By the Numbers

Why Roosevelt Island should be on buyers’ radar

By Alanna Schubach | August 8, 2016 - 8:59AM 

555 Main Street: A two-bedroom co-op, listed for $1.03 million, is slightly above Roosevelt Island's median price range, but offers multiple views of the East River in a building with many amenities, including an indoor pool. 

That sliver of land between Queens and Manhattan is often overlooked by prospective buyers, but Roosevelt Island may be worthy of your consideration.

“It’s not on the radar for most people,” says Constantine Valhouli, founder of data site NeighborhoodX, of the area. “But it offers one of the best commutes anywhere.”

The island in the East River remains mysterious to, and misunderstood by, many New Yorkers, but the commute is definitely one of its biggest assets, especially if you work in Midtown. The four-minute tram ride offers what is arguably the most scenic public transit option around, and the F train delivers locals right to Lexington and 63rd. If you drive, you have easy access to several bridges to Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. And once you’re on Roosevelt Island, you can travel its two-mile span via a free bus that makes a loop around the island every 15 minutes.

As for the housing stock, you’ll find mostly high-rise co-ops, many of which boast stunning views and offer amenities like gyms, doorman service, and even indoor pools. Some properties, like The Octagon, also come with fascinating backstories from turn-of-the-century New York. And best of all, you’ll pay a fraction of what you would on the Upper East Side, Valhouli says.

As with many neighborhoods, there's quite a range, price-wise, for properties. NeighborhoodX crunched the numbers and found that the average sales listing price for Roosevelt is $867 per square foot. Compare that to the Upper East Side, where the average is a much steeper $1,395 per square foot, according to Trulia.

“Numbers are still relatively modest, and there are still relative bargains to be had,” Valhouli says, “but units might come with a caveat.”

A two-bedroom co-op at 531 Main Street, for instance, on the market for $1.3 million or $945 per square foot, is described in the listing as needing updating “to achieve its full potential.”

There are caveats: Roosevelt Island is short on entertainment and shopping, though it does offer plenty of green space thanks to parks at the north and south ends of the island. The neighborhood may gain more nightlife options once its newest tenant settles in: The new Cornell Tech campus will open on the island in 2017 and bring hundreds of students and faculty with it. Valhouli predicts that this will be a game changer for the neighborhood: “I don’t think it will last for too much longer as an underdog,” he says.

Here’s what you’ll find in the area now:

At the uppermost end of the Roosevelt Island price range is this two-bedroom condo, listed for $1.32 million, or $1,175 per square foot. The high price could be attributable to the unit’s floor-to-ceiling window views of the East River, as well as the building’s perks, which include doorman and concierge service, a roof deck, gym, and yoga studio.

At the other end of the Roosevelt Island price range is a co-op studio listed for $410,000, or $687 per square foot. This is a sponsor unit, so no need to worry about board approval; the apartment has been recently renovated and features upscale finishes and high-end appliances. Though you won’t be facing the river, you can splash around in the building’s indoor pool.              

Right around the neighborhood median is this three-bedroom co-op, listed for $1.395 million or $842 per square foot. Also a sponsor unit, the newly renovated duplex offers river views from the spacious living room and den, as well as from two of its bedrooms, new fixtures and finishes, and luxe appliances.


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