A 35 story mixed use tower will be built there by Garrett Gourlay Architect.
More great walkups are being destroyed in Turtle Bay. Demolition permits were issued for # 303, 305, and 307. These buildings were in great shape. This neighborhood is losing more and more, and it's just a real shame.
I'm unsure if it includes any buildings on second ave, but it doesn't seem like it.
Can we get this area landmarked or what? Thank you, LPC, for letting more of old New York be taken away by developers.
This joins the loss of the Box Tree restaurant and the awful addition to a townhouse on 52nd. The buildings on the side streets here are just as nice as those in Murray Hill, Chelsea, and the UES, all landmarked.
A 35 story mixed use tower will be built there by Garrett Gourlay Architect.
Thanks Derek. Source?
Ugh! The rendering only has 21 stories, so I hope, I sincerely hope this is not the design of the tower. Also look at the buildings that were demolished.
Are the victims the buildings with (or without) the crowns?
Is that even legal? If that isn't a sliver building I don't know what is.
This is actually good news. He won't have to knock down all those walk-ups and will just build a taller tower on a tiny lot. I like this trend.
^I can't be certain but if you look under site pictures, I think all 3 are already demolished.
I like tall on small plots, especially if it means not demolishing a whole corner, but what I'm worried about is the developer having a ton of blank wall like we've seen with another sliver midblock building on an avenue at 60th and First Avenue. Blank wall would suck.
^Thanks. Since my aunt moved out of the neighborhood I won't be there as much as I used to.
I also support taller towers with smaller footprints, but the design is so boring....and there is the threat of a big blank wall facing 2nd.
A Firefighter's Other Passion: Changing The Skyline
July 20, 2003
By DENNIS HEVESI
ON a muggy July day nine years ago, Jim Kennelly and two fellow firefighters plunged five or six times each to the bottom of Coney Island Creek, their eyes clenched against the filthy water, to rescue five unconscious people tangled inside a wheels-up car 10 feet down on the creek bed.
''When I broke the surface to go under water, it was eerie, zero visibility, and I was handling heavy, seemingly lifeless, bodies,'' he told a reporter that day.
Three weeks ago, James P. Kennelly, real estate developer, held a party to celebrate the completion of the Sycamore -- a $35 million, 14-story, 80-apartment luxury condominium building with 10,000 square feet of commercial space at the corner of 30th Street and Second Avenue.
Mr. Kennelly wears two hats -- his long-back-rimmed fire helmet and the construction helmet donned by real estate developers while on site at a new project. There is no doubt which job provides the greater sense of accomplishment. ''Making a rescue is more satisfying than anything I've ever done,'' he said. ''It definitely outweighs standing on the corner and looking at my building.''
The day after that celebration for his new building, Firefighter Kennelly showed up, as scheduled, at the firehouse on East 67th Street and joined the guys from Ladder Company 16 and Engine Company 39 in ''committee work'' -- firefighters' parlance for the sweeping, mopping and buffing that goes on all around the house while their fire-retardant bunker gear stands ready, tucked inside their boots by the trucks. ''You'd never know Jim's anything but a fireman,'' said Firefighter David Simoes, one of 50 men on rotating shifts at the house. ''Jim's never shied away from committee work.''
Nor did he shy away six years ago when a painter clinging to a dangling scaffold under the Queensboro Bridge had to jump into his arms, or three years ago when he squeezed through a hot door into a ''fully involved'' apartment on 67th Street that was blocked by two smoke-collapsed victims crumpled behind it.
Many firefighters work second jobs -- perhaps roofing, landscaping or contracting. Firefighter Kennelly just takes it to the limit.
''You have to work 48 hours every eight days, but you can't work more than 24 hours in a row,'' he explained. ''So you make 'mutual exchanges' -- that's what it's called -- with fellow firefighters so you can have three days off in a row.''
