A Bed-Stuy Apartment: Well-Known Terrain
THE RENTERS Ra’id Bey and Patrice Fenton and their daughter, Haile Masani, in their apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Except for her years in college and graduate school, Patrice Fenton always lived in Brooklyn.
After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in education, she taught at a middle school in Fort Greene. She was living nearby in a two-bedroom rental with her son, Jair, when she met Ra’id Bey four years ago. He was a barber who worked at the salon where she got her hair cut. Originally from Trinidad, he was renting a one-bedroom in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Soon after they met, Ms. Fenton, a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, decided to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Miami. So the three of them moved there, most recently occupying a two-bedroom in a large apartment house for $925 a month.
Last December, the family, which now included a daughter, Haile Masani, came home for the holidays. Ms. Fenton, her coursework done, accepted another job at the school where she had worked, Fort Greene Preparatory Academy. While they apartment-hunted, they stayed with Ms. Fenton’s parents in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
Knowing they were priced out of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, they didn’t even bother hunting there. Their neighborhood would be nearby — either Crown Heights or Bedford-Stuyvesant.
They aimed for a two-bedroom rental in a new building, or at least one with a renovated interior. Their price range was “as far below $2,000 as possible,” said Ms. Fenton, who is now 35. She knew a three-bedroom would be out of reach. “Storage space was important, but is not something that you come across very often, so that was one of the things we were willing to let go of,” she said.
CROWN HEIGHTS A broker’s fee made a two-bedroom at Ebbets Field Apartments, on the site of the old baseball park, too expensive. CreditJonah Markowitz for The New York Times
She went on the hunt without an agent, while Mr. Bey, 40, wrapped up their affairs in Miami. “I was well familiar with Brooklyn and knew what I wanted and where I wanted to be,” Ms. Fenton said. Besides, she felt that the usual broker’s fee, 15 percent of a year’s rent, hiked the price uncomfortably.
Ms. Fenton had grown up in the Ebbets Field Apartments, a large complex opened in 1962 in Crown Heights on the former field of the Brooklyn Dodgers. A renovated two-bedroom rented for $1,900 a month, including all utilities except for air-conditioning.
Growing up, she said, “we had a good experience in that building, but the apartments were, at that point, running down.”
“The quality was kind of shifting and in order for me to go back there, changes would have had to be drastic,” she added. “The grounds still weren’t very well kept, but the apartment was renovated and that was the draw.”
Still, “the agent fee was the barrier,” she said. “You couldn’t get into the building without the agent.”
She preferred a smaller building, however, and checked out an intriguing open house in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The four-story building had been gut renovated, and the two-bedroom model apartment on view was brand-new inside. “It was perfect,” Ms. Fenton said.
BED-STUY At a place on MacDougal Street, the rooms seemed small, and the bedrooms were on opposite sides of the apartment.
“When people saw the model apartment and finishes, they were thoroughly impressed and weren’t seeing anything like it in the neighborhood,” said the listing agent, Claire McFeely, a saleswoman at Compass real estate.
But Ms. Fenton learned there was a broker’s fee and an income requirement of 40 times the monthly rent that the family didn’t meet. She told herself, “This is out of my reach, so I might as well let it go.”
Another renovated two-bedroom, in a small walk-up building on MacDougal Street in Bed-Stuy, was $1,950 a month. The place was across the street from her godmother’s home. “She is like an aunt to me,” she said. “It’s just as good as having a blood relative across the street.”
But the interior was “extraordinarily small,” she said, and the bedrooms were on opposite ends of the apartment, which wasn’t ideal.
Every place was “missing one too many things,” Ms. Fenton said. “We would have had to settle on too many of our wants to take any of them. I became disgruntled with what I was seeing.”
So she contacted Ms. McFeely to ask how rigid the income requirements were on the four-story building in Bed-Stuy and whether the management company would accept her mother as a guarantor.
BED-STUY A renovated two-bedroom had always been appealing, but when the broker’s fee was dropped, it looked even better.
Ms. McFeely was surprised to hear from her. At the open house “she didn’t say a peep,” Ms. McFeely said. The company, New Holland Residences, would indeed accept the proposed guarantor — and, moreover, had decided to pay the broker’s fee rather than having tenants pay.
“That changed everything,” Ms. Fenton said. She gathered her paperwork. “I started scanning away and created a PDF package to send to Claire,” she said. “It took quite a bit of corresponding. Claire and I corresponded 87 times.”
The couple selected a place on a lower floor. With two free months on a 16-month lease, the $2,160 monthly rent worked out to be $1,890 a month. “With the little one, I didn’t want to have to walk up so many steps,” Ms. Fenton said.
The family arrived in early spring; Ms. Fenton and Mr. Bey were married shortly thereafter in Harlem.
The children’s bedroom, currently occupied by 2-year-old Haile, is conveniently next to the master bedroom. Jair, 11, is away for the summer with his father in Atlanta.
“In Miami, there was more space, so I could carve out a home office,” Ms. Fenton said. Now, she works on the couch. She is writing her dissertation, which is on black men in the field of special education.
“There isn’t a lot of space for storage, so I still have a ton of stuff I have to get rid of,” Ms. Fenton said. “My husband said if it’s sitting there for months, I don’t need it. I’m not against getting rid of it. It’s just another thing to do.”
A version of this article appears in print on July 24, 2016, on page RE12 of the New York edition with the headline: Exploring Well-Known Terrain.
Making Space for Manhattan Artists That They Otherwise Couldn't Afford
Ever since the Dutch arrived in Manhattan with their tools and trinkets, and the British followed not long after with redcoats and frigates, gentrification has been a fact of life in New York City. No doubt Walt Whitman took the ferry to Brooklyn for the cheaper rent, while Andy Warhol had to build four different Factory locations to keep up.
It seems life has rarely been harder for working artists in Manhattan. While galleries selling multimillion-dollar artworks still line Chelsea and the Upper East Side, the artists making them have largely decamped for other boroughs and beyond.
Yet just as certainly as New York’s rents will rise, artists will find ways to work in the city that feeds their creativity. Fortunately for some of them, a few culturally inclined developers are discovering clever ways to make space for these painters, sculptors and others working in the visual arts.
How many empty basements, neglected boiler rooms and junk-filled storage spaces are scattered across New York? The principals of Sugar Hill Capital Partners began to ask themselves that when they first toured the warren of trash-strewn rooms beneath 3621 Broadway, a 47-unit prewar building they bought in spring 2013. Among the young developers, who share a penchant for art, an idea quickly formed.
