NY Steel Fabrication, Hudson River Pier, Direct Transloading, Steel Design & Fabrication


New York Steel Fabrication, Steel Design, Hudson River Pier, Hudson River Shipyard, Steel Bridge Fabrication

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In the City, Laps of Luxury; A Pool in the Apartment Is the Latest in Extravagance
- The New York Times, By DAVID W. CHEN, Published: April 17, 2004

Jonathan Leitersdorf, a wealthy entrepreneur, grew up with a swimming pool in the suburbs of Tel Aviv. So when he bought a multimillion-dollar home in the United States several years ago, he built a heated outdoor pool, studded with ocean-blue tiles hand-painted in Spain and ringed by a teak deck.

The view is remarkable, too, as the pool sits on the 12th-floor roof of Mr. Leitersdorf's penthouse triplex near New York University. In one of the ultimate indulgences of urban living, a small but growing number of New Yorkers are installing swimming pools in their own apartments. These are not inflatable or above-ground pools, which are more native to the backyards of Staten Island or Queens, or smaller resistance pools, which are large aquatic exercise machines with adjustable countercurrents. Rather, these are pools measuring, say, 12 feet wide by 25 feet long by 7 feet deep, tucked into the basements and penthouses of New York's costliest townhouses and high-rises.

This is no easy feat. An apartment must be boxy enough to accommodate the pool, as well as the temperature and filtration equipment. A building must be strong enough to support a pool that may hold 50 tons of water. And an owner must plunk down hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction, plus thousands of dollars a year in maintenance.

For those who can afford it, though, the intimacy and sheer incongruity of having a personal pool in the heart of the city, for use at any hour, in any season, often trumps the logistical challenges. For everyone else -- well, it never hurts to fantasize while staring at the walls of a studio apartment, or waiting for a swimming lane at the local Y.

''I think people think it's pretty crazy because space in New York is something very holy,'' said Marcus Nispel, who is having a ground-floor pool built in his five-story townhouse on Lafayette Street in SoHo. He is a director of music videos and commercials and also directed last year's remake of ''The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.''

''I love water,'' said Mr. Nispel, who grew up in Frankfurt (dreaming of water) and currently lives in Malibu (surrounded by water), ''and I love the idea of how it contrasts with the city.''

While the city's Department of Buildings issues permits for these pools, it does not keep track of the total. But according to brokers, appraisers, pool builders and maintenance companies, there are at least two dozen and perhaps as many as 100 private indoor pools, mostly in Manhattan, many of which have been built in the last decade. Perhaps another dozen are being built or planned, said David Plotkin, president of Steel Style Pools in Newburgh, N.Y., which designs and builds high-end pools.

An owner can spend about $150,000 for a stainless steel pool, and another $150,000 on structural work. It may cost another $50,000 to $100,000 for humidification and air-conditioning, and $25,000 per year to heat the pool. Maintenance costs can run a few thousand dollars annually -- contributing to a start-up total of perhaps $500,000, said Warren Pearl, a general contractor in Manhattan with experience in installing such pools.

Mr. Nispel's pool may well be viewed as a human aquarium when it is completed within the next year. That is because the 5-foot-high by 7-foot-wide window on the side of the 40-foot-long pool will allow Mr. Nispel to shoot underwater scenes, said Peter Guzy, whose firm, Asfour Guzy Architects in Manhattan, is rehabilitating the townhouse.

But Mr. Nispel, 40, expects that his two children will enjoy the pool, too. Like many pool owners in New York, Mr. Nispel plans to rely on bromine tablets, not chlorine, to minimize the smell.

''If you live in New York, you live a life in theory -- you work all day long, and you say you could go to the Hamptons, but you never do it, because you're always working,'' he said. ''So you bring the ocean to you.''

Most townhouse pools are in the basement. Perhaps the best-known, on East 67th Street, belongs to Bob Guccione, the former publisher of Penthouse.

One of the oldest underground pools belongs to Emil and Eva Talel, who live in a Civil War-era brownstone on West 75th Street, not far from Central Park. He is an international businessman; she is a litigation partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, a Wall Street law firm.

About 15 years ago, when their two children were still young, the Talels determined that their hectic schedules would make it impractical for them to maintain a weekend home. So they decided, Ms. Talel said, ''to make our city home all-purpose,'' complete with a pool, sauna and billiards room, all in the cellar.

Enclosed by glass, the 30-foot-long pool is reminiscent of a cozy upscale health club or family-friendly hotel. There is a skylight opening up to Mr. Talel's office. Embedded in the sky-blue tiles lining the pool are the words, ''No Diving.''''This was a great clubhouse for my children,'' Ms. Talel said, while her son, Alex, 19, swam laps. ''When you come down here, you don't feel like you're in the city.''

At least two private pools come with the rent. One is enclosed in a greenhouse in what used to be the backyard of a townhouse at 3 East 94th Street, said one businessman who lived there in the 1990's and spoke on the condition that he not be identified. The rent was $33,000 -- a month.

The other rental is a penthouse duplex at Le Triomphe, at 245 East 58th Street, near Second Avenue. Even though the building has its own health club and pool on the third floor, open to all residents, there is one unit, on the 30th floor, with its own pool, 16 feet wide by 25 feet long, with wraparound views. The monthly rent is $11,000. The current tenant, a French financier, has been there for about six months.

''Everyone freaks out over it -- they say, 'What? A pool in the apartment?''' said Zoran Grbich, property manager of Hampton Management, which is affiliated with the Olnick Organization, the building's owner. ''My friends say, 'Come on -- just one night, can I have one party?''' (Sorry, no can do.)

The pool at Le Triomphe is one of several high in the air. Paul Milstein, the developer, has one at his penthouse near Third Avenue and the East 60's, said his son, Edward L. Milstein. So does David Copperfield, whose pool on East 57th Street is one of at least three on the same block, brokers say. So did Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian arms merchant who once lived atop the Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue, near East 51st Street.

Aside from occasional complaints from neighbors, private pools have not been the source of any major lawsuits involving leaks or infrastructural problems, said Stuart M. Saft, a real estate lawyer who is chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums. And while a pool does not directly affect a building's tax rate or property value, according to the city's Department of Finance, potential buyers sometimes ask whether there is any structural or water damage, or whether a pool reflects a previous owner's tastes just a little too much, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal firm.

It should be interesting, then, to see what becomes of Mr. Leitersdorf's outdoor rooftop pool near New York University, which was featured in an episode of ''Sex and the City.''

Mr. Leitersdorf spent $500,000 on the pool, which is 25 feet long, 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep. With its underwater lights and metallic railings high above the currents of Broadway in Lower Manhattan, jumping into the bubbling 90- to 100-degree pool, ''is like going to a Kiss concert in the winter,'' Mr. Leitersdorf wrote in an e-mail message. ''You have underwater lights and steam comes out at night.''

The apartment is often rented out for private parties and commercial shoots under the name Sky Studios, for about $10,000 a day. Hillary Clinton had a fund-raiser there. Jerry Seinfeld got married there. The pool has also been the setting of a party or two in which people stripped naked and jumped in, Mr. Leitersdorf wrote. ''It was always fun and it always broke the ice,'' he added.

But now, it is for sale, and can be yours for just a hair under $20 million, said Mr. Leitersdorf's broker, Michael Shvo, an executive vice president of Douglas Elliman.

Mr. Leitersdorf, 40, said he would miss the apartment. But he is building a home in Switzerland that won't lack for water. It is a chalet in the Alps, with a pool carved into the mountain.

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