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Thread: One Prospect Park @ Grand Army Plaza - Condo - Prospect Heights - by Richard Meier

  1. #61
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Those huge parking signs on luxury condos look terrible.

    There's a big one at 40 Mercer, too.

    They downscale the whole project -- make them look like office buildings.

    Better graphics / sign design would help.

    But of course the condo board can only think of filling the parking slots as often as possible.

  2. #62
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Glass Half Empty: Richard Meier’s Brooklyn Tower

    By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY





    MEL VADER and Bob Henderson figured that martini hour on the terrace of their apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, would grow only more interesting after Richard Meier built his 15-story glass tower across the way.

    From their sixth-floor perch, the couple have seen a toddler on the eighth floor ride her tricycle around her balcony, and watched a cleaning crew come in after 10 p.m. to sop up after a flood of water poured through six stories. They know which of their neighbors in the Meier building make their beds and which do not, and who wears what while brushing their teeth. On one particularly engaging afternoon, they sat, captivated, as a woman appeared in the living room of a gray-haired bachelor, leading Mr. Henderson to hope for an unfolding romance.

    “It’s like a stage that they set up for us,” said Mr. Vader, a retired teacher, who occasionally has turned his deck chair away in embarrassment.

    But 10 months after the much-publicized — and much-debated — Meier building opened, most of that stage remains devoid of actors. On the side of the building facing their terrace, Mr. Vader and Mr. Henderson said, there is not a single person living on the 9th, 10th, 12th, 14th or 15th floors.

    While the developers say half of the building’s 99 units have been sold, the real estate Web site StreetEasy.com documents only 25 closings through public records. When the sun falls, the view from Mel and Bob’s terrace — or, for that matter, from the storied Grand Army Plaza — is not unlike a Christmas tree stripped of all but a handful of lights.

    “You see that there are people there,” Mr. Vader said. “But you don’t see the amount of movement that you would normally see.”

    When Seventeen Development L.L.C. announced in 2005 that Mr. Meier would erect one of his elaborate glass and steel sculptures on a $4.75 million parcel in Prospect Heights, it was seen as a test of New York’s real estate boom. Could the starchitect best known for designing Manhattan condominiums for the likes of Calvin Klein and Martha Stewart sell $1 million one-bedrooms in a still-gentrifying zone without a reliable public school?

    Today, the Meier building — officially, On Prospect Park — is a wall of windows into the real estate bust.

    FACED with anemic sales, the developers have slashed prices by as much as 40 percent. They combined units — there were originally 114 — to boost the percentage sold in order to ease the path to mortgages. But potential buyers have walked away from at least $20 million worth of contracts.

    And the handful of people who moved in have been left exposed not only to the perils of buying at the peak of the market but also to the stifled laughter of their neighbors following their every move.

    These pioneers have formed an Internet chat group to trade information about the building’s construction progress and ever-dropping sales prices. They have also organized a book club, a tennis team, basketball tournaments, billiard games and myriad individual play dates and cocktail hours in a campaign to create a community within the glass walls.

    “Some people would like to see this building fail,” said Betty Flynn, a California transplant who pressed her lips together tightly as she paused while describing her hopes for weathering the downturn. “We all have the same goal. We want to be in a great building.”

    At a July meet and greet in the building’s fishbowl-like first-floor party room, Ms. Flynn and her neighbors joked about the challenges of living in a Richard Meier building — about how Mr. Meier, who himself lives in a prewar Manhattan co-op crowded with 5,000 books, hides the microwaves in minimalist kitchens and favors pale walls that quickly grow covered with children’s fingerprints. They swapped stories about having food delivery show up across the street at the Brooklyn Public Library, since their building took its address, 1 Grand Army Plaza.

    One woman said that seeing a unit similar to hers on the market for 30 percent less made her “heart sink,” while a couple apologized for negotiating more than $1.1 million off the $2.8 million asking price.

    The residents have tried to maintain a sense of humor about the attention they have attracted for living in a glass tower, especially one that many local residents decried for changing the character of the streetscape.

    One father sighed that he had probably been spotted chasing his naked toddlers through his apartment before bath time. Alan Fleischer, the bachelor seen with the female guest, clarified that she was there to clean the place, but said he had ordered curtains in case that special someone comes along.

    Sometimes, the residents of the glass house wave at Mel and Bob enjoying martinis on their terrace across the way.

    “Richard Meier has brought the outside inside for these people, but he’s brought their interiors to everyone outside,” Mr. Vader said. “I get to see more than they get to see.”

    LIKE many in their neighborhood, Mr. Vader and Mr. Henderson — who have lived for 15 years in a grand traditional apartment with a sweeping circular staircase, period paintings and a shaggy-leaved ficus named Tina (as in Turner) — at first staunchly opposed the idea of a totem of modern architecture being planted in the heart of their beloved Brownstone Brooklyn. They wrote to officials at the neighboring Brooklyn Public Library, botanical garden and Prospect Park, pleading for a design that blended better with the low-rise apartment buildings and the 11-acre oval plaza and arch designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the 1860s.

