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What It's Like To Live At the Top of NYC's Tallest Skyscrapers

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A New York Times Magazine feature explores life in the city's new wave of tall towers

"The precise number of people living above 800 feet is impossible to calculate because of the secrecy that now veils so many real estate transactions in New York."

So reads a story from the New York Times Magazine's latest issue, which is devoted to New York City—in particular the wave of new tall towers that have come to dominate the city's skyline in the past few years (which the magazine calls "a clambering epoch.") It's dense with images, videos, and even a virtual reality experience that takes readers around the spire of One World Trade Center—pretty cool.

But the piece we quoted from above, called "The 800 Club," focuses exclusively on the residents of three of the city's tallest residential towers: the 861-foot Trump World Tower; Frank Gehry's 891-foot skyscraper at 8 Spruce Street in the Financial District; and the supertall that started the whole Billionaires' Row thing, One57. Of course, those will soon be joined by a bevy of other tall towers: 432 Park (closings just began this year, so residents should be in soon), Jean Nouvel's MoMA Tower, and 111 West 57th Street, to name but a few.

For the piece, writer Jon Ronson interviewed as many people he could find who'd be willing to speak on the record about living in apartments above that 800-foot mark (spoiler: not many wanted to); here are some of the best quotes from the piece:

"At a certain point, you’re too high," he said. "You don’t want to be higher than this," he added, meaning his own apartment. "Up there you lose the effect. You have to walk to the window to look down."

Ronson is speaking with Warren Estis, who lives on the 86th floor of the Trump World Tower, or about 810 feet above Manhattan. The too-high building he's referring to? 432 Park Avenue, which will reach nearly 1,400 feet when completed.

Penthouse South is tiny — so tiny it looks as if there has been some mistake. Its 453 square feet are inclusive of literally everything. It’s so incongruous amid the huge penthouses it abuts that it feels almost magical, like the secret railway platform from which the wizards take the train to Hogwarts.

This is in reference to a penthouse atop 8 Spruce Street, which rents for "several thousand" a month. The current tenant told Ronson that "he leaves his room to surprised glances from his neighbors," who didn't realize a tiny apartment could be perched at such a typically exclusive height.

As Michael Graves, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman, told The Times in November 2015, "Living on a full floor at One57 is probably the closest thing to being a king in the 21st century."


Still, from [the south] side of the building, I had to agree with Estis: The 95th floor is too high. There’s too much sky. You do have to walk up to the windows to look down.

"Too much sky" is a thing, apparently.

On his mantelpiece were photographs of him with Donald, Ivanka and Melania Trump. "I think Donald is fantastic, and he’s going to beat Hillary and be the next president," he said.

Here, Ronson is talking about Howard Lorber, the Douglas Elliman chairman who was recently outed as the buyer of a $15 million, 67th-floor pad at 432 Park. Oooookay.

"If you’re wealthy," [Lorber] said, "with the world as it is, with ISIS saying they want to go after billionaires, there’s really almost no reason not to buy in an L.L.C."


Trump was probably one of the first builders to skip floor numbers in order to inflate the total count. "What he markets as the 90th floor is often actually the 72nd floor, just to make it sound more impressive." "The Donald," Gerometta said, laughing, "likes to exaggerate."

That quote comes from Marshall Gerometta, who works as a database editor for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. And really, are you surprised?

The whole thing is worth a read, as is the whole Times package, which you can find here.