Listed for $599,000, this unit at 225 Central Park West might be one of the city’s best steals of 2023. There is, of course, a pretty big catch. You won’t see any Peeping Toms spying in the windows of this 500-square-foot lobby-level pied-à-terre just a hop, skip and a jump away from Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History.
That’s because unit 107 doesn’t have any windows. Instead, it has skylights. Compass, which listed the one-bedroom Upper West Side property earlier this month, refers to it as a “unicorn” — as well as the fact that it’s a legal dwelling.
Meanwhile, inquiring minds on Reddit, where the listing is trending in the Ridiculous Real Estate subreddit, are asking, “How is it possible that this apartment on Central Park West has no windows, only skylights?” The answer, according to a colleague of the broker representing the home, is simple: The pre-war building it’s in was built before the current New York City fire code was established.
Indeed, the Alden dates back to 1926 when it opened as an apartment hotel. The 16-story, 234-unit structure was designed by Emery Roth — the mind behind the San Remo, the El Dorado and the Ritz Tower — which, when it was completed in 1925, was New York’s tallest residential building.
Today, the Alden is a luxury property where residents enjoy “attentive white-glove service” and amenities like a 24-hour doorman, a laundry room, a bike room, a garage and a rooftop garden. It has four other available listings, all with windows, ranging from $525,000 for a studio to $4.95 million for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom with panoramic park views. As for unit 107, it has two skylights total — one in the bedroom and one in the living room.
“Skylights meet the building code requirements, which basically involves running the numbers for both light and air calculations based on the floor area,” said Jonathan Lerner, Owner of Five Corners Properties, a New York-based luxury boutique agency. Still, Lerner is the first to admit that not having traditional windows drops a home’s value by at least $100,000. Based on his experience, the more glass a home has, the more it goes for.
Despite how normal they are today, windows are a relatively new phenomenon in New York. For almost 300 years, hundreds of thousands of residents lived in cramped quarters with very little light and air circulation. When the city decided these inhumane conditions were literally killing people, they passed the Tenement House Act of 1901. It required new buildings to have sufficient ventilation and something else they were missing: indoor toilets.
As for this home, it was probably a storage room or maid’s quarters in a past life — and the listing does refer to it as a suite. Brian Lewis, the Compass broker representing the property, declined to comment on the listing, saying his client values her privacy. (Go figure.)
For other New Yorkers, living in a windowless apartment isn’t about avoiding nosy neighbors, it’s a matter of money.
“Ten years ago, I lived in a windowless bedroom in [the Lower East Side] because it’s all I could afford,” writes one Redditor. “Honestly I’d do it again, best sleep of my life.”
During the pandemic, Trey Taylor, an editorial director in his 30s, lived in a 64-square-foot windowless Brooklyn loft because it was within his $800 monthly budget. He appreciated his “bolthole” when it came to nursing hangovers and conducting seances. He also had a great excuse for not becoming a plant dad like many other New Yorkers did during quarantine.
“To simulate nature and forget my troubles, I fall asleep to the chirping of virtual crickets emanating from my Google Home Mini speaker,” he wrote in a piece for Curbed. “I purchased a small projector, and now beam longform ambience videos — lapping waves, cafe scenes, a train driver’s view — on the wall above my bed. A life lived in 480p.”
Still, Taylor told the Post he’ll never pay to live without windows again. He won’t even consider this luxurious Central Park West pad with its nice en-suite bathroom, stainless steel appliances, central air conditioning — and skylights.
“With a maintenance fee like that [$1,373/month], you’d at least expect a view of something without getting a kink in your neck,” he said.
Still, Alison Wilkinson, a luxury architect and interior designer who splits her time between New York and Washington, D.C., sees potential there. Her biggest tip for whoever moves in is to focus on the lighting.
“When you’re faced with a cave, it’s best to install lighting at various heights to create visual interest and serve different needs,” she said.
Whoever moves in still might want to invest in some shades. Just because you don’t have to worry about Peeping Toms doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about Chinese spy balloons.