Out and About: You gotta love the neighborhood

In early May, Riverside Park is this side of paradise.

A while back, I quoted Paul Purcell, who is a founder of Charles Rutenberg Realty, as mentioning what he termed an old saw:

You’ve got to like your home, but you’ve got to love your neighborhood.

Smart and obvious, though not to me until then.

The concept came back to me last month when watching a friend of mine, Teri Karush Rogers of BrickUnderground.com, on WNBC-TV, where she was talking about mistakes that buyers make.  She confessed that she twice had made one such mistake, and you’ve guessed what it is: She loved two places to which she moved but hated the neighborhoods.

As for me, I’ve lived in seven different Manhattan neighborhoods.  In order, they have been Morningside Heights, Washington Heights (in a section that has taken on airs as “Hudson Heights”), close to the East Village (18th and First Avenue), central West Village, Gramercy/Flatiron and now the Upper West Side near the 96th Street express stop on Broadway.

I can’t say that I’ve loved each of those neighborhoods without reservation, but I confess that I continually cursed the Washington Heights apartment for its inconvenience, despite the two bedrooms, two baths, sunken living room and views of the Hudson in a doorman building.


There never was the practical option of going home right after work and then heading downtown for the theater or restaurants, and friends had to be lured up only with the promise of a terrific meal and the possibility of getting durnk on fine wine.

Even where I have made my home for almost the last five years has had its drawbacks.  I’d like to be closer to Trader Joe’s, Fairway and Zabar’s, but having Whole Foods nearby isn’t half bad.

One of the many things I do love about where I now live is the express subway.  Other benefits include the profusion of ethnic restaurants, proximity to two terrific parks, lovingly maintained community gardens and the gestalt of living in a true neighborhood with all of its amenities.  I like it that the owner of the produce store on Broadway knows my name, that I have a selection of maybe seven or eight vendors of rotisserie chickens within a couple of blocks and that my gym two blocks away is almost like a second home.

Other aspects of my Upper West Side neighborhood worth mentioning are the (relative) mellowness of its other residents, their seeming acceptance of individuals who don’t parade their wealth or celebrity and pockets of culture such as Symphony Space.

As for my co-op, first I rented it and then purchased it.

Subway entrance

I rented it originally because I was in a hurry to find somewhere to live after deciding to come “home” after too long in D.C.  I decided to buy it from the apartment’s owner because I couldn’t bear to pack up and move again.  Besides, I liked it fine and still do.

I suppose I “love” my neighborhood the way I love anyone or anything, appreciating many exceptional qualities and understanding that perfection is always going to be elusive.

Below are apartments listed by various brokers that I’ve seen recently:

  • In the high 60s on a Central Park block, a lovely three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath renovated co-op.  With a high-end galley kitchen open to a casual dining room that could double as family room, this apartment is in excellent condition.  There are a breakfast bar, adequate custom closets, northern exposures from the second floor into a courtyard, vented washer/dryer and a pleasant ambiance.  In a 1925 mid-rise building lacking a single amenity, the 1,800-sf apartment is optimistically priced at $1.895 million, especially in light of its maintenance of $2,589 a month, yet went under contract last month.
  • On West End Avenue in the low 100s, a 1,230-sf corner apartment that has more character than practicality, having served as a sculptor’s ground-floor studio.  The ceilings are nearly 12-feet high, but the airy ambiance from a long row of oversize windows in the double-size living room in this one-bedroom, one-bath co-op is exceptional.  What character!  With appeal to a tiny segment of the market willing to undertake substantial renovations or to continue use of the place as a studio, the unit in a pet-friendly 1913 building without doorman or much else surprisingly went under contract in just two months.  The asking price remains at $975,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,574 after the contract fell through.
  • A one-bedroom maisonette that has been on and off the market for five years at prices bouncing up and down between $785,000 at the beginning and $669,000 when it was taken off the last time, last June.  Now, this 805-sf condo in the low 80s west of Broadway is back again, this time at $799,000 with common charges of $998 and real estate taxes of $475 per month.  A hard sell because of exposure into the 1911 building’s entrance courtyard and an open kitchen against one wall that transforms a living room into a kitchen of pointlessly generous proportions.  Another liability is its wastefully long hallway, but the apartment is as undeniably stylish as the price is unjustifiably high. Still, it managed to find a buyer at the end of June.
  • On Central Park West in the low 90s, a 1,700-sf co-op on a low floor facing the reservoir and within earshot of the buses below.  With considerable closet space; an inviting wood-paneled dining room; modestly improved L-shaped kitchen that has a marble backsplash, small space for eating and counter of poured cement; washer/dryer; wired sound system; central air conditioning; and two and a half baths, this apartment in a 1930 full-service building replete with amenities is offered at about the right price of $2.395 million with monthly maintenance of $2,122. 
  • A glorified studio being marketed as a junior one-bedroom in the low 70s east of Columbus Avenue.  On the market in January for as much as $450,000, this co-op tries hard but fails to overcome the liabilities of a small living room with a gussied up open kitchen that is a step or two above Pullman, a narrow, perhaps painfully so, bath off an end of that kitchen and exposures into a courtyard, albeit sunny.  Seemingly severed from a larger apartment, this 400-sf unit in a pet-friendly 1930 building with fitness room and no doorman has had its price ratcheted down to a likely $399,000 with maintenance per month of $808. 
  • On Riverside Drive in Morningside Heights just a block or two from Columbia, a co-op that suffers from an offputting layout because it once was part of a bigger unit.  The 400-sf apartment, which seems larger, has an improved bath, eight windows facing inward, updated kitchen that is little more than a passageway into the second of two small bedrooms (which contains a substantial amount of depressingly truncating paneling and other ornamentation from the original unit) and a modest dining area.  In a distinguished full-service 1910 building, this 1,150-sf place has a not unreasonable asking price of $795,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,463.

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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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