Having a private elevator that opens directly into your New York City apartment sounds swanky—if you can afford it. But is it safe?
In this Buy Curious, Brick turns to Jeff Garlin, an agent at Corcoran, to hear about where you can find apartments with this amenity, who typically buys them, what security measures you should expect—and what to do when someone you don't know gets on the elevator heading to your apartment.
[Editor's Note: A previous version of this post was published in August 2021. We are presenting it again with updated information for August 2022.]
I’ve been thinking of buying an apartment with a private keyed elevator, but I’m concerned about safety. Do I need to worry about strangers getting into the elevator with me? How does it work?
Garlin has lived in a condo with a keyed elevator, and has first-hand experience with the pros and cons of this feature.
“From the lobby the elevator looks no different from traditional ones that open onto common hallways,” he says. “First-time visitors are often very surprised to find themselves staring directly into our apartment when the doors open.”
How exactly do they work?
To keep people from having unauthorized access to residents’ homes, most of these types of elevators have a key-lock system, Garlin says. A resident’s key will only allow access to their specific floor.
There are variations of this like magnetic cards in the control board of the elevator, keypads with codes, and even fingerprint readers. The elevator door won’t open unless you enter the right combination or access with the right key.
Where are they found?
This is a luxury amenity, so you can expect apartments to be large, mostly whole-floor and penthouse units.
“Because a private keyed-elevator system is usually found in buildings with one or possibly two apartments per floor, these homes generally take up more square footage than apartments accessed off a common hallway,” Garlin says.
This feature is found primarily in new construction condo buildings, as well as in buildings that are industrial-to-residential conversions in Soho, Tribeca, and Chelsea in Manhattan, and Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn.
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Will you be more likely to find them in co-op or condo buildings?
Definitely condos. Garlin says this is due to liability issues if service goes out.
“Basically, in a co-op or a rental building the loss of elevator service can be viewed by the state as a breach of the quiet enjoyment that is considered a right of the occupant,” he explains. “In a condominium this is not the case. The state does not extend the same rights to the owner of individual units. The loss of elevator service does not permit those owners to withhold common charges or take other similar actions against the board as it is seen by the state to be a direct violation of the bylaws that govern condominium properties.”
Are these apartments more secure?
Most of these types of apartments are in posh buildings with doormen. Garlin’s own building has a video intercom, which can be activated to view the interior of the elevator.
In addition, he says, "I have a secondary steel door that has a bolt lock. When the elevator stops on my floor and opens, if that secondary door has not been unlocked, entry to the apartment cannot be gained. The secondary security door is very nondescript; it just looks like any apartment entry door and blends well with our décor.”
Sometimes there are steel gates just outside the elevator. And for extra security, cameras with multiple views and alarms are also common.
Additional precautions also have to be taken if you have young children. Garlin has two kids, and in his home, the elevator makes a pinging noise before it arrives on his floor. “That is a necessity for me so that I am aware if my kids have called it,” he says. “If the bell were silenced, they could easily slip downstairs without my knowledge.”
Do you have to worry about a stranger getting into the elevator with you?
Not really. In new construction condo buildings, there is a doorman who controls the access to the building. And loft buildings are generally small—only one unit per floor—so you’ll more than likely recognize most of the people in your building.
And in the event that you ever do find yourself in the elevator with someone unfamiliar, remember that without special key access the door will not open on your floor.
Does having a private elevator add to the price?
“Almost every [buyer] perceives it as a bonus and will be willing to concede it adds to the apartment’s value,” Garlin says. “They may not have been seeking this, but almost all will feel it adds to the overall perception of the apartment having more panache.”
As to how much it can add to the price, Garlin feels that that can only be determined on a case-by-case basis. “If the building is swank and newly converted you can push it a bit. But if you outstrip your non-keyed competition by too much your listing may sit longer than desired,” he says.
Celebrities, high-net-worth individuals, and people with security concerns are the most interested in this type of amenity.
Check out these apartments with elevators that open into them.
863 Saint Marks Ave., #4B, Crown Heights
This three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath duplex has a private terrace outside the primary suite that overlooks Brower Park. The condo is listed for $1,399,000. The top floor is accessible by a private elevator that opens directly into the unit. Monthly taxes are $830 and common charges are $865.
658 Bergen St., #4E, Prospect Heights
This two-story, two-bedroom, one-bath penthouse near Prospect Park has a 445-square-foot roof deck and floor-to-ceiling windows. It is asking $1,520,000. A private elevator accesses the open living area on the lower level. Monthly taxes are $54 and common charges are $918.
210 South First St., #6A, Williamsburg
This two-bedroom, one-bath penthouse condo is listed for $1,550,000. It has three outdoor spaces, 1,069 square feet of living space, and a private keyed elevator that opens into the foyer. Monthly taxes are $75 and common charges are $413.
177 East 79th St., #5, Upper East Side
This two-bedroom, two-bath condo has a large living room, new windows and custom cabinetry. The chef-style kitchen has a Bosch dishwasher, microwave and stove and a Fisher & Paykel refrigerator. It is asking $1,695,000 and has a private elevator. Monthly maintenance is $2,576.
386 Columbus Ave., #5A, Upper West Side
This two-bedroom, two-bath condo faces the American Museum of Natural History. The renovated apartment is asking $1,995,000. A private elevator landing leads to the living and dining area. Monthly taxes are $1,588 and common charges are $2,150.
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