“It was pretty easy for us to just throw it all out, paint everything white, maybe hang a little drywall so they could put up their work, and then we turned them loose,” Jay Solomon, the firm’s creative director, said on Wednesday at the building.
For going on three years, seven artists have occupied studios just beyond an AstroTurf-lined courtyard on West 149th Street, called 601 Studios for the property’s side-street address.
“I spent my whole career moving north,” said Fred Brathwaite, the pioneering graffiti artist and filmmaker better known as Fab 5 Freddy. “In the ’80s, it was the Lower East Side, then Midtown in the ’90s. Now, I’m back home, in the kind of space I never thought I’d find.”
Mr. Brathwaite’s studio, a capacious 1,000 square feet of white cement and pipes, lies beyond a series of twisting hallways and doors. Canvases scrawled with his distinctive tags against backgrounds of mini subway cars, boomboxes and tiny Campbell soup cans line the walls. There are also large black and bedazzled portraits from a series featuring Jack Johnson, the heroic turn-of-the-century boxer, and Bumpy Johnson, the notorious Harlem gangster.
Adrian Kondratowicz, perhaps best known for creating polka-dot trash bags to beautify garbage day, occupies a space down the hall. He has had a studio in Harlem for the past decade, most recently at 142nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Last year, the landlord arrived and told all of the tenants they had to get out.
He is, for the first time, feeling secure in his studio. “The community is just great, in terms of mutual studio visits or just being here while the work is happening,” he said.
An advantage to such a rough-hewed space is that the landlord does not especially care what the tenants do to the building. Gustavo Prado, a sculptor who employs convex mirrors, among other media, in his work, has bolted a number of pieces to the large beams and pipes that run through his studio.
“I didn’t even make that hole,” he told Mr. Solomon, grinning. “It was there already.”
Hercules Art Studio
“I just can’t believe my good fortune,” Jenna Westra said standing inside her TriBeCa studio, barely a year after earning an M.F.A. in photography from Hunter College. Large portraits of friends, models and strangers striking angular, almost geometric poses hung on the walls.
Jenna Westra moved into a studio in TriBeCa shortly after she received her M.F.A. “I just can’t believe my good fortune,” she said about her place.
These days, it really does take a good fortune to afford a loft in the neighborhood where artists thrived in the 1970s and ’80s. For Ms. Westra and six other recent graduates, the monthly rent is a mere $1 per square foot through the Hercules Art Studio Program’s two-year residency.
Their patron is Andrea Woodner, a designer, artist and philanthropist. She owns 25 Park Place, where the studios are on the third floor. Her inspiration came last year at a symposium at which everyone was talking about complicated ways to keep artists in New York City.
“It’s simple,” Ms. Woodner recalled thinking. “Just charge less rent — and I was in a position to do that.”
When an electrical union’s lease expired at 25 Park Place, Ms. Woodner teamed with Claire Weisz, an architect friend, to create Hercules there. Their research found there were less than 100 nonprofit studio spaces in the city.
To select the first group of residents, students from Columbia, Hunter and New York University were asked to apply, and then Ms. Woodner and some colleagues visited their thesis shows. Ms. Westra and six others, including two painters who got the end studios for their natural light, were chosen and moved in in March.
“I was in a shared space in New Jersey paying twice as much for half the space before I came here,” said Ilaria Ortensi, an Italian artist who creates architectural sculptures and paintings.
Already the Herculeans’ ambitions for their space have grown. They plan to host exhibitions for their contemporaries’ work, as well as lectures, salons and the occasional dance party.
“We’re so lucky to be here, so we want to share it,” said Ofra Lapid, an artist from Tel Aviv and makes collages heavily inspired by its Bauhaus buildings.
Ms. Woodner agrees they should not be the only ones. Her ultimate goal is to demonstrate that studios can be a viable business for landlords, especially if the city and the state are willing to offer incentives like tax breaks that might offset foregone rent.
“There was no Plan B for these kids,” Ms. Woodner said. “They were going to be artists, and they were going to be in New York. And we have to help them with that.”
50 West Street
Being in proximity to other artists is not the only appeal of working in New York.
“I love being influenced by working-class people,” Bahar Behbahani said last week inside a studio downtown. “That was never a problem in Iran, but once I came to America, I never get to do that, except with the cabdrivers.”
Now she does it almost every day. Since September, Ms. Behbahani has been working out of the 15th floor of 40 Rector Street in Lower Manhattan — and a construction site a block south, 50 West Street.
She shares the space with three other artists, and the sales gallery for 50 West, a curvaceous 64-story condominium tower nearing completion off the Battery. Francis Greenberger, the developer, is a noted collector.
“We wanted art that was of the building, not just decoration,” said Jennie Lamensdorf, the in-house curator at Mr. Greenberger’s firm, Time Equities.
While each artist is obliged to create a series of works of the new building — the ultimate in lobby art — they also have round-the-clock access to the studios, where they can work on any projects they desire.
Ms. Behbahani completed an entire series of new works while in residency, called Garden Coup, now on view at the Thomas Erben Gallery. So, too, did Hugo Bastidas and Paul Anthony Smith, who both focused on making portraits of the project’s construction workers.
“I’ve never had so much space to work in before,” Ms. Behbahani said, wearing a pair of paint-splattered Uggs.
Noa Charuvi, an Israeli artist living in Brooklyn, was the first to take up residency there, sharing the space with the tower’s general contractor. Her art typically addresses the conflict in her native country, including paintings of bombed-out homes.
“My work is around ruins and rubble,” Ms. Charuvi said. “This is a completely different subject matter, but the materials are the same, working in a construction pit.”
Like Ms. Behbahani — who created large paintings that overlaid the penthouse floor plans with scenes of equally luxurious Persian gardens — Ms. Charuvi had hoped to work on other projects. But she quickly found herself so consumed with scenes of mud, muck and rebar that they became almost all she has painted since, even after her residency ended.
“I just couldn’t stop,” Ms. Charuvi said.
Now she does not have to. With the tower nearly finished, Ms. Charuvi has been invited back.
Modern Living in Williamsburg
Sugar Hill Capital Partners announces that 385 Union, Williamsburg’s newest luxury rental apartment building, has been fully repositioned in the marketplace and totally leased within 60 days. The six-story building experienced phenomenal activity as it was transformed to meet market demand for luxurious, modern living in one of Brooklyn’s most dynamic neighborhoods.
