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‘Million Dollar Listing New York’ recap: let’s talk about gentrification

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Here’s what happened on this week’s Million Dollar Listing New York

Avenue A, including the site of Steiner East Village, in 2016.
Scott Lynch

It's season six of Million Dollar Listing New York, where three brokers—Fredrik Eklund, Ryan Serhant, and new guy Steve Gold—show the world what it takes to sell high-priced New York City apartments. Check in each week for recaps.

Yep, you read that headline right—gentrification is just one of the topics covered on this week’s episode of MDLNY. Let’s just dive right into it, shall we?

Fredrik

Fredrik is on his way to the East Village, and his driver, Alberto, is telling him about growing up in the neighborhood. Alberto lives with his mom, who came to New York in 1947, and she “wants to make sure all the old-timers don’t get pushed out of this neighborhood.”

Which leads us to—oh boy, we’re actually going there, this is really happening—Fredrik talking about gentrification. “Some of the criticism that people make is that New York is becoming a playground for the rich, and I think the criticism is fair … sometimes,” says Freddy. “It’s important for me to remember that my industry has an impact on people’s lives.” If this were a cartoon, this would be the moment that a light bulb would go off over Fredrik’s head.

But the gentrification conversation will have to wait—Fredrik’s at 438 East 12th Street, aka Steiner East Village, with Doug Steiner himself. Freddy, seemingly forgetting about all the old-timers who were likely pushed out to make room for the building, is gushing about the 19-foot ceilings in the penthouses, and the 16,000 square feet of amenities (which will, alas, only benefit those who can afford the building’s multimillion dollar condos). Steiner tells Fredrik that he wants to raise the prices of the remaining units, and Fredrik is skeptical—they’re already some of the most expensive apartments to ever be sold in the East Village. So Steiner agrees to keep the prices as they are for now, but he wants them to go up in two months—which means Fredrik needs to get to selling.

Fredrik is really stuck on this concept of a changing East Village, though—so he asks Alberto to drop him off on any corner so he can talk to people in the neighborhood. “Sometimes I feel very isolated,” he says. “I move all over New York City in my car, but I never actually get out of the car and just walk. … listen, and take it all in.” So he talks to a few folks, getting their opinions on gentrification (that word again!), the changes that have come to the neighborhood, and what people want to see there. He wants to give back, you see.

So during an event for the building (in which Fredrik prepares Swedish meatballs and shows off the enormous penthouses), he brings up the subject of gentrification—and the room of brokers and other industry folks seemingly stops dead. But Fredrik eventually gets it on track, and what follows is your standard-issue conversation about the subject—nothing earth-shattering or terribly oblivious here, which is a relief. Freddy eventually shares that he’s donating a chunk of cash to a nearby community garden, which gets some of the other assembled folks on board. Aww.

Ryan

“This is the most nervous I’ve been before any event I’ve ever done,” says Ryan of the Chelsea Waterside party. He’s worried that his plan—abandoning the “sales gimmick” tactic he usually does with properties, and letting the development speak for itself—is going to backfire. Ryan seems like he’s going to throw up, but it’s go time—and the assembled hordes are curious to find out what kind of stunt Ryan has up his sleeve.

So Ryan gets up onto one of the staircases overlooking the crowd, and proceeds to tell them about how, like, the building is the thing! And people seem … well, they seem less than impressed. (This is why it’s probably not the best idea to stake your reputation on pulling ridiculous stunts.) Ryan, in his desperation, starts to overexplain the concept (it doesn’t need that much explaining, my dude), which only increases the awkwardness of the situation.

But as people start to see the units themselves, and the sunset from their private terraces (and, let’s be real—as they start to take advantage of the free booze inevitably found at these parties), they start to see what Ryan is seeing. “If I impressed enough brokers, and enough people [are] talking about it, I’ve done my job,” he says. And his developer, Matt, seems impressed too, so Ryan is relieved.

Until he hears from Matt a few days later, with a bit of startling (to Ryan, anyway) news: another penthouse sold! But it was finagled by the previous broker! So Ryan doesn’t get the commission. Womp womp.

But that’s okay! Ryan’s doing private showings of the apartments—and surprise surprise, Fredrik is one of the folks who shows up to take a look. “It’s so clear to me how much we’ve both changed,” says Fredrik. “I don’t see him as a threat.” Fredrik even goes so far to invite Ryan to his upcoming 40th birthday party. Whoa, guys. Whoa.

Back to the real estate, though: Ryan has an offer for Chelsea Waterside’s maisonette, but it’s $700,000 under the asking price. Developer Matt doesn’t want to do it, but Ryan points out that the penthouses have sold for less than that—so now it’s weird to ask for more. But of course there’s going to be a negotiation. Matt tells Ryan to try $4.6 million; the buyers counter with $4.5 million; and just like that, the deal is done. Now, there are just two apartments left to sell—and Ryan doesn’t want any more old broker exclusives to come back and bite him in the butt. Matt agrees, but only for one month.

Steve

We’re back at Steve’s Soho co-listing, where his co-broker, Lori, has an appointment set up for noon—and he’s stuck in Midtown at 11:45 a.m. Ruh roh! But “everyday in this job you have to make things happen,” says Steve; and in this case, that means getting out of his car and hopping on a Citi Bike to Soho. (It’s not exactly that dramatic of a scenario, but it’s about as dramatic as things have gotten in recent episodes.)

But no sooner than Steve hops off his bike does he get a text from his assistant, Jessica, telling him that the showing has been rescheduled. Poor Steve got all sweaty for nothing! (Seriously though, to be fair to him, that sucks—and it’s why, he says, he really does not like co-listing.)

Steve is out with Jessica; he’s brooding, she’s grilling him about being a control freak—which eventually leads her to ask him why he doesn’t have a team of brokers working for him. “I hate to say it, but you’re right,” he tells her.

But in the meantime, he still has to deal with 20 Greene Street. He and Lori come to the seller, Cristina, with an offer of $14.35 million, and she’s not into it. “That’s pretty down from $16,” says Cristina, and Steve is trying to work his magic to get her to accept it—until Lori butts in. “I came here to support you 100 percent,” she tells Steve, before spending the next few minutes doing the exact opposite of that. Uh oh—it looks like there’s a fight brewing. Steve, frustrated, storms outside to brood (he’s very good at brooding) and smoke a cigarette.

“I want my brokers to be on the same team,” says Cristina, so Lori tries to smooth things over with Steve. Eventually they agree to work together, but it still doesn’t solve the issue of the $14.35 million offer. “I’m not really happy with the offer, to be quite honest,” Cristina huffs, and even though he doesn’t want to, Steve agrees to let it go. “We will get you your number, you just have to give us a little time,” he tells her. (Let us remind you that nearly a year later, this place is still on the market for the same price.)