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Post- or pre-war digs -- Making your pick

Patrick Nugent, 8, in the living room of

Patrick Nugent, 8, in the living room of his post-war 14th floor apartment (Linda Rosier) Credit: Patrick Nugent, 8, in the living room of his post-war 14th floor apartment (Linda Rosier)

New Yorkers hunting for new residences have faced the same decision for decades: whether to go with pre or post-war. 

Pre-war buildings were generally built in or before the early 40s, although some date before the Civil War in the early 19th Century.

Those who value pre-war digs are partial to old-world architecture; fireplaces; thick walls and high ceilings and windows.

Post-war fans love the convenience of having their kitchen, dining room and living room close to each other, lots of closet space and amenities such as a washer and dryer in their apartment.

If you're on the fence about which you prefer, don't stress. We chatted with some city brokers and residents to give you a breakdown of the pros and cons of both styles.


Beth Fisher, senior managing director at Corcoran, a real estate company focused on Manhattan and Brooklyn, said the view from an apartment governs its value more than the year it was built.

"The new developments which offer the premium views of Central Park, condominium ownership, and have the grace and grandeur of prewar residence proportions garner the higher prices in New York," she said.

Currently, rental prices are up across the board. One-bedrooms are rising the most, according to a CitiHabitats report, by 6.5% over the last year, to $2,747 a month.

Studios rose 3.6% to $1,953; two-bedrooms are up 6.1% to $3,865; and three-bedrooms climbed 4% to $5,107.

Lisa Rose, senior vice president at Halstead Property, said the city's hidden gem is a renovated prewar condo or apartment.

"If I was going to turn around tomorrow and buy something and I had the money, [I would]buy a prewar totally renovated apartment ... with the prewar detail but yet has a modern feel inside," Rose said.

For example, The Apthorp at 390 West End Avenue, is a recently renovated condo building that was built in 1908.

However, she added those apartments run in the millions. Condos in The Apthorp are priced between $3 and $5 million.

"When I take out a client, if they want to do work and they want to get a prewar, that's fine," she said. "A lot of prewar apartments need work; they need updating."

Living space

Fisher said the plus of a postwar apartment is having more rooms than a prewar apartment with the same square feet.

"People today prefer their living and dining area to be adjacent and for the kitchen to be near that living/dining area," she said. "Prewar, what people do really love, is there's a real separation between public and private space."
Rose added, "I get clients that say I want a dining area where I can entertain, and in the prewar buildings you're getting very gracious dining room and there's a lot of detail in the woodwork."

That's exactly why prewar resident Lisa Hanock-Jasie, a public relations manager, sticks with prewar apartments.

Hanock-Jasie said she loves the artistic concrete carvings on the outside of her building on Wall Street (which opened as a brokerage office in 1833), and the original stained-glass windows that are required to remain in her apartment under its land-marking.

"And the refinements in those designs which you don't see today at all, there's just not craftwork like that done anymore," Hanock-Jasie said.

She added that her building was renovated, and she has a dishwasher in her apartment, washers and dryers in her building, and all brand-new appliances.

"I have all the amenities with the pre-war charm," she said.


Steven Goldstein, a New Yorker of 16 years, bought an apartment that's so postwar it's not even fully built yet.

He bought a one-bedroom (which he boasted has four large closets) in the new Chelsea Green condominium at 151 West 21st Street, which uses eco-friendly technologies.

For example, 60 of the development's hot water will come from solar panels on the roof.

"In the long run energy costs will be lower," Goldstein said.

In addition to the convenient amenities the building provides, such as central air and washer and dryer in the apartment, "the apartments are enclosed so if your neighbor smokes ... the smell never seeps through," he said.

Resident Carla Nugent recently made the switch from pre to postwar, and has no plans to go back.

Granted her apartment now has high ceilings and light-catching windows, common among prewar spaces, but it's the convenience provided by the building housed in the former Gimbels department store on 87th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues that made her a loyal postwar girl.

Unlike her prewar apartments, her current residence has central air, a pool, a 24/7 concierge, a repair staff and a laundry service.

"You have all these extras," she said. "And for me, a mom that is working, going to school, it's like I needed convenience, and that's what I love about this building." 

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