New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

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ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Ready to Condo in 1981

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Thirty-one years ago, they expected it to sell out quickly. And why not? The 33 units for sale at the newly constructed 1474 Third Avenue, located between 83rd and 84th Streets, didn’t face the sort of restrictions co-ops imposed on sublets, resales, and what you could do with your apartment. And in 1981, when the first units went on sale, cooperatives dominated and condominiums were a relative rarity.

The 17-story property, which replaced a one-story movie theater, was marketed as something special. Each floor housed only two apartments; there were four one-bedrooms, twenty-five two-bedrooms, and four three-bedrooms. The amenities included bathrooms with marble-tiled floors, hardwood parquet floors everywhere else, acoustically sprayed ceilings, and video intercoms. The building itself offered some degree of privacy from the hustle and bustle of the city: it was not on the street but was situated inside a plaza. And the common charges were low. As for sales prices: units were listed at the outset at $259,000 for one-bedroom apartments and $484,000 for a three-bedroom unit.

Everyone was primed. Here come the sales. Here come the buyers.

And then, nothing.

Maybe it was the recession that hit in the early ’80s. As David Goldstick, a real estate attorney who converted a great number of rentals to co-ops during that period, puts it: “The year 1981 was the bottom of the Reagan recession. You could not sell anything on Third Avenue. Co-ops did sell in the better locations that year but very slowly.”

Whatever the reason, the units didn’t move. According to Pamela D’Arc, executive vice president at Stribling & Associates, who did the marketing of the units in later years: “It is my understanding that market conditions dictated that it be turned into a rental.”

Frustrating as that must have been to a developer who had presumably hoped to make money with condos, it was certainly not good news when the building gained some unwanted notoriety in 2001. At that time, Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced criminal charges against a resident of 1474 Third Avenue, Arianna Uzo Egwu, who operated a high-priced East Side call-girl business. The prostitution operation generated more than $2 million yearly in business. Egwu, who promoted her business on a website called “Glamour Roses,” interviewed, hired, and housed the prostitutes, and also set up dates for clients. She worked out of her apartment.

Just six years after this brouhaha, however, the property, now called The New Yorker, had some positive news. It was converted back into a condominium. And this time, it sold out. In 2007, RAL Companies bought the building from Pan Am Equities and completely refurbished all units and common areas with luxurious, high-end finishes and upscale amenities.

“Unique floor-through residences offer one to four bedroom layouts in an intimate setting with just one or two apartments per floor,” reports the RAL website. “The full floor units with private elevator landing offer a rare combination of privacy and an abundance of flexible space.”

Countertops were made from black granite and refrigerators were from Jenn-Air. The designers also installed Bosch-brand dishwashers, stoves, and ovens in the kitchen, and Asko washers and dryers inside each home. Other changes included new boilers, the addition of a natural gas system, and an upgrade of the central air conditioning for the hallways and the lobby. RAL also installed a water filtration system to alleviate a brown water situation coming from the main. A few units were combined.

According to the RAL website, “Building work was performed on vacant apartments and common areas in a staged process in order to avoid disruption to existing tenants and provide timely delivery of individual units.”

The façade had also been leaking and was repaired. The elevators are currently being modernized and the lobby is slated to be refurbished. Water meters were installed, and according to Alex Kalajian, chief operating officer of Solstice Residential Group, which manages the property, that action saved the building $25,000 in one year. He adds that the common charges were reduced in 2011 and 2012. “This is the only building I have ever been involved in where we saved common charges and gave money back,” he observes.

The current owners are pleased with the newly revamped property, its past lives left in the forgotten past. Board member Harry Rubin moved in with his wife and daughter five years ago and never regretted it – even though the family had previously been living in a house in sunny La Jolla, California.

“The units appealed to us because there are only two per floor,” says Rubin, whose apartment has 850 square feet of terrace. “But what distinguishes it is the terrace.”

Thirty-one years after the property made its first appearance, the New Yorker (aka 1474 Third Avenue) is a success. Or as Kalajian, the manager, succinctly puts it: “The building is clean and watertight, the apartments are completely renovated, and the boilers are running efficiently. Hopefully, everyone lives happily ever after.”

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