Sky High Sales, Bargain Basement Taxes

luxury livingWe’ve featured several high priced properties throughout the city here on New York City Luxury Living. We’ve wowed you with the features of the Rothschild mansion and its $25 million price tag. And let’s not forget the $100 million worthy 3 story apartment in the CitySpire at 150 West 56th. They’re just two among the several going for $20 million, $30 million, even $80 million and up. It seems that the higher the altitude, the higher the price. (Or, as in the case of the Rothschild, the pedigree played a big part.) But there’s something that you and every other Joe the Plumber homeowner may not know – those rich and glamorous sitting pretty in their lofty new digs probably aren’t paying full price for them when it comes to their property taxes.

Thanks to an antiquated tax code, that $88 million penthouse that sold earlier this year comes with a yearly property tax bill of just $59,000. Why? Because it’s only valued at $2.97 million, less than 4% of its actual worth. And this disparity is considered a good thing by the city, believe it or not. Back in the 80s, when the city’s real estate market was a much different creature than it is now, there were a lot more rentals, very few condos, and rising co-ops. There were stricter rental regulations, and more of them, than there are now. So the city decided that in order to keep prices down and to keep them from rising too quickly, all new co-ops and condos were to be valued based on a comparable rental property. With all those rent regulations, it worked. Property values stayed low, and property taxes remained low because of it. Then, there’s a thing called the 4421a tax abatement. Developers are given much lower tax rates in the hopes of fostering more development. They can then pass these reduced tax rates onto buyers, as they are in effect for several years after the project is finished. What began as an incentive to create more co-op conversions in older buildings 30 years ago is still in effect today.

However, there really is no comparison for a building like CitySpire, let’s say, or 15 Central Park West. Oh, the city will look at some other high rise – unremarkable, not nearly as new or stylish or desirable – and attach a tax bill to it of a fraction of what it is really worth. And the developers are still applying for that 421a abatement, claiming that their new buildings bring in jobs and help the economy. A new development with two apartments already going for $90 million each has recently applied. And they say they have to, or no one will buy.

See, it all boils down to this – the super-rich are just as careful with their money as the lowly folk are. Sure, they spend it in different ways, but many don’t spend more than they have to, or need to, to get what they want. And what they want are low property taxes on their high priced, high rise flats. Given that, and that a change to the current valuation system would mean a complete overhaul of the city’s entire property tax code, don’t expect to see those living sky high to pay even ground floor taxes in the near future. Their bargain basement private discount center isn’t in any danger of going out of business anytime soon.

A Diamond in the Rough – the Rothschild Mansion

rothschild mansion nyc

In the late 1920s, when things were good and jazz still ruled the world, before the darker, colder days of the Great Depression, the Lehmans, the Rothschilds and a couple other moneyed New York families developed a block between Madison and Park Avenues. Stretching from East 70th to East 71st, they created their own private enclave of world-class mansions. The mansion at 41 East 71st, built by Walter and Carla Rothschild in 1928, sold earlier this month for $25 million. She’s been described as a “diamond in the rough” and well does she deserve the title.

At 28 feet wide, 41 East 71st is a massive façade by New York City standards. At a full six stories high, she encompasses nearly 13,000 square feet, if you include the cavernous basement with its high ceilings, windows on three sides and separate entrance from East 70th. The 6th floor’s penthouse terrace adds even more space to an already impressive home. The large rooms and high ceilings inside make it feel and look even larger than it is. The Rothschilds built on the end of the block, so as to allow for natural light on three sides of their mansion, opening it up even more. The towering 6-over-6 lot-line windows do the job admirably. It’s said you can even see the sky from the second floor!

Much of the interior as the Rothschild’s and their neighbors would have known it is gone now, unfortunately, although original architectural features such as the sweeping grand staircase and hand-carved lintels over the fireplaces have been preserved. The mansion was converted into office space in 1958, so except for a few rooms such as the dining room and library, most of the original floorplan has been obliterated. The new owner, steel executive Leroy Schechter, has promised to return it to its former glory as a residence, polishing the diamond till she shines.

