Posts Tagged ‘holdout buildings’

Holdout tenements dwarfed by towering giants

October 24, 2013


Every so often on New York City streets you come across a faded old walkup or tenement that’s holding its own beside a gleaming tower or tall office building.

It’s hard not to be charmed by these little underdogs, whose owners likely turned down a hefty buyout offer for the property.

I love these two buddy tenements on Third Avenue and 22nd Street, once probably part of a late 19th century row of tenements that looked just like them.

New York is all about change, and lovely buildings are always being torn down to make way for something new.

Yet there’s something strangely satisfying about a massive 20-story co-op being forced to build around these two stragglers.


On East 59th Street sits the well-maintained walkup below—squeezed between handsome 1920s residences that are at least six times the little building’s height.


Also in the East 50s is this little guy—a fire-engine red old-school walkup wedged against a 20+ story apartment building, with other apartment residences casting cold shadows over it on its right and from behind.


What’s it like to live in an architectural relic—left behind from an older, smaller-scale New York—that refused to budge as the city marched forward?

Holdout buildings that refused the wrecking ball

March 12, 2012

You see them all over New York streets: two, three, even four-story tenements or townhouses that stayed put while bigger, grander, and wealthier buildings went up around them.

The back story isn’t always clear, but it’s safe to assume that the developers on either side would have paid a nice price for the right to knock these little holdouts down.

But they wouldn’t budge—and today, they stand out size-wise and architecturally. And New York is a more diverse city because of them.

One of my favorites is this slender Gothic-inspired townhouse on the Upper West Side (above), flanked by massive prewar apartment buildings up and down the block.

Another good one is on Eighth Avenue around 40th Street. The squat three-story building with the porn shop on the ground floor (above) is like a middle finger to the developers.

In Murray Hill on East 35th Street is this lime-colored Victorian-era townhouse (right). You can just imagine that the entire block was probably once dotted with identical structures.

Now, it’s the lone survivor, with a red-brick apartment residence crowding it out on one side and an academic building belonging to Yeshiva University on the other.

This Queen Anne house in Washington Heights isn’t as squished in as the other buildings. But it’s still a holdout.

Now a church, its existence prevented builders from putting up yet another tenement or dull apartment building, and it serves as a reminder of a time when even Manhattan had detached houses on its streets.

Here’s the story of a little-known but very recognizable holdout building in the middle of Macy’s.

The tiny holdout building in the middle of Macy’s

March 3, 2011

For decades it’s been hidden behind billboards or wrapped in a giant faux shopping bag. Many shoppers never even notice it.

But old photos reveal a five-story building (right, in 1906), sticking out like a sore thumb in front of the world’s most iconic department store.

Although Macy’s leases ad space on it, the five-story building has never been owned by the store and is one of the most famous “holdouts” in New York real estate history.

It all started around 1900, when Macy’s, then located on West 14th Street, began picking up land in Herald Square for its huge new shopping mecca.

Macy’s had a verbal agreement to buy a plot at the corner of 34th and Broadway. But an agent acting on behalf of rival department store Siegel-Cooper scored the plot instead.

Reportedly the agent wanted Macy’s to give Siegel-Cooper its 14th Street store in exchange for the land at 34th Street.

But Macy’s wouldn’t have it. The store was built around the plot.

In 1903, Siegel-Cooper put up the five-story building there today.

[Above, how Macy's covered up the building in 1936 and in the 1960s]


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