The 47-unit building has been reimagined inside and out by Sugar Hill Capital Partners subsidiary New Amsterdam Design Association (NADA) and Design High, with tailor-made features such as in-unit washer dryers, floor-to-ceiling windows, and private outdoor spaces. There is a communal workspace where residents can work and create in a studio-like environment.
The building, 385 Union was originally conceived and built as a condominium and was later turned into a rental. When Sugar Hill acquired it from its lender in June 2015, the building had fallen into disrepair. The company immediately began repairs and improvements to the windows, flooring, and electric. Residents can also enjoy a host of refreshed amenity spaces including covered parking, bike storage, gym, communal workspace, lounge, landscaped roof. The building also offers a secure package room, cold storage, online resident portal, video intercom, virtual doorman, and free wifi in amenity spaces.
“385 Union has been transformed to reflect the surrounding vibrant community of Williamsburg. Renters recognize the value in these beautiful living spaces, with the plentiful amenities that you don’t often find in non-doorman rental buildings – and that’s contributing to the enormous success here,” said Jeremy Salzberg, Partner at Sugar Hill Capital Partners.
New interior features include white oak flooring, and in-unit Bosch washer/dryers. The gracious kitchens offer stainless steel Bosch and Frigidaire appliances as well as European contemporary cabinetry. Select units also offer private outdoor space.
In keeping with the artistic and creative vibe of the neighborhood, Sugar Hill hired the innovative local artist Boy Kong to paint a mural on the exterior of the building. The work, called “A Ceremony,” is loosely based on the lines of a map and reflects the artist’s interest in abstract painting. Kong has also painted 10 pieces for the inside of the building.
One of the more unique features is the energy-efficient communal roof deck, designed with an innovative “green roof” system by VegetalID. The green energy initiative is managed by Fort Tryon Energy Management, a Sugar Hill affiliate company, in an ongoing commitment to conservation.
The building was represented by Katie Sobel, Vice President of New Development at MNS Realty, the exclusive listing and marketing agent for the project.
Set in the heart of Williamsburg, 385 Union is located just one block from the Lorimer L Train and the Metropolitan G Train, offering a quick commute to Manhattan. Residents are just steps from exciting nightlife as well as shopping and dining hotspots including Sweatshop, The Blind Barber, Parlor Coffee, Caracas, and Okonomi.
The Upside of (Way) Uptown
Reasonable prices, river views and Dr. Ruth Westheimer—such are the charms of Washington Heights.
A longtime resident of the area, the famously diminutive sex therapist is something of a local celebrity, said DJK Residential broker Zachary Elias, who moved to the neighborhood with his wife and young daughter in April.
And while the good doctor isn’t necessarily known for her real estate advice, current trends make her decades-ago decision to plant roots uptown look rather prescient.
As New York housing prices continue to soar, Manhattan’s northernmost reaches have emerged as one of the island’s last economical redoubts, drawing the space-hungry and budget-conscious. And one particularly well-trod migratory path is that recently taken by Mr. Elias and his family—the trek from the Upper West Side to, well, call it the Upper Upper West Side.
“I was born and raised on the Upper West Side,” Mr. Elias told the Observer. “I lived on 86th Street and West End my entire life.”
In fact, when he and his wife moved in together, they purchased a unit in the very building where he grew up. With the birth of their daughter, though, the couple needed to expand beyond the confines of their 700-square-foot one-bedroom, and so they sallied forth into the Hunger Games that is the Gotham real estate market.
“My wife sort of wanted the suburbs, but I couldn’t commit to that,” Mr. Elias said. “We looked at Brooklyn for a minute, too, but I couldn’t do that, either.”
Instead, the couple decided to stay close to home, buying a 1,400-square-foot two-bedroom in Hudson Heights, a small pocket of Washington Heights just above the George Washington Bridge. Since settling in this spring, Mr. Elias said he’s come to realize they aren’t alone.
“When my dad came up to look at the apartment he couldn’t believe how many strollers and dogs there were,” he recalled. “Every apartment in our building has kids. It used to be that everyone [in the neighborhood] was a Jewish grandmother. And as they are sort of naturally vacating these apartments, the young families are all moving in.”
This influx of young families has led to booming demand for area two-bedrooms, Mr. Elias said, estimating that prices for such units have gone up around 20 percent since he closed on his apartment last November.
Even so, the Upper Upper West Side is still a bargain by Manhattan standards. According to numbers from appraiser Miller Samuel, in the second quarter of 2015 prices in Inwood, Washington Heights, and Hamilton and Morningside Heights were, respectively, $526, $611, and $655 per square foot. By way of comparison, the Upper West Side clocked in at $1,281 per square foot with Manhattan overall coming in at $1,340.
Lisbeth Cassaday and her husband recently moved from a 450-square-foot one-bedroom at 106th Street and Manhattan Avenue to a 1,050-square-foot one-bedroom with den at 139th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
The couple didn’t immediately turn their eyes uptown upon finding themselves priced out of their old neighborhood, but, after a search that carried them all across the city (“I saw so many apartments it was ridiculous,” Ms. Cassaday said), they ultimately settled a few subway stops north of their former abode.
“We’d always explored up here and we’d always really liked it,” she said, citing the area’s “neighborhoody” feel as key to its appeal.
“I love all the mom-and-pop shops,” she said. “There isn’t a Starbucks or a Duane Reade on every corner.”
Then again, there’s perhaps something to be said for—if not Starbucks and Duane Reade specifically—at least the notion of high retail density in general.
“It’s still very spotty up there,” said Bond New York agent Carole Cusani who this spring tried, unsuccessfully, to convince several clients interested in the Upper West Side to take a look farther uptown. “Some areas have more street life and amenities, but some still don’t.”
Another issue Ms. Cusani has run into when trying to interest buyers in the area? The hills! So many hills!
Most of Manhattan was smoothed over in the course of its development, but the topography at the top of the island has been left largely untouched. That makes for some of the city’s most spectacular scenery—winding avenues and high schist cliffs and dramatic river views—but, Ms. Cusani noted, some steep climbs to the subway, as well.
“In some cases you’re near the A [train] or the 1 or the 2, but in other cases it’s a hike,” she said. “Or you happen to be in an area where it’s really hilly, and you have to take flights of steps to get from one station to another. In terms of the topography up there, it is hilly.”
