A building goes up on 57th Street, and it’s a story about everything
Last month, The New York Times published a fascinating story about a condominium tower rising 90 floors high above West 57th Street in Manhattan. It’s such a ridiculously lavish monument to the .1 percent - two of the full-floor apartments near the top (where his and her bathrooms will have views of everything from Central Park to Yankee Stadium to the Statue of Liberty) have sold for $90 million each - that it’s likely to drive much of the other 99.9 percent crazy.
Headlined “Rising Tower Emerges as Billionaires Haven,” the Times story reported that sales are brisk at the tower at 157 West 57th Street, which is called “One57” and is due to open in the fall of 2013. Purchasers are from all over the world - China, Russia, Canada, South America, Nigeria and, of course, the United States.
The Times, in fact, has done seven pieces about the tower over the last year, mostly focusing on One57 as a real estate industry story. But there’s a lot more to report.
Watching the rise of this largest residential tower ever built in the United States, I’ve wanted to read about the construction, traffic and safety challenges associated with building something like this in literally the middle of Manhattan. Have any workers been injured or died? Have neighboring businesses suffered from the traffic jams and the noise? If so, what’s been done to minimize that? What are the environmental, safety and other regulatory hurdles the builders have had to jump over, and what did they do to clear them?
I’ve also wanted to know what kinds of jobs have been created and who’s doing them. And I’ve been curious about what kind of high-tech communications equipment is being built into the apartments and what special security protections are in the works.
Then there are all the potential stories related to money - from a blow-by-blow of how the developer managed to get the project done after he had assembled the property just before the financial meltdown, to the tax maneuvering around the shell corporations being used by the future residents to purchase these castles, to the effect the building will have on retail outlets and restaurants in the neighborhood.
The story of One57 has elements of everything that’s fascinating and glorious, troubling and challenging about the age we live in: the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. The globalization of wealth, for which the building’s sales website is a modern billboard. Regulation versus economic development. Old industry (construction work) melding with high technology.
So here’s my idea: The Times, or maybe the FT or the Wall Street Journal, should do a monthly column in their magazines (because this also demands great color photography) until the building opens, chronicling all aspects of the One57 story.
I even have the perfect writer to do it: Gay Talese, the former New York Timesman. Talese is well known for his classic magazine articles in Esquire (including profiles of Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio). He’s also known for bestselling books, including The Kingdom and the Power (about the Times), Honor Thy Father and Thy Neighbor’s Wife. But one of my favorite Talese works is his lesser-known 1964 book, The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Nearly 50 years later, this could be a perfect follow-on.
A Yankee ticket sales slump?
A sequel to my note last week about seats seeming to go unsold during the playoffs at Yankee Stadium: The day after I wrote it, I got a sales promotion from the Yankees that listed their retail price for playoff seats. I noticed that I paid less on Stub Hub (the online secondary sales channel) for my seats at the League Championship Series than the Yankees’ retail price for the same seats.
That’s right, not only were tickets not being scalped the way they were in the glory years, they were being unloaded at an apparent loss. There’s a story here, sport fans.