As with any gem, the setting pays a large part in showing off its beauty, and the Rothschild mansion is no exception. Located in the heart of the Upper East Side, on a street known as the best townhouse location in the city, the Rothschild is well situated for a lady of her grandeur and pedigree. Look behind her, though, to find the true beauty and strength of her placement. The seven mansions built in the block in those long ago days of jazz and flapper girls shared a bit of civility uncommon even among the upper crusts of New York society. Their owners all agreed to create their own private park – 66 feet wide and 103 feet deep – by opening all their gardens to one another! Today, 41 East 71st only has a portion of that park remaining – 33 feet wide and 28 feet deep – but that is still more than many New Yorkers could only dream of. This bit of green space adds to the potential of this rough gem, giving her a setting worthy of the term “paradise.”

Mr. Schechter is known for his eye for “premiere” properties, currently selling his 35th floor Central Park West condo for $95 million. He has plans to convert the mansion back into a home over the next two years, adding baths, creating bedrooms, expanding the kitchen and removing a second staircase that was put in for the sake of the businesses. No doubt, given his track record, he’ll have this diamond in the rough polished and sparkling in a fashion worthy of her glory days.

Up On the Roof

nyc luxury living

As the old song says, some of the best getaways in the city are often offered “Up on the Roof.” Like bears emerging from their winter dens, warm weather in New York City has the apartment-dwelling denizens heading for their nearest rooftop. What would a sunny Saturday be without a bit of rooftop tanning, or a quick dip in the pool, or a night out at one of the city’s coolest hot spots high above the teeming, steaming streets. From the elevated acre of the Fidi to the tar beaches of Harlem, New Yorker’s are in love with their rooftops. According to one New York historian, the rooftop represents the search for light and air. She likens this to life in the city itself. Well, at one Greenwich Village condo, life up on the roof just got a little sweeter.

The two bedroom condo at 12 East 12th Street isn’t that special from first blush, really. Oh, sure, it’s lovely and all, but rather typical of Manhattan’s high end real estate. It has sleek modern lines, lots of glass and steel and a sophisticated, urban style. A spa bathroom has a skylight to aid in applying your makeup to suit any lighting. Its 3.6 million dollar price tag is well-deserved, I can assure you. Just what you’d expect of pricey condo living in the city.

Take the silver steel staircase up from the dining area to the roof, however, and things suddenly become a great deal more surprising. There’s the rooftop terrace, to begin with. No tar beach, here, just soft, warm wood underfoot. No container gardens, either, with a few peas or peppers. Planters with flowers, shrubs and even trees have turned this urban jungle into a shady, colorful garden. Decks with views of the city invite you to pull up your favorite chaise and relax, watching the sun move slowly across the sky as the evening breezes cool your street-wearied brow. But if that’s not enough of a getaway for you, simply head across the roof to the water tower.

You read that right – the water tower. With the help of a blow torch to remove the cast iron lining, architects at Messana O’Rourke took the terra cotta water tower and transformed it into a one-of-kind private rooftop getaway guest house. With 24 foot ceilings, windows almost that high and a skylight overhead, the space is bright, light and airy. In summer its air conditioned coolness soothes on those days when the breeze dries up. In the winter, its heating unit keeps you toasty warm. The water tower also features a bedroom and full bath, making it ideal for those times when you either need to get away from your guests, or you need them to get away from you. It could also serve as a writer’s or artist’s retreat – what with all that natural light you could create to your heart’s content. Of course, you’d have to leave the comfort of the apartment below to do so, but then, that’s what going up to the roof is all about, right?

Trump Equals a Winning Combination

ivanka trump park avenueWhen Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner settled into their 10 room park Avenue apartment, her over-the-top style had to make way for his sleek, minimalistic ways. And when baby girl made three last year, modern “warm” seemed to be the way to go. And Ivanka and her designer Kelly Behun have delivered a home so sleek, so sophisticated and yet so soothing and (dare I say it, sweet?) that it is being featured in Elle Décor’s October edition.