That’s probably not going to change. On the question of the area’s amenities, though, there are signs of improvement, suggested Marla Siegel, director of property administration and associate general counsel at New Holland Residences, which manages several buildings in the area including 561 West 144th and 1616 Amsterdam Avenue in Hamilton Heights.
“Just last week I was up on Broadway between 140th and 150th and I went past at least four or five new bars and restaurants that did not exist a year ago,” she said.
And while Upper West Siders once had a monopoly on beloved grocery spots like Zabar’s and Fairway, new entrants and expansions have somewhat diminished that neighborhood’s bragging rights, said Corcoran broker Linda Feder.
“It used to be a food mecca over there,” she said. “You’d move to the Upper West Side and people would say, ‘My God, you’re going to be near Fairway!’ Well, now there’s a Fairway at 125th, so the one on 74th—who cares?”
Whole Foods broke ground this spring on a store at 100 West 125th, which, though not exactly central to the area, adds another near-ish option for UUWS residents. And, if Mr. Elias and his wife have any say in the matter, Trader Joe’s will eventually make its way up to Hudson Heights; the couple recently joined a Facebook group aimed at bringing a store to their neighborhood, he said.
And even if the shopping is a bit sparser, there’s perhaps something to be said for putting a little distance between yourself and the city’s sturm und drang.
Feder’s client Edith Pattou began her Manhattan apartment search with her sights on the Upper West Side. An author of young adult fiction, Ms. Pattou and her husband, a professor at Ohio State University, were looking for a pied-à-terre to use during the portions of the year they spend in the city.
As part-time New Yorkers “we wanted to be in the heart of things, the hustle and bustle of the city,” Ms. Pattou said. “I have three very close friends who live on the Upper West Side, and I got to know [the neighborhood] through them. I love all the shops and the restaurants.”
After being outbid on an apartment near Lincoln Center, though, the couple decided to look farther uptown. While Ms. Pattou said she was initially resistant to the idea, she’s since come to see the advantages of a more tranquil setting.
“The reason I wanted to be in New York was to be where all the action was, but as we looked farther north and saw you could get more for your money, we began to appreciate that feeling of being a little bit away from it all,” she said. “You have access to the hustle and bustle of the city, but you can also get away from it at the end of the day.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the couple’s daughter, a grad student at Fordham, lives in Inwood.
Of course, even in the relatively placid precincts of the Upper Upper West, Manhattan house hunting remains something of a bloodsport. Ms. Pattou and her husband made a bid for an apartment in Hamilton Heights at Riverside and 152nd but lost out to another buyer who’d beaten them to it.
“We were amazed,” she said. “You really have to act fast. I do think the market in New York is always challenging, and I do think people are discovering these further north neighborhoods.”
“If you have something that is nice and priced reasonably well—not even that well—it is going to go into a bidding war,” said Jeffrey Hannon, an agent with Mirador Real Estate.
Mr. Hannon noted an influx of landlords and management companies investing in the area. “A lot of buildings are changing hands and [owners] are just putting a ton of money in these buildings to get higher prices,” he said.
Recent examples include Tahl Propp Equities’ condo conversion 710 Riverside Drive and Arlington Capital’s Hamilton Park at 479 West 152nd Street.
“I tell my buyers to give me a budget of what they absolutely cannot go over, and then we’ll start looking $40,000 below that and always bid at asking or over,” Mr. Hannon said. “You are dealing these days with a lot of cash buyers who are coming in and offering $15,000, $20,000 above asking, so you have to really be prepared.”
New Holland Residences Taps Technology To Stand Out In Crowded NYC Apartment Market
New Holland Residences (NHR), a property management company, today announced WegoWise, a building efficiency software provider, slashed NHR properties' energy costs by 15 percent and water consumption by up to 40 percent with actionable data and analytics. WegoWise is a critical component of a broader technology initiative to distinguish NHR as a leader in the crowded NYC apartment market.
"Integrating the latest technology at our properties has given us a real competitive edge in the New York apartment market," said Juan Herrera, Director of Field Operations at NHR. "Previously, we had to dedicate exorbitant staff time to manually enter utility data into spreadsheets. With WegoWise, we painlessly identified inefficient buildings and installed retrofits, decreasing our operating expenses and boosting tenant comfort."
"We've implemented technology in many other management functions to take the New Holland brand to the next level. For example, we also have a software that automatically calls our staff when we receive emails regarding emergencies," add Herrera.
Using WegoWise software, NHR automatically collected utility bills from its portfolio of 20 multifamily buildings across New York and identified the buildings that would benefit the most from energy and water upgrades. NHR then performed simple yet effective retrofits on the worst-performing buildings, ranging from installing energy management systems to reducing window gaps to upgrading water fixtures. Resultant savings delivered payback in less than a year. Moreover, the increase in operational efficiency enhanced NHR's cash flow and asset value.
"The multifamily market is growing quickly and property owners are adopting technology to break out of the pack," said Andrew Chen, CEO of WegoWise. "Our software is designed to deliver meaningful benefits for first-in-class property management companies. For New Holland Residences, WegoWise fit right into an ambitious plan to boost productivity and efficiency as a means to differentiate themselves in the New York apartment market."
WegoWise also helped NHR report on carbon emissions reductions for the New York Carbon Challenge (NYCC). NYCC is collaboration between the City and the New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) that aims at reducing building-based emissions in New York by 30 percent in the next 10 years. Seventeen of the largest residential property management firms in New York are participating in the challenge. WegoWise streamlined the integration of NHR's utility data with EPA Portfolio Manager to more easily verify that emissions reductions met NYCC goals.
Joe Cool: Competing Craft Coffee Shops are Pouring into the City
Boutique coffee shops are taking over the city, espresso by espresso, unseating Starbucks as the king of coffee corners. New Yorkers’ desire for high-end, artisanal coffee continues unabated as shops like Stumptown and Blue Bottle open new spots in nooks and crannies and even atriums.
Curated coffee is also becoming a must have in new residential, retail and office projects, with developers wooing small batch coffee baristas rather than the de facto Dunkin Donuts.
Developer Jeremy Salzberg, a partner in Sugar Hill Capital Partners, was creating a new residential rental in Harlem at 3610 Broadway between West 148th and 149th Streets. The rental agents — Karen Cantor and Andrew Ding — suggested adding a coffee shop and The Chipped Cup was born.
