One Vanderbilt, a 1,501-foot office tower on Vanderbilt ave. between 42nd and 43rd sts., has ousted two PR groups from their offices and put a focus on escalating costs and congestion in Manhattan.

“OneOne Vanderbilt

Moving from 317 Madison Ave. at 42nd are the Arthur W. Page Society, now at 230 Park Ave., suite 455, and the PR Council, now at 32 E. 31st St., ninth floor.

One Vanderbilt, taller than the Empire State Building and which has been argued about for years, failing passage during the previous Bloomberg Administration, was approved May 27 by the NYC Council. Investor Andrew Penson, who owns Grand Central and the air rights above it, argued unsuccessfully that SL Green Realty should have purchased the development rights from him.

One Vanderbilt supposedly will provide "easier access to the subway and MetroNorth" although we have never experienced a problem with entering Grand Central Station for either purpose.

One of the complaints against this building, and others that will allowed on Vanderbilt, is that they will increase overcrowding in Manhattan. More than 100 proponents and opponents showed up at a public hearing Aug. 7, 2013. 

Offices and apartments generate lots of vehicular traffic not only from the occupants but from the numerous companies and people that serve them such as limousines, domestic help, decorators, etc. Manhattan streets suffer from traffic jams more than ever.

"Needle" Apartments Add to Congestion

Adding to the congestion are the numerous "needle" apartments that are springing up as described by Paul Goldberger in the May 2014 Vanity Fair article, "Too Rich, Too Thin, Too Tall?"

The most obvious of these is 432 Park Ave. at 56th St., which describes itself as the "tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere."

The 1,396-foot building sticks out like a sore thumb amid other Park ave. buildings that are a fraction of its size.

Daily Kos, the liberal-oriented website, said 432 Park "speaks to the insatiable appetite of the world’s greatly expanded billionaire class. Middle Eastern oil magnates, Chinese billionaires, Russian oligarchs and the Latin American aristocracy all have one thing in common: more money than they know what to do with and a desperation to get as much of it out of their home countries as possible. New York real estate works very well as both a facilitator of this as well as a store of value."

Daily Kos says that tax revenues to New York City for 432 Park will be minimal because of tax breaks given to the builders and owners. Ownership of units in the buildings is often masked by a series of "shell companies," said a New York Times article Feb. 7, 2015 by Louise Story and Stephanie Saul. It was headlined: "Stream of Foreign Wealth Flows to Elite New York Real Estate." Transactions are often in cash, hiding public exposure, it said.

NYC PR Workers Face High Costs

The influx of domestic as well as foreign funds into New York real estate, both for rental and owned units, drives up the prices of each and makes finding affordable living quarters for those working in New York’s large PR industry a formidable problem.

Rent in a class A building can easily be $2,500 and more monthly for as little as 500-600 sq. ft. One-bedroom condos average about $1.5 million in price. An example of escalating prices in New York is that the 1,600 sq. ft. attached brick house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, purchased by the O'Dwyer family in 1965 for $24,500 is now valued at $777,000. The house next to it sold last year for $665,000. The price has risen 31 times while the Consumer Price Index has risen seven times from that period.

Students who came to New York last summer shared some of their experiences with us in finding living quarters.

One intern paid $1,750 monthly for a 9X12-foot "box" on the Upper East Side that didn’t include a bathroom.

That was in the hall and she shared it with a dozen others on the floor. She had to take a six-month lease. The room had a bed, desk, drawers and a closet and reminded her of her college dorm.

She said she should have looked for space in Brooklyn or Queens and advised future interns to do so. Her fears that the boroughs might be dangerous or take too much time getting to and from work have now been brushed aside.

Her room included access to a gym, swimming pool, exercise room and an indoor track. Lectures, classes and concerts were available for the residents.

While the rent was "a burden," she also feels she had "wonderful experiences" in New York. She liked being close to midtown. The paid internship was not enough to pay living costs but her parents made up the difference.

Student Paid $4.2K for 2.5 Months

Another intern paid $4,200 for two and a half months or about $1,680 a month. She came from Tennessee and "did not know anybody and did not have a lot of money to spend."

She did as much advance research as possible, looking for something in the "heart of the city" which was also "safe."

She used to find a place near Herald Square at Ave. of the Americas and 34th st.  The "spacious" apartment, which she shared with two roommates, included a full kitchen, bathroom, and laundry access and was close to the subway.

The building had a 24-hour concierge, full gym with fitness classes, and private roof access. Rent was due in full at the start of the summer. She enjoyed going out to eat in Greenwich Village and Soho. Co-workers knew the city and suggested many places, she said.

College Dorms About $1,200 Monthly

Some interns found quarters at college dorms at New York University, Columbia and Fordham, among others. Rates start at around $300 a week. A room without air conditioning was priced at $187 weekly.

One student, unable to afford Manhattan prices, was able to board with a relative in Westchester for the summer. The only major cost was the monthly train ticket of around $200.