By Carter B. Horsley
Despite the fact that Central
Park South has fantastic views of Central Park and the skylines
of the Upper East and Upper West Sides and is anchored at its
east end by the Plaza Hotel (see The City
Review article), the city's most famous hostelry, it has never
quite become the city's most chic boulevard.
Just when some of its famous hotels such as
the Art Deco-style Essex House (see The
City Review article) and Barbizon Plaza (see The
City Review article) opened, the Depression knocked the wind
out of it. After World War II, the bland gray boxy bulk of the
New York Coliseum would soon be erected blocking its westward
vistas. In the 1970s, Harry B. Helmsley built the tall but less
than inspired Park Lane Hotel not far from the Plaza.
In the late 1990s, when the city was in the
midst of a major real estate boom, this building, the former St.
Moritz Hotel, which had previously closed its famous sidewalk
café, closed Rumplemayer's, its famous and not inexpensive
For many years, the St. Moritz had been the
"bargain" hotel on Central Park South, but at the end
of the 1990s, a bidding war erupted over it and Donald Trump announced
he planned to acquire it to add to his already impressive portfolio,
which also included, Trump Parc, an apartment building, directly
across the avenue from it and Trump International Plaza (see The City Review article), a mixed-use
project, at Columbus Circle.
Mr. Trump, however, was unsuccessful and Ian
Shrager, the former partner of Steve Rubell in Studio 54 (see
The City Review article), the legendary
New York disco of the late 1970s and early 1980s, who became the
developer of several boutique hotels such as Morgan's and the
Paramount, won the St. Moritz property.
In the spring of 2000, a new deal for the hotel
was announced under which it would be renovated as a luxury hotel
by the Ritz-Carlton chain and topped by 12 floor-through apartments
developed by Millennium Partners, one of the city's leading builders
of apartment buildings.
The former St. Moritz Hotel was designed by
Emery Roth & Sons, the architects of such legendary residential
buildings as the San Remo (see The
City Review article) and the Beresford (see The
City Review article) on Central Park West, the Normandy on
Riverside Drive and several on Fifth Avenue, as well as many major
While the Central Park South facade of the
building is attractive, its south facade is quite unusual with
many terraces and arched windows and its upper floors have excellent
views of midtown.
In the late 1990s, this neighborhood underwent
a significant renaissance with the opening of many theme restaurants
and brasseries and the approval, after more than a decade of controversy,
of plans to redevelop the former New York Coliseum site at Columbus
Circle with a huge mixed-use project that became the Time Warner
To the east, the news was also good as the Plaza Hotel reopened
in 2008 after a $400 million renovation as both a hotel and a
condominium apartment property.
There are two supermarkets nearby as well as
Carnegie Hall and Bergdorf Goodman. There is excellent cross-town
bus service on 57th Street and a nearby subway station and a McDonalds,
Staples, Rizzoli's, a Radio Shack, a locksmith very close by and
other bookstores and a large computer store not far away. The
entrance to the Central Park Drive North is at this corner, which
is a busy intersection.
This building site was formerly occupied by
the New York Athletic Club in a building designed by W. A. Cable.
The club moved in the late 1920s further west to its present location
at 180 Central Park South (see The City