For N.Y.'s Roosevelt Island, $2M condo a sign of the times

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On New York's Roosevelt Island, a sliver of land across the East River from Manhattan, real estate broker Ben Garama is trying to set a record — and make a statement.

The Corcoran Group agent has listed a three-bedroom condo there for $2 million, the highest price ever sought — or paid — for a residence on the island, once home to a smallpox hospital and now bustling with construction of a new Cornell University campus.

With three-bedroom apartments in Manhattan selling for a median of $3.15 million, Garama says his potentially record-setting price is a bargain for homebuyers hunting for more space and who might consider the island over the more traditional alternatives of Queens and Brooklyn.

"My job as a broker is always to push the envelope," Garama said. "Yes, it's a new threshold, it's a new price for the island, but it makes sense because I know we can get it."

While $2 million can buy you a mansion in much of the U.S., it's the going rate in Manhattan. The average home price in the borough was $2.1 million in the first quarter, a 2.6% increase from a year earlier, according to appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. On Roosevelt Island, meanwhile, the median price of the 13 units that sold was $786,306.

"The share of apartments listed at $2 million or more has climbed substantially, in part because of the frenzied pace of luxury construction in the city," Grant Long, a senior economist with StreetEasy, said in an email. Thirty-seven percent of Manhattan homes listed last year were priced at that level, according to data compiled by the property-listings website.

"As the $2 million price point becomes more prevalent, an increasing number of sellers of existing units are going to feel entitled to a price in that range," Long said.

For Corcoran's Garama, it's not too far a stretch. One of his previous listings at the same Roosevelt Island building, 415 Main St., set the current price record when it sold last May for $1.75 million, according to StreetEasy. He originally sought $1.85 million for that three-bedroom apartment, on the 15th floor.

Since that sale, Garama said he's received countless calls from house hunters seeking three-bedroom units in a somewhat similar price range.

"They tell me their budget, and they say if you have anything like that let me know," Garama said.

So he is. The $2 million listing, which hit the market May 18, is a 1,433-square-foot apartment on the seventh floor of the building. The 16-story tower, near the base of the Roosevelt Island tram to Manhattan, includes amenities such as a fitness center, yoga studio and rooftop terrace, and was developed by Related Cos. and Hudson Cos. about a decade ago.

The owners of the unit, Brian Hooper and Gianluca Macciocca, who bought their apartment while the building was just a skeletal hull under construction, say they're not trying to set a record. The time had simply come to find more space, and the couple is planning a move to a 5,000-square-foot home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Their asking price is "based on all the forward movement that’s happened on the island," Hooper, 51, said. That includes new ferry service and the Cornell Tech campus, the first part of which opens this year.

"It just kind of felt like, 'Let's see what happens,'" Hooper said.

Bloomberg News