A condominium conversion in Midtown that is embroiled in a legal fight with tenants is banking on a luxurious new amenity to help attract wealthy buyers.
The developer of Sheffield57, Kent Swig, is battling a request from the building's rent-stabilized tenants for a city administrator to take control of the property, at 322 W. 57th St. The 47 tenants are accusing Mr. Swig of trying to force them to leave by failing to address collapsed ceilings, flooding, and asbestos contamination.
Despite the controversy, the 58-story building, which has been on the market since October 2006 and has 560 condominium units and a number rental units, is more than 50% sold, Mr. Swig said. To attract more buyers, Sheffield57 will offer potential residents, for as much as $240,000 above the selling price, the option of fully furnished apartments, down to hand towels and bottle openers, by the boutique design firm Haus Interior.
Buyers at Sheffield57 will be able to choose among pre-designed apartments based on four imagined personalities, each with a different price point. Unfurnished units start at $825,000, but for an additional $75,000, busy buyers can have their apartments decorated as "The Designer": Haus Interior will decorate the unit in vibrant colors, with quick-ship items that can be assembled in two to three weeks from West Elm and Jonathan Adler. At $130,000, "The Gallerist" is based on a neutral color palette of chrome and glass, while the $160,000 "Modern Professional" uses dark wood and high-design furniture from B&B Italia and Poliform. At $240,000, "Traveler/Collector" features Holly Hunt furniture, cashmere pillows, and custom shelving.
Buyers also can mix and match elements from each "personality," the principal of Haus Interior, Nina Freudenberger, said, adding that the company's staff will unpack and set up the furniture before buyers arrive.
Earlier this year, the rent-stabilized tenants at Sheffield57 asked the New York City Housing Court to appoint a city administrator to take control of the building. The next court appearance is scheduled for August 26, a partner at the law firm Grimble & LoGuidice who is representing the tenants, Robin LoGuidice, said.
In the petition, the group says conditions in the building are "hazardous to the life, health and safety of the tenants," complaining of ceiling collapses, rats on the premises, and asbestos being removed without the proper abatement procedure. They also say the landlord and his agent cut off water and electricity, and "used force against leaders of the tenants association, repeatedly stalking, shoving and slapping tenant leaders."
In an interview with The New York Sun, Mr. Swig called the petition "a joke" and denied that there was asbestos on the premises. "It's the last gasp by a couple of very desperate people to create some animosity," he said.
Of living conditions in Sheffield57, he said: "The building is one of the most luxurious buildings around. People are living in there. They are not living there in a state that the city needs to come in and take over from the owner."
In March 2007, a New York City Housing Court judge ruled that 23 tenants at the building who were fighting evictions were "protected tenants" under the Martin Act and were entitled to leases at market rate from the landlord. Mr. Swig has since appealed the decision.
Asked whether the new offer of fully furnished apartments could help counter some of the building's negative publicity, Mr. Swig said, "I don't think one has anything to do with the other. We've been overwhelmingly successful."
Since the developer bought the building for $418 million in 2005, his renumbering of its stories and hiring of a marching band at the same time tenants were protesting outside the building have also come under criticism.