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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)


Owning a single-family home is the “American Dream,” right? Um, maybe, but not necessarily in New York City. The stately and opulent brownstones on the tree-lined streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn may be dreamy to some. But many buyers are re-envisioning their desire for square footage and privacy from single-family homes to new high-rises that are loaded with space and amenities and made to feel like private homes that lack all the home-owning headaches.
The popularity of brownstones in New York began in the late 1800s when wealthy families wanted to live in opulent homes on the quiet side streets and not apartments on the main avenues. Wealthy New Yorkers wanted the privacy and convenience of a big house in the city. For over a century, a private home in the city had the highest cache.
Luxury, high-rise developers got that message and are now building homes in the sky with privacy, square footage, and all the amenities and conveniences big buildings offer without the hassle.
100 Barclay's wine tasting room
443 Greenwich's underground parking
250 West 81st Street's library/lounge
Janna Haroche used to live in a big house in Greenwich, Connecticut filled with staff. But when she and her fiancé were looking for a new home in Manhattan to combine their family of eight, “We took everything into consideration. I looked all over the city but the more we looked, the more we realized we wanted a high-rise. If I want to deal with the headaches of owning a single-family home, I might as well live in the suburbs. Owning a brownstone in the city gives you all of the negatives of home ownership with no big backyard and dark, narrow spaces.”

To Haroche, a high-rise solves all the problems brownstones raise, “We didn’t want full-time staff. We wanted our own space away from the kids but not to have to worry about security with them coming home late at night.” She adds, “Living in the city is about convenience. It all comes down to a quality of life issue, less headaches and less worrying.”
Phillip Salem, a broker at Triplemint Real Estate, says, “My clients like the ease that comes with living in a high-rise. Some really big pluses are that supers live in the building, the doormen make it easy for pick up and drop off for all packages, and all of these high rises have amenity-filled spaces with gyms, lounges, outdoor spaces, and swimming pools that make it easy to escape and enjoy what the building has to offer when you get cabin fever in your apartment.”

Agent Zoe Kellerhals-Madussi of Triplemint Real Estate adds, “We have had clients opt out of purchasing townhouses many times. It typically will occur when someone realizes how much work goes into keeping a townhouse in good shape. We get used to living in apartment buildings and therefore forget the luxuries that go with them: the common areas are cleaned, the trash is disposed of and the building maintenance is taken care of by the management company to name a few items.”

Buying in a new development gives the buyer the peace of mind that they know everything associated with their unit, mechanicals, roof, etc. are brand new and in good condition.
Lisa Baquero feels very assured about the quality of her new home in 20 East End, since her husband, Edward, developed the building. Lisa loves and uses all the amenities in her building. She frequently hosts events in 20 East End’s library and says, “The best thing is that people often ask me 'is this part of your home?'”
That is exactly how Edward Baquero designed 20 East End- to feel like an elegant, private brownstone with its grand spiral staircase, wine cellar, library, billiard room and private bar. Lisa explains, “You can easily entertain 40 to 50 people and never have them step foot in your home.”
Lisa Baquero hosts an event in 20 East End's library
She recently hosted a “fireside chat” in the building’s luxurious library for Amy Nobile and Trisha Ames’ book launch of “Just When You’re Comfortable in Your Own Skin, It Starts to Sag.” This week she is hosting her next event, “Sips and Shops,” supporting the National YoungArts Foundation. In addition to performances by students in the YoungArts program, there will vendor displays from the architectural jeweler Soledad Lowe Jewelry, the biodegradable raincoat provider Terra New York and the elegant accessory designer Kirma New York, all of whom will give a portion of their proceeds to the nonprofit.
“It’s a perfect space to hold events. The amenity spaces here make you feel special. They are grand but warm and enveloping and make people feel and act nicer,” says Lisa Baquero.
Game room
Private dining room
“It’s a perfect space to hold events. The amenity spaces here make you feel special. They are grand but warm and enveloping and make people feel and act nicer.”
- Lisa Baquero
Kellerhals-Madussi also highlights that high-rises offer absentee owners peace of mind. ”Some clients immediately request only apartments versus townhouse because they travel a lot or are purchasing the unit as a pied-a-terre. It is reassuring for them to know someone in the building will take care of things. Also, if one travels a lot they often require a doorman to pick up packages and drop them in front of their door. That is something that can become very complicated with a townhouse.”

