Hotel living is the norm at wealthy NYC apartments

2013-03-24T02:00:00Z 2013-03-28T18:14:10Z Hotel living is the norm at wealthy NYC apartmentsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 24, 2013 2:00 am  • 

NEW YORK (AP) — There was the resident who wanted a private jet commissioned for his new puppy, flown like a CEO to its new home in Manhattan. There was also a frantic search for a specific type of crystal vase whose presence was required at a dinner party.

For the well-trained concierge at exclusive Manhattan apartment buildings, no request is too extravagant.

"Sometimes it's finding the perfect gift for your wife's 40th birthday," said Jenene Ronick, the founder of Luxury Attache, a lifestyle management company that employs concierges at about 30 Manhattan residential buildings. "Sometimes it's finding a rare bottle of wine or an autographed first copy of a book."

A penthouse with a view of Central Park is no longer enough for well-to-do New Yorkers. What they want now is five-star hotel amenities in their own apartments. That means room service delivered from world-renowned restaurants, a private health spa with trainers at the ready and, most importantly, a smiling concierge on call at all hours to accommodate every aspect of their lives.

The luxury craze has been partly fueled by the influx of deep-pocketed foreigners from places like Russia and China, who are streaming into New York City in search of "trophy apartments" that can serve as pied-a-terres.

But the amenities are considered a requirement at every level of luxury living, from $5,000-per-month rentals to $60 million penthouse condominiums.

"The global market has forced a lot of people to travel extensively around the world, and by doing so, they are being exposed to really some exquisite hotel living," said Leonard Steinberg, a sales broker with Douglas Elliman. "When they come home, they do not want a lesser experience."

Business is booming at Abigail Michaels Concierge, which provides concierge service to 200 Manhattan buildings and has added about a dozen new properties to its clientele in the past year alone.

The concierge service is generally included in condominium or maintenance fees, but some buildings charge extra for amenities.

Developers are less wary of the word "luxury" than they were at the height of the recession, said Michael Fazio, the company's co-founder and author of the service-industry memoir "Concierge Confidential."

"What happened is, people are getting back to feeling more confident about what they're entitled to," Fazio said.

As the on-site concierge at Mercedes House, a high-end rental apartment complex in the west 50s near the Hudson River, 34-year-old Zayna Abdul juggles requests for nearly 1,000 apartments, the priciest of which rents for $15,000 a month.

In one particularly memorable demand, a male resident preparing for a big date asked Abdul to help him re-enact a scene from the movie "Hitch" where a couple rides jet skis under the Brooklyn Bridge and around the harbor.

Duane Davis, 29, who works in finance, recently enlisted Abdul's help in planning an upcoming tropical getaway to Anguilla. He relies upon her to get reservations at trendy restaurants and keep him informed about where to take business clients.

"You can have the nicest gym, but if the person at the front desk is rude and inattentive, then you don't really have a sense of a tie to the building," Davis said. "I ask her a question and she gets back to me in 10 minutes."

International residents who only drop in from time to time expect the concierge to run their households while they're away, mastering the finest of details.

"Do you want white tulips in your room every time you arrive?" said Lydia Sussek, a sales associate for Corcoran Group. "Do you want appointments with fashion designers for consultations?"

There's a dizzying array of amenities at New York by Gehry, a building designed by iconic architect Frank Gehry near City Hall that is the tallest residential building in the city's history. One two-bedroom apartment there is available for $10,154 a month.

Inside the 76-story tower's rippled steel exterior lies a lifeguard-manned swimming pool and sun deck, a boxing studio, a children's library, a grilling terrace with "dining cabanas," a billiards room, a squash court and a golf simulator, just to name a few.

Want to order room service from the restaurant down the block? That's one perk at 150 Charles Street, an old West Village warehouse with a 75-foot pool that is being converted into luxury condominiums selling for up to $35 million.

About 85 percent of the units were sold within a month — worth half a billion dollars in contracts — a sales record for Douglas Elliman. The building won't even open for another two years.

"We expected it to sell fast, but we were shocked at the velocity and the volume," Steinberg said.

Occupants of The Mark Residences, high-end condominiums attached to The Mark Hotel on the Upper East Side, can have meals cooked by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten delivered to their living rooms. The penthouse is currently on the market for $60 million.

"One night, the hotel restaurant was booked and somebody wanted to have a dinner for some friends, very important people," Sussek said. "Jean-Georges personally came up and cooked for them in their apartment."

But having a concierge is the first and foremost demand of prospective luxury buyers surveyed in recent months by Bjorn Hanson, a professor of hospitality management at New York University who has been researching the luxury market.

"Fifteen years ago people started worrying about having very high-end branded kitchen equipment," Hanson said. "This is kind of next in the evolution."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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