Luxury buildings

I’ve long had an interest in what was going on at 90-96 Clinton Street, between

Rivington and Delancey. For a long time it was one of the neighbourhood’s better

99-cent stores, before a long demolition job started which carefully left the

façade intact. Weirdly, the façade was then torn down anyway,

and a bland new apartment building went up in its place.

I checked it out yesterday: I’m interested in how the process of gentrification

does or doesn’t affect the quality of new apartment buildings. I expected something

pretty snazzy, since I’d noticed during construction that there were some duplex

apartmentspeople who pay a premium for higher ceilings generally

want, well, a premium apartment.

In fact, however, 90 Clinton is one of the shoddiest buildings I’ve seen. Everything

from the paint jobs to to the tiling looks as though it was done as hurriedly

and cheaply as possible, and the apartment themselves are almost comically nasty.

The kitchens, especially, are really gruesome: the stoves are electric, with

old-fashioned coil elements (no halogen here, or gas), and in the one I looked

at, the doors to both the cupboard and the oven couldn’t open all the way because

they bumped into the light fixture and another cupboard’s door handle, respectively.

The duplex apartments felt pokey, with long, narrow rooms which seemed expressly

designed to minimise whatever benefit you got from the extra height. Even the

windows are stupid: each double-height room has two air-conditioner sleeves,

one down at room level, and one slightly more than halfway up, right in the

middle of where you want the windows to be. At the back, a rickety wooden staircase

leads up to a dingy sleeping den upstairs, which not only receives very little

sunlight, but doesn’t even have an built-in light of its own. As for the bathrooms…

well, you get the picture.

Of course, as a paid-up Lower East Side ironist, I naturally looked up as I

left the building, to the big sign advertising "luxury rentals". The

obvious reaction is that "luxury" has lost all of its original meaning

in recent years, and now simply means "expensive": the duplexes, with

one small bedroom and one smaller, open loft space, rent for between $2700 and

$2900 per month. By comparison, a proper 2-bedroom in my building, around the

corner, with high ceilings and rooms which all have doors, is currently on

the market for $2400 a month.

But then I had an epiphany: "luxury" is to developers as "like"

is to valley girls: it’s actually a completely meaningless word, which gets

thrown around willy-nilly when they can’t think of anything substantive to say.

In an attempt to back this up, I’m hereby launching a competition: a free drink

to anybody who can find a new market-rate development in Manhattan, either condos

or rentals, which doesn’t call itself "luxury". Any takers?

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8 Responses to Luxury buildings

  1. geoff says:

    no sign of the word luxury…

    although they have trademarked ‘five star living’

  2. Felix says:

    God what an annoying website. But if you go to the “Design” section, Sheridan Interiors Inc is happy to talk about their “luxurious European furnishings”.

  3. It’s not dissimilar from the process of always being told there is ‘nothing available’ by an apartment broker-cum-vulture, regardless of your stated budget. Someday I’ll tell a broker my budget is $60K a month, just so I can see him screw up his face to tell me there isn’t anything, but if I was willing to spend $70K…

    I’m hoping to have a second candidate tomorrow (I need to confirm), which will validate my half-formed thesis that most large-scale projects that actually get into the territory of ‘luxury’ using some perverted Manhattan scale (somehow a 700 square foot apartment is luxury; no matter how many SubZero and Gaggeneau applicances you have, 700 sq foot is smaller than many ‘Master Bathroom Suites’ out in the sticks), the appelation ‘Luxury’ is dropped. Sort of the high touch approach of ‘if we had to say it, it wouldn’t be luxury.’ I guess the corollary is whenever someone declares any club or bar ‘hot’ you know it isn’t.

  4. Steve says:

    The new “luxury” is the old “gourmet” deli it seems. Sad.

  5. Robert L says:

    Wow, thanks for the info and the photo of that ridiculous sink. I have lived on the block in question for 17 years and have watched its (d)evolution with fascination. The 99¢ store was a fried-chicken joint long ago. You used to be able to see the ghost of its sign. God only knows who’s going to buy or rent these places. I’m more interested in what’s going to end up on the ground floor: more trendy bar/restaurants? My impression is that when the new building was first being built, it was planned as all commercial space, but that they somehow changed it to the “luxury” apts. This might explain the strange windows….

  6. bob says:

    Luxury toys are on :

    it’s for super rich only sorry for the other…

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