From its beginning in the 1830s, when Samuel B. Ruggles began to develop Gramercy Park in Manhattan, centered on a private two-acre green space, the neighborhood was meant for the moneyed class. It has expanded through the years to include blocks bordering the East Village and the Flatiron district, but the name still carries prestige.
Christopher Kremer, 28, cares about none of that. Last year he bought a 550-square-foot studio in a 1960s co-op on East 21st Street and Third Avenue for $549,000. “I just like the convenience of it,” he said. “For me, time is money.”
Mr. Kremer, a history teacher, walks to work at the High School for Health Professions & Human Services on East 15th Street. To afford his monthly mortgage of just over $2,000, he said he was cooking more and has stopped contributing to a retirement account that is separate from his teacher’s pension.
“New York City real estate seemed like a safe way to invest my money instead,” he said. “Because of the area, I don’t ever envision a problem reselling this place.”
Those more interested in privacy and status, and who have substantially deeper pockets, may gravitate to the blocks surrounding the gated Gramercy Park itself. The 19th-century architecture invites reveries of characters from Edith Wharton novels leaving their cards at imposing mansions.
7 GRAMERCY PARK WEST, #5D A two-bedroom two-bath condo with a key to the park, listed at $2.5 million. CreditSantiago Mejia/The New York Times
Arlene Harrison has lived on the park since 1971 and is the president of theGramercy Park Block Association, which has about 2,000 members.
“I know who’s moved, who’s cashing in on the value of their apartments,” she said, adding that in recent years the escalation has been “quite shocking.”
“Apartments that were $1.2 million or $1.3 went for $5 million, all cash, and you better put in a bid by tonight,” she said.
Only those with the right address — in the buildings that face the park — get a key to the meticulously landscaped Gramercy Park. A sign posted inside forbids music, alcohol, smoking, dogs, feeding of birds, ball playing and Frisbees.
“I’m the enforcer of the rules,” said Ms. Harrison, a retired special education teacher who described her age as “ageless.” She starts each morning at a window table at Maialino, Danny Meyer’s trattoria in the Gramercy Park Hotel.
“When I see someone I know, I run out with my clipboard,” she said.
One change coming to the neighborhood is Gramercy Square, a condominium development on the site of the Cabrini Medical Center, which closed in 2008. The four-building, 223-unit complex runs from East 19th Street to East 20th Street, midway between Second and Third Avenues.
“They’re putting in gardens, so there’s going to be green space all around it,” Ms. Harrison said. “That’s a positive impact.”
Sales at Gramercy Square are expected to start at the end of the year, and the apartments to be ready for occupancy by late summer 2017. Asking prices will start at $1.215 million for a studio, $1.3 million for a one-bedroom, $2.225 million for a two-bedroom and $3.375 million for a three-bedroom, according to the marketing department at Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, which is handling sales.
“We think of Gramercy Park as the four blocks that face the park,” Ms. Harrison said, “but these days everyone’s trying to get a Gramercy Park address.”
What You’ll Find
An air of grandeur pervades Gramercy Park’s historic district, lined with Italianate and Greek Revival facades, some of which date to the 1840s. Its designated blocks are irregular, belting around the park from East 21st Street to East 18th Street and cinching in Irving Place, where the low-rise, ivy-covered mansions have a charm of their own.
By one popular definition, the boundaries of the wider Gramercy neighborhood run from East 14th Street to East 23rd Street and from Park Avenue South to First Avenue.
A 21st-century high-end development is a seven-story, seven-unit condominium at 355 East 19th Street, expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of the summer. A three-bedroom on the third floor is listed at $2.925 million; the penthouse, with a 780-square-foot terrace, is $3.495 million.
133 EAST 15TH STREET, #1C A two-level loft with a sleeping alcove in a prewar co-op, listed at $825,000. CreditSantiago Mejia/The New York Times
What You’ll Pay
In the first quarter of 2016, the median sales price of a co-op in Gramercy was $666,500, down 2 percent from the first quarter of 2015, according to Gregory J. Heym, the chief economist for Terra Holdings. The median price of a condo, however, rose 38 percent to $2.13 million.
On June 22 a search on StreetEasy.com found 104 properties for sale, ranging from $409,000 for a small studio co-op a half-block from Gramercy Park to a two-bedroom condo on Gramercy Park West for $2.5 million.
As for rentals, Guy Goldman, a founder of Loftey, a real estate start-up based nearby, said the park “adds a bto the market.” A small one-bedroom that included a key to the park recently rented for “an astronomical” $6,500 per month, he said. More typical rentals in the neighborhood were studios ranging from $2,500 to $3,500; one-bedrooms for $3,500 to $5,000; two-bedrooms for $5,000 to $7,000; and three-bedrooms for $6,000 to $9,000.
What to Do
Nonmembers are admitted to some events at the National Arts Club at 15 Gramercy Park South. An online calendar lists art exhibitions, performances and lectures.
The Gramercy Theater, at 127 East 23rd Street, and Irving Plaza, at 17 Irving Place, showcase mostly rock and hip-hop artists. The Vineyard Theater, at 108 East 15th Street, is an Off Broadway nonprofit company dedicated to taking risks with new plays and musicals.
4 LEXINGTON AVENUE, #ML A one-bedroom co-op with full-time doormen, listed at $519,999. CreditSantiago Mejia/The New York Times
Those without a key to the gated Gramercy Park can amble over to shady, egalitarian Stuyvesant Square or to Union Square, where the Greenmarket is open year-round on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Elementary school students are zoned for Public School 40 Augustus Saint-Gaudens, at 319 East 19th Street (main entrance on 20th Street), which serves about 630 students from prekindergarten through Grade 5. According to the city’s School Quality Snapshot, 73 percent of students met state standards in English in 2014-2015, versus 30 percent citywide; 81 percent did so in math, versus 39 percent.
Middle School 104 Simon Baruch at 330 East 21st Street serves Grades 6 to 8 and has an enrollment of about 1,120 students. Last year 53 percent met state standards in English versus 30 percent citywide; 61 percent met math standards versus 31 percent.
Admission is by application and interview at School of the Future at 127 East 22nd Street, serving about 730 students from Grades 6 to 12. For the middle school, priority is given to those who live in District 2, including Gramercy. Last year 53 percent met state standards in English and 61 percent in math. There is citywide competition for the high school. Average SAT scores for the class of 2015 were 533 in reading, 534 in math and 522 in writing; citywide averages were 444, 466 and 439.
Midtown Manhattan is about 10 minutes away via the 6 train stop at 23rd Street and Park Avenue South. At Union Square, options include the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q and R. The L runs along 14th Street. Buses serving the area include the M1, M2, M3, M101, M102, M103 and M15 running north and south and the M14A, M14D and M23 traveling crosstown.
On Gramercy Park South is the Players, a clubhouse for actors and art patrons founded in 1888 by the celebrated actor Edwin Booth. After Booth’s brother John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865, he retired from the stage for around nine months, said Alfred Pommer, an author of “Exploring Gramercy Park and Union Square” (Arcadia Publishing, 2015). “Then he wrote a public letter of apology and went back to being as popular as ever.” In Gramercy Park, a statue of the actor depicts him as a brooding Hamlet.