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Sterling Plaza, 255 East 49th Street

At The Northwest corner of Second Avenue

Carter Horsley
Review 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

Take the famous main tower of the Houses of Parliament in London and wrap it in cardboard and plunk it down in midtown and you almost have the Sterling Plaza, a 33-story apartment tower erected in 1985 at 255 East 49th Street on the northwest corner of Second Avenue.

This condominium tower has good proportions, lots of corner balconies and a very distinctive roof.

It has 172 apartments and an attractive plaza.

The building was developed by Fred Wilpon and Saul B. Katz.

It was designed by Schuman, Lichtenstein, Claman & Efron and Arquitectonica.

Bottom Line

Not far from Beekman Place and the United Nations complex and also convenient to Grand Central Terminal, this slender tower has a distinctive roof, a nice plaza and many dark-glass corner balconies.


The red-brick tower is distinguished by its four white slanted corner roof elements that appear as tall spikes and give the building a very distinctive silhouette that is more ominous than graceful. 

In an August 16, 1984 article in The New York Times, Paul Goldberger wrote that the roof-top design “is not only ill-suited to the building of which it is a part, but unattractive enough to make one year n for the days of flattops." 

The notion to avoid a flat roof and do something dramatic and maybe Post-Modern, however, was laudatory, even if the execution is a bit clumsy. 

The façades have quite a bit of vitality, especially with the wrap-around dark-glass balconies. 

Its lushly landscaped plaza on the Second Avenue corner is quite successful with a long rusticated colonnade marquee, curved planters and some flat metal tree bases that are quite whimsical. 

It is interesting that this 1984 building's rakishness was paid the supreme complement by 100 United Nations Plaza, which was completed nearby at 327 East 48th Street in 1988: its top is rakishly slanted, giving this neighborhood a new signature of prominent slanted rooflines.  The neighborhood’s main “slant,” of course, is the roof of Citicorp Center a couple of blocks north on Lexington Avenue.

The slanted shapes of Sterling Plaza’s roof are not pure as their base is interrupted by balconies that spoil their otherwise “clean” lines. 


The building has a 24-hour doorman and concierge, a landscaped plaza, an entrance marquee and a live-in superintendent.


Apartment 11F has an entry foyer that leads to a 9-foot-long kitchen with a pass-through to the 23-foot-long corner living room with an angled bay window.

Apartment 15D has a long entry foyer that leads to a 22-foot-long living room with a wrap-around corner balcony, an 11-foot-long enclosed kitchen and two bedrooms.

Penthouse B is a four-bedroom unit with a 10-foot-wide entry foyer that leads to a 27-foot-long living room, an 11-foot-wide enclosed kitchen and a 21-foot-long dining room.

Penthouse A has a 36-foot long living/dining room, a 14-foot-long enclosed kitchen and three bedrooms on the lower floor and two bedrooms and a 14-foot-long balcony on the upper floor.


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