Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sutton Place: A beautiful but forgotten neighborhood where an apartment can be yours for a pittance.

Sutton Place is the lovely, quiet, six-block stretch of well-kept apartment buildings and a few townhouses on the East River above the FDR Drive, from 53rd to 59th Streets.  

Actually, Sutton Place only occupies the northernmost two blocks; from 53rd to 57th it's Sutton Place South. 

Sutton Place Park compass
A Google map shows the western border of the Sutton Place neighborhood as the west side of First Avenue.  Personally, I'd put the border just east of the east side of the Avenue, for reasons given below. 

There was a time years ago when Sutton Place was called, at least by one friend of mine "a two-poodle neighborhood.”  Some would have described it as ritzy. 

It was definitely one of the upscale, high end, expensive, desirable, however-you-want-to-put-it areas of the city.

There are three, count ‘em, three little parks in the area, two with beautiful views of the river and the Ed Koch Queensboro 59th Street Bridge (that's the one Simon and Garfunkel wrote the song about).

In one of those parks is the bench Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sat on admiring the view in Allen’s movie, “Manhattan.”

Diane and Woody sat here.
There’s little traffic as all of the numbered streets end in cul de sacs.  All the apartment buildings have doormen, so you never feel alone on the street. 
Only five of the buildings are condominiums and there are no rental buildings, which means that for the most part, people who live there own their homes and have a vested interest in maintaining their buildings and the neighborhood.
There are not many prewar buildings, but the postwars are early postwar, built in the 1950s, before the building code changed.  They have thicker walls, larger rooms, real dining rooms or at least separate dining areas, and a more spacious feeling in general.

But in spite of all it has to offer, instead of being expensive, Sutton Place offers some of the best bargains in the city.

There were four dogs enjoying this tiny park
when this picture was taken.
Average selling price for a two bedroom, two or two and a half bath apartment in the area in the last twelve months was just over $1,200,000.   

Average for most of Manhattan was about $1,650,000.

Why is Sutton Place so cheap?
Well, for one thing, it’s out of the mainstream.  From Sutton Place it’s a hike to the area west of Lexington in the 60s to low 90s, where the really pricey properties are. 
But there’s a perfectly good bus that runs along 57th Street straight to Bergdorf's, The Plaza, and all the other delights of Fifth Avenue.  You can always get a cab on First Avenue.  You could even walk to Fifth--it's only seven blocks.  Long blocks, but not that long.
There are nearby busses uptown and downtown.  And someday we may even ride the Second Avenue subway.  
Part of 60 Sutton Place South, built 1952 and
designed so that many of the apartments
have direct river views.
Frankly, First Avenue is not great unless you want to buy a lottery ticket or get your eyebrows threaded.  But Fresh Direct is only a few clicks away, and there are several good restaurants in the area. 

Aja, Amma, Bistro Vendome, Brick Lane Curry House, Chola, Club A Steak, and Dawat all get 21-25 points for food from Zagat.  All are east of Third Avenue and within a block or two of the Google-defined Sutton Place area. (I could go on through the alphabet, but space prohibits.  Trust me, there are plenty more.)
Another reason Sutton Place is currently undervalued might be that many of the people who live there have lived there for a VERY long time. 
It is true that one building has, or had recently, a sign on the concierge desk that says a defibrillator is available in a closet off the lobby. 
1 Sutton Place
When people leave, they generally go either to Florida or to heaven, and some of the apartments that come on the market still look much as they did fifty years ago, wall-to-wall shag carpets, Harvest Gold appliances and all. 
But under that wall-to-wall is a hardwood floor that’s been protected for all those years. 
Any cost of renovation is more than made up for by the low selling prices, and more and more young people are moving into the neighborhood.

You could be among them.


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