The home relies heavily on neutrals – greys and silvers dominate the color scheme – to give it that edgy, sophisticated urban appeal. There’s a stunning silver mural covering one wall, yet the room has a warm, calming presence. The living room’s grey walls add another soothing factor to the home, giving it a bit of a homey welcome. And the bedroom – all elegance and style, very new York – with its wall of windows and crisp white linens, is at once sleek and urban and yet inviting and warm.

What the neutrals lack in eye appeal, the accessories and artwork make up for in eye-popping color, textures and style. That same stunning silver mural provides a backdrop for a glass and silver table with a pair of metallic vases filled with flowing branches of golden blooms. The grey of the living room comes alive with bright splashes of sky blue provided by a lacquered desk, photos on the wall and the striped coffee table. The cool, calming elegance of the grey and white bedroom with all those windows is warmed by a pair of paintings in pinks and reds hung over the head of the bed. A large painting featuring maroon shades nearly covers one wall of the dining room, setting its gold and silver furnishings on fire. Throughout the home, these bright spots lend to the modern, yet non-industrial atmosphere, a rare combination indeed.

The sweetness of the apartment can be found in two places. The first is the nursery designed for now one year old daughter Arabella Rose. Situated only a few blocks from Mommy Ivanka’s office, the little girl’s haven is a wash of warm whites and ivory. The furniture has a French Provincial style to it, and the softness of everything from the drapery to the carpet can be felt through the photographer’s lens. Since the apartment’s location was chosen to allow Ivanka to be closer to work, the love and care that went into Arabella’s room was no coincidence. Mommy often drops in from the office for a few stolen moments with her daughter.

The second “sweet spot” in the apartment’s décor is that much of it could be replicated in any home across the country. While we may not all be privileged to have stunning views of Manhattan from our bedrooms, the cool, yet warm palette with bright pops of our favorite colors would be very easy to do in suburbia and small town. The hominess of the living room and nursery, the simple styling of the dining room and office, could be ours for a little time and effort. Ivanka hasn’t so much created a showpiece home for herself and her family, as she has an inspiration for us all. And that’s a winning hand all the way around.

Sometimes It Pays to be the Middle Child

moving to nycWhen five and dime magnate Frank Woolworth commissioned famed architect Charles Henry Pierpont Gilbert to design three town homes on the Upper East Side, he did so to provide homes for his three daughters. The three mansions stand at 2, 4 and 6 East 80th Street. And while we may not know for whom each one was built, the middle one at #4 is the best and brightest of the lot. At 35 feet wide, it has 10 feet of street front on its sister homes. With its furnishings included, it’s ready made elegance and style. With a great deal of renovation to carefully restore the original lines and features of the 1916 home, it’s almost a one-of-a-kind in the city. And if you’ve got $150,000 a month for the rent, you can enjoy its opulence and grandeur every day.

The seven (7) story mansion was recently taken off the market and placed in the rental column instead. (And they talk about the rental market heating up!) It would become the second most expensive rental in the city, after the Astor penthouse. And just what does $150,000 get you every month? Let’s take a closer look:

Pre war styling, period furnishings and architecture have been left intact or restored to their previous elegant condition. In fact, the home could easily serve as a museum piece. Ten to 14 foot ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, wood burning fireplaces and a sweeping grand marble staircase are just for starters. Architecture as art is the defining phrase when it comes to the Woolworth mansion.

A 50 seat dining room, solarium morning room and serving kitchen ensure that every and any meal is an event, even when it’s just your morning cup of joe. Want breakfast in bed? The staff needn’t worry about bringing you your tray, as the home’s elevator provides effortless service between floors.

