A Developer Explains High-Priced Condos To Us




It’s probably useless complaining about the seemingly endless supply of new housing for the rich in New York, which doesn’t appear to be slowing down even as we head into the next Great Depression.

But complaining about the Lower East Side and Alphabet City and Harlem becoming the next playgrounds for yuppies flush with cash is in our blood, dammit, and we can’t help it.

I mention this, because this morning, we received a cheerful note from developer Bruce Kaplan about his new condo building at First Street and First Avenue. He wondered if a Voice feature might be in the offing, seeing as how Kramer, in an episode of Seinfeld, once referred to “First and First” as the “nexus of the universe.”

Yeah, that’s clever, and a nice selling point, no doubt. But with Kaplan’s one-bedroom condos going for about a million bucks each, we shot back a response: what sort of a feature was he looking for, with his building only adding to the difficulty the non-filthy-rich are having staying in the city?

We thought we’d print, without further comment, his interesting reply:

Perhaps you might take a longer view.

From, and as you probably know:

“between 1825 and 1840…shrewd speculators subdivided farms, leveled hills, rerouted Minetta Brook, and undertook landfill projects. Blocks of neat rowhouses built in the prevailing Federal style soon accommodated middle-class merchants and tradesmen. From 1820 a more affluent residential development emerged to the east near Broadway.”

So without the actions of those shrewd speculators, there would not have been the canvas to paint on what would become the Village. Presumably the Minetta Brook Voice mourned that transformation.

As one of the Village’s more famous residents wrote:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

If one looks back over time, there are several theorists (Ricardo, Mills, Alonso’s Urban Land Theory) whose theories are that rising prices increases, not decreases supply. See also,

In any event, for what it’s worth, what this shrewd speculator hopes to do with his million bucks is create affordable rental housing in the outer boroughs and preserve that diversity you value.