142 Henry

With some

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.

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18 Responses to 142 Henry

  1. Married a Lower-Eastsider says:

    My husband, a friend and I also went to the Garfield Building open house to check out the new digs in our neighborhood. We all got a bad feeling and wondered how the developers would do, even though we were awed by what they had done to what was formerly a sweat shop. The price is preposterous! And I could tell they were marketing to those that would help them to gentrify the neighborhood… they had no Chinese-speaking or Spanish-speaking agents (the neighborhood is congested with the like!)… and we being Asian ourselves, were practically ignored.

    My opinion, your article/review hit it on the nose. I, too, wish them luck. It will be interesting to see who all moves in.

  2. cl says:

    we checked it out as well. the price is absurd. we looked at the smaller space which was supposed to be 900+ sf. fat chance. $795,000 for that is a joke. nice shower though.

    the architect/owners worked for richard meier, hence the white.

    yet i’m not sure what kind of LES orginal feature you’re looking for. i don’t know the history of the garfield building specifically, but are you talking about claustrophobic rail road spaces? or just old mouldings and lighting fixtures and such. maybe you should ask the two rental tenants, who had their apts. renovated for free while still paying below market rents for as long as they live, whether they’d rather have the old LES orginal features.

    just not sure your point is besides ranting (which is fair in itself).

  3. Felix says:

    Yes, it was mainly just ranting. And the ceilings, which I think are gratuitously white and square and flat. And the obvious mendacity on the footage. I note that the tenants’ flats have been taken off the market at somewhere north of 500k apiece — a lot of money to spend on an apartment you’re not likely to live in for the foreseeable! But prolly they just bought their own spaces, and can now flip them for a few hundred grand profit.

  4. My mother would have laughed at this one.

    Felix Salmon criticizes (tongue-in-cheek no doubt) the re-do of The Garfield Building on New York’s Lower East Side because it failed to create

  5. Brian Miller says:

    Referred over from David Sucher’s CityComforts site.

    I’m such a yuppie. :) I like gleaming maple floors and white ceilings. I mostly collect pottery and glass, so half height shelving systems would fit me better than a warren of small rooms with walls.

    (I would prefer original brick walls, though-and maybe some moldings) (And, I’m a lowly government employee, so $750K apartments are not in my future :))

  6. christine says:

    However, one neglected element in the discussion, is that the building will have a spectacular rooftop garden designed for a phased installation by Town and Gardens, a Manhattan based design-build firm.

    This should add value to every unit.

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  9. Lonneke says:

    They effed up the Forward Building too…. in my humble opinion….

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