By Carter Horsley
Congress may have a deal to raise the debt ceiling, but financial uncertainty remains. With some New Yorkers taking a closer look at gold, where should they store their stash? Besides the impregnable fortress of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the safety deposit facilities of the local bank branch, there are a few residential buildings—from former banks to grand apartments of the rich and famous—that inspire confidence and trust.
1. Apple Bank Building, 2112 Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets
The top four floors of this impressive, eight-story, landmark building were converted into 29 residential condominium apartments in 2006—but the bank’s grand hall at the base of the building remains unchanged. Its residential portion has a lobby designed by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and a gym inside the bank’s vault. Built in 1928 for the Central Savings Bank, it was designed by York & Sawyer in the same monumental, Italian Renaissance-palazzo style of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Building downtown.
2. Cipriani Residences at 55 Wall Street
With its two tiers of large columns, this “low-rise” building reeks with monumentality and history. It opened in 1842 as the Merchant Exchange and became home to the New York Stock Exchange until 1854, then served as the Custom House from 1862 to 1907, when it was acquired by the National City Bank Corporation for its headquarters. It now houses 106 furnished apartments and a very handsome and large library.
3. The Police Building at 240 Centre Street
What can be more secure than a bank vault? A majestic police headquarters building. Smack in the middle of Little Italy’s tenement buildings is this spectacular Baroque-revival-style palace that was designed by Hoppin & Koen in 1909 as the headquarters of the New York City Police Department. After the police moved out in 1973, the building fell into limbo after many years of neglect. The success of SoHo and NoHo revived interest in the property and in 1988 it was converted into cooperative apartments. The 55-unit conversion, designed by Ehrenkrantz Group & Eckstut, was one of the nation’s finest examples of re-use of historical properties.
4. 77 Eighth Avenue on the southwest corner at 14th Street
In the old days, banks built their own small, but very impressive bank buildings all over town rather than renting some prosaic ground floor corner spaces in apartment buildings. Many of the old, ornate bank buildings have been converted to retail uses or demolished, but a few remain. This former New York County Bank Building was built in 1907 and converted to 11 residential condominiums and 12,000-square feet of retail space by Richard Fiore and Laura Bohn in 1999.
5. 20 Exchange Place between William and Beaver Streets
It’s all about substance. Colorful marbles and metals and stones calm the nerves at 20 Exchange Place, constructed in 1931 as the City Bank Farmers Trust Building. At that time the 57-story building was the fourth tallest building in the world and it remained among the 10 tallest buildings in New York until 1970. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Cross and Cross.
6. 20 Pine Street The Collection at Nassau Street
Although this is not in the beautiful skyscraper sweepstakes, it has a huge lobby overlooking the very grand plaza with sunken fountain by Isamu Noguchi of One Chase Manhattan Plaza. This 35-story building was erected in 1928 and converted to more than 400 residential condominiums in 2007, and boasts many amenities including a pool and a golf simulation room.
7. Downtown by Philippe Starck at 15 Broad Street
This 42-story building has about 326 condominium apartments and includes the five-story former J.P.Morgan building at 23 Wall Street and its large roof deck overlooking theNew York Stock Exchange. Converted to condominium apartments in 2007, it has its own squash court and bowling alley by Leviev Boymelgreen. In its lobby a huge, 1,900-piece, Louis XV chandelier that previously hung in the banking hall at 23 Wall Street hovers flamboyantly inches off the floor.
8. 998 Fifth Avenue at 81st Street
One of the world’s most magnificent apartment buildings, 998 Fifth Avenue was designed by McKim, Mead & White. An inflated Italian Renaissance-style palazzo structure, the building would delight the Medicis and is widely credited with convincing New York’s very rich that apartments were acceptable habitats. Although only 12 stories tall, its limestone rustication, yellow Sienna marble panels and large cornice topped by a pitched, cooper roof convey a marvelous sense of monumentality. Built as a rental in 1912 and converted to a cooperative in 1953, the building had jewelry and silver wall safes in each apartment.
9. The Osborne at 205 West 57th Street northwest corner at Seventh Avenue
The Osborne, which was built in 1883, was one of New York’s first major luxury apartment buildings and despite its somber and imposing appearance is palatial. While the facades are a heavily rusticated combination of the Romanesque Revival and Italian Renaissance Palazzo styles, the lobby is a luminous, vaulted, Byzantine dream of gilded tiles. For those privileged to live here, the romance of secret treasures is not fictional. No other apartment building can boast as sumptuous and dazzling lobby nor as confusing a set of floor plans.
10. River House at 435 East 52nd Street
This Art Deco residential pinnacle of the good life has long since lost its yacht moorings but still has fabulous apartments and river views, lobby cloakrooms for party guests, a large staff, and the River Club. Residents tend to be well-groomed and well financed enough not to care too much about a few gold bars.
Carter Horsley is the editorial director of CityRealty.com and the former real estate editor and architecture critic of the New York Post. Previously, he was a reporter for the New York Times and architecture critic for the International Herald Tribune.