From the New York Times
April 25, 1998

An Aerie for the Super-Rich With Room for the Servants


NEW YORK -- In a city of gargantuan ambition, where the Wall Street boom and soaring corporate profits have bestowed fabulous riches on a few, it was perhaps only a matter of time until someone came up with 515 Park Ave.

Discreetly, the new residential condo to rise next year on the East Side will have no name: nothing like the Majestic, the Beresford or The Dakota. Just 515 Park (at 60th Street). But there will be room to spread out in apartments like the 6,100-square-foot, five-bedroom duplex on the 15th and 16th floors. That one will go for $12 million. Unfortunately, it has no view. Sorry.

For a little less, you could buy the 42nd and 43rd floor top-of-the-building duplex with a 360-degree view of Manhattan, or the 21st floor, a four-bedroom layout with a clear view of Central Park. Unfortunately, there is less space higher up: only 3,000 to 5,000 square feet. Everything is a trade-off.

But think of 30-foot living rooms, 22-foot bedrooms, libraries and billiard rooms, and your 15-foot marble master bath. Need even more space? Who doesn't in New York? You could combine two apartments, the management says, and have two whole floors -- for double the price, of course.

Have a large household staff? Not to worry. There are servants' quarters in most of the apartments, and 10 suites on the second floor designed just for the help. Each of those will have 500 to 600 square feet, with full kitchens and baths. You could get one for $300,000 or $400,000, the management says.

Down in the basement, you will be able to stash your fine vintages in one of the 15 climate-controlled private wine cellars, or acquire one of 38 storage rooms for those extra French Empire chairs and gilt mirrors. A 99-year lease may be had on either for a mere $20,000 or $25,000.

And don't forget those little extras: a private gymnasium, professional laundry rooms and a caterer's kitchen, where meals may be prepared for you and your guests, who are bound to be impressed by your 1,500-square-foot wraparound terrace, if you are lucky enough to get one, or the chandeliered lobbies -- the Grand Salon, with concierges and plush couches for those brief interludes, and The Library, a book-lined cavern in elegant African mahogany.

All this -- the grand scale and the lavish opulence designed to push the upper limits of the real estate market -- is meant to fulfill the fantasies and affectations of the undeserved superrich.

"We are reacting to buyer demand for larger, full-floor apartments -- it is an underserved segment in a very, very strong market," said the building's developer, William Lie Zeckendorf. He and his brother, Arthur, are behind the $100 million project in partnership with the Whitehall Street Real Estate Fund, managed by Goldman Sachs & Co.

The partners already own the site, the southeast corner of Park and 60th, formerly occupied by a 12-story building erected as an apartment house in 1912 and converted to offices in 1958. It was bought by Zeckendorf Realty for about $38 million in 1989. The Whitehall Fund bought in last year for about $20 million.

And there appear to be no zoning or landmark problems. The site is one block outside the jagged southern boundary of the Upper East Side Historic District, where development is subject to review by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. Current zoning would permit 32 stories on the site, but air rights bought from nearby buildings will allow 11 more stories, the developers said.

Clad in French limestone and beige brick, with deep-set rectangular windows, 10-foot ceilings, fireplaces, terraces on the 15th, 33th and 43rd floors, with only one apartment on most floors and no tacky ground-floor retail businesses, the building is intended to recall the classic apartment buildings on Park Avenue in the 1920s: a new building made to look like a gracious old dowager.

"Architecturally, we are trying to compliment Park Avenue so the project doesn't stand out like a new building, but one that evolved over time," the architect, Frank Williams, said.

A similar idea, exploiting nostalgia for an age of sumptuous living that existed mostly in the escapist movies of the Great Depression, is planned for the St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South, a 1929 limestone and brick building that is to be stripped down to steel girders and rebuilt -- as a 1929 limestone and brick building.

The research for 515 Park was, frankly, a bit copycat. "We toured what we thought were the six great old pre-war buildings in Manhattan and took the best features of each and incorporated them into the new building," said Arthur Zeckendorf. "And we have the location to support it," he added, referring to Ground Zero at 60th and Park.

Scheduled for completion in December next year, No. 515 would be the first new residential tower on Park Avenue in nearly 20 years. The plan calls for 40 apartments -- most occupying whole floors or two floors, but 14 that will be two on a floor -- ranging in size from 2,068 to 6,108 square feet and in price from $2 million to $12 million.

That would put the average price at $1,500 per square foot -- almost one-third more than the cost of many luxury condominum and cooperative apartments now selling in New York. Monthly common charges, including real estate taxes, would range from $3,900 to $11,643.

Sales are scheduled to start in June, and the partners are betting that the prices will rise, even before completion of the building. "The market has a way to go," William Zeckendorf said, "and we will adjust prices upward at the project."

The cheapest apartments ($2 million) will have two bedrooms with a library and 2,068 square feet, and a neighbor, on the third to ninth floors. The 10th to 14th stories will have full-floor, five-bedroom units. Above the huge $12 million duplex on the 15th and 16th floors, 15 more stories will have a single apartment each: three bedrooms, a library and 3,061 square feet. But these are designed to be combined into duplexes if an owner wishes, the developers said.

Plans call for the 12 tower stories, from the 32nd to the 43rd floors, to be occupied by only six apartments, each a duplex with four bedrooms, more than 5,000 square feet of space and magnificent views. The master baths throughout the building will be 10 feet by 15 feet, as big as many ordinary living rooms.


Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company