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Living on Fifth Avenue: the Pros and the Cons (If You Can Find Any…)

Manhattan's Fifth Avenue promises an abundance of culture and art, with museums, consulates, and significant homes lining the streets.

View of New York's Fifth Avenue (via Flickr)

The Museum Mile, soaring real estate, and beyond. Fifth Avenue creates its own rarefied category in the grand city of New York. Walking along this street provides a taste of Manhattan's most cultured path.

To walk down Fifth Avenue in a perfectly constructed pair of Giraudon boots, is to compete only with the architecture.

An excerpt from a Journal ‘shoeaholic’ that I’ve been keeping for years.

There are many streets and avenues in this glorious city that are worth noting, whether for fabled homes, landmarked buildings, or spectacular architecture. 

However, in the scheme of splendor, none receive the status, along with the recognition and respect, with as much admiration as Fifth Avenue. It simply falls into its own rarefied category, with no other to compare.

Aside from the obvious – its proximity to Central Park; some of the city’s most revered homes line this magnificent stretch … specifically from 64th all the way to the tip of Harlem, at 110th Street.

Cooper Hewitt Museum by Laura Wagner

One of the many features, along this path, lies the sacred and world renowned, Museum Mile, which includes the city’s most frequently visited cultural institutions; beginning with The Met, The Neue, The Guggenheim, Cooper Hewitt, The Jewish Museum, The Museum of the City of NY, El Museo del Barrio; enough to keep you occupied in both mind and spirit, for a calendar year!  (that’s if you’re a fast browser)

In addition there are other facets that attract a wide audience both consciously as well as, subliminally; namely, the light; which permeates Fifth & is unlike any other. I do not proclaim to be an astronomer therefore, I cannot explain the reason, other than having heard that the sun rises in the East!

As much as I also love Central Park West, the difference in this phenomenon is quite surprising. Possibly another, of the many reasons that real estate soars as you get closer to ‘the light on Fifth’!

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of selling some of the grand(est) residences on Fifth, as well as representing others for film locations. One of the most requested and spectacular of all, is a Penthouse beautifully perched high above ‘the avenue’, with outstanding views of the Met & the Park.

Metropolitan Museum by Laura Wagner

I’ve had multiple opportunities to swoon, as the range of personalities in a city as culturally and aesthetically diverse as Manhattan, covers a broad spectrum. The personal representation of an individual’s style, tends to heighten this visual experience. On occasion, I have been so moved, that I have dreamt of certain interiors long after viewing.

This particular residence, is the home of an international client and was one of my first Film Locations.  It began as a single level penthouse atop one of Fifth Avenues most coveted buildings. The building’s roof top originally housed maids quarters and consisted of a slab of concrete with individual rooms allowing the housekeepers private space. Although not in use for many years, the quarters evolved into storage areas used by the building’s owners.

After an arduous search, with a highly focused and specific location in mind, my client presented an offer to the buildings condominium association to purchase air rights, enabling him the ability to build a penthouse as his private residence.   

He travels almost 50% of the year, and had very specific ideas for his Manhattan home. It would include wrap terraces, to capture the amazing views of the Metropolitan Museum, a vast & broad scope of Central Park, along with (the now noted) light streaming through all of the windows facing Fifth. It would also need to comfortably host guests visiting from around the world. The addition of two small bedrooms at the rear of the apartment, would be used frequently along with two separate bathrooms, part of the guest quarters. The master bedroom would be entered through the living area including an interior alcove used as his home office and paneled in dark mahogany.  The pocket doors, throughout the apartment, were purchased in India and converted to accommodate passages from one area to another. The long corridor off the Master Bedroom is his dressing room and exercise area. The doors are covered in navy cashmere and span the entire length of the private space/dressing area. An interior garden with foliage to showcase the four seasons, is viewed directly behind the master bath through a large panel of glass covering the entire wall.

In 2009, my client realized the need for more space and purchased air rights, this time creating a Duplex atop the Penthouse. The top floor would house a spa, outdoor/indoor bar, library, sauna, media room & additional guest room & bath. His architect allotted enough space to include two additional staircases providing a continuous flow of stellar views. The basic floor plan of the original penthouse remained predominantly unchanged… with only one wall removed to create a larger guest wing.

 This apartment has been used for several TV pilots, fashion shoots & commercials. It has been shown to producers, directors, and location scouts, for consideration for some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed feature films. It is currently on the market for rent.

 Another extraordinary location, in high demand, is a Consulate also on Fifth and just a few blocks south of the Penthouse.

The French Consulate on Fifth Avenue by Laura Wagner

The Payne Whitney Mansion, is one of the few remaining buildings from the Gilded Age architectural period & steeped in the history of turn-of-the-century New York. The mansion, designed by Stanford White in 1902, transports visitors to another epoch.  It offers an unparalleled blend of history, design, and elegance. The French Government acquired the Payne Whitney Mansion in 1952 and in 1970 it was deemed an official landmark of the city of New York.  It is home to the Cultural Services of the French Consulate. Upon stepping through wrought iron doors, and into the rotunda, you are greeted by a statue; framed in marble columns, said to be done by Michelangelo.     

Having written extensively about my film location division, none has given more credibility and status, than this grand mansion. 

In 2014, the Consulate created an addition directly adjacent to the rotunda, with entrances on both the first and second floor. The Albertine is home to some of the most acclaimed French authors, with interiors designed by celebrated French designer, Jacques Garcia. Its ceiling- a hand painted mural of constellations and stars- was modeled after the extraordinary ceiling of the music room at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany. I’ve often thought that Galileo was an inspiration as well. Whoever is responsible; it only adds to the pleasure of browsing and surfing volumes of French classics.    

Aside from this wonderful addition, both the Albertine and the French Cultural Services, host some of the city’s most interesting lectures, seminars and panel discussions with guest speakers including cultural icons in the fields of literature, fashion, and art. I feel privileged to be on their guest list, and have spent many memorable evenings inhaling it all.



As I celebrate my first anniversary at LaVoce, I want to thank my friends/ family/ fans for their generous and gracious comments. It has been a truly rewarding year as a conveyer of NYC stories, albeit through a somewhat slanted lens. My intention is attempting to relay the many facets of this wonderful city, while trying to subdue my love & enthusiasm…      

Please forward any comments / critiques to help while considering stories for year 2.   xo

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