Walk to Train Essential
By JOYCE COHEN
Published: January 2, 2014
By the time Gary Kuchta moved to New York two years ago for a new job, he had owned three houses — two in Chicago, his hometown, and one in Los Angeles. “I kind of just believe in owning,” he said.
“For me, owning a home has always been the one thing that has connected me most to a city and gives me a sense of investment in a city,” he said. “I feel like I am putting roots down and not just visiting.”
He rented in Chelsea in order to get his bearings, and then began the hunt for a place to buy.
Mr. Kuchta, 50, who works in marketing for Pfizer consumer health care, commutes to his office in Madison, N.J., which takes more than an hour each way. He didn’t want to deal with the subway along with the commuter train. So he needed a place within walking distance of Penn Station — “one less machine I have to rely on,” he said.
He wanted two bedrooms, along with a second bathroom for guests and a washer-dryer. For an apartment in move-in condition, his budget topped out at $1.5 million. But for that price, it had to be “done nicely where I could see myself living in it,” he said.
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For a place needing renovations, he was willing to pay as much as $1.2 million. “I like projects,” he said, “and I knew it was more likely I was going to get a place I wanted to renovate.”
A friend referred him to Will Rogers of Fenwick Keats Real Estate. Mr. Kuchta was soon drawn to a sunny two-bedroom in Chelsea Gardens, a six-story 1940 building on West 23rd Street. The apartment had a long foyer and a sunken living room. Its location at the end of a hall meant the bedrooms weren’t adjacent to a neighbor’s walls. The co-op had a grassy courtyard.
But the place lacked a second bathroom and a washer-dryer. “Two of the priority things he wanted were not available in this apartment,” Mr. Rogers said. “He thought something bigger and better would come along.”
And, at $1.285 million, it seemed expensive. Maintenance was almost $1,300 a month. Mr. Rogers thought the price might drop.
At a nice loft in a co-op building on West 28th Street, the price was right — $840,000, with monthly maintenance around $1,500.
The men studied the place. “We spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to reconfigure the layout,” Mr. Rogers said. “With loft apartments, all the light is in the front.” A partition that incorporated closets did let some light through.
But the block, which had several hotels, seemed transient. Mr. Kuchta decided against the place. It later sold for $845,000.
On another block of West 23rd Street, at Chelsea Mews, a 1910 loft building, a one-bedroom co-op was available for $950,000; monthly maintenance was around $2,175. A wall in what had been a second bedroom had been removed, creating a large living room, and the place could easily be converted back. There was a washer-dryer on the floor.