“We helped a lot with the build out of The Chipped Cup,” said Salzberg. “More than we would have than if it was a typical chain tenant.”
Since The Chipped Cup opened in the building in July 2012, other outlets in other Sugar Hill’s projects have been introduced. There’s Double Dutch Espresso, which opened in Jan. 2014 in Sugar Hill’s rental at 118th St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd. And a Filtered coffee house is being developed at Sugar Hills’ apartment building at 1616 Amsterdam Ave.
Related Companies recently signed a lease with Think Coffee for a 1,000-square-foot spot at the Robert A.M. Stern-designed Abington House, a new luxury rental tower at 500 W. 30th St.
Ben Joseph, senior vice president of Related, says because the High Line building has drawn a “very sophisticated, cutting edge tenant population,” they wanted to provide retail stores that complemented their lifestyles.
Think Coffee, with seven outlets in the city, was founded at 248 Mercer St. near NYU and takes a socially responsible stance, with compostable cups and coffee sourced from farms where they try to make an environmental and social impact.
“One thing everyone loves is coffee, and good coffee, but we wanted a custom coffee experience from a smaller operator,” Joseph explained. “People appreciate a more bespoke experience of any sort, and most drink coffee every day, so this better coffee experience resonates with our clients.”
At MiMa, a mammoth residential rental project on W. 42nd St. at 10th Ave., Related has installed two independent coffee spots: the Swedish-inspired espresso bar, Fika, at 566 10th Ave., and the West Village’s beloved Kava Coffee to 470 W. 42nd St.
To attract tech tenants to the Midtown office building at 530 Fifth Ave., Jamestown added a tiny counter so a barista from Kaffe 1668 could sell coffee in its newly renovated lobby and lounge, thus offering a hipper amenity for the office tenants. Kaffe 1668, which sources its own coffee, has two other locations in Manhattan, both on Greenwich Street.
Coffee is becoming just as segmented as the beer market, said Louis Puopolo, co-head of operations for Douglas Elliman Commercial. “If they were left to sell just juice, they would probably be struggling, but they have all expanded their offerings and menu items. Like anything that emerges, some will fail.”
“We had this cycle when Starbucks first came in,” recalled Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of retail at Douglas Elliman. “But some fell flat on their faces.”
Yet Starbucks is adapting to the numerous upstarts with new menu offerings, such as its Flat White, and it’s also adapting its once-rigorous store model to the specific locale and foot traffic. A large outlet in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, attracts Mommy and Me meetings — plenty of room for strollers — and a similarly large one has just opened at 875 Third Ave. in Midtown.
“There is lots of seating and people like to be able to sit and talk,” said Starbucks’ broker, David Firestein, managing partner at SCG Retail.
Mark Tergesen, senior managing director of retail leasing at ABS Partners Real Estate, noted that Keurig once created a pop-up shop at their building at 915 Broadway. Now, Tergesen says, 20 percent of his renderings for vacant retail spaces depict a coffee shop.
“It’s relatively endless since you will not walk more than a block for a cup of coffee, but if you prefer one brand, you might walk the extra block,” Tergesen observed.
Firestein thinks bespoke coffee has become a trend but is unsure if all the new brands will make it in the Big Apple.
“Will they last? It will be difficult: New York rents are high and it’s tough to survive,” Firestein observed. “Some of them will but I don’t think all of them.”
TAPPING IN: Bluestone Lane, a coffee-lovers pub
When Australian native Nicholas Stone approached RKF's Jonathan Krieger about an authentic Melbourne coffee experience, Krieger was intrigued. "Coffee to them is a culture thing; it's more about the energy, atmosphere and the connection between the employees and the customer," he explained.
Krieger, a managing director of RKF, and now partner and chief development officer of Bluestone Lane, had the retail experience and previously worked with Soul Cycle, Flex Mussels and other retailers. He was in.
Their first location, dubbed Bluestone Lane Collective, at 55 Greenwich Ave. at Perry St., opened in 2013 and included outdoor tables and an indoor courtyard. It quickly became a neighborhood fixture and gathering place for the community, akin to an English pub.
Bluestone Lane now has five Manhattan locations — including one at the Grace Building near Bryant Park — and two more on the way. One will be at the Church of the Heavenly Rest at 1084 Fifth Ave. and E. 90th St., one block from the Guggenheim Museum.
The other will be in Brooklyn’s Dumbo Heights, where Etsy and WeWork are the anchor tenants and were involved in the decision, along with developers Aby Rosen’s RFR Holdings and Jared Kushner’s Kushner Cos., to choose Bluestone Lane as the coffee provider.
Restoring a Park Slope Wreck
A building at the heart of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that had fallen into disrepair in recent years is being restored and converted into spacious condominium apartments.
The building at 187 Seventh Avenue, at Second Street, which once housed a quirky watering hole called the Landmark Pub, will soon have four three-bedroom condos — one on each floor — along with an elevator, lobbies and retail space.
While the five-story building, which had become dilapidated and lost most of its roof years ago, could have been razed by the developers, Sugar Hill Capital Partners, they chose to restore it, a project that cost about $6 million.
“We really appreciated the architecture of Park Slope and didn’t want to knock down this building to build some glass tower or structure that stands out,” said Jeremy Salzberg, a partner at Sugar Hill, an investment and asset management firm that owns and operates several other Park Slope buildings. “We wanted to restore it and bring back the original beauty of the building.”
The building’s former owner, Dorothy Nash, operated the Landmark Pub until the late 1990s and moved out at some point, though she remained in the neighborhood. The building was threatened with foreclosure when Sugar Hill worked out a deal to buy it for $4.2 million in early 2013.
Condos in the building, called 2ND7TH, will be completed in the fall and went on the market this month, with prices starting at $3.198 million. A penthouse with a private roof deck is priced at $3.5 million. New Amsterdam Design Associates, a subsidiary of Sugar Hill, is restoring the building, which was gutted down to the facade, Mr. Salzberg said.
The restoration entails cleaning and replacing the light-colored brick and metal parapet, as well as rehabilitating distinctive architectural elements like a four-story turret, said Ignacio Alonso, the chief architect at New Amsterdam.
“All of the materials that we found in the building, we tried to reuse them for something else,” Mr. Alonso said, such as a custom-made bench fashioned from reclaimed wood beams that will be in the main lobby. The lobby will also have polished concrete floors with inlaid coco mat and a striking pendant light.
