Bump and Grind for New York Sky Scraper Market


A spate of recent newspaper articles has shone a light on discomfort at the top of Manhattan’s property market, with some super-rich buyers of super-prime apartments in super-tall buildings complaining of less-than-perfect living conditions on Billionaires’ Row.

The New York Times started it, running an expose of “leaks, creaks and breaks” at 432 Park Avenue, a 1,400 metre-high luxury tower block, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly for developers Macklowe Properties and CIM Group.

Briefly the tallest residential building in the world, 432 is one of New York’s most high-profile and successful property developments of recent years, smashing through the $2 billion recorded sales mark in 2018 to become the Big Apple’s biggest-grossing residential scheme in history for initial closings. In 2016, the 96th-floor penthouse went for $88m, while a pair of units occupying the whole 91st floor sold for $60m in 2018.

But NYT reporter Stefanos Chen has claimed that all is not ideal in some apartments – at least 48 of which sold for over $20 million. Chen tells of “millions of dollars of water damage from plumbing and mechanical issues; frequent elevator malfunctions; and walls that creak like the galley of a ship.”

The building’s insurance costs reportedly increased by some 300% in two years, thanks in part to two “water related incidents” in 2018 that the NYT reports “cost the building about $9.7 million in covered losses.”

Problems “may be connected to the building’s main selling point: its immense height,” suggests Sten. The building – like most skyscrapers – is designed to yield a bit to the wind; it sways. Above 1,000 feet, that can be pretty noticeable – and has allegedly caused some elevator stoppages at 432. Sten tells of one incident in 2019, when a resident was “entrapped” in a lift for 85 minutes. Residents also endure “an orchestra of loud, spooky noises,” caused by the wind and building movement.

There are worries that similar issues may be occurring on other high-rise developments around the world. Naming no names, the NY Times warns that “engineers privy to some of the disputes say many of the same issues are occurring quietly in other new towers.”

Responding to the criticism, 432 Park’s construction manager, Lendlease, said: “As a leading builder in the industry, Lendlease is always committed to delivering its projects safely and in accordance with the highest specified standards. We have been in contact with our client regarding some comments from tenants, which we are currently evaluating. We cannot elaborate at this time since we are in the midst of this review.”

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