Fly into New York nowadays and you can’t miss it — unless its loftiest floors are wreathed in cloud. Like a giant stake driven into the heart of Manhattan, 432 Park Avenue is intended to stand out and is perhaps the Big Apple’s most ostentatious skyscraper.
When it was completed in 2015, at nearly 1,400 ft it was the tallest residential building in the world — eight times the height of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.
Its 104 apartments spread across 85 floors were an inviting proposition to super-rich investors prepared to pay up to $88 million (£64.4 million) for a single residence — and the right to look down, in all senses, on everyone else.
The views across Manhattan and far beyond may be mind-blowing, but the sound-proofed windows nowadays mask the cries of anguish from within.
Mansion in the sky: 432 Park Avenue, pictured above. When it was completed in 2015, at nearly 1,400 ft it was the tallest residential building in the world
Horrified residents are furious and alarmed about the leaks, creaks and swaying, not to mention the frequent problems with the lifts, in a building that is only a few years old and that, one said, continues to be billed to buyers as ‘God’s gift to the world’.
It sits in a cluster of other recently built high-rise residential buildings along the southern end of Central Park that have been dubbed ‘Billionaire’s Row’.
Some of the billionaires at No 432 are now fighting with the developers — and each other — over myriad issues including millions of dollars in water damage from plumbing and mechanical faults, frequent lift malfunctions and walls that disconcertingly ‘creak like the galley of a ship’. The worst of the banging, groaning and clicking noises is produced by the communal rubbish chute that ‘sounds like a bomb’ when bags are dropped down it.
Ghostly whistles as air rushes through doorways and along the lift shafts is a disconcerting but common issue in super-high, super-thin buildings, caused by winds that force the materials to grind and screech against each other.
The taller a skyscraper, the greater the force of the wind, especially higher up, where it bounces off the structure as whirlwinds that create turbulence. Visitors to the penthouse reported feeling ‘super-nauseated’ because of the swaying. If hit by high winds, tall skyscrapers can bend by as much as three feet.
The high winds hammering 432 Park Avenue have also been known to cause such movement that the cables inside the lift shafts ‘slap’ and once forced an elevator to stop completely, trapping a resident inside for an hour and a half.
Hollywood star Jennifer Lopez (pictured above, in January last year) bought a home there but, such is the level of exclusivity, the identities of so many others are hidden in shell companies
No wonder the pampered residents are so furious. Sarina Abramovich and husband Mikhail, who are based in London and made a fortune in the oil and gas business, were early buyers, paying nearly $17 million (£12 million) for a 3,500 sq ft apartment in the tower as a second home.
First impressions weren’t encouraging. Sarina told the New York Times: ‘They put me in a freight elevator surrounded by steel plates and plywood, with a hard-hat operator. That’s how I went up to my hoity-toity apartment.’
She says there have been several floods in the building — one of which caused $500,000 (£365,000) in damage to her home.
Another resident, a member of the Beckmann family which owns the Jose Cuervo tequila brand, pulled out of buying a $46.25 million (£33.85 million) apartment, citing a ‘catastrophic water flood’.
In November 2018, two major leaks occurred, one sending water pouring into residents’ lift shafts, putting two of the four elevators out of service for weeks.
According to correspondence, the residents also face rising ‘common charges’ (paid to service the building) while insurance has reportedly increased 300 per cent in two years, largely due to ‘water-related incidents’ that alone have cost the building nearly $10 million (£7.3 million) to put right.
The building is projected to be worth almost $1.3 billion (£95 million) by the time every apartment has been sold
Some neighbours are fighting each other over the various problems. ‘Everybody hates each other here,’ said Sarina Abramovich.
CIM Group, one of no. 432’s developers, has insisted the building ‘is a successfully designed, constructed and virtually sold-out project’. It added it was working with residents and that, ‘like all new construction’, there had been maintenance and other issues.
The building is projected to be worth almost $1.3 billion (£95 million) by the time every apartment has been sold. Pop queen Lopez and her baseball-star partner Alex Rodriguez bought a 4,000 sq ft flat there for more than $15.3 million (£11 million) in 2018. While they sold it only a year later for $17.5 million (£12.8 million), they had no complaints about the condition of the apartment.
Other reported buyers include Caryl Englander, the wife of billionaire hedge-fund king Israel Englander, who snapped up an 8,200 sq ft residence for $60 million (£44 million). The top-floor penthouse was sold for nearly $88 million (£64.4 million) some five years ago to a company representing Fawaz Alhokair, a Saudi tycoon.
A crane sits atop the residential building during its construction in New York, US, in December 2013. Some of the billionaires at No 432 are now fighting with the developers
For less monied New Yorkers, the revelations have provided sky-high schadenfreude. Widely regarded as an eyesore looming over Central Park when compared with famous historic skyscrapers — the Empire State and Chrysler buildings — stick-thin 432 Park Avenue was likened by some to a ‘one-fingered’ insult to the rest of New York scurrying beneath it.
Developers exploited a loophole in planning law limiting the height of buildings by filling a quarter of the floors with structural and mechanical equipment, which do not count towards a building’s maximum size and which were made especially tall.
Critics claimed the ploy revealed the ultimate intention of 432 Park Avenue — just to be higher than anyone else. (The building is so tall it required approval from the U.S. federal aviation authority).
The flooding issues have reportedly come from those equipment floors, fuelling suspicions that the developers’ obsession with height has badly backfired. Engineers say 432’s woes may be just the start of the problems, admitting they have seen similar issues at other buildings.
A view of New York City to the east from the 75th floor of 432 Park Avenue in October 2014. CIM Group, one of no. 432’s developers, has insisted the building ‘is a successfully designed, constructed and virtually sold-out project’
Architects understand that tall, thin skyscrapers risk moving dramatically in a strong wind unless their bases are significantly wider than their summits. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, for instance, is half a mile high but is far bigger at its lower floors, mitigating the wobbling.
432 Park Avenue, on the other hand, is equally slim all the way up, maximising the amount of floor space its developer could squeeze from the site in one of the world’s most expensive neighbourhoods.
A New York skyscraper architect not involved with 432 Park Avenue told the Daily Mail yesterday that the team that created the building were very aware of these issues — and the annoyance it might cause their clientele. In order to mitigate these concerns they built a mock-up of an upper floor dining room and, replicating the likely wind pressure it would face, tested how much a glass of wine would move on the table when the building was buffeted by the winds.
‘In a building this tall and this skinny, you have to accept movement,’ said the architect. ‘It’s a question of how much you can mitigate that so people don’t notice it. Every detail — from the walls to the plumbing — has to accommodate that.’
An engineering firm ordered by residents to examine the building’s problems reportedly showed that 73 per cent of its mechanical, electrical and plumbing components failed to conform to the developers’ drawings.
Luckily, however, 432 Park Avenue is for most of its ‘residents’ merely a second or even a third home. Its creaking, leaking flats are mostly empty.
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