That arrangement made it possible for Firefighter Kennelly to deal with a range of properties -- from a three-family home in Marine Park, Brooklyn, to a small co-op building in the Rockaways. But the demands of his from-the-ground-up development of the luxury condominium with a fully marbled lobby and expensively appointed apartments on Second Avenue required him to take a 20-month leave of absence.
So, at 41, single and about halfway toward his 20-year retirement date, Firefighter Kennelly is struggling with grander development aspirations and a $65,000-a-year job he loves.
It is a struggle that the city's fire commissioner, Nicholas Scoppetta, is fully aware of. ''We know firefighters are extraordinary people,'' Commissioner Scoppetta said. ''Dozens of them have earned law degrees while on the job. And, of course, many are skilled tradesmen. However, this is the first high-rise developer I've come across in the department.''
''I hope Firefighter Kennelly is back with us for good now, because he's been cited four times for bravery, and we'd like to keep him,'' the commissioner said. ''But he seems to have been so successful in his development business during his leave that we may have trouble hanging on to him.''
That inclination for business was readily apparent during Firefighter Kennelly's otherwise typical outer-borough upbringing -- baseball, stickball, Johnny on the pony with ''30, 40 kids roughly the same age as me and my brother and sisters'' on and around the block, he said. ''We had a one-family detached home on the nicest street in Brooklyn, Madison Place in Marine Park.'' His father, Donald, a retired history professor at St. Francis College, and his ''stay-at-home mom,'' Patricia, are still in the old house.
Sometimes, the young Mr. Kennelly disengaged from those neighborhood games. Early on, ''maybe by age 8,'' he had a nose for real estate. ''No kidding,'' he said, ''I wondered what could be built where, what you could put on a vacant lot, in stores.''
''When guys were putting stoops on the block, if there was cement work, I'd watch all day,'' he said. ''I'd run and get them sodas or coffee or sandwiches.'' And before he was 10, he had a list of eight neighbors who would pay him $5 to $15 to shovel their walks after a snowstorm, depending on the size of the lot.
At 14, Mr. Kennelly started working part-time for a landlord. ''His name was David Levine and he owned the building on our corner, a six-apartment walk-up. He let me do the grounds work, the painting, roof repairs. He'd show me how to do construction, from Sheetrock to framing studs. And he talked to me about real estate.''
Another neighbor, Lenny Nelson, had a basement full of ''impeccably arranged tools,'' Mr. Kennelly said. ''He taught me everything from lathes to drill presses. So I have a basic understanding of tools and construction. It's always seemed logical, never overwhelming.''
And there were dishwashing and busboy jobs at local restaurants -- two days a week at one, two at another -- one of them fostering a longtime friendship with the owner that eventually would provide key connections to the real estate business.
After graduating from Nazareth High School, Mr. Kennelly bought a Mrs. Smith's Pie route, delivering 300 to 400 pies a day to delicatessens, supermarkets, luncheonettes. Eventually, he enrolled as a political science major at New York University. ''I only graduated about five years ago,'' he said. ''I had a 20-year gap between high school and college.'' Last December, he graduated from New York Law School. ''I haven't taken the bar yet,'' he said. (He's also a regular marathon runner.)
The first toe-dip into real estate came in 1987, when Mr. Kennelly bought a 50-by-100, one-story commercial building on Flatbush Avenue in Marine Park for $400,000, flew to Minnesota to buy a century-old, 30-foot-long oak bar, Ryder-trucked it back to Brooklyn and opened James Patrick's (his middle name) Pub. ''I have a fellow who runs it for me now,'' he said.
In 1989, Mr. Kennelly paid $160,000 for a three-family house on Coyle Street in Marine Park. And two years later, he paid $170,000 for a two-family house with a medical office on nearby Avenue S. ''I put $32,000 down on Coyle Street, and used the equity on Coyle for Avenue S,'' he said. Initially, rent for the medical office was $900 a month and $450 for each apartment. ''Now it's $1,700 for the medical office and $1,000 each for the two units upstairs.''
