The range of housing options in New York City is truly staggering - railroad flats in tenements, prewar high rises, modern towers, single and two family houses, mini-mansions, historic 19th century brownstones.
However, the cost of housing is so extraordinarily high that for most, neighborhood choice, housing and lifestyle is severely compromised by financial concerns. Where as in the suburbs, most working individuals own their own home at a relatively young age, in New York City, many share apartments with roommates, even into retirement years. Others may continue to live with an ex-spouse while one or both date and cohabit with others. In the case where parents live in New York City, many live with their family through college and beyond, often until marriage. It is also common for younger people to move to neighborhoods completely alien to them, often as outsiders in ethnic enclaves such as Astoria.
The equation is simple - housing cost is a function of distance from Manhattan, a park or other desirability and safety/crime. When the lack of positives and a plethora of negatives conspire against a neighborhood, it then becomes a reasonably priced option. There still are some hinterlands, like Far Rockaway, which have yet to appear in the media as the new SoHo.
The equation, when viewed with Einsteinian relativity, still applies at all income and wealth levels. On the Upper East Side, proximity to Fifth Avenue and Central Park will determine cost. For residents in the Village, undesirable will mean too close to 14th Street or 6th Avenue. In Park Slope Brooklyn, the formula is simple - the closer to Prospect Park, the better.
Downtown Brooklyn along Flatbush Avenue was never considered particularly desirable, certainly not for residential use. I have been through this area thousands of times by car. Recently, I have noticed a cluster of four towers on/near Flatbush Avenue close to the Manhattan Bridge. All of these are new residential projects - Oro, Avalon Fort Greene, DKLB BKYN and Toren (seen in today's photo). I am not a fan of modern high rise apartment buildings, but I find this tower quite beautiful architecturally and it has attracted my attention on every passing.
I personally live in a landmark townhouse. In spite of its tremendous charm and ambiance (which, along with below market rent, is what keeps me here), I do have to tolerate a litany of antiquated services and living conditions - poor ventilation, excessive heat, poor windows, poor heating and cooling, plumbing leaks, roof leaks, no elevator and things that don't work.
Looking at the floor plans and list of amenities in a project like the Toren can make one envious. The 35 story property has an indoor heated swimming pool, a fitness center, tiered two story roof decks, a library, outdoor movie theater/screening room, on site parking, storage, elegant kitchens, large living spaces with high ceilings, curtain walls of glass, doorman, 24 hour concierge, Pilates studio room, saunas and laundry facilities. The interiors are exquisitely appointed with high quality cabinetry, appliances, flooring etc. And of course there are extraordinary vistas of the city. The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP (SOM), the award winning, one of the world's largest architectural firms.
The Toren does look so beautiful, inside and out. I do love vistas. But I don't want to look out to a bejeweled cityscape from behind a floor to ceiling glass window, in a climate controlled apartment. Spring is around the corner - soon I will want to throw open my windows, look out to green and budding flowers, walk the tree lined crooked little streets of the West Village. And listen to the birds :)