Over the Top: Extreme Amenities Conquer Manhattan, And Beyond

The playroom at Hunters Point South. (Photo: courtesy Related Companies)

In years past—olden times and post-college times—it was a coup to land an apartment in a building with a laundry room in the basement. Hauling dirty clothes and towels across the street never gets fun (especially if that street is, say, Second Avenue and a subway tunnel is in the works). Perhaps you had an elevator. Hauling groceries up six flights never gets easier, nor does your strength increase or your weight decrease due to this forced exercise. (Fortunately it’s possible your refrigerator wasn’t full-size.)

Perhaps you graduated to an elevator, then a doorman and a gym. Today, however, these elements are more likely to be considered necessities than amenities. Comfort and pleasure are expected, and increasingly built in. And while anyone who has ever had a private washing machine and dryer can assure you their quality of life was vastly improved, it’s simply not enough anymore. The city’s newest residential buildings—many still in the works—are offering oh so much more.

Read complete story at Observer.comOver the Top: Extreme Amenities Conquer Manhattan, And Beyond

Wine From Infinity and Beyond: Hungary, Georgia, Turkey and China are on the up

Move over Croatia and Slovakia, we’re ready for something even newer. 2016 is the year of new wine producers hitting the restaurant scene. 

“Boundaries are being broken,” Andre Compeyre, wine and beverage director of Midtown’s Regency Bar & Grill told the Observer. “In the past,” he said, “you’d find up and coming regions and countries(on the wine list) under the section ‘others.’ ” Traditionally a section that varied wildly depending on the coup de coeur of the person who created it. Today, new producers are front and center.

Read complete story on Observer.comWine From Infinity and Beyond

How to Create the Best Home Bar for the Holidays

When it comes to setting up a home bar for the holidays -be it for parties, dinners or in expectation of unexpected guests- the most important ingredient is you. Buy things you generally like and know how to prepare and every occasion will be merry and guests will think you’re bright. Love nebbiolo? Don’t buy zinfandel. Love Manhattans? That’s whiskey, vermouth and bitters. Negronis? That’s gin, vermouth, Campari. Whatever your favorite, build your bar with its base.

The second most important ingredient in your home bar is not-too-many ingredients. Try this: one red, one white, one sparkling, one brown, one clear, one vermouth, one fun like amaro or Campari (festive and bittersweet, like the season) and one dessert-y. That will satisfy everyone. Plus club soda, tonic, a citrus fruit, Angostura Bitters, and fancy soda (Spindrift is consistent across the line). That’ll suit drinkers and non-drinkers. Don’t forget ice. And beer. Pull out the beach cooler.

Read complete story on Observer.comHow to Create the Best Home Bar for the Holidays

Gowanus Reborn: A haven for manufacturing and artists stands on the precipice of major development

Mortality has long been a theme in art. Decaying fruit or flowers, burnt out candles, clocks, skulls: symbols reminding us that death is inevitable appear everywhere. Memento mori is the term, Latin for remember [you must, you have to] die.Back in the day—medieval times—it was mostly about preparing for the afterlife. Artists are still influenced by death and its role in life, of course. And seldom does the relevance strike harder than in Gowanus, where access to the ultimate muse is as inspiring as it is ironic. 

Read complete story on Observer.comGowanus Reborn

A Portrait of the Artists Documenting WTC’s Progress

Photo by Chris Sorenson

Before this past June, Conrad Stojak’s workspace was a friend’s garage in Queens.

Today, the Jackson Heights-based artist, who is turning old parking meters into sculptures, works from the 67th floor of 4 World Trade Center. He likes water, so he chose the southwest corner—the one that offers unparalleled, unobstructed views of both Upper New York Bay and the Hudson River. It’s the ultimate studio, courtesy of Silverstein Properties.

Courtesy, as in gratis.

Long attached to the belief that art brings vitality, excitement and dimension to any landscape, after 9/11 Silverstein head Larry Silverstein invited artists to work in vacant spaces around the World Trade Center site. And, why not? The empty, unfinished floors look a little like a Soho artists loft in the sky. The space is divided up fairly loosely, with some artists taking a city view—others opting for the Battery. (One artist has an entire floor all to himself.) And these artists have been squatting in these WTC studios for more than a decade.

Documentation of the reconstruction was all Mr. Silverstein asked in return.

“It’s something that’s important to them, but also important to us,” Mr. Silverstein told Commercial Observer. “This is really a little way of producing a running documentation of what transpires daily, weekly, monthly, in a way people can understand and appreciate for generations to come. To keep a document is enormously important to us. They’ve done it so well.”

Read complete story on CommercialObserver.com: A Portrait of the Artists Documenting WTC’s Progress

New Landscaped Roof Spaces Encourage Residents to Stay Awhile

“You would think New York City is the worst place for a garden, but being on a roof here is priceless,” said François Bléhaut, project manager at Gunn Landscape Architecture. “If you work in, say, Midtown, it’s really magical to be able to see the sky. It’s really unique to have space above your head. It’s more magical than anywhere else because of the contrast.”

The same can be said of all things trees, shrubs, grass and flowers in an urban environment.

“This is actually something that has science behind it,” said Gwenn Fried, manager of Horticultural Therapy Services at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation. That’s the use of plants and things in nature as a modality to effect change in a person. Plants, Ms. Fried said, are non-judgmental, intellectually and sensorially stimulating and normalizing. At one of the service locations, the Hospital for Joint Diseases, a terrace garden is currently in construction, to supplement the treatment that includes workshops and trips to nearby parks.  

Landscaped terraces, rooftops and other outdoor spaces have been all the rage in New York City for years, and demand shows no sign of ceasing, according to real estate brokers and designers.

