Listed for sale for $599,000, this block at 225 Central Park West could be one of the city’s best heists in 2023. Of course, there is a pretty big catch. You won’t see any Peeping Toms spying through the windows of this 500-square-foot lobby level pied-à-terre, just steps away from Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History.
This is because block 107 has no windows. Instead, it has skylights. Compass, which listed a one-bedroom Upper West Side property earlier this month, is calling it a “unicorn” as well as the fact it’s legal housing.
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Meanwhile, inquisitive minds on Reddit, where is the listing trending on the Ridiculous Real Estate subreddit asks: “How is it possible that this Central Park West apartment has no windows, only skylights?” The answer, according to a fellow broker representing the house, is simple: The pre-war building it sits in was built before New York City’s current fire regulations were put in place.
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Indeed, Alden dates back to 1926 when it opened as an apartment hotel. The 16-story, 234-unit building was designed by Emery Roth—designer of San Remo, Eldorado, and the Ritz Tower—which, when completed in 1925, was New York City’s tallest residential building.
Today Alden is a luxury hotel whose residents enjoy “attentive white-gloved service” and amenities such as a 24-hour doorman, laundry, bike room, garage and roof garden. It has four more listings available, all with windows, from 525 000 dollars for studio up to $4.95 million two bedrooms, two bathrooms with panoramic views of the park. As for block 107, there are only two skylights – one in the bedroom and one in the living room.
“Skylights comply with building code requirements, which basically include both light and air calculations based on floor area.” said Jonathan Lerner, owner of Five Corners Properties, a New York luxury boutique agency. However, Lerner was the first to admit that the lack of traditional windows reduces the value of a home by at least $100,000. In his experience, the more glass in a house, the more expensive it is.
Even though they are commonplace today, windows are a relatively new phenomenon in New York City. For almost 300 years, hundreds of thousands of inhabitants lived in cramped neighborhoods with very poor lighting and air circulation. When the city decided these inhumane conditions literally killed peoplethey passed the Tenements Act of 1901. He required new buildings to have adequate ventilation and something else they lacked: indoor toilets.
As for this house, it was probably a storeroom or servants’ quarters in a past life, and in the description it is referred to as apartments. Brian Lewis, Compass broker representing the property, declined to comment on the listing, saying his client appreciates its privacy. (Go figure it out.)
For other New Yorkers, living in a windowless apartment isn’t about avoiding prying neighbors, it’s about money.
“Ten years ago I lived in a windowless bedroom in [the Lower East Side] because that’s all I could afford.” writes one redditor. “Honestly, I would do it again, the best dream of my life.”
During the pandemic Trey Taylor, an editorial director in his 30s, lived in a 64-square-foot windowless Brooklyn loft because it was within his $800 monthly budget. He appreciated his “refuge” when it came to curing hangovers and giving sessions. He also had a great excuse for not becoming a plant dad like so many other New Yorkers did during quarantine.
“To imitate nature and forget about my problems, I fall asleep to the chirping of virtual crickets coming from my Google Home Mini speaker,” he wrote in a passage for the border. “I bought a small projector, and now I’m broadcasting long-form videos – splashing waves, scenes in a cafe, a view of a train driver – on the wall above my bed. A life lived in 480p.”
However, Taylor told the Post that he would never pay to live without windows again. He won’t even think of this luxurious apartment complex Central Park West with a beautiful bathroom, stainless steel appliances, central air conditioning and skylights.
“With such a fee for maintenance [$1,373/month]you at least expect to see something without getting a fracture in your neck,” he said.
Still, Alison Wilkinson, a luxury architect and interior designer who lives between New York and Washington, DC, sees the potential in this. Her biggest tip for those moving in is to focus on lighting.
“When you encounter a cave, it’s best to set the lighting at different heights to create visual interest and cater to different needs,” she said.
Someone who is moving may still want to invest in some shades. Just because you don’t have to worry about Peeping Toms doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about Chinese Spy Balloons.