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30 East 85th Street

Southwest corner at Madison Avenue

30 East 85th Street from the south

30 East 85th Street seen from the southeast

By Carter B. Horsley

One of the few, new, tall, post-World War II buildings on the Upper East Side west of Lexington Avenue, this 30-story tower is one of the most luxurious.

The building has a very attractive, two-story granite base and a very impressive entrance on the side-street with a large marquee flanked by flowerboxes.

Above its low-rise base, the tower, which rises in several setbacks to a slanted crown, is freestanding. Most units have corner balconies and there are some terraces.

Top of the tower

Top of the tower

The large, slanted crown of the building is illuminated at night.

Clearly, the developers, Donald Zucker and Joseph Slifka, wanted to create a first-class property befitting its prime location close to Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue and the staggering vistas from many of its units.

The original scheme called for 104 units but by the time the building was completed several were combined and the building has 90 apartments, all with solid wood doors, cherry wood floors and, most rare for a post-war building, plaster walls.

As if in deference to its aspirations, two old low-rise buildings immediately to the west on 85th Street were rebuilt into luxurious, modern townhouses designed by Gwathmey Siegel Associates, a nice complement, and, more importantly, a major improvement to the streetscape.

The design of the tower by Schuman, Lichtenstein, Claman & Efron is fine in its proportions, but the choice of a pale, salmon-colored brick was unfortunate. Some older apartment houses nearby are clad in light-beige brick and the architects here deserve credit for attempting to find a compatible, contextual color as well as a distinctive one. The color is a bit odd, but not offensive and the brickwork seems less than perfect, and the mansard-like watertank enclosure is a little clumsy. Still, the overall impression here is of considerable quality and modern apartments at such an extremely desirable location and with such views are very rare.


Entrance is flanked by flowerboxes with spiked ledges

The condominium tower was completed in 1987. The developer bought the air rights to the three buildings to the south on Madison Avenue for $1.5 million and the estimated construction cost of the project was over $60 million. An article by Lisa W. Foderaro in the February 27, 1987 edition of The New York Times said that "the overall sellout price on the condominiums is $96,967,000.

In addition to a concierge and doorman, the building has elevator operators and a garage and some of the apartments have bidets. The windows were imported from the Netherlands, the glass and ash-blond kitchen cabinets were form France and the kitchen sinks from Germany and all the bathrooms have marble walls and floors and whirlpool baths. Although it does not have a health club, pool and sundeck, its second floor is leased to the David Barton Gym, which has extensive facilities.

When it was erected, the building offered four, 4-bedroom duplexes on the top two floors for about $5 million each.

The only real drawback is that 85th Street is a major access street to a transverse road in Central Park to the Upper West Side.

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