    Their pleas went unheeded. But the couple soon found themselves engrossed in the construction of what looked like a giant erector set in front of their terrace.

    “It was a ballet,” said Mr. Vader, 66, arms waving to mimic the dancing cranes. “That initial opening of the earth with those extraordinary mechanicals.”

    “Noise, noise, noise,” piped in Mr. Henderson, 68, and retired from retail. “But it was fascinating.”

    Ruth Dropkin, who is 90 and has lived nearby for 31 years, was moved to write an ode to the building called “Narcissus Ascending,” which she sent, unbidden, to The New York Times.

    “The naked steel girders go/up in hubris steps,” she wrote. “Gone the haven of brick and stone and wood,/gone the primal niche of interiority.”

    As the local residents debated the exterior, the developers and sales brokers were preoccupied with what was not going on inside as potential buyers struggled to obtain mortgages on apartments whose values were rapidly falling. Two Corcoran brokers handling sales at the building have not had an open house for months and repeatedly refused to let a reporter watch shoppers browse the empty units. Information supplied by the sales center to StreetEasy.com shows that even units that have gone to contract are taking extraordinarily long to close.

    Louis Greco, one of the three principals in the development company, said in an interview that he could afford to wait to sell units because the money he borrowed for the project carried a low interest rate. “We’re prepared to ride the storm,” he said.

    The person perhaps least affected by the emptiness of the glass house is Mr. Meier. He said that he had never met with the bankers financing the project until he was honored for the building’s design this summer at the 2009 Building Brooklyn Awards, hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce.

    At a sunset cocktail reception on the roof of Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Mr. Meier, 74, said that he was not affected by the building’s sluggish sales because the developer “cut the prices after it was finished.” He said that On Prospect Park was hardly unique among new developments being stagnated by the recession, and that he “definitely” would be game to build in Brooklyn again.

    “The people who live there love it,” Mr. Meier added.

    ONE of the first to gamble on the glass house were Edith Asibey and John D. Verlander, first-time buyers who signed a contract in March 2008 for a $950,000 one-bedroom on the sixth floor with 1,091 square feet and a 108-square-foot terrace. Three days before Ms. Asibey and Mr. Verlander closed on the apartment, in the back of the building, their bank, Wells Fargo, nearly pulled out — despite their down payment of nearly 30 percent — partly because of concerns over how few units had sold. They eventually closed in March 2009, amid new worries about the trouble buyers with less cash or worse credit could face.

    “I can see it’s going to be very difficult in the near term to get this building filled up,” said Mr. Verlander, 30, a consultant for a major accounting firm.

    For now they are relishing their relative privacy. Ms. Asibey, 39, a consultant for nonprofit groups, said she does not worry about leaving a pile of clothing before rushing out to appointments. Still, she showed off how much thicker her bedroom blinds were than the ones in the living room, proof that privacy is possible even in the glass house.

    The apartment that caused them so much grief while they were trying to obtain a mortgage has started to feel like a home filled with memories. Ms. Asibey lovingly described the first major meal Mr. Verlander cooked for them in their new kitchen. It was April 11. Spinach salad with applewood smoked bacon, Valdeon cheese and a sherry vinaigrette, followed by braised beef brisket with truffle mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. Before a dessert of chocolate and strawberry ice cream from the Blue Marble shop down the street, Mr. Verlander got down on bended knee.

    There, in full view of the neighbors, the pair of distant figures became engaged. “All the shades were up,” Ms. Asibey said. “But I wasn’t looking.”

    MS. FLYNN, 66, a retired school administrator, and her husband, Gary, a lawyer who is 64 and also retired, moved into a $1.45 million one-bedroom on the fourth floor in January after three years in the building where Mr. Vader and Mr. Henderson live (they knew the Flynns well enough to advise Mr. Flynn to shut the bathroom door when brushing his teeth). The Flynns had moved to the neighborhood from California to be closer to their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, who live in Carroll Gardens.

    “It’s a little disheartening to think we bought at the height” of the market, Ms. Flynn said. But, her husband noted, “we’re living here for the rest of our lives. We know there are ups and downs in the market. It’s not a time to panic.”

    They have tried to comfort some of their younger neighbors who are more apprehensive about surviving a real estate bust. Through years of buying and selling real estate, Ms. Flynn said, they figure it “all comes out in the wash.”

    Meanwhile, they have become pillars of the community growing in the building. Mr. Flynn has formed friendships playing pool with neighbors, while Ms. Flynn helped start a book club, which has already read “Arrowsmith” by Sinclair Lewis and “The Defiant” by Shalom Yoran, who happens to live on the fifth floor.

