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Old Posted Nov 29, 2011, 4:21 PM
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NY Times
November 28, 2011
Living in a 76-Story Work of Art, and a Symbol of Rebirth

Designed by Frank Gehry, 8 Spruce Street, at 870 feet, is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere.

Frederico Farina, a creative director for fashion brands, recalls waking up every morning last summer in his 21st-floor apartment in Brooklyn Heights and gazing across the river at the new Frank Gehry-designed apartment tower in Lower Manhattan. Its rippled stainless-steel facade reflected the sun, making it shine like a beacon.

“One day, my husband and I woke up and said, ‘Let’s go see the view,’ ” Mr. Farina, 39, said. They were so delighted by the views from a 50th-floor one-bedroom — which Mr. Farina said stretched from the East River to the Hudson River — that they decided to rent out their Brooklyn apartment for two years and moved into the building in September. After two years, they plan to return to their place in Brooklyn, which is much larger.

“This apartment fits in our living room,” Mr. Farina said. But that was the trade-off, he said, for living in a work of art.

“I think this is the new Chrysler Building,” he said.

At 870 feet, 8 Spruce Street — or, as it is known by real estate agents, New York by Gehry — is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, though it may soon be surpassed by a 90-story hotel-condominium going up near Carnegie Hall. Still, with its irregular facade, with facets that twist like silver ribbons hanging from the sky, the Gehry building has quickly become a distinctive part of the skyline and a symbol of Lower Manhattan’s rebirth since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Nine months after the building welcomed its first renters, it has become a microcosm of the neighborhood. There are professionals in their 20s, families and members of the wealthy elite. Available studios and one-bedrooms rent for skyward of $3,700 a month and three bedrooms for $11,975 and up.

The first five floors of the 76-story tower house the new Public School 397, the entrance of which is on the east side of the building, separated from the residents’ entrance on the west, so the streams of children arriving and lawyers and bankers leaving for work do not have to cross.

By building the school, the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, was able to secure $203.9 million in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds to finance construction. (Forest City Ratner was the development partner of The New York Times in its Midtown headquarters.)

But stacking a residential tower atop a school can create complications. Jaquelin Febrillet-Barr, who has two sons at the school, said it recently sent a letter to parents informing them that someone in the building had been dropping bottles out of a window or off a terrace, which had landed on the school’s rooftop playground. Asked about the episode, the Education Department said the principal had notified the building’s management, which had subsequently sent a letter to the building’s tenants.

So far, all floors up to the 60th have been opened for renters, and 60 percent of the building’s 903 units are occupied, said Clifford Finn, president of new development marketing at CitiHabitats, which handles leasing for the building.

Kathrin Hoffmann, 31, who works at an advertising company, lives on the 10th floor, where the apartments are cheaper and the view is mostly of adjacent buildings.

“I couldn’t afford anything higher,” she said, as she walked her dog, a miniature Spitz, on a recent morning.

When Ms. Hoffmann was moving from Los Angeles four months ago, she looked online for apartments in new buildings, and New York by Gehry was one of the first to come up. She chose it partly because it was a 10-minute walk to her office.

Among the amenities, she said, she loved the 50-foot swimming pool on the seventh floor, which has glass doors, leading onto a deck, that are left open in the summer.

“The nice thing is, not a lot of people actually use it,” she said.

Asked if she used the screening room, which has curved amphitheater seating designed by Mr. Gehry, or the library full of art books and magazines, she wrinkled her nose a little.

“It feels a bit poncey in a way,” Ms. Hoffmann said, using British slang that means overly ostentatious. “My friends and I, we aren’t into that.”

But for those who like such luxuries, the building has many. There is a children’s playroom, with toys and a puppet theater, and a “tweens’ den,” with multicolored plush furniture and a Wii. There is a large gym, yoga and Pilates studios, and a spinning room with 20 bikes. There are also two golf simulators.

Not advertised: last month, the Web site reported an anonymous complaint that tenants in one vertical line of apartments were experiencing a heavy odor of cigarette smoke. Mr. Finn said Monday that “this was an isolated incident, and management has worked to resolve the issue.”

Compared with the lower floors, the population on the upper floors is more rarefied. Mr. Farina said that in his elevator bank, there seemed to be many people from outside New York, and even outside the United States.

“You hear a lot of different languages,” he said.

The building’s irregular shape means that, in some lines, the apartments are different, and it makes for some unusual angles and awkwardly shaped rooms. But it also means that some windows jut outward, offering better views.

On the terrace of a three-bedroom apartment on the 52nd floor, there is a stiff breeze, but the view is astounding, stretching from Coney Island to the Long Island Sound. Straight below, one can watch the cars getting on the Brooklyn Bridge.

For the ultimate elite, there are three penthouse apartments, still under construction, which will go on the market for $40,000, $45,000 and $60,000 a month. Mr. Finn described the likely renter as “probably a person who has multiple homes and entertains a lot.”

By the time those apartments are ready for occupancy next spring, perhaps the Occupy Wall Street protesters will have moved away from Zuccotti Park, which is about a half-dozen blocks south and a block west of the Gehry building.

Mr. Farina said he could often hear the protests from his 50th-floor apartment, although he said he did not mind.

Nor did he mind that, for much of the last month, the mounted police called in to manage the protesters parked their horse trailers on Spruce Street, resulting in a pervasive odor of horse manure.

Asked about the smell, he shrugged and pointed to his dog, a longhaired dachshund. “She loves the horses,” he said. “It’s exciting for her.”

A model apartment at 8 Spruce Street, in Lower Manhattan. All of the floors up to the 60th have been opened for renters, and 60 percent of the building's 903 units are now occupied.
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