue, a block away, has many stops. Reverse commuters can catch Metro-North trains at Grand Central Terminal, at East 42nd Street.
Originally known as Fourth Avenue, Park adopted its current name around the turn of the 20th century.
But it took a while to get there. First, the trains, which ran at street level in the 1830s, were submerged in open-air trenches. After several years, those trenches were covered with platforms, and upscale developers followed. Parkland claimed the old train right of way, with walking paths winding through its center. But a 1920s effort to widen the avenue for cars forced the removal of most of those walkways.
Published at Wed, 08 May 2019 09:01:19 +0000