Transitions

From UWS to Harlem: We upgraded from a rental to a new condo facing Central Park

By Kelly Kreth | February 11, 2022 - 9:30AM 

The perks of buying in a brand-new condo building: When Lane and Lily Rettig's baby is born, it will be the first baby to live there.

Lane and Lily Rettig seized the opportunity to buy a brand-new condo in the south part of Harlem—a neighborhood that’s not very well defined but feels like a haven to them. With new friends in the building for weekly game nights, there’s now less of a need to visit buzzier old haunts in the city. And with a baby on the way, they’ll make some history with the first baby in their new building. Here's Lane’s story.

I was born in NYC and raised in South Jersey. My wife Lily was born in China and raised in Los Angeles. Most recently we were living in a rental on the Upper West Side. It was a two-bedroom, two-bath unit with about 1,000 square feet. We paid $4,000 a month.

We loved our top-floor walkup in a brownstone, which had tons of charm and character. There were skylights in both bathrooms and the kitchen, and mini heaters in the bathrooms, which were super unique. We also loved having an in-unit washer and dryer. The back faced an inner courtyard so we had lots of light and could see trees and birds. One downside was that the front of our apartment faced a very busy, noisy street.


[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]


However, we loved pretty much everything about UWS. We liked to go to the Museum of Natural History and Central Park—we spent lots of time there, plus we had easy access to groceries with both Trader Joes and Whole Foods right nearby, as well as lots of amazing restaurants nearby.

We liked to grab coffee at Birch and something to eat at Halal Guys, Moonrise Izakaya, Sushi Nonaka, Gyu-Kaku, Bareburger, and Levain Bakery. I honestly can't think of anything we didn't like about the neighborhood.

I work from home (and have for years) as a software developer. Lily has been working from home since the pandemic started, but occasionally commutes to an office in Newark where she works as a designer via New Jersey Transit.

Since we were getting married soon and planning on starting a family, and because of market conditions, it made sense to buy. We were definitely ready for more long-term stability and wanted to stop paying rent and start building equity. Our goal was to find a place we both really loved that we could invest in and really make a home. We hoped for some amenities like a doorman and elevator that we didn't have before.

Lots of people were leaving the city but we are both NYC lifers and wanted to double down on the city—we are a bit contrarian that way.

We enlisted the help of Jeny Lin, an agent at eRealty International Corp. It took around three months of serious looking, pretty much every weekend, seeing about four places per weekend. Our criteria for location, building type, and amenities, made it a bit easier—there weren't actually that many places that met our requirements. In all we saw about 30 apartments.

Lily saw a listing online for a three-bedroom, two-bath condo at 145 Central Park North, a new construction building in Harlem. The 10th-floor apartment was pleasing: 1,400 square feet, including two outdoor terraces, in a fairly soundproof, 13-story building.

The site has an unusual footprint—it is wider (at 100 feet) than it is long and faces Central Park. The building’s apartments have floor-to-ceiling windows with wireless, automated window shades. We were sold on those views and knew this was the one for us!

We initially went to the building to look at two-bedroom units that were priced around $1.8 million. We looked at the three-bedroom units out of curiosity and found a huge difference: more space and light. Since we were planning to start family we knew we would likely need the extra space, so we went for the three bedroom for $3.5 million.

Thankfully there was no interview because it is a condo building. It was smoother than we expected although the fact that it's a new building made it a little bit more complicated, for example, when we closed, we weren't totally sure when we would be able to move in. Thankfully the closing was totally normal—it even happened in person, the old-fashioned way!

We have parking in the building, which is convenient. When there’s no traffic we can be over the George Washington Bridge and out of the city in 20 minutes. As for the subway, it's 14 minutes to Times Square and 16 minutes to Penn Station on an express train, which is great. Lily is not commuting regularly but we did pick this location so that it would be an easy trip to her office.

We really don't know how to define the neighborhood—it is a mixed bag and definitely up and coming. It sits in-between a bunch of well-defined neighborhoods: UWS, Morningside, Harlem, East Harlem, UES, but it's none of those. Central Park North is sort of its own micro-neighborhood. Walking 15-20 minutes into any of those other neighborhoods you can get tons of different vibes. 

We have so far enjoyed: Harlem Pizza Co., Teranga, Cantina Mexican, BlueFin Fish Market, The Hungarian Pastry Shop and Lido Harlem.

I run a lot, at least or one or two laps around the park every day, and I hold pretty much every digital record for most runs around Central Park. You can see the building from the park drive, which means I’ve actually passed it hundreds of times while it was under construction and didn't even notice it until Lily and Jenny mentioned it. I used to also commute to Columbia and pass the building lot every day, but back then there was a church on this site.

The northeast corner of the park, where you find the Harlem Meer and Lasker Rink, is really beautiful due to, but it's been closed and under construction for years because things happen so slowly here! My favorite place in the park is the North Woods, which we can now see from our living room!

We've had a few wine-and-cheese-type gatherings with our neighbors in the building, which is pretty rare for New York City. We know everyone who lives here and they are an amazing group of people—very international.

We are expecting a baby in May and it will be the first baby born in the building! We are very happy with our decision to buy and to live in this unique part of the city.

 

Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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