Mr. Alonso said a duplicate of the 1920s building sits at the other end of the block, with others in Harlem. “Back then, during a construction boom, architects didn’t have the technology to do, say, 60 different projects, so they would develop one or two models a year and copy those,” he said.
One artistic liberty the architects are taking with the facade is to install floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the turret and bay windows. The turret will have louvers to keep interior temperatures comfortable.
“When they did the building in the early 1900s, they couldn’t do big pieces of glass, because they didn’t have the technology,” Mr. Alonso said.
The three-bedroom condos are being created with flexible layouts, meaning bedrooms can be added or removed easily, he said. Many of the rooms have 10-foot ceilings and European wide oak plank floors, and the living room has a gas fireplace flanked by travertine slabs.
Custom-designed kitchens have marble surfaces, lacquer cabinetry from Spain and Miele and Sub-Zero appliances, along with hidden pantries. The master bathrooms include glass-enclosed showers and free-standing bathtubs.
Amenities for all residents include a roof deck with Manhattan views, a summer kitchen and cabanas; a virtual doorman; and private and common storage in the basement.
The building will have one commercial space on the ground floor, with no tenant as yet. When the building served as the home of the Landmark Pub in the 1980s and ’90s, neighbors said the space was often cluttered with funky art, and broken doll heads were often strewn on the tables.
But in more recent years, the structure, which sits across from an elementary school, had crumbled into a blighted public safety hazard, said Craig R. Hammerman, the district manager for Brooklyn Community Board 6.
“The building had been a large reflection of the character of the past owners, and there’s an element of that that resonates with many of our long-term residents,” he said. “So there’s a touch of nostalgia, a touch of whimsy, and there’s some architectural significance all whirled into one.”
Highbrow in Harlem: Upscale Retail, Restaurants and Rents in the Neighborhood
This past October, Esquire magazine held a star-studded soiree for its selection for America’s best new restaurant.
The crowd included heavyweights from the media, PR and culinary universes who traveled from the city’s farthest corners. The room was crammed. Libations were free-flowing. Trays of hors d’oeuvres inched slowly through the crowd when they weren’t devoured as they left the kitchen.
Esquire’s party was held at The Cecil, a new eatery and jazz club, which it bestowed with the highest honor. The restaurant is situated in a budding neighborhood where glistening condos are being constructed steps away, and a Whole Foods is rising nearby. In Harlem.
Harlem, the historic, broad stretch of northern Manhattan once riddled with crime, has steadily welcomed a host of new retailers into the neighborhood, including coffee shops, art galleries, bistros and brasseries. Many of the newer establishments (Whole Foods, slated to move into a space at 100 West 125th Street near Lenox Avenue, among them) are catering to a well-heeled clientele with an expendable income reflecting the success of a number of private-public initiatives to revitalize the area. And more stores are looking to come.
“Trader Joe’s is looking to rival Whole Foods [in Harlem],” said Faith Hope Consolo, the chairwoman of Douglas Elliman’s retail leasing, marketing and sales division. “And Macy’s and Lord & Taylor also are eyeing satellite locations to complement their world-famous flagships Downtown.”
Jacob Morris, the director of the Harlem Historical Society, noted: “The retail scene in Harlem has really been transformed and will continue to become more closely aligned with mainstream retail in the United States. Landlords are looking for more triple-A retail tenants … if you’re a landlord and you sign a triple-A tenant, you’re going to get your rent.”
As a result, old standbys have been grappling with astronomical rent increases. When Fanta Pathe Gamby, originally from Mali, first opened Fanta Hair Braiding on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in 1995, the rent on her storefront was $700 a month. Now, it’s $5,000.
Mr. Morris said the demarcation point in the transformation of Harlem retail was the precipitous drop in crime under the Giuliani administration. During his tenure, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani also began removing street vendors from 125th Street (a New York Times article from the period noted that there were more than 1,000 vendors over five blocks), which was certainly controversial but ultimately laid the foundation for the mainstreaming of retail in this long underserved neighborhood.
In 2000, Harlem USA, a 285,000-square-foot, four-story retail and entertainment complex, opened on 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, paving the way for significant investment along the corridor.
“Harlem USA gave a big-box opportunity that allowed for some of the larger retailers … to come in where there was not a sufficient footprint prior to [that development],” said Lloyd Williams, a fifth-generation Harlem resident and the president and chief executive officer of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. The organization’s scope spans from 96th to 168th Streets, from the Hudson River to the Harlem River. “Prior to that,” he said, “there was no modernized commercial space that had been upgraded in the previous 60 years.”
There was an acute need for more retail in Harlem then, and there remains a great demand now. According to Mr. Williams, the last census showed that there were approximately 683,000 people living in Harlem (in what was almost surely a low-ball estimate), greater than the population of San Antonio, Texas. If Harlem was its own city, Mr. Williams said, it would be the nation’s 26th largest. There are 17 institutions of higher learning located between 96th and 168th Streets, river to river. Of the 48 museums and historical sites in New York City, 14 of them are in this area.
Since Harlem USA opened its doors at the turn of the millennium, Harlem’s main artery has begun to resemble an outdoor shopping mall, with national and multinational brands including the Gap, American Apparel, Old Navy and Starbucks dotting the landscape. The Burlington Coat Factory has plans to move into a 70,000-square-foot space on the strip. Today, rents are often well north of $150 per square foot. The National Urban League will relocate its headquarters to a complex on the street that will cost an estimated $225 million to build, a project that will also include New York State’s first museum dedicated to the Civil Rights movement.
“I’ve often said that retailers travel in packs,” Ms. Consolo said. “You just need one willing to pioneer a neighborhood or market, and then the others will follow. Demand already is high in Harlem, and Whole Foods will attract even more and better retailers.”
Not surprisingly, this sea change has coincided with a drop in crime in the greater area. Off of 125th Street, the Tropical Grill at 2145 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. has been serving Dominican food for the past decade. Maritza Mendoza, who has worked at the eatery for the past 10 years, says the neighborhood “has changed a lot” and is “much better” than in years prior.
“There’s more business. It’s safe,” Ms. Mendoza added. “It’s busier. The violence is lower.”
