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The Co-op Chronicles: Open House

So, I was intrigued with Cabrini Boulevard in Hudson Heights. An ad in the Times showed an open house at 340 Cabrini Boulevard the following Sunday, so I decided to take a look.

Here’s what the listing said:

340 Cabrini Boulevard, #603. Note the view of
the Hudson outside the living room window.
Simply priceless. Imagine drinking your morning coffee while watching the seasons change across the Hudson River along the Palisades. Imagine sipping a glass of wine from a private terrace and watching the sunset every night. Now imagine that it all belongs to you and that the terrace and views come with 3 bedrooms; a beautifully appointed kitchen with granite counters and stainless appliances; amazing closet space and 2 marble baths with a Jacuzzi in the master suite. This amazing home boasts one of the most spectacular views in Hudson Heights and in fact all of Manhattan! If you feel like expanding your universe, the roof deck is perfect for entertaining. Live steps from great restaurants and shopping, Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters. This mint condition condominium is ready to move in today!!!

Floorplan at 340 Cabrini Boulevard
You can’t always trust a broker’s listing, but this one turned out to be entirely accurate. The apartment (listed at $995,000) was owned by a couple of Connecticut guys who used it as a pied à terre. It was impeccably decorated, and seemed to be very lightly used. The building, which is relatively new, is in terrific shape. The floorplan (right) was obviously designed to ensure that all three bedrooms would have river views. But because of the “angled” layout on the right side, the living/dining area is somewhat cramped.

The following week, I came back with my girlfriend. We had another look at the same apartment, and one with the identical layout two floors below. It was not as attractively decorated as the first one, and had a very lived-in look. However, it was listed for $50,000 less. As the agent put it, “Go upstairs and steal their decorating ideas; then, come down here and buy this one for less money.”

Exterior at 125 Cabrini Boulevard
We weren’t so sure, so we moved on to 125 Cabrini Boulevard, several blocks south. The building, Hudson Gables, is in the Tudor Revival style, one of the two dominant architectural styles in Hudson Heights, along with Art Deco.

The common areas, however, are much more dowdy looking than 340 Cabrini. We were amused to find that you had to go up two small stairs to get to the elevator. What’s the point of having an elevator, if you have to climb stairs to get to it? The broker conceded that the building had had “management problems” in the past, which she said have now been rectified. The building is on the odd-numbered side of the street, and thus does not have the spectacular panoramic views of the earlier apartment.

Floorplan at 125 Cabrini Boulevard
It’s worth looking at the layout, which in New York real estate parlance is called a “Classic 6.” The living room and dining room are both fairly large, but each of the two bedrooms has only one small closet. In the lower right corner of the floorplan is a “maid’s room.” Nowadays, most people would use it as a child’s bedroom or a guest room, but it is clearly much smaller than the others.

We found out that the co-op itself owns the unit, and has been trying to sell it for a while. They did a partial renovation, but it’s still very plain on the inside, and the bathrooms aren’t very attractive. The washer-dryer hookup is a definite plus: something seldom encountered in apartment buildings from this period. (It’s a converted shower stall.)

360 Cabrini Boulevard

We weren’t enthralled at 125 Cabrini, so we headed back up to 360 Cabrini, the last building on the side of the street facing the river, before you get to Fort Tryon Park.

There was a brief snafu, and initially we found ourselves at the wrong open house. We saw a 1 BR that looked like a flophouse. It was so icky that we could barely stand to look at it. We couldn’t imagine why someone who wanted to sell their apartment would leave it in such a filthy, cluttered condition. Wouldn’t the broker read the riot act to that owner?

We finally found the apartment we had really meant to see. The building has separate elevator banks serving the street side and the river side. The “lobby” on the river side is the fifth floor, because of the different elevation in back. The agent who showed us around was like Barbra Streisand without the singing voice. A real-estate version of Fanny Brice.

Here’s the listing:

River view from 360 Cabrini Boulevard
Incredible Views Of The Hudson River! Come home to this lovely, just renovated Pre-war classic 6 room in a fabulous Art Deco building. This apartment features a large foyer, step down living room three bedrooms, two windowed bathrooms, all rooms have views of trees & the river. Apartment also includes a spacious windowed eat-in kitchen, generous closets, 9 foot ceilings, inlaid hardwood floors and tons of pre-war charm. Cabrini Blvd is located in Hudson Heights, a charming neighborhood with the beauty of the Cloisters and the convenience of the A train.

Floorplan at 360 Cabrini Boulevard
If anything, this write-up undersold the apartment. We were floored—especially after being so grossed out by the first unit we saw. It turns out the previous occupant was a long-standing tenant who pre-dated the co-op conversion. After she left, the owner did a gut renovation. It looks like it was built yesterday. The hardwood floors were completely replaced. The appliances still have plastic on them. The bedrooms are all full-size. There are eight closets, including two in the master bedroom.

Had I done the renovation myself, there are some things I would have done differently. The bathrooms have pedestal sinks. I hate pedestal sinks, as they leave you with no room to store the kinds of things that belong in a bathroom, are too big for the medecine cabiniet, but that you don’t want in plain sight. The owner also demolished the wall separating the dining nook from the living room. I would have left that wall intact.

Still, it is one of the better 3 BR layouts I’ve seen, is essentially brand new, has unobstructed river views, is 5 minutes’ walk from the 190th Street “A” station, and was listed at $995,000. I wasn’t going to find a better deal than that.

My girlfriend and I went for a long walk in Fort Tryon Park, then went downtown for coffee in Chelsea. After beating around the bush, I said abruptly, “I’m making an offer.” Just two weeks previously, I had no plans to buy anything for at least another year. Now, I was putting myself on the hook for almost $1 million.

To be continued…

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