Read complete story on Observer.com: On Top of the World: New Landscaped Roof Spaces That Encourage Residents to Stay Awhile

Alfa Development’s Michael Namer On History, Architecture and Sustainability

IMG_4205Many artists conceal changes to their work. Process is not always appreciated, and can be misconstrued as flaw. The appearance of an early layer—whether imperfectly erased or deliberate—is called pentimento (see Hellman, Lillian) and some artists hate it. Others revel in the study of development, the steps taken from beginning to end. Michael Namer, the chief executive officer and founder of Alfa Development Group, is among the latter.

Istanbul-born, Havana-escaped, Los Angeles-raised, New York-formed, the 61-year-old West Village resident is today, in his words, a painter by avocation, a developer-builder by vocation. Each layer of his life, his work, his building is as integral as the next.

We’re sitting in a muted model guest room on the seventh floor of the HGU New York, formerly known as the Grand Union Hotel. At 34 East 32nd Street in Manhattan, which should be ready for guests sometime in 2016. Earthy grays, blues and khakis inside deliberately negate the flashing brightness of the city. Mr. Namer, in navy sports coat and tie, stretches his khaki-clad legs, flashing the bright orange soles of his brown suede wingtips.

With seemingly little effort he’s inserted himself in every aspect of his current project. He draws himself in, deriving pleasure from everyone and everything around. On the 10th floor, the top, he found newspapers stuffed into the plaster spread during the 1915 expansion of the 1905 original building. Slowly, he extracted the pages from the wall.

“I’ll show you downstairs,” he said, delighted, describing Vanderbilt headlines and local postcards and art that will fill the 40,000-square-foot hotel, reminding or teaching guests that this place, like the city around it, is rich with history, culture and life. Mr. Namer hopes guests of the hotel and the not-yet-named, recognizable-chef-headed restaurant will be aware of their surroundings. This is New York and nowhere else.

Read complete story on CommercialObserver.com: The Namer of the Game

In Hamilton Heights, A Townhome Reflects the Neighborhood’s History

IMG_4077“Hamilton Grange is destined to be a first-class and exclusive residence quarter,” predicted The Real Estate Record and Guide in September 1890.

Hamilton Heights, the northern Manhattan neighborhood referenced above, was named for founding father and Broadway star Alexander Hamilton, who acquired 32 acres there by 1800. The area remained relatively rural (mansions and farms plus the Croton Water Aqueduct construction) until the 1880s, when the Eighth and Tenth Avenue streetcar lines were extended. Rapid transit inspired residential growth, primarily led by William H. De Forest, a silk importer turned developer turned mental patient.

It was thought that this picturesque area would mimic the East Side, where rows of townhouses reigned, space was running out and land values were high. Tenth Avenue was renamed Amsterdam in 1890 to encourage the uptick. And a subway stop at 145th was in the works.

Mr. De Forest had acquired most of Mr. Hamilton’s land (roughly W. 141st to W. 149th Streets, west of Convent Avenue) and more, divided it into hundreds of lots, and sold or developed them with his son. In 1886, pre-city zoning, he created a 20-year deed restricting new construction to “brick or stone dwellings at least two stories in height.”

That was code for private residences, which was code for unrelated people living under one roof is vulgar, something other ethnicities and races might do. There were limitations on use, too, a condition of sales that were not uncommon throughout the city: no stables, no factories, no bawdy houses and so forth. No manure in my backyard.

Read complete story on Observer.com: In Hamilton Heights, A Townhome Reflects the Neighborhood’s History

Urban Landscape Designers are Busier Than Ever

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/15102214/e19e6665-adac-429c-907b-80e399b968f8.png
Inside the Interior Foliage Design greenhouse

Since 1733, when Bowling Green was established “for the beauty and ornament of the said street as well as for the of the inhabitants of this city,” greenery has been appreciated for its immediate and long term benefits to New York City’s residents and properties. Street landscaping, according to a comprehensive Department of Transportation design manual, decreases energy costs, subdues street noise (“providing health and psychological benefits”), attracts customers to nearby businesses and increases property values.

This is not news, of course, yet these days developers, building owners and tenants have renewed interest in landscape design.

“We are very proud of our landscaped roofs at 250 Hudson Street and Symphony House (235 West 56th Street), as well as our straight, extensive green roof systems at 255 Greenwich Street,” said John Resnick, on trend to say the least. Landscape architects, designers and gardeners are bustling with requests for green roofs and rooftop gardens, green walls and vertical gardens, terraces, sidewalks, atriums, lobbies and every other imaginable space.

“Landlords realize this is attractive,” said Stuart Schechter, the owner of Interior Foliage Design, recalling the creation of the plant-filled 277 Park Avenue atrium in the early 1980s. “Plants and flowers are part of marketing. Outdoor spaces can reflect what’s inside.”

Read complete story on CommercialObserver.com: Urban Landscape Designers are Busier Than Ever

The Family Business: NYC Water Towers

Commercial Observer image

From most everywhere in New York City an upward tilt of the head offers an appealing view, a sight you cannot replicate anywhere else. Not the skyscrapers and spires—even though, yes, they are standouts indeed—but something more uniquely New York City: rooftop water towers.

Their likenesses and silhouettes appear in countless works of art and the towers themselves—also called tanks—have even served as canvases, too (check out The Water Tank Project, a global clean water awareness campaign supported by more than a dozen members of the real estate industry). That said, visual stimulation is just a byproduct when it comes to these structures so vital to New York City life.

“A lot of people think they are out of service or abandoned, but they serve a vital need,” said Henry Rosenwach, the 26-year-old scion of the Rosenwach family whose name is synonymous with this New York phenomenon. “Until water is gone people don’t care. It’s such a simple thing.”

Read complete story on CommercialObserver.com: The Family Business: NYC Water Towers