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Rendering credit: Workshop DA Rendering credit: Workshop DA
For decades, East Harlem has consisted of blocks of steep-porched, fire-escape-sporting pre-war tenements, interspersed with swathes of mid-century “towers in a park” housing developments. In recent years, however, a new typology - high-rise luxury housing - is moving into the storied neighborhood, notably in its southern section where it meets the Upper East Side. At 1834 Third Avenue, work is in progress for a nine-story, 71-unit rental. The Cereza, a 13-story condo at 1790 Third Avenue two blocks south, was completed a couple of years ago. Another luxury condo, North Park Tower, was recently completed at 1399 Park Avenue to the northwest at the corner of Park Avenue and East 104th Street.
Building permits for 1834 Third Avenue date to April/May 2019. City records show that the Church of the Holy Agony, a parish church previously located at the site and deconsecrated in 2017 as part of the city’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese’s 2014 reorganization, sold the site last July for $13.4 million.
East Harlem apartments (Workshop DA)
Fitness Center
The replacement rental building, designed by Workshop DA, sports a reserved yet modern, white-paneled building that enlivens the streetscape. Amenities include a bike room, a recreational lounge, resident storage, and a shared roof deck that adjoins private resident terraces. East-facing floor-to-ceiling windows will overlook open green space across the street that will supply ample sunlight, particularly in the morning.
The Cereza at 1790 Third Avenue two blocks south overlooks the same superblock as does 1834 Third Avenue, but instead of facing the grounds of George Washington Houses, the condo has views of the Cherry Tree Park, a former George Washington Houses playground renamed after both its eponymous trees and the story revolving around the President’s honesty and tree-chopping antics. In turn, the Cereza pays homage to the park name with a Spanish Harlem flair, as “cereza” means “cherry” in Spanish.
The tallest of the incoming group is North Park Tower, a 22-story high-rise at 1399 Park Avenue. The condominium offers arguably the most extensive amenity package in the neighborhood, with a fitness center, game room, library, children’s playroom, and more, and overlooks the green grounds of Carver Houses to the west and Central Park beyond, located just two blocks away. But despite its prominence, the building yields in height and views to 1214 Fifth Avenue, a 42-story rental at the foot of Central Park built as part of the expansion of adjacent Mount Sinai Medical Center (the building includes hospital facilities on its lower floors).
Condo price tags at The Cereza range from $675K for one-bedrooms to $995K for two-bedrooms, and North Park Tower offers prices from $840K for a one-bed condo to $1.995M to $3.95M for three-bedroom units. These prices may be a tad cheaper than Manhattan averages for new construction, yet they still run well above the affordable median for East Harlem.
North Park Tower (Douglas Elliman)
If you’ve noticed a trend, all above-mentioned buildings except 1214 Fifth stand across from “towers in a park” housing complexes. But despite such developments’ less-than-savory reputation, earned by well-deserved criticism of seminal activists and planners such as Jane Jacobs and Oscar Newman as well as the city’s lamentable situation at the end of 20th century, developers are discovering surprising benefits of such locations. Nicholas Dagen Bloom, the Professor of Urban Policy at Planning at Hunter College, author of several books on New York public housing, and curator at the Skyscraper Museum’s ongoing Housing Density exhibit (which, coincidentally, covers East Harlem in great detail), notes that such housing developments offer ample green space for their residents, a rare perk within densely-built Manhattan.
Concurrently, if building next to a park isn’t an option, building next to “towers in a park” may be the next best thing for greenery seekers. These developments such as the three discussed above, enjoy exposure to lush open spaces while also reaping the benefits of modern amenities and themselves being part of traditional, pedestrian-friendly blocks.
Despite fears of gentrification, a sprinkling of high-profile properties in a mixed-income neighborhood may be positive for all parties involved. Above-mentioned Jane Jacobs, frequently considered among the most credible champions of livable cities of our time, argued that diversity is among the primary hallmarks of any healthy, thriving neighborhood or city; not just diversity in the cultural or ethnic sense, but diversity of employments, incomes, building scales, and building ages. As such, sporadic intermixing of incomes may be a healthier way of urban living than a “tale of two cities” with segregated enclaves for the rich and the poor.
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Content & Research Manager Vitali Ogorodnikov