While 125th Street still serves as the symbolic heart of Harlem, South Harlem (124th to 110th Streets, from Morningside Avenue to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.) has undergone its own renaissance, evolving into a dining hub with an eclectic mix of restaurants. The blossoming of restaurants could be attributed to changing demographics and the wealth of local residents; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income for one of South Harlem’s zip codes, 10026, was $42,058 in current dollars from 2008 to 2012, up from $22,491 in 1999.
“We have more [and] better restaurants, which have attracted more and more affluent buyers,” said Ms. Consolo. “That is drawing more services and eventually [will draw more] retail.”
In its first few years, getting a table at Red Rooster Harlem at 310 Lenox Avenue, where President Barack Obama headlined a DNC fundraiser in 2011, was a contact sport. Lido, an Italian bistro on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, brought quality cavatappi and spinach tortellini to the neighborhood; down the block, Zoma set the bar for upscale Ethiopian food in a city where the cuisine has struggled to find its footing (when it comes to Ethiopian food, Washington, D.C. this is not). And The Cecil, located at West 118th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in South Harlem, has received heaps of praise not just from Esquire but from food writers citywide.
All this and more, on a stretch that in memory had been blighted by abandoned and foreclosed properties and populated by prostitutes.
Ms. Consolo also debunked a common misconception about real estate: that food, rather than roofs, drives change.
“The general rule of thumb is that retail follows rooftops—but the truth is that retail follows food, which follows rooftops. Right now, we’re seeing an influx of restaurants, cafes and more, followed by much-needed services,” Ms. Consolo said.
According to Jeremy Salzberg, a partner at Sugar Hill Capital Partners, which has worked extensively in Northern Manhattan, a corner property on the rezoned Frederick Douglass Boulevard south of 125th Street would likely rent for $90 per square foot, while a mid-block space would likely rent for closer to $70 per square foot. The 2003 rezoning led to 800 new housing units in the area. It also propelled the Aloft Hotel to open at the end of 2010, Harlem’s first new hotel in over 50 years.
Further north and west in Hamilton Heights, which spans from 125th to 153rd Streets and eastward from the Hudson River to St. Nicholas Park, rent is roughly between $55 and $65 per square foot, according to Mr. Salzberg. With City College (at 160 Convent Avenue) and Columbia University in the greater vicinity and large housing stock, Hamilton Heights has the bones that are ripe for retail, Mr. Salzberg said.
This sub-Harlem district is now a patchwork of old neighborhood storefronts and pioneering establishments, including the coffee shop The Chipped Cup at 3610 Broadway, watering hole Harlem Public at 3612 Broadway and physical and spiritual haven Asali Yoga at 601 West 149th Street.
“This neighborhood, especially near Riverside Drive, was lacking a good quality vinyasa yoga studio,” said Erica Robinson, director of Asali Yoga. “We hope we can fill that void.”
Mr. Salzberg says these establishments take into account the neighborhood composition and keep prices reasonable.
“These places aren’t necessarily that expensive,” said Mr. Salzberg. “They’re priced for the area. If you get a cappuccino or a cup of coffee, it’s priced for the area.”
And in keeping with Harlem’s long history as a center for African-American artists, a surge of galleries have also recently joined the community—even if the artists and gallery owners are not exclusively African-American.
In September, Avi Gitler opened his permanent exhibition space, Gitler &_____, at 3629 Broadway between West 149th and West 150th Streets in what was formerly a beauty supply shop. Mr. Gitler resisted joining Bushwick’s arts scene in favor of a storefront in Harlem.
“There was a lot of pressure on me, I felt, to open in Bushwick given what’s happening [with the arts scene there] … and the artists I show,” said Mr. Gitler, who when he spoke with Commercial Observer was planning a gallery opening for later that evening. “Definitely Bushwick felt like the logical move.”
However, Mr. Gitler said that you “can’t compare the architecture and I would say, the sense of community you have here in Harlem, to Bushwick.” He described his gallery as “more Manhattan and less Brooklyn.”
Gitler &_____ is not the only gallery in town. Mr. Gitler said he knows of two other spaces that have opened in the greater neighborhood in the past month, including the Butcher’s Daughter at 318 West 142nd Street, which relocated from Detroit. He expects more to move in given the number of artists that call the community home.
For some, the changes that have transpired are too drastic, directly impacting longtime residents who helped cultivate the neighborhood’s identity.
“[The rising cost of rent] is a problem that will transform Harlem and make it so that African-Americans, African immigrants and Latinos won’t be able to afford having businesses on 125th Street,” said Michael Henry Adams, a historian and author of Harlem: Lost and Found.
For Ms. Gamby of Fanta Hair Braiding whose rent went up to more than seven times what it was in 1995, business used to be consistent, “but now, [there is] a lot of competition—and it’s not good.”
Mr. Adams noted that on 125th Street, commercial rents are comparable to those on Broadway between 72nd and 96th Streets in a community where, according to the last census, the median household income was only $36,000.
“I love Bed Bath & Beyond,” Mr. Adams said. “I love Whole Foods. No one doesn’t want to have nice facilities and services in their community. But the reality is, finally Harlem is becoming the place that we’ve always dreamed it could be, but the nightmare is that we’re being pushed out in order to make that happen.”
Not every property in Harlem has become unattainable for more moderate retailers. On Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Central Harlem, retail rents are decidedly more reasonable, hovering between $35 and $40 dollars per square foot. Mr. Salzberg said that while the trend is that retailers and businesses are moving further north, “we see it happening faster closer to Broadway than we do in Central Harlem.”
But Ms. Consolo thinks the time to invest in this historic neighborhood, with culture, green space, top academic institutions, theaters and accessible transportation, is now.
“Get in now, or literally pay the price later,” she said. “Prices are rising and quickly. A deal not made today will cost more in just a few months.”
Where Audubon Found Repose, Sprayed-On Specimens Alight
Among the beloved prints in John James Audubon’s “The Birds of North America” is plate No. 411, a Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus.
The regal white bird paddles along on its huge, black, webbed feet, each tiny feather rippling with the water. Yellow lilies float before it, the swan’s graceful neck looped like a needle, with what looks like a smile crossing its beak. Copies of the print hang in classrooms and living rooms across the world, a symbol of taste and an environmental conscience.
Another smiling swan has appeared in a very different setting, alighting not on paper but on a roll-down gate about six blocks from Mr. Audubon’s final resting place in the Trinity Cemetery in Upper Manhattan. What a strange bird it is, all spray-painted poise and fluorescent pink skies. From its long beak juts a fearsome tooth.