Despite that budding success in real estate, Mr. Kennelly could not ignore an inner call toward public service. ''Three of my uncles and my grandfather were police officers,'' he said, ''and it was just something I always wanted to do.'' On Aug. 11, 1991 -- ''everybody remembers their date'' -- he was sworn in as Firefighter Kennelly.
And within three years, after being assigned to Ladder Company 161 in Coney Island, he would help drag five limp bodies, one after the other, out of that overturned car in the creek. All but one of the victims would be revived. ''I was afraid to go up the embankment for fear of what I was going to see,'' Firefighter Kennelly said that day. ''I can only describe as miraculous seeing the seemingly lifeless bodies come alive. I tried to control myself, but I was cheering, 'C'mon, your friends made it, c'mon.' ''
Earlier that year, 1994, a friend had told Mr. Kennelly about a financially troubled 39-unit beachfront co-op in the Rockaways. It was a down time in the economy, and the co-op boom of the late 80's was in a fizzle.
The building's original owner had improperly managed the finances, and a court had ordered him to turn over all vacant apartments for the co-op to sell so it could pay his arrears. ''The judge stopped the bank from foreclosing and gave the board 30 days to raise about $250,000 to pay the bank and make new financing agreements,'' Mr. Kennelly said.
Mr. Kennelly bought six apartments for a total of $90,000 and would hold them until the building was financially stable, renting them for between $500 and $600 a month. ''It was high-risk, but it turned out to be a good investment,'' he said. ''I've sold four of them, and I'm in the midst of selling the fifth.''
The first sold for $25,000 in 1995. ''Then $35,000, $52,000, $90,000 and one is in contract now for $140,000,'' Mr. Kennelly said. ''So that's $342,000 on a $90,000 investment, and I still have one to sell.''
''Real estate's good, huh?''
BY 1997, Firefighter Kennelly had been transferred to Ladder 16 on Manhattan's East Side. And, on Sept. 29 of that year he would take another high risk -- edging out to the end of a platform beneath the Queensboro Bridge, 135 feet above the East River, and coaxing a worker who was dangling from a broken scaffold to jump into his arms.
''I was tethered to my co-worker, Kenny Ruane from Ladder 16, and he's tied off to what we call a 'substantial object,' '' Firefighter Kennelly recalled. ''I tell the worker to jump the crevice from the broken scaffolding he was on to me, about four feet. The guy jumps and we grab each other, embrace each other.''
It was while riding the ladder truck through Manhattan, catching fleeting glimpses of the construction boom of the late 90's, that Firefighter Kennelly got the urge to make the big leap of his real estate career.
A fellow firefighter, James Carroll, had been interested in buying an open-air fruit stand on a 40-by-75-foot former parking lot at the corner of Second Avenue and 30th Street, as well as an adjacent 20-by-75-foot walk-up building with an abandoned Blimpie in its storefront. When that deal didn't work out, Mr. Kennelly asked if he could step in.
The price was $3.3 million, and to cover the 10 percent down payment, he took out second mortgages on his Coyle Street and Avenue S properties. ''The problem with the property,'' Mr. Kennelly said, ''was that there was an 80-year-old rent-controlled tenant living above the Blimpies; he's paying $170 a month and controlling $3.3 million worth of development property.''
Weeks of reassuring visits to that tenant -- and to his daughter, a lawyer -- eventually fostered a deal by which Mr. Kennelly would buy a one-bedroom co-op at Park Avenue and 39th Street for $295,000, outright, and deed it to that tenant. But where would that money come from?
''That's when I went to Jim Buckley; he owns one of the restaurants where I was a dishwasher as a kid,'' Mr. Kennelly said. ''Jimmy gave me the money to relocate the tenant, and now he's a partner in the Sycamore.''
Of his former dishwasher, Mr. Buckley, owner of his namesake bar and restaurant on Avenue S in Marine Park, said: ''I know Jim since his late teens; always hustling. I didn't hesitate because he's very hard working and intelligent.'' Mr. Buckley also told his former employee about a fairly regular customer at the restaurant.