The fifth floor home gym is the handiwork and fingerprint of the mansion’s latest former owner, exercise millionaire Lucille Roberts. If riding in the elevator or sitting in your private office on the sixth floor has you putting on some pounds, you needn’t even leave home to restore yourself to your original, elegant condition.
The home’s 6 bedrooms (8 if you count the two staff rooms on the seventh floor) feature wood burning fireplaces, private baths and sitting rooms. The closet space is described as “ample” – something you would expect in a 20,000 square foot home.

The “public spaces” provide you with plenty of entertaining possibilities. There’s the aforementioned dining room, as well as a third floor wood-paneled library with wet bar. Gather your friends, light the fire in the fireplace and spend a pleasant evening. The home’s surroundings would even make a visit from the in-laws seem like an event to look forward to.

The neighborhood is one of the most affluent in the city and has been for over a century. The streets of the Upper East Side have been home to the likes of the Carnegies, Rockefellers, Roosevelts, Kennedys and Whitneys. Home of many foreign consulates such as that of Greece and India, as well as the Guggenheim and Whitney museums, the Upper East Side still retains its air of elegance and style, money and magnificence. While the Woolworth mansion is among the priciest rentals in town, the town homes and apartments of New York’s Upper East Side are among the most expensive to be had.

The Woolworth mansion offer the grace and style of yesterday with the amenities of today almost effortlessly and seamlessly added, making it worth every nickel and dime of its price. Not bad for a middle child!

Celebrating the Cause Celeb for Over a Century

NYC political fundraiser

Theodore Roosevelt did it in 1898. Joe McCarthy did it in 1968. And Barack Obama is doing it now. What is it? Campaigning for office. Campaigning in New York City. Specifically, campaigning for office at private fundraisers in the private homes of some of the city’s richest and most well-known.

The rich and famous of New York have been inviting other wealthy and well-knowns into their homes for the benefit of this candidate or that since at least Theodore’s time over a hundred years ago. They didn’t limit themselves to national candidates, either. Old Rough Rider Roosevelt was running for governor, after all. It should come as no surprise that many a local candidate has gotten elected or reelected on the funds raised at private dinners and swanky parties given by the city’s elite. After all, charity begins at home, right?

In Roosevelt’s day, there was usually a dinner, followed by a speech given by the host, a few remarks by the candidate himself, and then folks were asked to open their wallets and purses after. Private fundraisers weren’t strictly limited to political candidates, either. Many a charity or “cause” was either begun or supported through donations from various events held in private homes. Ladies supported suffragettes with afternoon teas. Halfway houses, schools and orphanages were funded through soirees and musical evenings. And missionaries around the world were given a financial boost through balls, dinners and other fancy parties. The uniformed staff worked long hours cleaning and cooking, decorating and arranging, only to go relatively unseen on the day or evening of the big affair. The best and brightest of society were only too glad to be seen attending such posh events in the company of other equally posh and important guests. And the money raised was “all for a good cause.”

So, why the history lesson? Just to say that private celebrity fundraising events for political candidates are nothing new in New York City, really. Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyonce and Donald Trump all have their predecessors in that department. The rich and powerful still like to be seen giving time, talent and money to those other rich and powerful people who come asking for it. The causes may be different, the faces and fashions certainly are, but the premise that the promise of a better future might rely on someone’s attendance at a $5,000 a plate dinner is nothing short of old hat. It’s merely a part of the city’s landscape and history. New Yorkers love to support their favorite causes, and if that cause is a political candidate, the more’s the better. The staff (at least at SJP’s townhouse) aren’t as spiffy without their uniforms and caps, but the preparations, the food, the entertainment and the guest lists are still just as impressive as they were in Teddy’s day. And who knows, with some of the city’s oldest and finest families still in the habit of giving, maybe some of the names are still the same. Charity, politics and celebrities go hand in hand in this fair city, after all. They have for over a hundred years and that’s not likely to change now. It’s all still for a “good cause” after all.