The mural has about as much in common with an Audubon watercolor as Angry Birds does with duck hunting.
Even so, these works, separated by 176 years, share an important bond. The uptown swan is part of a new collaboration between the National Audubon Society, a local gallerist and his landlord to bring 314 murals of North American avifauna to the neighborhood where the nomadic naturalist lived out his final years.
In the next few months, provided there are enough roll-down gates, barren walls and willing property owners, this spray-painted menagerie will help the Audubon Society’s campaign to raise awareness of birds that are threatened by climate change while turning the West 140s and 150s into a painted aviary.
“Whoever said Audubon was just watercolors?” Mark Jannot, the organization’s vice president for content, said last week, standing at 149th Street and Broadway.
While the ambitions are global, the message is already echoing locally.
Stefen Reed, 35 and a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, recalled when most people associated the Audubon name only with a drug market at Audubon Terrace. “Now they know the truth,” he said. “The art is fresh, and so’s the message.”
A few feet away, Taylor McKimens, a Brooklyn artist, was at work on “Rusty Blackbird,” the fifth bird in the series, while Avi Gitler, the owner of Gitler & _____ gallery, watched. The mastermind of the project, Mr. Gitler not only looks like Mr. Audubon after a long expedition, all bearded and rangy, but also shares a past with him. A native of Washington Heights, Mr. Gitler spent much of the past decade traveling the world after graduating from college, seeking out artists for a growing collection. When he decided to return home and open a shop, he settled on Upper Manhattan, since the area was all but devoid of any serious galleries.
Mr. Gitler wanted to undertake a mural project to draw attention to the neighborhood, and his gallery, of course, and quickly won over Alex Friedman, his landlord, an art collector and, more central to the mission, the founder of a real estate firm called Sugar Hill Capital Partners. Mr. Friedman volunteered dozens of storefronts from his uptown apartment portfolio.
“It helps enliven the community,” Mr. Friedman said, “especially at night and in the early morning, when the hustle and bustle of the city is gone."
Looking for a theme to unify the works, Mr. Gitler hit upon the idea of birds, a homage to Audubon, whose presence in the neighborhood these days is largely limited to street signs, though it was once much more.
Following the success of his book and hoping to revisit some of the wilderness of his travels, Mr. Audubon left behind downtown’s fashionable precincts and settled in the largely empty expanses of Washington Heights. There, he built a two-story house, Minniesland, that stood near the banks of the Hudson River at 156th Street until 1931. One of the founders of the nation’s first ornithology group, George Bird Grinnell, lived nearby and was tutored by Mr. Audubon’s widow, Lucy. In honor of his heroes, he named the Audubon Society after them.
Mr. Gitler wanted to tap into this spirit, but it was an artist he recruited for the project, Tom Sanford, who gave it purpose. He introduced Mr. Gitler to one of his neighbors, Mark Jannot of the Audubon Society. Mr. Jannot suggested they focus on the 314 North American birds whose habitats or migratory patterns are directly threatened by climate change, as shown in a September Audubon report.
“Now, we didn’t just have an art project, we had a mission,” Mr. Gitler said.
Audubon’s website will feature a picture of each installation with text about each bird and the artist, as well as a place for artists and landlords hoping to get involved to sign up. There is also talk of an app, with an audio tour for those visiting the murals in person.
The first five paintings have been applied to Sugar Hill’s building at 3621 Broadway, though Mr. Friedman has offered other buildings, and is approaching other landlords.
Some artists have received small honorariums while others have volunteered their time. There may be more money in the future.
For now, neighborhood residents can enjoy the bald eagle with a kaleidoscopic background by the Australian artist Peter Daverington; the neon tundra swan by a 20-year-old street art prodigy from Orlando, Boy Kong; and the rusty blackbird by Mr. McKimens. All of the works were painted on roll-down gates.
Two other contributions, a mallard by Graham Preston and a cerulean warbler, which is depicted sitting on Mr. Audubon’s shoulder, by Mr. Sanford, grace a pair of windows near the entrance to 3621 Broadway.
“They’re so beautiful, and you know how you can tell?” asked Sharon McKoy, who has spent all 52 years of her life in the building. “Because no one’s graffitied over them."
The NYC Carbon Challenge for Multifamily Buildings
|In 2013, New York City launched the NYC Carbon Challenge for Multifamily Buildings, engaging the City's largest residential property management companies to commit to reduce GHG emissions across selected buildings in their portfolios by at least 30 percent by making cost-saving energy efficiency improvements. To date, 19 New York City based residential property management firms have committed to the Challenge, pledging to reduce the GHG emissions from over 700 multifamily buildings over ten years. All together, these buildings represent over110 million square feet, or 6 percent of the City's large and mid-sized residential square footage. The residential sector accounts for 37 percent of New York City's total emissions, making up the largest single source of emissions in the city. In addition to reducing emissions, the energy efficiency and clean energy improvements that these buildings undertake will also help improve local air quality and increase resiliency to extreme weather events. Improving the energy efficiency of these buildings will also mitigate or reduce building operating costs, which is one of the key drivers of rising housing costs in New York City.|
NEW YORK LE RÉVEIL: Harlem Ghetto De BoBos
The advantages of affordable rents and a hipster lifestyle are drawing New York City denizens to Harlem and Brooklyn’s doors. According to prestigious French magazine L'Express, who recently interviewed our very own Alex Friedman, these iconic areas are offering a modern habitat for city dwellers to thrive. Francophones can hop over to L'Express for the full article; we have also included a translated excerpt below:
"It's very simple,” says Alex Friedman, founder and director of the investment company Sugar Hill Capital. “Currently, the real estate market on the Upper West Side below West 96th Street where Harlem begins is becoming less and less affordable for young people. Add to this the fact that Harlem is an area well served by public transport and it is very alive; there are restaurants, art galleries and even bike stores! We essentially rent to students, artists and young graduates; 60% to 70% remain in place once their careers begin. In their eyes, Harlem combines the advantages of competitive prices and a vibrant nightlife. They can enjoy jazz at the Shrine or Lenox Lounge, performances at the legendary Apollo Theater, dinner or a bite at Chez Lucienne or at small ‘greasy spoons’ that serve soul food; night owls are spoiled by variety. Especially since almost each month, new and trendy spots are opening. . . . So, little by little, people migrate north."