I finished my grading today, and so allowed myself a brief moment of apartment porn. No, I don’t mean browsing through Apartment Therapy, or Curbed, though both are always fun. I went straight to the mother lode, the New York Times Real Estate Section. I’m definitely not in the market. Frankly, it seems very unlikely that my partner and I will be ever be able to afford to buy an apartment if we remain in Manhattan, and we are disinclined to leave. But, it’s a good time of year for window shopping, especially when you find something like an apartment on Pomander Walk.
Locals, no doubt, know all about Pomander Walk, but I was stumped. On the Upper West Side? Really? Google Maps was helpful. Odd, I thought, I have walked that block a dozen times and never noted another road. The first photo to the right (from Google’s “Street View”) shows you what the “street” looks like from 94th. It’s a cool Tudor pair of buildings, with what looks like access to a gated spot for trash or something. In Harry Potteresque fashion, however, the gate hides a private street created in 1922 by the King & Campbell architects, in celebration of a popular play of the time, Pomander Walk. The apartments on the mew were designed to look like an English street, complete with varying Tudor façades. The street has an illustrious history, home to Humphrey Bogart (after he lived up the street from us on 103rd), and used as a set for Hannah & Her Sisters.
Not only is the street an anachronistic, Disneyesque throwback in the middle of a downtown area, it has other oddities, like external dumbwaiters for half the units. It was a declared an historical landmark in the early 1980s, and now there is a small two-bedroom apartment for sale. A unit sold in 2000, before the boom, for $200,000, but unfortunately, the real estate boom coupled with some renovations means that a a tiny, antiquated apartment (linkrot will likely kill that link quickly) now lists well north of $800,000. Those of you reading from anywhere other than New York or California will likely gawk at paying that much for an apartment that is probably less than 800 square feet, but that price is actually well below the average apartment purchase price on the Upper West Side. If I had a spare couple of hundred thousand dollars for the down payment, and didn’t eat for the 30 years it would take to pay off the mortgage, I’d be getting ready to move. As it is, I remain a happy renter.