Home alone on Fifth Avenue

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One of our favorite things to do on lazy summer evenings is to stroll down Fifth Avenue or Central Park West and observe how few lights burn in the windows of the city’s A-list co-ops and condos, their facades aiming gap-toothed leers at those of us tethered for the season to our comparatively ordinary real estate.

But the recent fascinating news stories (NBC, CNN) about a family condemned to inhabit a 32-story Florida condo all by themselves turned our thoughts to the residents who cleave to their tony Manhattan addresses during the stickiest months.  What’s it like to be home alone?  

Lonelier than ever, apparently. But the stay-behinds are probably not minding.

Many high-end buildings have summer work rules —meaning all renovation (a.k.a. "alterations") must take place over the summer, when fewer residents are around.   But this year, real estate market interruptus has meant that fewer luxury apartments have changed hands, vastly trimming the number of renovations in your average limestone fortress, according to one managing agent we spoke with.

Still, it’s not exactly a zen garden either: Other typical summer work is continuing apace.

“Slow times are an excellent time for building improvements,” says Paul Herman, president of Brown Harris Stevens Residential Management.  “There’s a lot that goes on in the summer behind the scenes, like painting the basement, cleaning the water tank, making improvements to the roof or putting in a communications system like Building Link. They’re very, very busy in these buildings.”