‘It’s good for valuations’: Witkoff says huge new luxe condo helps Village

Steve Witkoff on the deck outside his 16th-floor penthouse at 150 Charles St., with a “stadium view” of Manhattan looking to the north. Photos by Alex Ellefson

BY ALEX ELLEFSON | The Village used to be a neighborhood for ambitious New Yorkers to shack up before their talents brought them into the limelight.

A cash-strapped Jackson Pollock paid rent at his Greenwich studio by peddling works outside Washington Square Park. Bob Dylan used to roll out of the Hotel Earle to play neighborhood clubs when he was still a complete unknown. And Edgar Allen Poe is said to have bounced around several Village residences while writing “The Raven” because it was the only community where he could score drugs.

Steven Witkoff might be among those Village alumni. Decades before heading a sprawling real estate empire, he was a law school student living in an apartment on Bedford St.

“I was at the Charles Street Association dinner and there were two elderly people who lived in the neighborhood for a long time,” he recalled. “We immediately began talking about The Bagel on W. Fourth St. It was cheese and eggs at the bar. It was fabulous. That’s what the Village is: There’s all these different restaurants and shops. It’s a really neat community. And I think that’s why people want to move in here.”

Witkoff is one of those New Yorkers making room for himself in the Village. He returned to the neighborhood in a way only available to a real estate mogul — by taking residence in the three-floor penthouse atop his new 16-story luxury condo building at 150 Charles St. From his patio, he can look out at the Hudson River or turn his gaze north toward the panoply of Midtown towers, which he calls the “stadium view.”

However, the West Village’s bohemian charm is not what it used to be, in part because of developments like Witkoff’s. Buoyed by the rejuvenation of Hudson River Park — which helped boost nearby property values by 140 percent between 2000 and 2015, according to a report by Friends of Hudson River Park — the area is being remade as an exclusive neighborhood to rival Park Ave. and Tribeca.

Looking out over the two foliage-covered decks of 150 Charles St., the Hudson River Park and the river.

Indeed, the 150 Charles St. building, all of whose 91 units sold within 12 weeks, according to Witkoff, has attracted some high-profile buyers. Celebrities like Jon Bon Jovi, Ben Stiller and Sports Illustrated model Irina Shayk have bought into the building, according to Curbed. What was once a gritty, low-rent crash pad for future stars is now becoming an attractive destination for elites.

Apartments in the tony new building fetch anywhere from $5.35 million for a mere four-bedroom apartment up to $35 million for a “Masters of the Universe” 10-room penthouse.

“It’s becoming like a suburb,” said Danny Fields, a music industry executive credited with discovering the Ramones at C.B.G.B., who lives near the development. “There used to be wonderfully vibrant sidewalk life and storefront life. Now it seems like all I see are nannies during the day pushing their charges around.”

Neighbors waged a tenacious campaign against Witkoff’s development. A lawsuit, spearheaded by longtime West Village resident Jean-Louis Bourgeois — scion of famed sculptress Louise Bourgeois — sought to halt the project’s construction. And the developer’s application to convert the Whitehall Warehouse into the new structure, which would have allowed for a 32-story tower, inspired a video, titled “The Rape of the West Village,” charging Witkoff with attempting an end run around local zoning regulations.

However, Witkoff said he never intended the development to reach the maximum allowable height and always planned for the building to capture the character of the West Village.

“We would hear some of these allegations that we don’t intend to build what we said we would build, or it’s not going to be contextual, and they just weren’t accurate,” he said. “But I think the best way for us to respond was to finish the building and show people. And I think that’s what happened here.”

A view of 150 Charles St. — which has a “stepped-back” design” — from Charles St. The community fought to have the developer construct the building this way, so that it would have less of an impact on the waterfront and Hudson River Park.

Witkoff hired Rick Cook of CookFox Architects to design the building so it would fit in with the neighborhood.

“We wanted to pick an architect whose vision was commensurate with ours,” he said. “Our feeling from a design standpoint was: First of all, we wanted outdoor space, we wanted to engage with the river and we wanted to engage with the community.”

Cook designed the building so that sunlight streamed into a lush courtyard. More plant life populates the decks on the structure’s cascading wings that face the river.

The condo sports a "wellness center" that includes a gym and pool.
With a spacious gym and a lap pool, the condo offers a “wellness environment” for its residents.

“The Village is green,” Witkoff said. “If you walk through the Village, if you have allergies, you know when the season begins because the flowers are blossoming. And we wanted the property to feel like it was in the midst of all that.”

The building’s 10,000-square-foot fitness center, located belowground, is staffed by personal trainers from The Wright Fit, and includes a 75-foot lap pool, sauna, cold plunge pool and whirlpool.

Life in the "wellness lane," at 150 Charles St.
Life in the “wellness lane,” at 150 Charles St.

“The point was to create a wellness environment where people had everything they need to be healthy,” said Witkoff. “We actually have three triathletes and one Ironman and they do a lot of their training here in the building.”

However, Witkoff said the development’s success has benefits for the neighborhood and beyond. The building used union workers during construction, paid out “a ton of transfer tax” [a tax paid along with the purchase of the property] to the city, and generated 41 units of affordable housing at a Bronx development through the 421-a program. He also said 150 Charles St. boosts property values for other homeowners in the community.

“I think, if anything, it’s good for the valuations of other homeowners here,” he said. “Remember, resale value here percolates to resale value all around. It doesn’t just help those in the building. It sets a benchmark and a standard for everyone in the neighborhood.”

Developer Steve Witkoff, on the stairway landing in his triplex, has some options on which way to go — up, down or keep it on the level.

However, Aysha Quinn, who lives in a co-op in the West Village Houses right next to Witkoff’s development, disagrees that the luxury condo building will be a boon for her.

“It blocks my view of the river,” she said. “I have no sunlight coming in my windows anymore. All I see is barbecue on a terrace in the back of the building. I don’t see how this is going to increase property values.”

Quinn also took issue with the way the green space is hidden within the new building, instead of shared with the community. Similarly, she said she finds few opportunities to interact with the new neighbors.

“I don’t know where these people eat,” she said. “I don’t know where they shop. But they are not going to the store, doing regular-people stuff. And a lot of the local grocery stores and mom-and-pop shops are closing.”

Witkoff said many of the residents at 150 Charles St. are raising families.

“We have really lovely people,” he said of the building’s residents. “These are people who want their kids to go to school down here, want their kids to play down here. They want to be a part of this community.

“Whenever you see change, people sometimes perceive change as a negative,” he said. “And, in fairness, in some cases it is a negative. My message is I want to be a good community member forever.”