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How Buildings Are Trying to Soothe Stressed-Out New Yorkers

By Amy Zimmer | December 13, 2016 4:08pm
 A rooftop yoga class run by hOM, which runs classes in buildings, including in unused spaces
A rooftop yoga class run by hOM, which runs classes in buildings, including in unused spaces
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MANHATTAN — These are stressed-out times for many New Yorkers.

On top of the typical holiday season chaos, some in the “blue bubble” of left-leaning New York may feel an added layer of anxiety over the impending Trump administration.

In times of such uncertainty, people often turn inward and focus more on their homes and neighborhoods, experts say. Many developers and amenity managers are picking up on these vibes and creating living experiences and amenities to take the edge off the anxiety and bolster social ties with neighbors.

“2016 was a tough year for many people for a variety of reasons,” said Frances Katzen, a top broker for Douglas Elliman. “People are seeking calm and seeking refuge.”

Here are some ways buildings are responding:

Creating community through classes and events — even when buildings don’t have fancy gyms or studios.

hOMA class run by hOM. (Image courtesy of hOM.)

The approach to amenities from the startup hOM is seemingly simple: it’s not about having more space, rather it’s about creating experiences that bring neighbors together in any available space.

So the amenities manager — currently in 24 buildings across the city — uses vacant apartments, unfinished rooftops, basement bike rooms, lobbies and more to run classes like yoga, mediation and Pilates and stage events like sake tastings, laser tag and rooftop “glamping.”

“People are forming friendships by coming and taking classes together,” said Lilli Markle, hOM’s head of business development. “Especially in a city of strangers where we’re all running to and from a place, people want to know their neighbors and be able to open a bottle of wine with them instead of starting at their phone.”

The week of the election saw her highest class attendance ever, she said.

“The classes doubled in size,” Markle said. “I thought either no one was going to show up because they were processing or they would come and try to heal themselves. It was fun to see that people empowering themselves and doing it in their own home.”

The company’s new app being released in early 2017 will work like a “Go Fund Me” site where residents can propose and upvote in-building programming, Markle said.

For instance, if someone in Apt. 5A proposes a weekly game night, that will go up on the app and if six people upvote it, hOM will staff it, she explained.

The cost for the classes will be shared among participants and range from $5 to $29, depending on how many people sign up, she said. (And proceeds from hOM classes go to charities helping people with cancer.)

It’s all about greenery and gardening.

 The Jardim (Image courtesy of Douglas Elliman)

Chelsea’s Jardim, a building designed by renowned Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld at 527 W. 27th St., is almost like a therapeutic retreat unto itself, with two levels of gardens in the courtyard (complete with shady, mature trees), a 60-foot swimming pool that’s naturally lit from a skylight above, gym, yoga studio and sauna/steam room.

To top it off, each apartment has its own private garden terrace with foliage overseen by Brooklyn-based landscape architects, Future Green Studio, that will be maintained by the building’s staff with a special irrigation system.

“It’s an oasis, a respite,” said Katzen, who is representing the new development slated for completion next year.

“People are craving calm and seeking refuge. They want something peaceful,” Katzen said of the building that stands in contrast to many new glassy towers. “People walk in and say it feels fresh and grounded. It has life. It feels earthy.”  

And while the building might be out of the price range for average New Yorkers — units currently listed on the market range from $1.97 million to $7.55 million — Katzen hopes the building’s verdant vision can inspire others to create their own version of a green oasis.

“You don’t have to have mature trees,” she said. “The amenity idea is the fantasy of being able to disconnect and escape.”

vanderbiltA rendering of garden plots at 550 Vanderbilt. (Image courtesy of COOKFOX)

At 550 Vanderbilt, which is part of the Atlantic Yards mega-project now called Pacific Park, architect Rick Cook, of COOKFOX, shaped the 17-story building so residents have access lots of greenery, incorporating lushly landscaped areas, setbacks, rooftops and terraces.

That includes a 3,500-square-foot landscaped roof deck with numerous individual garden plots for residents to cultivate and nurture in order to grow their own herbs, fruits and vegetables.

The firm included the plots for the condo — where current listings range from $890,000 to $6.86 million — because of the therapeutic nature of gardening.

“To make our city healthier, we need to connect with our biological roots, which are oriented to connect with nature and grow food,” Cook said. “Gardening is proven to improve mental and physical wellness. We have integrated garden beds and a place to wash, prepare and eat food on the terrace to support residents' health and wellness, and create as many connections to nature as possible.”

Focus on Feng Shui principles of balance.

sky viewA quiet space for sunning or yoga at The Grand at Sky View Parc. (Image courtesy of Sky View Parc)

Flushing’s The Grand at Sky View Parc has a 7-acre rooftop park designed using feng shui principles to balance light and shadows and create a harmonious space aimed at reducing anxiety, building reps said.

James Gilday of the Moss Gilday group designed the park to balance the five elements — water, wood, fire, earth and metal — using plants, stones, water and wood, with strategically placed entrances to counter the negative energies.

The designer also used light and shadows to make geometric shapes that help create different layers of space for the condo where prices currently range from $536,888 to over $2 million.


Stones act to ground sitters under a bench at Citizen360. (Image courtesy Citizen360)

At Yorkville’s Citizen360 — where condos range from $1.3 to $12 million — feng shui principles were also used when shaping finishes and color tones throughout the building and its amenity spaces, like the wellness lounge with tranquil fountains and an infrared spa or the fitness center, with its floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize natural light. There are also stones beneath the window benches to help “ground” residents.

Clodagh, the one-named designer who runs the eponymous New York-based firm that did the interiors, said in a video on the building’s website, “I want the building to give you a little inner-emotional hug when you walk in. You think, 'I'm home and I love this building. I'm so happy to be here.'"