Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NEW york


“We just sit and stare,” says Melissa Gavilanes, who works nearby

Published: August 30, 2008

EIGHT stories above Broadway, on the southeast corner of 97th Street, construction is near completion on three little houses that sit atop a turn-of-the-century apartment building.

Tan in color, they have jaunty oval windows and tiny gabled roofs. On a recent morning, workers in hard hats scurried about porches resembling those in a community of hillside tract houses.

“I’ve received calls from people asking about those units, especially since they started putting decks up there,” said Edward Balazs of A.A.G. Management, the building’s agent. “There are many different types of penthouses, but it’s rare that they have the gabled roofs.”

He believes that the inquiries may be coming from residents whose apartments look out from the higher floors of neighboring buildings, since the units are barely visible from the street.

According to Mr. Balazs, the building’s owners, the real estate developers Anne and Arnold Gumowitz, have chosen to keep silent about the addition until it is completed, and have not advertised the units. No one will say exactly when the construction will be completed.

Yet, it is hard to keep such a secret. Those with the privileged vantage of elevation have been able to watch the little houses go up over the past year and a half, and have followed developments with curiosity, envy and contempt.

Manny Salas, the building’s overnight concierge, says he is asked by several neighbors a week if he knows the prices of the little houses on the roof. The units will be rentals, but Mr. Salas is unsure what the rents will be.

“I think they have adjustable central air,” he said of the houses. “And attics.”

One of the best views is from the Columbia, the 35-story condominium directly across Broadway at 96th Street, particularly from its 12th-floor health club. Those who work out there dwell, like most New Yorkers, in rooms with walls that are shared by neighbors and ceilings that serve as other people’s floors. In this crowded city, an attic is a rare thing.

“It’s the talk of the building,” said Melissa Gavilanes, the manager on duty at the health club recently. She has been polling residents about how many units they thought the penthouses had. “We just sit and stare,” she said.

Doron Rice, an architect who was holding a large pair of barbells, peered out the window. “You want my opinion?” he said, “It’s out of context. It’s not the same materials, and it’s not the same scale. It looks like it was dropped here from somewhere in Long Island.”

But Ms. Gavilanes found the penthouses alluring. “I would get a car,” she said, “and put it out in the driveway. And then I’d add a white picket fence, and AstroTurf. Maybe have a golden retriever playing in the yard.”

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