Out and About: Morningside co-ops for a song

When buyers are in search of a bargain in Manhattan, many tend to rule out the Upper West Side.

Morningside Heights arguably is beyond that neighborhood, but a complex at the edge of Columbia University, Manhattan School of Music and Union Theological Seminary is also a stone’s throw from excellent transportation, shopping and the West Side’s numerous other amenities.

Morningside Gardens

The first urban renewal project in the city, the cooperative complex is called Morningside Gardens, which has comprised six mid-to-high rise buildings and 987 apartments on eight acres since 1957.

Nine religious and academic institutions in the area banded together with David Rockefeller to help sponsor the project and to ward off further urban blight.

While the complex has an overwhelmingly institutional ambiance and a couple of the buildings are uncomfortably within earshot of the elevated No. 1 subway line on Broadway between 122nd and 135th streets, the apartments’ value is beyond dispute.

Apartment okay, sink not.

When I was there a couple of months ago, a 500-sf studio in poor condition (see bathroom sink in the photo at right) was listed for $215,000 with monthly maintenance of $748.

Also on the market was a marginally acceptable two-bedroom, 950-sf unit on the eighth floor being sold by an estate for a mere $439,000 and $1,305 a month; it has open views west to the Hudson River, a terrace and an unfortunate perch above the subway.  Spend a modest amount of money on the co-op, and the place would be fine for residents on a tight budget.

The three other co-ops in that one building ranged in price from $425,000 to $600,000, and  three units were offered for sale at prices between $249,000 to $475,000 in another of the La Salle Street buildings.  There was a 17th-floor studio of 500 square feet listed for $195,000 in a third building.  The most expensive apartment I noticed was $699,000 for a 1,250-sf three-bedroom spread on the 16th floor of a fourth building.

Typical kitchen

As you might expect, there is little in the way of charm, some of the rooms are pretty small and many of the kitchens leave much to be desired.

Some potential buyers may have issues concerning asbestos, which is contained in floor tiles not only in the public hallways but also throughout the apartments.  They cannot be removed because disturbing asbestos makes it dangerous; otherwise, the tiles are considered safe.

On the plus side, the buildings encompass a landscaped park and offer amenities such as bike rooms, garage, fitness room, laundry room, nursery and private storage.  Pieds-à-terre are not permitted, but pets are and, after a year, sublets are as well.

Another plus is a shuttle bus to the 133rd Street piers and a Fairway.

All in all, I have to say that I have been impressed that Morningside Gardens offers so much for so little.

Below are some of the other properties that I have visited and that various brokers have listed:

  • In the high 60s near Central Park, a beautifully renovated corner duplex with nearly 1,000-sf terrace that has generally open city and park views north and east.  This two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath unit is said to contain 1,275 square feet, but its chief drawbacks are the relatively small living/dining room and spiral staircase, albeit high end.  Otherwise, the 56-sf open kitchen and the baths possess impressive style.  In a 1928 low-rise with part-time doorman and only a laundry room for amenities, the apartment has an asking price, quite high even for such an exemplary residence and desirable location, of $2.395 million with monthly maintenance of $2,990.
  • A 1,076-sf condo in the mid 80s between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues.  In a 1938 building with concierge, fitness facility and roof deck, the apartment has two split bedrooms, two improved baths, bright northern light, engineered flooring, a washer/dryer, adequate closet space and a fairly wide, but windowless, modern galley kitchen.  It is aggressively offered for $1.35 million with common charges of $1,108 and real estate taxes of $745 a month, yet it went under contract in a mere three weeks.
  • In the very low 90s on a corner of Broadway, a colorful one-bedroom apartment with enormous closet space.  On a low floor of a distinctive 1915 doorman building that allows pets and pieds-à-terre, the airy co-op looking west over the avenue has its walls painted in lavender, kelly green and other vivid hues.  The galley kitchen is better than serviceable, there is a 112-sf foyer and the layout is agreeable.  Listed for $699,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,130, this place should sell for around $650,000.  A buyer received board approval at the end of last week.
  • A completely renovated one-bedroom co-op in the high 70s between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues.  The owner of this 675-sq apartment made some puzzling design decisions that make the 12-foot-wide living room seem narrower than it is while putting undue emphasis on the bedroom and beautifully done kitchen.  There are numerous built-ins, ample closet space and stylish bath, which is unfortunately en suite.  The bedroom enjoys commendably open views to the north from a high floor in its handsome 1926 mid-rise with part-time doorman and live-in super, but an adjacent building casts a pall over the living room.  The original asking price of $699,000 with maintenance of $1,225 per month was too high, so a new broker has managed a reduction to $625,000.

Tomorrow: All the world’s a. . .

To take your own bite out of the Big Apple, you have the option here to search all available properties privately.

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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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