''This was September 2000,'' Mr. Kennelly recalled, ''and at this point Jimmy says, 'Would you like to speak to Robert Trump?' '' -- the brother of Donald and president of the Trump Management Company, which oversees the extensive real estate holdings amassed by their father.
A few days later, Mr. Trump came into the restaurant and readily agreed to what was supposed to be a 20-minute meeting with the fledgling developer, but turned out to be an hour and a half. ''He said he thought the numbers, the buildable per square foot price I had contracted for, looked like it would be profitable,'' Mr. Kennelly said. ''He gave me a ton of tips.''
And within 48 hours, there was a message from Mr. Trump on Mr. Kennelly's phone machine referring him to a major construction lender, William Procida of the Palisades Financial Corporation.
Mr. Procida, it would turn out, had bigger ideas. ''He said it would be even better if I had a larger building, so I started acquiring air rights from surrounding buildings,'' Mr. Kennelly said -- 60,000 square feet of unused development rights, which, added onto the original 40,000 square feet authorized by zoning for the site he had purchased, would result in 80 apartments instead of 30. Mr. Procida also reached out to Metropolitan Housing Partners and asked that company to put up $600,000, or 28 percent of the equity required by the bank for a $21 million construction loan.
Mr. Buckley, meanwhile, was thumbing through his phone book for another important connection. ''I have a good friend from childhood,'' he said, ''Alfonso DeMatteis'' -- president of DeMatteis International, builders of 150 buildings in the city and overseas. Mr. DeMatteis's sons, Kevin and Keith, partners in the Calakar Construction Service Corporation, would come on board as the builders of the Sycamore.
''There are a lots of smooth talkers out there,'' said Keith DeMatteis. ''But Jim, he was very candid and forthright. So you go with the gut.''
Another factor would come into play. ''My family, when we moved out of Brooklyn,'' Mr. DeMatteis said, ''we went to Rockaway, which is densely populated with firefighters and cops. We grew up with them; there's always been this affinity.''
EVENTUALLY, with the players in place and financing from the Roslyn Savings Bank awaiting approval, Firefighter Kennelly knew he would have to apply for his leave of absence -- time for one more rescue.
On July 8, 2000, with a hose line stretched to a blazing sixth-floor apartment on East 67th Street, Firefighter Kennelly set down his air tank -- keeping the mask over his mouth -- in order to squeeze past a door that would open only about 18 inches. It was jammed by two slumped bodies behind it.
''I pushed one victim through the opening,'' Firefighter Kennelly said. ''The guys outside hit both me and the other victim with the hose to cool us down. And then I passed the second victim through the opening.'' Unfortunately, one victim was already dead and the other died six weeks later.
Construction on the 14-story Sycamore -- with cantilevers over the adjacent brownstones, setbacks creating terraces on the top four floors, high ceilings and large windows -- began in August 2001.
The topping off was 10 months ago. Since then, 31 apartments have been sold. Prices range from $330,000 to $457,000 for a studio to $1.4 million for a three-bedroom.
Currently in the works for the onward-looking developer are a 300-unit elder-living facility in Carmel, N.Y., and a 4,000-seat stadium and catering hall in a community that he did not, at this point, want to identify.
Still, fairly often these days, Firefighter Kennelly finds himself standing on the corner across the street from his Manhattan high-rise. ''I changed the skyline of New York -- a bit,'' he said. ''Pretty cool.''
Then he heads uptown to the firehouse.
Correction: August 10, 2003, Sunday An article on July 20 about a firefighter who is also a developer misstated the rent paid by a rent-controlled tenant whose presence was blocking a construction project. Peter Kavanagh, former tenant of the apartment involved, wrote to The Times and said the $170 figure cited by the developer, James Kennelly, was incorrect. Mr. Kavanagh said later in an interview that the rent was over $200. His landlord, Martin Wydra, said it had been $120.71. State records that would establish the correct figure were not available.
If he wants to change the skyline how about putting up decent buildings. The sycamore is a POS by Thomas O'Hara that cantilivers on BOTH sides. It's bad.