For what I spend every month on rent, I could afford to live for approximately one afternoon in the Champagne Apartment, a furnished penthouse on the top floor of the New York Palace hotel in Midtown. At $250,000 a month, the 5,000-square-foot triplex—with two bedrooms, three full bathrooms, two half bathrooms, a library and a 1,000-square-foot rooftop terrace with a Jacuzzi—is by far the most expensive rental on the market in the city.
The building itself has a storied history. Built in 1982 by the late real estate titans Harry and Leona Helmsley, the hotel at 455 Madison Avenue and East 50th Street has reportedly hosted boldfaced names like Derek Jeter and Michael Jackson, and stood in as the home of Serena Van Der Woodsen on "Gossip Girl." It recently underwent a $140 million renovation, part of which carved a series of high-end rentals out of the upper floors of the 55-story hotel. (Another $250,000 a month penthouse, dubbed the Jewel Apartment, is already occupied, according to a broker handling the listing.)
But if I had all that Van Der Woodsen cash swimming around my bank account, would I lavish it on this place? Probably not, as I discovered on a tour of the place yesterday afternoon.
Granted, the double-height living room with floor-to-ceiling windows is admittedly epic. (This photo is taken from a spiral staircase that leads up to the second floor.) It's the kind of entrance room that gives meaning to that oft-used phrase, "wow factor."
Also great: the views. You've got the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building on one side, One57 and the under-construction 432 Park Avenue on the other, and far off in the distance both rivers.
But let's take a closer look at the details. Exhibit A: This is the kitchen. Seriously. This. Is. The. Kitchen.
The place is furnished, and the apartment's decorating scheme was inspired by Dom Perignon, which means champagne-colored walls in many of the rooms and this crystal pendant chandelier designed to evoke “the rush of bubbles to the brim of a champagne flute," according to the marketing materials. To me, it felt like the rush of Jagermeister with a Red Bull chaser, the kind of design that overwhelms, rather than enchants.
The living room also features a 29-foot-wide mural by French artists Alex et Marine, which contains the bewildering phrase, "Sir, I have given twenty-six bottles of the best wine in the world." Again, not bad—but a bold move in an apartment that comes furnished.
To be fair, there may be some aging rockstars or wealthy foreign politicos who go in for the mural and the chandelier and, above, the "wine cave," a little room full of shelves for your prized bottles.
But take a look at the guest bedroom, which has the feel of a run-of-the-mill hotel room (the partial headboards, the lack of furniture or art, the small windows and relatively low ceilings).
Not shown: the rickety two-person elevator that probably wouldn't fit all the shopping you could afford if you could swing the rent on this place. I'm not usually afraid of elevators, but this one freaked me out. Above, the second-floor library is inexplicably stocked with books on Andy Warhol and David Lynch. (Remember, this place comes furnished.)
Moving along, this is the master bedroom. For about $347 an hour—I did the math—you expect a paid escort or a real jaw-dropping bedroom, the kind that makes your average New York writer weep a little on the inside for the vast income inequality in this city. But this place? It's not much bigger than my own (admittedly good-sized) bedroom.
Here's the master bathroom, with a bidet, gigantic bathtub and walk-in shower that is, as one guest described it, "perfect for the odd orgy." But the faux pre-war crown moldings, mosaic tile and in-your-face granite (which is easier to see in this listing photo)? Kind of a turn off.
One bonus to living in the New York Palace is that you can access the hotel amenities, including a spa and fitness center, housekeeping, 24-hour room service and those cute little bottles of shampoo and a shower cap. (Sample menu item: an "American" breakfast of eggs, potatoes and coffee for $40.)
Heading up to the third floor, there is a den with a fireplace.
Sitting atop the hotel, the sprawling terrace is eye-level with the city's most iconic buildings, making you feel like you're really in the midst of things.
Unfortunately, the midst of things also includes a ventilation system on the adjacent rooftop that has an unavoidable and disruptive whir (at least on the afternoon we were there).
So, to sum up: there are better ways to spend $250,000 on real estate in this town, at least in my opinion. I'll stick with my place in Brooklyn, my temporary wallpaper, a mattress designed by a tech start-up, and everything else.