Out and About: There’s something about wavy

The bay in Provincetown near sunset.

Gazing at water, an ocean, a lake, a river has its manifold virtues.

Views of water may suggest variations of  tranquility, power, beauty, faith and myriad other shades of human emotion.  Even rain, whether an evening shower or a threatening thunderstorm, has the same potential as a trickling stream or a roaring ocean.

I get it: There is nothing like walking on a sandy beach, negotiating the banks of a canal or sitting comfortably in the arms of a chair or a loved one and contemplating the currents nearby.

Being enveloped by a watery vision is one thing.  Seeing it from a Manhattan apartment building, quite another.

I don’t quite understand why a sliver of a river view from an apartment building avenues away from the Hudson or the East River is worth a premium.  Or what is so compelling about seeing Queens and New Jersey in the near distance.

I don’t even appreciate why an unobstructed view of those waterways, sullied as they are by surrounding man-made structures or buildings in the distance, is so desirable.  A side view is something I find even less comprehensible.

That’s just me, I know.

I suppose one reason for the elevated prices that properties with water views command has something to do with status.  Probably, it is not quite a chicken-and-egg question, but the likelihood that unimpeded views always were  in demand seems to have conveyed added value for partial ones.

If you could afford unobstructed exposures over water, you proved your higher status over urban dwellers who had to live with claustrophobic ones.  It is as profound a difference as living in a mansion off Fifth Avenue or a three-room railroad flat in the Lower East Side. You were better, or at least wealthier, than the folks who had to make do with less.

To my mind, the situation is analogous to the lord who surveyed his domain from the top of the hill.  Higher always has meant richer and, therefore, more powerful.

So be it.  It is the way of the world and always will be.

For my money, though, I’ll always choose the substance of more space for what to me is the superficiality of a stunning vista.  But, as I said, I get it.  I get it. Sort of.

Below are some of the properties that other brokers have listed and that I have seen recently:

  • A six-room duplex on a corner of Amsterdam Avenue in Morningside Heights.  This 1,400-sf renovated co-op has rooms on the small side, a true staircase, small kitchen with black appliances of standard grade, lovely new floors, original baths and mostly unobstructed northern exposures that include the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  Together with an imperfect layout, a large amount of storage space and its improvements, the apartment in a pet-friendly 1929 building with few amenities has had trouble finding the right price since it went on the market in September for $1.25 million with monthly maintenance of $1,957.  After four progressively smaller reductions, it is listed at $1.156 million and getting there.
  • In the high 80s just west of Broadway in a full-service post-war building replete with amenities including garage and health club, a studio with its original pass-through kitchen and bath, plus parquet floors that have been trod too often.  Facing south from a low floor, this condo was priced almost correctly at a reduced $345,000 with maintenance of $843 per month before being yanked off the market last week.
  • A 2,535-sf condo that has suffered from changes that the owners made, especially cutting the living room in two to add a bedroom and thereby creating a small interior living room that functions primarily as a wide hallway and has mere glimpses of sky through French doors. Although the lofty unit in a 1996 Lincoln Square high-rise has floor-to-ceilings windows and 10-foot ceilings, the apartment feels cramped. There are an expanded kitchen with worn cabinetry and a big center island, expanses of old grasscloth everywhere, added closets, beaten-up cherry floors, three original baths and a price that is “extremely negotiable.”  So why is it still listed at $5,395 million with monthly common charges of $2,000 and real estate taxes of $2,962 after a $280,000 reduction?
  • Overlooking the Highline in the low 20s, a basic 835-sf condop in a pet-friendly 2002 doorman building.  The rooms in this Chelsea apartment are necessarily small, the pass-through kitchen is original, oversize windows provide generally open views north from nearly a mid floor, and there are laminate finishes in the two baths.  The two bedrooms are on either side of the living room.  At $890,000 with monthly costs of $1,596, the price is out of line with the condop’s other listed units.
  • In the low 70s between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, a 650-sf co-op with a dominant spiral staircase leading up to a lofty bedroom.  An open kitchen in one corner of the living room is a puny, yet distracting element.  The best thing that can be said about this one-and-a-half-bath unit, which has floors beyond refinishing, is that the amount of closet space is unusually large.  The asking price of $599,000 with maintenance per month of $1,315 (!) in a 1915 building lacking anything more than a laundry room is at least $75,000 more than what should be the sold price.
  • A one-bedroom co-op in a modest 1920 building that has a part-time doorman, nice roof deck and laundry room on Riverside Drive in the low 90s.  With its big bedroom, custom closets,built-ins, attractive floors, dated but serviceable open kitchen and very good views of the tall building right across the street, this appealing apartment is close to the right price after a $24,000 cut to $525,000 with monthly maintenance of $850.

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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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