Aspiring to New Heights – Luxury Lives Here

By Suzanne Stewart

luxury nycWe all know that New York’s apartments run the range of the 200 square foot bare-minimum basement studio to thousands of square feet of luxurious penthouse living high above the streets. Since the city’s beginnings, certain addresses have always meant the finer things in life had been attained. We’ve become accustomed to it, really, being constantly surrounded by affluence and opulence. It goes towards creating the city’s image, in a way.“If I can make it here, I’ll make it anywhere.” Anyone can aspire to new heights in NYC, right? Need some inspiration for your climb? Let’s check out the 3 story penthouse at 150 West 56th. It’s only listed for $100 million, after all. If that doesn’t get your blood flowing, I can almost guarantee no piece of mere real estate ever will.

150 West 56th is at home in the CitySpire, and the 73rd through 75th floors are home to Steven Klar’s elegant and opulent penthouse. Klar himself calls it a “piece of art” and he’s not wrong!

Where should we start? Let’s see, there’s the stately columns in the foyer’s gallery. And the beautiful crystal chandelier in the dining room. Oh, and let’s not forget the 1,000 bottle wine room. (Can’t really call it a “cellar” can we? It’s 73 floors up!) How about the media room that’s bigger than many NYC apartments all on its own? And imagine the family dinners you can serve in the eat-in, gourmet kitchen.

nyc luxuryThe apartment has 5 bedrooms, 8 baths and a separate guest apartment on the 72nd floor. It has its own private elevator to make access from one floor to the next easy for all. The entire top floor is the master suite. Again, few words can describe its subtle beauty and elegance. There’s the sitting room for private, quiet moments in the morning or unwinding at night. Speaking of unwinding, you’ll never hurry through your bath again as the spa tub invites you to soak for hours. And the separate dressing room makes even the most fashion-inept among us green with envy.

The second floor of the penthouse is home to the other 4 bedrooms, as well as a conference room and laundry area. Each bedroom has its own private bath, with two having walk-in closets. (How many New Yorkers dream of having decent closet space?) The gallery on this floor also has 4 smaller closets, as well as 6 sets of shelves, for floor to ceiling display of books, antiques or other valuables. One of the bedrooms could be a library, with a wall of built-in bookshelves, if so desired.

luxury livingOne of the penthouse’s main features is the reason the Klars are looking to relocate. All three floors are ringed 360 degrees with terraces, which worry them with their young son. The 135 windows offer nearly unobstructed views of the city’s skyline. You can even spot most of the city’s bridges from up there! The Klars say that sometimes fog and cloudy weather does mar the view, as when the Pope visited Central Park in 1998, but on a clear day, you can see just about anywhere you’d want to see.

luxury living nycThe city really does provide the backdrop for this penthouse, so you’d better really love New York if you plan to live there. But, oh, there is so much about this penthouse, and this city, to love. To inspire you. To aspire to. And I don’t mean just the height!

Restaurant Roundup: 5 to Try Before You Die!

New York City beckons foodies from around the world to try the best traditional dishes as well as new fusion cuisine at the world’s best restaurants. There are so many great restaurants just around the corner from my no-fee apartment, I only wish I could sample them all! Here are 5 of the city’s best:

Tavern on the Green

This Central Park Landmark not only serves great cuisine but offers picturesque views of Central Park. Originally opened in 1934, the restaurant has undergone a series of transformations throughout the years, enabling it to remain a place to see and be seen. Naysayers malign the “touristness” of this historic site, but it is an experience everyone should have! Try the traditional dishes like prime rib or pork chop and you will be sure to be satisfied.


You may forget you are still in New York if you spend too long in this restaurant! When I want to escape my New York apartment, I love going to this French-style brasserie, and with the surrounding cobblestone streets of the Meatpacking District, it’s easy to get lost in a reverie. They offer traditional French cuisine, sometimes with an American twist. This crowded hot spot is well worth the wait. Try the seared tuna Nicoise, or the moules frites au Pernod.

