The Grinnell, a stately co-op in upper Manhattan, might just be the city’s best-kept secret — yet.
Filled with spacious homes, a strong sense of community, and dramatically lower maintenance costs than comparable buildings, the property sits in a sleepy corner of Washington Heights at 800 Riverside Drive. It also rarely has openings – but house hunters and other property-curious dwellers now have their best shot in years at becoming members of this exclusive, under-the-radar club.
In this 83-unit structure, where residents typically spend decades, there are now an unprecedented four apartments for sale. When they exchange hands, they will mark the first sales at the Grinnell since 2020, according to StreetEasy, when just two units sold. In 2019, only three units found new owners.
“I don’t remember when [four homes] were on the market at the same time,” said Bruce Robertson, 71, a longtime Grinnell resident. Robertson, also a Compass broker, represents six-piece unit 8H, which listed on Saturday for $1.59 million – its first listing in 45 years. Aptly called a “hidden treasure” in its marketing description, this upper floor features three bedrooms, a great room over 23 feet long, a glass-fronted kitchen with the original glass cabinets, a formal dining room with wa and view of the George Washington Bridge.
A day later, according to StreetEasy, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment — and tony touches such as picture moldings — listed for $1 million with RE/MAX Sparrow Realty.
Other availabilities include Unit GRI, an eight-room duplex, which is now asking for $1.99 million after going on sale for $2.2 million in April. It has three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Features include French doors, a paneled dining room, original oak floors and cabinetry, and mahogany doors with mirror. (Instead of a traditional listing, this home — represented by Hauseit — is an owner-assisted listing.)
There’s even Unit 2A — an 1,800-square-foot three-bedroom with French doors, crown molding, and bonus spaces including a library, entry hall, maid’s room, and pantry. He listed in September for $1.35 million – and is represented by Jamella Swift of Keller Williams NYC.
Occupying a full triangle-shaped block between 157th and 158th Streets – and Riverside Drive and Edward Morgan Place – the Grinnell offers homes from a bygone era in New York City. The smaller apartment has five rooms and measures 1,100 square feet; the largest has over 10 rooms and spans 2,700 square feet. Built in 1911 and designed by architects Schwartz & Gross, it is a building rich in history with a Mediterranean-style facade, a porte-cochere opening onto an interior courtyard – and other classic interior details, including wooden floors hardwood floors, leaded glass transoms and 10 foot ceilings. The property includes a gym, bicycle storage and a rooftop terrace.
Besides the glamor of the grand dame and the million-dollar asking prices, many New Yorkers don’t know it’s a co-op of the Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) – meaning that ‘It is part of the city’s affordable housing stock and has certain income restrictions for home purchases. It’s one of the most successful co-ops of its kind, and it “has worked well in maintaining Grinnell’s great infrastructure over the years,” Robertson said.
That said, the Grinnell is the perfect uptown turn-of-the-century apartment building for savvy New York royalty who, with the right income requirements, can act now to secure a coveted deal. It’s no surprise that residents end up staying put.
“People who buy into the Grinnell don’t move because it’s a wonderful place to live,” said Robertson, who is also a former member of the building’s board and has sold 10 units in the building over the years.
Robertson has lived in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with his wife, also a realtor, for 22 years. They found the apartment on a whim after getting the price for their Upper East Side condo and immediately knew the building was special. He loves south-facing windows, bright light, solid construction, high ceilings, hardwood floors, and quiet.
“Overall, it’s hard to sum up just how special the Grinnell is and how it happened. Especially because it’s such a cohesive community of residents, many families who grew up, now replaced by young families, who care about each other,” Robertson said. “We don’t always agree on the issues facing a 112-year-old historic building of its size and scope. through them and are proud of a beautiful structure that looks and feels like living in a castle, in a bucolic area with wonderful neighbors in other comparable buildings.
Other longtime residents agree that it is a building with a beautiful spirit.
Bruce Kanze, 74, an assistant lecturer at the nearby City College of New York, moved to the Grinnell in December 1977 and lived in apartment 3B. He moved to 8F in March 1982, an eight-room, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, with his wife and three children, where he has lived ever since.
“There is a sense of community and we love our neighbours,” Kanze said. He recalled fond memories of climbing the mulberry tree in front of the building and picking berries with his daughters, setting up summer lemonade stands with them — and feasting crabs with the neighbors. “We would buy bushels and line the tables with paper bags and see who had the biggest pile of crab shells,” he added.
But another reason people stay in the Grinnell for so long is its HDFC title. It is one of 1,100 HDFC cooperatives in the city, where residents are collective shareholders and owners of the building. The status dates back to 1982 when residents successfully purchased the Grinnell from the city after a campaign that included the slogan “Buildings for the People, Not for Profit.” Along with the tony interiors and like-minded community, part of the ownership requirements include a flip tax, which also keeps residents in place. The resulting funds are paid into the building’s capital reserve.
In addition to revenue restrictions, a property tax abatement makes maintenance less important than other co-ops of comparable size and stature. In contrast, a 2,000 square foot four-room apartment at 116 Pinehurst Ave. will cost you $1.58 million with $3,400 per month in maintenance. Similarly, a three-bedroom co-op in the century-old Riviera across West 157th Street from the Grinnell costs $1.79 million with $2,174 a month in maintenance. Robertson’s $1.59 million listing, for example, has $1,448 per month in maintenance. Both GRI and 2A units have monthly fees of $1,450, StreetEasy shows.
Wayne Benjamin, 64, an architect who bought a two-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot co-op in the Grinnell in 1987 for just $85,000 — around $228,000 today — has no plans to go nowhere. He enjoys cooking in his large kitchen and listening to music on his vinyl record player – or jazz on an old-fashioned FM radio with a pair of speakers. It also benefits from cross-ventilation rare in New York, as every room in the apartment is exposed – so it can open the windows in the dining room, which overlook the courtyard, and the patio doors and windows in the living room across the hall, which face the street and enjoy year-round breezes.
But in the end, it’s the people.
“It comes down to what’s important,” Benjamin said of the appeal Grinnell has for keeping him there. “There are things you share with others – common concerns and interests that you come together to address. It’s what creates the sense of community that can make a building or neighborhood a wonderful place to live.
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