When it was built in the 1880s, the red brick Queen Anne-style home that still stands at 890 Park Avenue was used as a single-family mansion. A stockbroker named Harry A. Groesbeck and his family were the first owners, but the home was soon carved up into apartments and a commercial space was added – an example of filtering, whereby enough new housing construction causes older buildings like 890 Park to “filter” down to less wealthy tenants. (Now that New York City’s housing stock growth has slowed and no longer keeps up with demand, the opposite of filtering – gentrification – is the more common trajectory for older buildings in close-in neighborhoods.)
The building survived the 1920s, a time of enormous construction on the Upper East Side and throughout the city, by virtue of its status as a light protector. It was bought up by the developers of 888 Park Avenue, a much taller adjacent apartment house on the corner of Park and East 78th Street. It was left in its stunted state in order to protect the larger building from other light-stealing builders, back in the days before buying up adjacent air rights was an option.
But now, the building is being converted back into a single-family residence, according to an alteration permit filed last week by Murdock Solon Architects with the Department of Buildings. The home will have 6,300 square feet of residential space spread over its five floors, with its six residential apartments merged into one.
The permit was filed on behalf of Walter Schick, with Lake Realty. Schick bought the building in the late 1990s, when it was in foreclosure. As of 2012, 890 Park had a single rent-controlled tenant, who had lived there since 1967.
The conversion is the latest in the trend towards larger units in prime Manhattan neighborhoods occupied by fewer people, which underscores the need for the city’s building stock to grow faster than it has been in recent years.
When the building was profiled by the Times, the Schicks told the paper that they intended to keep the building once it was vacated and rent it out. We’re not sure if that’s still the case, as we couldn’t get in touch with the father-and-son team.