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15 Central Park West

Between 61st Street & 62nd Street

Carter Horsley
Reviewed by Carter Horsley
Carter Horsley Carter B. Horsley, a former journalist for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Post. Mr. Horsley is also the editorial director of CityRealty.com.
 

The limestone-clad towers of this very impressive, full-block development at 15 Central Park West near the southwest corner of Central Park quickly became the city’s standout residential property for sale when it opened in 2007.

It sold out quickly for around two billion dollars and its values barely faltered during the ensuing fiscal crisis.

Its site is hard to beat: it is across 61st Street from the Trump International Hotel and apartment tower, across 62nd Street from the Art Deco-style Century at 25 Central Park West, a twin-towered apartment building, and a block north of the twin-towered Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. It is also a few blocks south of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Broadway.

Bottom Line

The full-block, two building complex at 15 Central Park West may well be the city’s most desirable residential address in terms of amenities, location and views.

It’s a top-of-the-line new building with pre-war aesthetics and if you are picky it’s got about 75 different apartment layouts.

Description

Given its Central Park West address, the obvious design might have been a twin-tower building in the tradition of the Century, the Majestic, the San Remo and the Eldorado further up the boulevard.

Instead, Mr. Stern came up with a two-building solution.

His design for 15 Central Park West here almost reproduces the massing of the former Mayflower Hotel for the lower of the two, the one directly fronting on Central Park and rising 231 feet.

The mid-block tower is about the same height as the Trump International Hotel and Tower across the street to the south and it has an asymmetrical tower. It is 43 stories tall while the other building is 20 stories tall.

The tower slabs are parallel to Central Park West and separated by a 60-foot-wide courtyard with the taller tower in the middle of the block and a low-rise wing along Broadway. The two towers are connected at their base and the Central Park West wing is known as "The House" and the higher structure is known as "The Tower." 

The development has 201 apartments plus 30 "suites" that "may be purchased by residents for their guests or personal staff, or for use as home offices." 

The building has two distinct lobbies. The one facing Central Park is 35 by 45 feet with two fireplaces and paneling. The other lobby is off the cobblestone motor court and has an oval, copper-clad and glass entrance pavilion. There is also a through-block pedestrian arcade.

The tower and the Central Park West building are separated by a 60-foot-wide walled open space. On 61st Street, that space has a turnaround driveway, or "motor court," with motorized sliding gates. On 62nd Street, the space is walled but has grills to let pedestrians look into it. This northern space has a reflecting pool that serves as a skylight for a swimming pool underneath in the project's fitness center.

The five-story base along Broadway has two-story-high retail spaces topped by three residential floors.

The Central Park West entrance is two-stories tall with an arched surround flanked by wall lanterns and the Central Park West building has terraces and landscaped roof to enhance the vistas of neighbors on higher floors.

The asymmetrical top of the tower building has a variety of elements including an arch reminiscent of one atop 1040 Fifth Avenue, open colonnades and a pergola-like structure.

Amenities

According to a fact sheet for the project, "Ninety percent of the units have direct park views," ceiling heights are 10 to 14 feet and the building has more than 40 full-time staff members. 

The apartments have wood-burning fireplaces and residents have a private dining room that can accommodate up to 60 guests with room service and a private chef. The building also has a private screening room designed by Theo Kalomirakis, a business center, "a game room with a billiard table, full-time maid and maintenance services, individual wine cellars, bicycle storage rooms, private storage units and a 13,500-square-foot fitness center with a 75-foot swimming pool with skylights illuminated by the reflecting pool in the garden above."

There are two elevator stacks in each building so that the elevators will open onto two-apartment hallways.

The building is not far from the huge Whole Foods store in the basement of the Time-Warner Center on Columbus Circle.

Apartments

Apartments range from full-floor penthouses (6,617 square feet), to terraced duplex penthouses (6,139 square feet), to oversized one-bedroom apartments (1,026 square feet).

One penthouse has a hallway longer than 65 feet. Its oval master bedroom measuring 22 by 17 feet opens into a 25-foot-by-13-foot library that leads into a 33-foot-by-25.5-foot living room. Its skylit gallery is 24 feet by 14 feet and opens into a dining room that is 21 feet by 15 feet. It also has a kitchen that is 21 feet by 19 feet.

Apartment A in “The Tower” has a living room with a large bay window facing Central Park with two windows facing down Eighth Avenue. Its master bedroom has two windows facing Central Park and its dining room has a bay window and another window facing down Eighth Avenue. Its kitchen has a window facing down Eighth Avenue and another, larger window facing Broadway and the Hudson River as do two other bedrooms.

Team

An investment group headed by Arthur and William Lie Zeckendorf, the Whitehall Fund of Goldman Sachs and a company controlled by Eyal Ofer acquired the full-block site in 2004 between Central Park West and Broadway and 61st and 62nd Streets, one of the last major "mystery" sites in Manhattan. The purchase price was $401 million. The Mayflower Hotel occupied the eastern part of the block fronting on Central Park, but the western half was vacant for many years.

