Former governor Eliot Spitzer, who now helms his family’s real-estate company, has received city approval to replace an Upper East Side rental tower his father built in 1970 with a luxurious limestone-clad condo, 6 Sq.Ft. reports. Earlier this week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission greenlit the new 19-story tower at 985 Fifth Avenue. (The sole voice of dissent came from a commissioner who liked the design but objected to razing and rebuilding for environmental reasons.)
The new design is faux prewar, with a limestone façade and setbacks, a specialty of Sofield Studio, which has worked on a number of similar projects in the neighborhood that did bonkers sales. Upper East Side buyers have been flocking to ersatz prewar condos designed by Sofield, Robert A.M. Stern, or Peter Pennoyer, paying upwards of $10 million to $20 million, even for apartments in less-than-ideal locations, like off Third Avenue, to escape the headache of co-op boards, renovations, and sad basement gyms. (The amenities in new construction towers are predictably over the top.) But 985 Fifth, between 79th and 80th, has one of the best addresses in the city, a rare parkside spot that only a few other new construction condo towers — 15 Central Park and 220 Central Park South, both of which did record-breaking sales — have had the benefit of.
Despite all this, the process hasn’t exactly been easy for Spitzer, thanks to the co-op next door. That building, 980 Fifth, sued to stop him from building on a ditch at the back of the property — which he owned — arguing that since it had been using the ditch to store construction supplies for some time, squatter’s rights applied. Spitzer has called the lawsuit “an embarrassment.”
No one, save 980 Fifth who will likely lose its storage pit, will be upset to see the 1970 luxury rental currently on the site disappear, least of all the LPC. While it was fancy for its time, and is still pretty fancy for this one, with rentals going for $10,000 to $25,000 a month, it was a generic, beige, terrace-studded 1970s tower whose tenants will have no trouble finding some other $15,000-a-month place to live when their lease is up. As one LPC commissioner said at the hearing: “The existing building is non-contributing and frankly, I’m pleased to see it come down.”