    Mr. Yoran, an 84-year-old retired chairman of an aircraft company, and his wife, Varda, who is 80, moved into their $3.1 million four-bedroom in December, after deciding they were too old to care for their sprawling home in Great Neck on Long Island. He is a Holocaust survivor who fought as a partisan in the forests of Eastern Europe (his memoir should not be confused with “Defiance,” a movie based on a similar story). She is a sculptor who said she was not worried about declining real estate values because her next condo would be a coffin.

    Like the Flynns, they moved to be closer to their children and grandchildren, who live a few blocks up Flatbush Avenue. The apartment, which feels like a treehouse nestled among the leafy branches across Plaza Street, smells like coffee and has a studio with a cage of 15 chirping finches, and a spare bathroom with a tub lined with toys for a grandchild’s sleepovers.

    Born in China to Russian Jews, Mrs. Yoran moved at age 20 to Israel, where she met Mr. Yoran, whose parents died in the Holocaust, and who, according to his book, spent one winter in “a freshly dug, carefully constructed, and well-camouflaged hole in the ground secluded deep in the forest.”

    Mrs. Yoran said that she did not know how much value her glass house had lost, but that she trusted in her husband’s “sixth sense,” which had guided them through their lives. Mr. Yoran’s eyes still sparkle as he watches his wife of 55 years move among her abstract stone artworks.

    They do not mind if Mel or Bob or anyone else peeks inside the home that took their whole lives to find.

    “What I like about this is, the inside out and the outside in,” said Mrs. Yoran, gesturing toward the glass. “It’s a matter of perspective.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/ny...l?ref=nyregion

  3. #63

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    what is this building going to look like in a few years when every apartment is painted a different color?

  4. #64

  5. #65

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    I love this building. We hosted my grandmother's 60th birthday in the adjacent church, and used the parking lot to haul supplies inside. It's great that they made the best of the space.

  6. #66
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    “But some people were quite vocal in their opposition” to a ban, Sughrue said. “They called it an Orwellian attempt” to control people.
    Oh, for goodness' sake, grow up and move with the times.



    Luxury condo building in B'klyn bans smoking by owners and tenants

    By JULIA MARSH and BETH DEFALCO


    It’s fine to flash the neighbors — just don’t have the indecency to smoke.

    The condo board for one of Brooklyn’s most prestigious addresses has banned smoking throughout the glass-walled building — including in residents’ private apartments.

    Condo owners at tony 1 Grand Army Plaza — a k a 1 Prospect Park, where residents are famous for parading around in the buff, giving parkgoers an eyeful through their floor-to-ceiling windows — will now face fines if they dare to light up in their multimillion-dollar pads.

    The only area where residents can puff away is on their private terraces, which boast sweeping views of Prospect Park.

    More than two-thirds of residents in the Prospect Heights building designed by famed architect Richard Meier voted to allow the ban, which is believed to be among the first in Brooklyn.

    Many said they were galvanized by Mayor Bloomberg’s crusade to make the Big Apple smoke-free. Bloomberg has proposed a law to require residential buildings to adopt smoking policies and disclose them to prospective buyers and tenants.

    “Bloomberg inspired people to say, ‘It’s possible to ban smoking at home,’ ” said Steve Sladkus, the lawyer for the condo’s board.

    Sladkus said smoke can creep from one apartment into another through electric sockets and shoddy vents.

    “Instead of spending millions to reconfigure ventilation systems, condo boards are finding it more cost-effective to just eliminate smoking,” he said.

    A few condos in Manhattan have voted on similar bans, such as the Upper West Side’s Ariel West at Broadway and 99th Street. Smokers there face fines of $150 for the first smoking offense, increasing $150 each time after.

    The building’s fines have yet to be determined.

    Its condo-board president, Dennis Sughrue, said the discussion about whether to make the building smoke-free first arose over the summer.

    “I had pregnant mothers e-mailing me to complain about evidence of secondhand smoke in the lobby, common areas and even seeping into in their own apartments,” Sughrue said.

    “But some people were quite vocal in their opposition” to a ban, Sughrue said. “They called it an Orwellian attempt” to control people.

    Resident Glenda Garrick said she voted for the ban, but can understand why smokers might be angry.

    “I don’t smoke — but I can certainly understand how someone who bought an apartment three years ago could feel like it’s an unfair restriction that they didn’t know about when they purchased the apartment,” she said.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/b...UTxkSJ8fjNFllM

  7. #67
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    If they are going to allow cigarettes to be sold and to collect a huge tax on them, then folks should be allowed to smoke inside their homes -- especially if they own the property.

  8. #68
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    First they will have to prove that people were indeed smoking inside their apartment. Then I'm sure it will face a court challenge. Plus, if these 'luxury' buildings are brand new, why are the current ventilation systems so inefficient?

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