fanfare, The Garfield Building – otherwise known as 142 Henry Street,
on the lower Lower East Side – had its first open house this afternoon.
I’d been keeping an eye on it for some time, since it’s a beautiful building
– at least on the outside – with fantastic views in a neighborhood
which, against the Manhattan odds, has still managed to keep it real. A tasteful
renovation which really respected the building and the location could easily
have been something of an architectural triumph.
It was not to be. The Garfield Building, in its latest incarnation, is a paragon
of obnoxiousness, the epitome of everything that is soulless and evil about
yuppification gentrification. Rather than take any cues from the rich
architectural heritage of the Lower East Side, the apartments in the building
are bland modernist spaces with no original features at all. Actually, scratch
that: there is one original feature left – the stairwell, with a lovely
wrought iron balustrade. Other than that, everything’s clean straight white
lines and a light maple flooring. ("We’re putting on the final coat,"
apologised one of the sales agents when we got to the model apartment, explaining
why we had to take our shoes off.)
The photograph above comes straight
from the official website:
it’s the model view of the model apartment. And it’s dominated by those brand-new
square white beams, both horizontal and vertical, which might look fine in a
house by Frank Lloyd Wright, but which seem utterly out of place in a manufacturing
building built 92 years ago.
It’s worth calling bullshit on the official
floorplans, too. For one thing, there ain’t no way the floor-throughs are
1900 square feet. We’re actually given the exterior dimensions of the building:
25′ wide by 84’7" long. We’re also told
that the perimeter walls are 18" thick. So knock three feet off each axis,
and you have a gross interior per floor of 1,794 square feet. Then subtract
the elevator and stairwell, call it 200 square feet there, and you have a total
area inside the apartment of maybe 1,600 square feet if you include everything
from closets to the area underneath interior walls.
And, of course, the developers have been very careful not to include any interior
walls in their show apartment. If you actually want a bedroom with a door, or
heaven forfend you need any closet space, suddenly the beautiful
long vistas disappear. Even if you’re happy with a one-space loft-style
layout, your guests still have to navigate a very narrow kitchen before getting
to the bathroom.
Realistically, however, most people will build at least one bedroom, if not
two. And just look at the proposed two-bedroom layout: both of the bedrooms
are, not to put too fine a point on it, tiny. If I’m spending $1.675 million
on a Lower East Side apartment, (and that’s before all manner of closing fees
and transfer and mansion taxes), I think I’m going to want a lot more space
than this. Hell, for $2.5 million I can get a 4-story townhouse
on Broome Street, complete with private garden and at almost 3,000 square feet
of usable space.
If you’re any kind of art collector, of course, you couldn’t even dream of
moving to the Garfield Building: there aren’t any walls to put your art on.
Maybe if you’re a would-be Tribeca loft-dweller who’s been priced out of Tribeca
and will make do with the other side of the island, this might work for you.
(But there aren’t any fancy restaurants south of East Broadway, I’m afraid.)
Most likely, the developers are hoping to snare a handful of twentysomething
Wall Street traders, their seven-figure bonus burning a hole in their pocket,
looking for a snazzy bachelor pad not too far from the financial district.
I wish them luck: this building has taken many years to get to this point,
and it’s clearly something of a labor of love on the part of Ron Castellano
and Christopher Hayes, who are the owners, the architects, and the general contractors,
all rolled up into one. I’m just a little wistful for what might have been:
apartments which retained some kind of Lower East Side feel, which might have
been larger than those down the street but which weren’t trying to import a
whole new aesthetic. As it is, we can place 142 Henry next to 7
Essex as condo developments where rich yuppies can slum it on the LES while
living in a beautiful white bubble far removed from the reality of the street.
Really, it’s obscene.