It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the most deserving people, places and things in the real estate, architecture and neighborhood universes of New York City! Yep, it's time for the 13th Annual Curbed Awards! Up now: the year’s 10 most talked-about stories.
Last year, New York City’s affordability crisis took center stage when it came to the year’s most commented posts on Curbed New York. This year, it could be said that the same theme captivated readers, but from a different vantage. Exorbitantly expensive properties, funky/questionable architecture, and the divisive Bjarke Ingels riled the most comments from Curbed readers this year. So what did they (you) have to say? Read on.
Nothing gets people talking quite like extravagant real estate. So when the late financier John Gutfreund’s 20-room Fifth Avenue co-op hit the market in April for the unheard of price of $120 million, commenters naturally had a lot to say—mostly about its bonkers floorplan that includes a secret library. Another hot topic of conversation was its asking price, of course, which readers predicted would be lowered in no time. Right they were: The apartment is now on the market for the low, low price of $96 million.
The 15,000-square-foot townhouse on East 62nd Street is the picture of excess, or as on commenter called it, “[a] lovely space created for a family who, apparently, want to live in a W Hotel.” The townhouse belongs to developer Keith Rubenstein of Somerset Partners, and includes such over-the-top amenities as the aforementioned Hermès leather walls and temperature-controlled fur closet, as well as marquetry floors in the dining room inspired by the floors of Pavlovsk Palace in Russia; a ladies dressing room with steam-resistant mirrors, a gas fireplace and a cosmetics refrigerator; and a rooftop zen rock garden. Nearly a year later, it’s still on the market for $84.5 million.
After his 57th Street tetrahedron, New Yorkers know to expect more than a variation on a standard glass box from architect Bjarke Ingels. So when renderings of his High Line condos and hotel first surfaced in foreign financing materials, commenters were surprised to find “a new twist on bland.”
The buildings, at 28 and 36 floors, are a “super diluted version of his condo towers in Coconut Grove, Miami” according to one commenter, but not everyone found them unappealing. “I think this design is innovative and unique,” writes another commenter, “Bjarke Ingels is making sure that every project he designs will undoubtedly stand out compared to its surroundings and for that I give him immense credit.”
It took three years following the sales launch of über-exclusive 432 Park Avenue for developers Macklowe Properties and CIM Group to reveal the building’s model unit to us commoners—and it did not disappoint. The apartment, an 86th floor penthouse with panoramic views of Central Park (of course), was largely praised. “I think the simplicity of the building makes it elegant and classy,” commenter Daft wrote.
The biggest issue commenters took with the apartment? The length of the curtains in the living room. “The curtains ruin the lines and proportions of the windows and make the seating unusable, since no one wants to sit next to a flouncy drape,” commenter Portnoy’s Complaint said. When the seat comes with views like that, this editor would sit next to a flouncy drape all day long.
Food Network-famous chef Bobby Flay put his Chelsea Mercantile apartment on the market for $7.95 million at the end of 2015 and, having had no luck selling, listed it as a $22,500 per month rental as well earlier this year.
The comments, of course, assessed of the merits of the apartment. Is the kitchen worthy of a chef like Bobby Flay, and should it be described as—per the listing—a “top-of-the-line chef’s kitchen”? That descriptor “couldn’t be more of an over exaggeration” according to commenter Views4Days. The celeb chef finally found a renter for the apartment in October.
“There’s nothing that screams exclusivity like … rentals,” wrote commenter REspectator on the news that an apartment in the city’s newest most selective building is now available to measly renters. The apartment sold to an anonymous LLC for $18 million in January, and reappeared as the $60,000 rental in question in February. It didn’t end up renting for quite that much—its ask was reduced to $49,000/month before getting scooped off the market. “So that is what 18 million looks like,” wrote commenter fashionsnipe. “Maybe I should give bitcoin another look.”
Without precedent in New York City, Bjarke Ingels’s 57th Street tetrahedron enchanted and confused many right up until, well, now. The “courtscraper,” as the architect calls it, unveiled its amenity courtyard in January. “This thing is cool and weird. And so I like it,” wrote commenter yoyo. But not all agree. “Already this drab, joyless courtyard looks like a Soviet-era slum project, albeit one with triangular boundaries,” wrote AntiChrist. Lucky for the building’s renters, the courtyard is looking way more perky now that it’s finished and planted.
After years of speculation, a preliminary floorplan for Vornado Realty Trust and Robert A.M. Stern’s ode to wealth finally materialized. While the apartment’s asking price remains speculative, the floorplan filed with the Attorney General brings to light the bonkers opulence of the secretive tower. “Even for billionaires its a folly,” wrote REspectator, bemoaning that the spacious pad will purely be a trophy residence. “No one lives like that.”
By the floorplan’s account, the apartment will cover about 23,000 square feet, have 16 bedrooms, two indoor kitchens, an outdoor kitchen on a terrace overlooking Central Park, and more. But as one commenter wrote, “If the toilets don’t wipe your ass for you then that price isn’t worth it.”
There was no topic this year that was quite as hot as Hudson Yards, and the year’s two most talked about real estate stories prove it. There’s also nothing like a new Bjarke Ingels building to stir the pot. In February, Tishman Speyer unveiled its supertall office tower slated to rise in the upcoming neighborhood. The design is unusual, with its emphasis on outdoor space that’s intended to help bolster the creativity of employees in the building.
“I love the spiral garden idea! However, the building would be a boring chunk of glass without it,” wrote jmac, and other commenters agree in a chorus of “mehs” and “yawns,” or as lo_pan cleverly noted, “all Bjarke, no bite.”
For years, Related has been promising an installation of Eiffel Tower magnitude at Hudson Yards, and their plans for such a sculpture were unveiled this year. Enter: Vessel, the Thomas Heatherwick-designed beehive of stairs that’s meant to entice New Yorkers and tourists to “be more visible and enjoy new views and perspectives of each other,” per the designer.
“We know Vessel will be debated and discussed and looked at from every angle,” Mayor de Blasio said at the press conference unveiling the public landmark, noting that New Yorkers "are enthusiastic, [but] we are opinionated." In due fashion, the post’s comments section is pure carnage. “I really hate this,” said Curbed Managing Editor Jessica Dailey. “It looks awful,” wrote WEA. “It looks like a giant wastbasket,” Schinkle said, “It’s the perfect repository for failed ideas.”
But some saw the good in the installation. “Vessel will be like climbing the stairs of the Statue of Liberty!” said Views4Days, “It will be an Instagram darling and a great way for people to see the city from a slightly higher vantage point. I really think it could become like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. That is to say an icon that draws millions of people each year.” Alas, only time will tell.