The developers initially chose Cesar Pelli, the architect of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, One Beacon Court on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street and the World Financial Center at Battery Park City, for the project, but eventually switched to Robert A. M. Stern, the famous Post-Modernist who designed such high-rise apartment towers in the city as the Chatham at 181 East 65th Street, TriBeCa Park at 400 Chambers Street in Battery Park City and the Westminster at 180 West 20th Street.  He is also known as one of the country’s foremost architecture historians.

History

The Goulandris family, Greek shippers, began assembling the site represented by John Avlon in 1973 and within five years it had owned the entire block. By 1982 it had stripped the Mayflower hotel of much of its façade's terracotta decoration and the final building on the Broadway side of the block was demolished in 1987.

According to a May 27, 2004 article by Charles Bagli in The New York Times, "models built for the owners by the architects Cesar Pelli & Associates showed two towers of about 34 stories sitting on a five-story base." According to Mr. Bagli's article, other prospective bidders on the property had been Stephen M. Ross of the Related companies, a developer of the Time Warner Center, Steve Roth of Vornado Realty Trust, a developer of One Beacon Court, and Edward M. Minskoff.

A November 4, 2004 article in The New York Times by David W. Dunlap noted that "Long past its glory days - if it ever really had any - the Mayflower Hotel on the Park is disappearing from the New York scene as quietly as it occupied it." He added that the 335-room hotel was a "background" building. "Originally two side-by-side residential hotels called the Mayflower-Plymouth, which opened in 1926, the building was designed by Emery Roth," Mr. Dunlap wrote. Mr. Roth would also design Central Park West’s great skyline buildings: the twin-towered San Remo at 74th Street and the triple-towered Beresford at 81st Street.

In his article about the auction of furnishings from the hotel, Mr. Dunlap wrote that "about the only thing not being offered for sale was the plaque that used to be affixed to the façade commemorating the site as the birthplace in 1898 of Vincent Youmans, the composer of 'No, No, Nanette,' which featured 'Tea for Two.' "  "That plaque," Mr. Dunlap continued, "served as an apt metaphor for the reticent Mayflower itself, attesting to the fact that the most notable event in the history of the site occurred before the hotel was built. Yet the Mayflower had its share of modern distinctions. It was the home of Patrick Sullivan, a creator of the cartoon Felix the Cat, and of Max Schaffer, the operator of Hubert's Museum on West 42nd Street, which included a fabled flea circus. It was where the Bolshoi Ballet troupe was staying in August, 1979 when one of its leading dancers, Alexander Godunov, defected to the United States."

A March 22, 2005 article in The New York Post by Steve Cuozzo reported that the redevelopment of the block was being designed by Cesar Pelli and Associates, adding that "sources said architects [of record] Schuman Lichtenstein Claman & Efron have been tapped to design the interior.”

"No zoning changes are required for the project," the article continued, adding that the Special Lincoln Square District permits zoning bonuses in exchange for construction of off-site moderate-income housing at 210 West 102nd Street. 

The district's zoning mandates that a new project on the site must have a 85-foot-high wall on the Broadway building line before any setbacks.

The project received a 20 percent zoning bonus under the city's "inclusionary housing" program and this requirement was met by providing 41 such units at 33 West End Avenue under the auspices of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

In addition to the Mayflower Hotel, the site was formerly occupied by the United States Motor Company and Dorland's Riding Academy.

The project sold quickly, and very well, becoming the city's most famous "luxury" apartment building.

"Tis better to give than receive" is an increasing popular anthem for some of the uberrich.

At least that's probably what they're humming in the penthouse corridors of 15 Central Park West.

An article by Josh Barbanel in the November 10, 2011 edition of The Wall Street Journal noted that Sanford I. Weill, the former chairman and chief executive office of Citigroup Inc., has decided to sell his large penthouse in the building for $88 million and give the proceeds to charity.

"It's a 'pretty good time' for wealthy Americans 'to be quiet,'" he told the Journal.

Mr. Weill and his wife, Joan, intended to relocate to a small apartment on the sixth floor in the same building: "We are downsizing a little bit," he told the Journal.

The Weills paid $43.7 million for the penthouse in August, 2007, then the highest price per square foot, about $6,400, at the time. The Weill penthouse is atop the 20-story building fronting on Central Park which is known as “The House.”  The development’s 43-story tower on the western part of the site is known as “The Tower.”

Mr. Weill is the chairman of the board of Carnegie Hall and the Weill Cornell Medical College on York Avenue is named after him.

It was subsequently announced that Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the 22-year-old daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitriy Rybolovlev, is buying the condominium. At the time, she was studying at an undisclosed U.S. university and reportedly will stay in the apartment when visiting New York. According to a source familiar with the sale, she paid the full asking price of $88 million, setting a record for highest individual transaction in New York City history.

An official statement from her representatives said that she was born in Russia and is a resident of Monaco.

Her father sold the majority of his stake in Uralkali, a fertilizer business, for $6.5 billion in 2010 and this was not his first real estate acquisition in America as he has paid $95 million in May, 2008, to purchase Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion, Maison de L’Amitie, which was about $25 million less than what Trump had originally asked. An article in Forbes Magazine, however, noted that he may not own that house much longer as his wife, Elena, filed for divorce in Palm Beach court in 2009 and sought to transfer ownership of the former Trump mansion.

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