The Possible Fate of Uninformed Penthouse Purchasers

A View from Gideon Gartner's current penthouse, to his previous apartment (black building, second from the right)

A View from Gideon Gartner's current penthouse, to his previous apartment - black building, second from the right. (photo: Aaron Sylvan, click for high-res)

Today I received an e-mail from a friend: “Gideon, is this your old apartment?….Gerald”

My friend Gerald had attached an article with photos from that day’s New York Times (July 4). The reader can find the complete article on  the web, using keywords like ‘NYT July 4, 2010′, ‘High-Rise Dwellers Live the High, High Life’ (the article’s title), Elizabeth A. Harris (the NYTimes author), and/or Metropolitan Tower (a penthouse being sold).

The article made the point that while most Manhattanites look out their windows at the familiar sight of other buildings, those who live ‘in the sky’,  see long-range panoramic views of avenues, parks, bridges, airplanes taking off and landing, rivers and the sea, and often more.  It told the story of Marlene Steiner, a senior vice president of the  Corcoran Group, who just days before was selling  penthouse 76AB at  the Metropolitan Tower building, at 146 West  57th Street, one of the taller buildings in the  city that include residential space.

Apt. 76AB (identical to our prior 72AB) at 146W.57th)

Quoting from the New York Times, she was telling a client “It’s really like being in an airplane,” ….. “When we came to take pictures,” Ms. Steiner  added, “there were hawks flying below us.”

Marlene’s  listing was a 3,549-square-foot five-bedroom combination apartment with a  triangular living room and lots of floor-to-ceiling windows with  ‘truly striking views — so striking that they  might send you stumbling for something to  hang on to. The building is directly south of  Central Park, so looking north from the living  room affords you a view of the park from tip to tip’. The price for that apartment? $8.9 million, and the agent was certainly pushing the views (see photo from the Times, below).

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I answered my friend’s emailed question, whether 76AB had not been our apartment:

“Gerald, that’s almost exactly the view from our identical apartment, 72AB four floors lower, where you visited us. Soon after Sarah and I were we married, we wrote a contract with an architect  to deign our “masterpiece”, and we demolished  72AB (identical to 76 AB and only four floors lower) in preparation for the architect, living temporarily (we hoped) in a duplex 72/73D which I had purchased earlier to live in during the construction phase. The design dragged out, and eighteen months later we fired the architects because their designs were insufficiently functional.  But almost simultaneously, Sarah  noticed that the office building directly across 57th Street street was dark and empty. Sarah (a lawyer) did some digging and  surmised that a skyscraper might be replacing it, which would destroy our spectacular Central Park and most of our other  views !

We were certainly not sure of this, but being cautious, we decided to list the apartments for sale through our building and its brokers, and ended up selling all three apartments quite quickly without ever seeing the new owners. That was  early in 2007. About six months ago it was officially disclosed  that a larger-than-1,000 ft. tall  building (around 100 stories) was now scheduled to be built right where Sarah had noted the black-out  on 57th street;  certainly by now virtually every broker in town knew that!

Getting back to the NYTimes article which quoted a broker who was pushing the great views (!) of the 74AB apartment,  brokers are under no obligation to disclose all bits of information to clients . Isn’t that what the term ‘Caveat Emptor’ suggests (let the ‘buyer beware’)? Regardless, while it seems unfair to withhold such critical information, to do the opposite and actually PUSH views which are likely to be washed away shortly, about to be washed away. If the buyers  ended up being the couple who were looking at 74AB around July 4, and if their decision to buy was influenced in the least by its then-phenomenal Northern views, I would feel quite sad for them; but what are the odds that the broker actually  knew that her potential $8.9  million client would be looking north  at a skyscraper across the street, instead of at Central Park (and beyond)?

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My friend Gerald answered me:  ”Shame on you for impugning the integrity of a NY real estate broker, of all people.”


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