Volume 77 / Number 47 - April 23 - 29, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Q1 breakdowns looking up

As reliable as the warming weather and the Yankees’ early-season pitching woes, spring in New York City offers a bounty of first-quarter real estate reports on which to feast. April figures from Halstead Property, the Real Estate Board of New York and Prudential Douglas Elliman continued to defy the economic slowdown and sluggish housing market, showing impressive gains for the average sales prices of Manhattan homes.

Halstead reported that the average price for a Manhattan apartment jumped 47 percent, to $1.691 million in Q1 year over year, fueled chiefly by luxury sales. Co-op prices increased, by 34 percent to $1.333 million, and condos went up 52 percent over the past year, to $1.997 million. According to Halstead, average prices jumped 12.5 percent year over year Downtown, with the Village seeing a median-price increase of 42 percent.

Downtown loft prices were also up over last year, with a 36 percent gain for the median price in the Noho/Soho market, while median prices for Village lofts dropped by 21 percent.

REBNY’s ResidentialNYC.com stated the average sales price of Manhattan homes — co-ops, condos and one-to-three-family dwellings — jumped 41 percent in Q1, to $1.6 million. (Manhattan condos enjoyed a 43 percent surge, while co-ops rose 26 percent.) Prices for apartments in the Village saw a 22.4 percent overall increase, to $1.364 million. Specific Downtown neighborhood data showed that the highest average prices for all housing types were in Soho ($2.304 million) and Tribeca ($2.224 million), with generally larger units located in these areas. The data challenge both a shaky economic outlook and a reported 22 percent drop in the number of home sales throughout the city, REBNY reported.

The numbers from Prudential Douglas Elliman’s quarterly breakdown showed a 33.5 percent surge in average Manhattan apartment prices year over year, to $1.723 million, and a 13.2 percent increase in median sales. This data contrasted P.D.E.’s figures showing a 34.3 percent dip in total sales year over year, which was attributed to an unusually robust market in 2007 due to Wall St. bonuses and the weakening dollar.

43 MacDougal St. ‘mess’

A recent news report that described a dilapidated MacDougal St. building in the Village as a former mob hangout earned a swift rebuke from some longtime neighbors who remember its contribution to the community.

A group of nearby residents, after seeing an article in Monday’s AM New York speculating about the abandoned building’s past ties to the Mafia, spoke up, telling Mixed Use that the space at 43 MacDougal St. acted merely as a men’s social club — not a refuge for former Genovese crime boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, as stated in the article.

As for the 22-year-old quoted in AM New York’s story speaking about 43 MacDougal’s mob links, the residents countered that the 1846 building has sat empty for more than 20 years, making the person’s knowledge of it appear suspect.

“We know it’s baloney,” added one longtime resident.

According to elders on the block, the “dead body” found in the building and reported in the article belonged to a tenant who died of a heart attack, only to be found days later. Before its incarnation as a social club, they said, the ground-floor space variously housed one of the city’s first smoke shops, a soda shop, a tailor and a candy store. According to one resident, the block was also later used a “play street” closed off to traffic during summers, during which the owner of the social club would feed free lunch to neighborhood children.

“They really watched out for the kids,” said a neighbor, who’s lived in the area almost 50 years, of the former owners. “There were beautiful families living there, nice families. … It’s a mess now.”

Residents did acknowledge that police raided the building at one time, but that many clubs in Italian neighborhoods during that time suffered harassment from the cops.

“They raided everything, but nothing ever came of it,” said the same resident. “The whole thing is cockeyed.”

Village no-show

A daylong conference on tenants rights and harassment held in the Village on Friday apparently went unnoticed by actual Villagers and their local representatives, said a tipster who attended the event.

According to area activist and zoning specialist Doris Diether, a member of Community Board 2’s nascent Tenants Rights Task Force, nobody else from her board stopped by to speak for the neighborhood where the meeting took place, at the Cardozo School of Law on Fifth Ave. and 12th St.

The event, put on by the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court, Inc., featured discussions on aid for rent-regulated tenants, Housing Court’s function and the city’s newly adopted anti-harassment law, among others.

“It was a very interesting meeting,” explained Diether, who stayed for the entire, 8-hour program, “but it could have been more exciting if there were more people there from our area to scream.”

Diether added she received a lot of positive responses to her statements about raising the maximum fine for violators of the new anti-harassment law, noting that the top penalty only amounts to the “cost of doing business.”

She expressed surprise that other Villagers — including Board 2 Chairperson Brad Hoylman and this newspaper — hadn’t publicized the conference more broadly to spur local attendance.

Mixed Use apologizes for the misstep, but we’re pretty sure we can afford to miss one from time to time with Doris as a fly on the wall.

Still P.O.’d on Perry St.

The incoming boutique hotel that’s caused a mild uproar in the far West Village has become such a cause célèbre for the community board, local neighbors and elected officials that even The New York Times has cast its old, gray eyes on the controversial project. Construction of the luxury, seven-plus-story structure, which got the green light from the Landmarks Preservation Commission last month, will begin later this summer at 145 Perry St. at the corner of Washington St., pending Department of Buildings approval.

Critics of the 85-room hotel, including State Senator Tom Duane and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, successfully lobbied the developer to scale back about a fifth of its total height. According to the Times, however, West Villagers are still fuming. The paper quoted Washington St. resident David Crohn, who initially reacted by starting the blog “No To A Big Hotel On Perry” last October. He rolled out some war-drum rhetoric similar to that in a Mixed Use item earlier this year, where one local equated the developer’s “invasion” to the Iraq War.

“I’m appalled at the idea that they would market the charm of this part of the Village when in fact they seek to destroy it,” Crohn told the Times.

An architect for the project, Jordan Rogove of Morris Adjmi Architects, said once the interior design specifications are finalized, the developer will submit revised plans to D.O.B. for approval.




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