Out and About: I have this thing about kitchens

Walk this way, right into the kitchen of a pre-war building converted into co-ops. With the room's light bulb burned out and left that way for a showing, the photo quality leaves something to be desired.

Reading the headline, you may be expecting my usual rant about stainless steel, Sub-Zero refrigerators or granite countertops.  As you already must have guessed, you would be wrong.

Although I have written and long believed that every kitchen can be dated by its trends, my chief complaint centers on kitchen locations.

In new developments or conversions, architects trying to cram a maximum number of apartments into a building find themselves twisting floorplans into unlikely configurations at time when the desire for open kitchens may or may not have peaked.  What they seem to do almost invariably is place apartment entrances way too close to cooking areas.

Guests must pass beside the open kitchen, confront it in front of them or, less often, even walk through it.  Frankly, I don’t understand why any of those situations is acceptable.  But, each to his own.

One of the worst examples that I recently encountered was in a converted building on the Lower East Side near the Williamsburg Bridge, where somebody decided that walking right through the center of an eat-in kitchen in an aged former tenement was perfectly fine.  It is not.

Moreover, the kitchen, renovated by its owner a few years ago and pictured above, is not the sort of showplace that any buyer willing to fork over the twice-reduced asking price of $869,000 would relish. (Puns intended.)

As for the remainder of the 850-sf apartment, which its Gen Y tenants left strewn with clothing and other items, the layout and quality of renovations demanded an overhaul, at some considerable expense.

In a pet-friendly building offering a laundry room as its sole amenity in a gritty neighborhood, the unit has a maintenance charge of $1,260 a month.  What is maintained at such a cost can only be imagined.

Among other properties listed by various brokers and visited recently:

  • In a converted hotel in the low 70s west of Columbus Avenue, a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment that was adequately renovated some years ago.  Facing north from a low level, this condo has a raised floor into the bath, which is distant from the bedrooms; a mixture of solid-wood and hollow-core doors; minimal closet space and little of distinction.  Yet it is priced at a level bound to turn off buyers, at $815,000 with common charges of $497 and real estate taxes of $556 per month in a pre-war building lacking amenities worth mentioning.
  • On Riverside Drive in the low 100s, a classic-six-room co-op with side views of the Hudson River the two bedrooms.  In good condition, the unit has an eat-in kitchen that is a curious, but appealing, combination of old cabinets, newer cabinets, black appliances and a cement floor.  There are an adequate number of closets, a decently improved maid’s room, three full baths, a washer that can be coupled with a dryer and period details.  Maintenance is $2,336 plus monthly assessments of approximately $328.  This 1922 unit in a pet-friendly doorman building is listed for $1.785 million, at which level it will be a hard sell and perhaps the reason it temporarily went off the market little over a month after being listed.
  • A 2,330-sf condo in the low 60s on Central Park West.  This two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath apartment has been total renovated at evidently great expense, but its entry is entirely wasted space.  That part of the unit is a small, windowless and otherwise useless foyer one floor below the rest of the apartment.  Among its features are a separate laundry, big and beautifully finished kitchen, a decorative rail at an end of the sunken living room (which faces the park) and a quite master bedroom that has copious closet space.  But the second bedroom, now used as an office/den, is off the living room and overlooks bus traffic just below.  The asking price of $4.95 million with common charges of $3,106 and taxes of $1,528 per month suggests an ultimately vain attempt to recoup the cost of improvements and to ignore the defects that the foyer represents.
  • On a Central Park block in the mid 90s, a two-bedroom, one-bath co-op that needs at least $200,000 worth of gut renovations.  The apartment has nice southern and western exposures, the option of turning a one-third bath into a full second bath or space for a washer/dryer, good original floors and an insufficient supply of electricity.  At $749,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,665, the unit in a 1930 doorman building undergoing conversion, the co-op is priced pretty much on target.
  • A mountain climber’s paradise up four flights of stairs in a 1900 townhouse between Columbus Avenue and Broadway in the very low 70s.  This 450-sf studio offering “rustic charm” has a wood-burning fireplace, open kitchen featuring red laminate countertop, through-wall air conditioning, exposed joists, private roof rights in the ceiling and — get this — “convenient layout.” At the same $350,000 after a half year on the market with monthly maintenance of $519, the listing just received an accepted offer.
  • A two-bedroom, one-bath co-op on the parlor floor of a pet-friendly 1910 townhouse with a laundry room as its sole amenity.  The 13-foot ceilings add to the undeniable charm of this place, which also offers two wood-burning fireplaces, exposed brick, rear exposures into brownstone gardens and southern ones toward a school, a loft sleeping area, and a pass-through kitchen with outdated appliances.  On the debit side are a bath that is only acceptable and floors that in some places have been burned and in others reveal the heads of nails.  This unit in the mid 80s between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues was listed in September at $745,000 with maintenance of $1,093 a month, went under contract in February and now once again is under contract while at the original price

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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

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