“Last but not least,” she adds, “someone that is looking for views will not be interested in purchasing a townhouse.” Le Corbusier, the 1930s iconic modernist architect who dreamed of building utopian communities filled with towers in a park, waxed on about how his buildings were "machines for living." To Le Corbusier, high-rises were the ultimate democratizing tool providing access to light, air, and nature.

Although New York City’s high-rises are not necessarily democratizing natural resources as their prices soar to unbelievable heights, they are providing unparalleled, often 360-degree views and abundant natural light as they reach higher into the sky.
Views from 20 East End Avenue's penthouse, on the market for nearly $40M (Photo by CityRealty)
High-rises also appeal to the empty nesters who move back to the city after raising their family in the suburbs. In an interview with 6sqft, a couple in their 80s who spent 30 years in the suburbs, recently moved into an apartment on the Upper West Side, explaining, “We lived in a house that was four stories, and even though we were able to go up and down the steps with no problem, we thought it was silly. We love the city, and at some point, the steps won’t be so easy.”
The Standish in Brooklyn Heights (DDG Partners)
Even in Brooklyn, where brownstones reign supreme, high-rises are offering things brownstones cannot compete with. The Standish, a beautiful renovation of an early 20th Century Brooklyn hotel, promotes their family-friendly layouts and benefits over townhomes. David Chang, the Corcoran broker representing the building explains, “We are the only building in Brooklyn that offers townhouse square footage on a single floor. Our 5,000 square foot units give the buyer everything involved in owning townhouse with many more conveniences.”

The Standish building amenities include a common landscaped roof with views of the harbor, a fitness facility, a children's room, a 24/7 doorman and, perhaps the most standout amenity is the DDG concierge service. All DDG buildings have access to this private concierge service which not only can help get dinner reservations, theater tickets and set travel plans but through a special relationship with Star Jets, any resident has access to their own private plane. Additionally, DDG offers only the Standish residents a relationship with One15, the Brooklyn marina, which provides personal boat valet services.
The Standish interior photos courtesy of Robert Granoff
A Boerum Hill resident utilizing her brownstone stoop
Many Brooklyn residents are actively fighting proposals against supertall high-rises, like the current battle against 80 Flatbush. There is an undeniable charm to owning a home in the city, in that turn-of-the-century kind of way, and the beauty and scale of a street lined with brownstones is quite undeniable. To that end, the Boerum Hill Association is trying to increase the size of the current historic district to save as many brownstones as they can.
To date, Boerum Hill has done a great job blending old and new and still has many brownstones that new owners love to renovate and make their own. Shelly Place, an agent at Triplemint, says of the neighborhood, “the amount of people who want to move here far outweighs the amount of people leaving. There are a lot of people raising families and renovating homes here with no plans to leave.”

Kellerhals-Madussi lists some of the positives of brownstones as “having your own outdoor space and independence to do what you want without having to go through a board. Another very attractive point with a townhouse is the idea of purchasing a multi-family with an owners duplex. The extra source of income is a huge motivator.”
A row of brownstones in Boerum Hill
Perhaps the perfect way to settle the debate is the solution of building townhomes and “maisonettes” (townhomes with no backyards) in high-rise buildings like 20 East End, 11 Beach Street, 12 Warren and 21 East 12th Street, to name a few, have done. To many, that is the best of both worlds.
Contributing Writer Michelle Colman Michelle writes children's books and also writes articles about architecture, design and real estate. Those two passions came together in Michelle's first children's book, "Urban Babies Wear Black." Michelle has a Master's degree in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and a Master's degree in the Cities Program from the London School of Economics.
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