All of us at Rose Associates are delighted to join with the rest of our industry in saluting Habitat magazine and Carol Ott on their twentieth anniversary.
Those 20 years have witnessed dramatic changes in the world of New York residential real estate, and Habitat has played an important role in documenting them, in helping board members and professionals in the field to keep abreast of new developments, and in helping to educate us all.
Seen in perspective, the most significant developments in the residential field over that period have probably been: (a) the growing acceptance of the condominium form of home ownership; (b) the declining significance of "residential neighborhood" in choice of location and the increasing significance of transportation and of "quality of life" amenities; (c) the modification of traditional apartment layout and design to reflect contemporary lifestyles; and (d) the growth of interest in health and exercise facilities.
Although the condominium form of ownership has been in wide use in Europe since ancient Rome, where it originated, only over the past two decades or so has it been generally accepted here in New York.
Cooperative ownership, which permits a high degree of "social screening" of would-be residents, was the preferred form of ownership by the well-to-do in an age when social snobbery flourished and residential buildings were almost like clubs. In today's more democratic and impersonal climate, a different perspective applies. For one thing, an apartment is considered an apartment, period; for another, many moneyed people today do not wish to submit themselves to the nuisance and possible rejection by an approval process they believe irrelevant.
For many owner-residents, the financial flexibility permitted by condominium ownership has won the day; and the ability to be responsible only for one's own debt arrangements is a factor. Condo financing is now thought of like the financing of a one-family house.
The declining significance of "residential neighborhoods" is an interesting development with several causes, first and foremost of which was the scarcity of buildable sites in what had been considered "good" neighborhoods, such as Manhattan's Upper East Side or Brooklyn's Brooklyn Heights. The pressing demand for new housing and the lack of traditional sites on which to locate it lead to gentrification of some neighborhoods and the acceptability of others, like TriBeCa, in which, for all practical purposes, no housing had existed. In such a climate, transportation and "quality of life" amenities become even more important, and, along with price, become determining factors.
The changing styles of apartment layout and design are also reflections of the economic and social changes of our time. The many maids' rooms that used to accompany larger apartments are now ancient history; kitchens are no longer the forgotten rabbit warrens they once were; the formal living room, once used only on special occasions, has become more of a family room that is part of daily living; bathrooms have assumed a degree of importance and attention unthinkable only a few decades ago; and, of course, modern laundry facilities, exercise rooms, and computer spaces are increasingly part of everyone's life.
The ever-increasing professionalism of the field of real estate management is also a reflection of our times. In the three-quarters of a century that Rose Associates has been involved in multi-family residential development and management, the technical changes have been dramatic, and we keep trying to balance the skills of an "art" with those of a "science." The end result, however — treating the owner with the integrity, courtesy, and professional competence to which he is entitled — will always be the same.
The last 20 years have been good ones for us all; let's hope that the years ahead will be creative and productive ones for the field generally, for Habitat, and, may I add, for Rose Associates, too!