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Ssam means “anything that is encircled or wrapped.” At first this contemporary style Asian-American fusion spot only served Asian-inspired burritos, but has now expanded the menu to include many delicious and interesting dishes. The menu changes frequently and features fresh, local produce, in addition to meat items labeled with which farm they are from. Try the Momofuku Ssam to taste this restaurant’s signature dish.

L’Orange Bleu

The friendly staff at this interesting spot only enhance the great food and atmosphere. Some nights you will find belly dancers or exotic African drummers at this French and African-inspired joint. The mussels are quite good, or come for the $1 oysters during happy hour from 4-7pm daily!

Serendipity 3

This spot is known for its “Opulence Sundae” of Guinness World Record fame. It’s a $1,000 dollar ice cream sundae with flecks of gold in it. Don’t worry though, the other menu items are slightly more affordable. The other recommended item is the frozen hot chocolate, which defies physics, but tastes amazing!

So while summer lasts, head out of your manhattan no-fee apartment and sample some of New York’s best cuisine!

The High Line: High Flying on the West Side

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Photo by Sam Felder via Flickr

As anyone who lives in aNew York apartmentknows, living in the city in summer can sometimes feel like a concrete clam bake. Fortunately this summer relief comes to the West Side in the form of a new and innovative public space project–the High Line.

Originally a freight track built to replace a ground level track responsible for so many pedestrian casualties that its section of 10th avenue was once known as “Death Avenue,” The High Line had been abandoned for nearly 30 years (the last train to pass through was a three car freight train in 1980 carrying frozen turkeys).

This year, thanks to a concerted urban planning effort, part of the 1.45 mile elevated track has finally reopened as a landscaped promenade and park, complete with over 210 plant species and breathtaking views of the Hudson River. This new lifeline of public green space only serves to enhance the already charming Meat Packing District and West Village, increasingManhattan real estate market rates and providing a significant draw for both tourists and renters of NYC apartments!

The park is free and open to the public from 7am to 10pm daily, but there are rules: no bikes, rollerblades, segways or skateboards are allowed, and dogs are prohibited due to the young and fragile plant life.

Friends of the High Line, the founding group responsible for the park, projects the opening of the second section of the railway (from 20th to 30th streets), sometime in 2010. The third and last section (that wraps around the West Side Rail Yard) is privately owned and may or may not be slated for renewal. The group wants to save this historic property and give it the same green makeover!

So this summer if you’re baking in a West Side Manhattan Apartment and you want relief. . .just look up!

Darling, I Love You, but Give me Park Avenue!

Like many New Yorkers, I have a guilty pleasure. Every once and a while, I stroll up and down Park Avenue and fantasize about living in a luxury penthouse apartment.

Don’t get me wrong. My current Chelsea apartment affords me plenty of luxury. But Park Avenue is the stuff of New York apartment dreams! When I think of having an address in the most exclusive zip code in the country (10021, which runs from East 42nd-97th streets) with millionaires and celebrities, Star Jones and Kim Cattrall as my neighbors, I get chills. AnUpper East Side Apartment is something to desire, something to be envied!

And oh, the shopping! Nowhere else in the world will you find as many stores of such high caliber in such close proximity. Bloomindales and Saks, of course; but designer names as well, such as Gucci, Hermes, Chanel, Cartier, Christian Louboutin, Yves Saint Laurent and hundreds of others make me grip tightly to my purse!

But the Upper East Side offers more than just nannies taking their charges to the park, black tie charity dinners and trust fund babies; it’s also blocks away from some of the best museums and universities in the world. It would take any New Yorker more than a lifetime to view each piece of artwork at the MoMA, The Whitney, The Met and the Guggenheim; but a girl with anUpper East Side apartment could certainly try!

The more I dream about it, the more I can’t settle for anything less than the most enviable real estate in New York. I can picture myself rising at noon, greeting the doorman coolly as I leave the building for my afternoon stroll in the park, returning in time for a glass of wine on the balcony at sunset before getting ready for some high-society function…Park Avenue, you’re the life for me! Even Madison Avenue just won’t do. Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue!