New York City’s Emptiest Co-ops and Condos
By Julie Satow on January 9, 2015
Executive Plaza, at 150 West 51st Street, has the highest percentage of nonprimary residences of any building in New York, 74.4 percent. Credit Joshua Bright for The New York Times
The marble lobby at CitySpire, a skyscraping 72-story tower in Midtown, bustles with rushing people bundled against the cold. Nattily dressed doormen hail taxis and see to a constant stream of deliveries.
Yet the mixed-use building — the first 23 stories house offices — is not as crowded as it appears. CitySpire, at 150 West 56th Street across from Carnegie Hall, is one of the least occupied buildings in Manhattan, with more than 60 percent of its residential floors made up of investment properties and pieds-à-terre, according to data from the New York City Independent Budget Office.
The issue of occupancy in New York City has become a hot-button topic in recent months, with much made of foreigners who buy expensive apartments to use for just a few weeks a year. Some argue that they drive up prices, while others bemoan the fact that these buyers do not pay personal income taxes. A bill has been introduced in Albany that would impose an annual pied-à-terre tax on properties worth $5 million or more.
The Parc Vendôme has a high percentage of pieds-à-terre and other nonprimary residences. Credit Joshua Bright for The New York Times
As a tenant at CitySpire, Nicholas Richards has a front-row seat on a pied-à-terre-packed building. “If you pay attention to the lobby on a Friday or a Monday, you’ll see a lot of key exchanges taking place and people with suitcases coming and going,” said Mr. Richards, who rents a studio in the building, returning home to Boston on weekends.
“Twenty-four percent of co-op and condo apartments citywide are not the primary residence of their owners,” said George V. Sweeting, the deputy director of the budget office, who oversaw the research. “Not all of these units are pieds-à-terre; many are likely owned by investors or original sponsors renting out the units.”
The data the budget office used is based on the New York City co-op and condominium tax abatement, which the city began restricting to primary residences in recent years. The agency compared the number of apartments that received the abatement in 2012 to the number that received it this fiscal year to determine its results.
The figures may be underestimates, since the agency did not include apartment buildings that receive 421a tax exemptions, which leaves out some more recently built condos that are widely known to have high concentrations of foreign buyers, including One57 and 15 Central Park West.
In Manhattan, the number of nonprimary residences is slightly higher than the citywide average, 29 percent, and in some neighborhoods favored by investors, such as Midtown, the share of nonprimary residences ranged as high as 44 percent