By Carter B. Horsley
One of the newer apartment
houses on Central Park West, this building was erected as a condominium
in 1988 and is one of the few buildings in the city to have curved-glass
The windows not only are
very graceful notes to the building's asymmetrical composition
but also take advantage of its stupendous views of Central Park.
The building's asymmetrical
shape was determined by special "contextual" zoning
that the city enacted in the 1980s that called for floors to be
setback above the boulevard's traditional "building wall
height" of 15 stories. Similar zoning is in place along much
of Broadway where numerous buildings with the same kind of setbacks
were built beginning in the 1980s, although most of those had
more symmetrical setbacks because they were on larger sites. The
only other building on Central Park West similar to this one is
at 353 Central Park West at 95th Street, but it does not have
This building has only 38
apartments, some of which are duplexes. It has a three-story limestone
base with very handsome window grills on the first floor. Its
canopied entrance leads to a revolving door and a large lobby
with dark wood paneling.
There is excellent cross-town
bus service as well as a subway station two blocks south on Central
Park West at 86th Street.
Although the building's
silhouette is a bit clumsy, it offers great views, modern conveniences,
a good location and the exclusivity of few apartments.
There are many terraces
and bay windows and there is excellent public transportation within
a couple of blocks. The building has no garage and no balconies
and no sundeck. The building has a concierge.
In his excellent book, "Luxury
Apartment Houses Of Manhattan, An Illustrated History," (Dover
Publications, Inc., 1992), Andrew Alpern devotes an entire chapter
to this fascinating building and its neighbor just to the south,
a high-rise apartment building at 279 Central Park West that replaced
the Italian-Renaissance-palazzo-style Progress Club that was subsequently
converted into the Walden School.
"The St. Urban,"
Alpern wrote, "has not been a stranger to notoriety and controversy....its
stockholder-residents banded together in 1987 in an unsuccessful
attempt to obtain official landmark status for the adjoining former
Progress Club. Trying futilely to block the building's high-rise
replacement tower, the residents were motivated at least in part
by the potential loss of park views from their southern windows.
They were ultimately rebuffed by New York's Landmarks Preservation
Commission, which pointed to the 1958 removal of the club building's
massive cornice and the addition of a fifth floor by the school."
"A cornice," Alpern
continued, "had figured in an earlier controversy. In 1905,
even before the St. Urban was completed, attorneys for the Progress
Club filed a lawsuit against Peter Banner arguing that the cornice
at the top of the southern wall encroached upon their air space
and caused rainwater to drip onto the northern portion of their
roof garden, reducing its usefulness. During the construction
of Banner's building there was a partial collapse of the structure.
Although no one was killed, the incident caused the builder much
grief and may have contributed to his ultimate loss of the building."
Alpern reported that Banner hoped to rent apartments for $3,000
to $4,500 a year, but overextended himself and defaulted on his
mortgage. "The building was brought at a foreclosure sale
by a lawyer, Albert Forsch, for $1,130,000. Forsch, in turn, sold
it in August 1906 to the Barstun Realty Company, which rented
out the units," Alpern wrote.
The Progress Club completed
its handsome building designed by Louis Korn in 1904, but closed
in 1931 and subsequently the building was acquired by the school,
which altered and expanded the building.