Out and About: Mitchell-Lamas are spacious, cold

Now called Central Park Towers, the former Park West Village complex of more than 1,600 apartments began life as Mitchell-Lama housing on the Upper West Side.

Created in 1955, the Mitchell-Lama program provides affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families, as the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development notes.

There are 97 such rental and limited-equity cooperative developments in New York City, with more than 44,600 units. Not included are those that have been converted into condos, and they have a range of pluses and minuses.

Mitchell-Lama buildings are not to everyone taste–for example, mine–but they tend to offer excellent value as a tradeoff to their overwhelming size and what I see as their other liabilities.

Each of the four looming behemoths in the Central Park Towers complex contains more than 400 apartments between 97th and 100th streets from Central Park West and just short of the newly blooming retail and rental development on Columbus Avenue. Once rather isolated from appealing neighborhood amenities, the buildings now abut them.

Built in 1961, the complex offers bike rooms, outdoor parking (for which there usually is a waiting list), garden, fitness rooms, laundries, nurseries, rooftop decks and common storage.

On the other hand. . . The ambiance is inescapably institutional, with endless hallways, overtaxed elevators and many residents who are holdovers from years ago.

Taking advantage of announced brokers’ open houses in eight units within three of the buildings, I hustled over there on a frigid day last month–remember winter?–in the hope of describing some of the condos to you. Although the concierges were aware of the open houses and I called various cell phones, not one broker was present to unlock the apartment’s doors for me. So this post is based on previous visits.

Indeed, once you’ve seen one of the dwellings, a majority of them with balconies, you’ve pretty much seen all of them. Of course, views, condition and upgrades do vary, but bones is bones.

I can report that closet space tends to be generous, exposures typically are bright and kitchens decent. Like Lincoln Towers and other Mitchell-Lama buildings, even their alcove studios feel pretty spacious.

However, if I were to sing the praises of mid-century parquet flooring, standard-height ceilings and bland architecture, I would be moved to croak rather than warble.

With respect to prices, they probably go higher than you might expect.

For example, a renovated 535-sf studio on a high floor is listed at $515,000 with real estate taxes and common charges totaling only $498 per month; it has been on the market since July. A lovely two-bedroom, two-bath unit with an open floor plan and balcony on a low floor was offered last month for an unlikely $1.195 million with monthly costs of $1,381; I expect the price to be lowered eventually.

Value is one thing and a bargain, quite another.

Following are some other properties listed by various brokers that I have seen recently:

  • On West End Avenue in the low 100s, a two-bedroom, two-bath condo being sold as-is because it requires a gut renovation.  In a pet-friendly doorman 1927 building, this 1,200-sf sponsor apartment on a low floor had its price cut from $1.2 million to $950,000 five days after it was put on the market in January. Monthly common charges and real estate taxes total $1,445, and the seller has a history of being open to negotiation.  
  • A one-bedroom co-op that is an acknowledged estate sale, and clearly so.  The apartment is owned by an investor, who spared every expense in upgrading the place.  Between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway in the high 90s, the unit needs everything, but renovation can be accomplished easily, thanks to a paucity of load-bearing walls and an accommodating board.  In a 1930 building with only a part-time doorman five days week, live-in super and no other amenities that merit mention, this co-op is priced at $549,000 with maintenance of $1,124 a month and the likelihood of its being sold for under $500,000. 
  • Centrally situated in Lincoln Square, a one-bedroom condo in a 1964 full-service high-rise that provides a roof deck, garage and, on every floor, a laundry room.  This 700-sf apartment has a good-looking, newly renovated pass-through kitchen with volcanic stone countertops, cherry cabinets and upgraded appliances.  The bathroom has been renovated nicely and contains only a stall shower, exposures north up Broadway are sort of open, the amount of closet space is awesome, and the living room with dining alcove suggests spaciousness.  But the living room floor is constructed of laminated hardwood, and the building itself is one in which it is difficult to obtain financing because of greater than 10 percent ownership by a single entity.  Still, the unit is well priced at $749,000 with combined monthly costs of $956. 
  • A two-bedroom, two-bath co-op between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West in the low 70s.  Although the two bedrooms get plenty of  southern sunlight, perhaps it is an abundance of dark wood, less bright exposures east and ceilings of ordinary height that make the place feel oppressive.  The kitchen, which has a movable breakfast counter separating it from the living room, is all tired stainless, including the countertops.  With scuffed floors, fancifully finished baths and a large undeveloped area that once was a stairwell, this 1,000-sf apartment represents poor value at $1.2 million with surprisingly high maintenance of $2,300 a month in a 1929 dog-unfriendly building that has little more than a part-time doorman as its amenities.  
  • In the low 90s on West End Avenue, which each of the seven rooms except the third bedroom face, a sprawling co-op on a low floor of a 1927 pet-friendly doorman building.  The corner apartment needs everything, especially a return to its original space of a huge eat-in kitchen from the former dining room; the old kitchen now is used as a laundry and pantry, which retains original cabinets. Buyers averse to vintage rooms, will want to renovate the two-and-a-half baths and undertake a general facelift as well.  Priced accordingly at $2.595 million with monthly maintenance of $2,838, the unit recently went under contract at close to the ask. 
  • A 932-sf one-bedroom condo in a 1985 low-rise that lacks even a scintilla of architectural distinction in the high 80s on a corner of Columbus Avenue.  What the one-bedroom apartment offers, however, is a 400-sf terrace, more than 20-foot-long and narrow eat-in kitchen, and open city views.  Although there are parquet floors, new windows, washer/dryer vented outside and fresh paint, finishes are barely up to standard.  But the pet-friendly  building itself has a full-time doorman, resident manager, gym, children’s playroom and a garage.  The twice-reduced asking price of $949,000 (from $1.049 million in mid-January) with monthly costs totaling $1,638 now is pretty much on target. 

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

Web site



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