A $3.1 Billion Headache? 432 Park Avenue Struggles With Defects & Disillusioned Owners

A $3.1 Billion Headache?
432 Park Avenue

According to recent write-ups in the New York Times and New York magazine, life for some residents of 432 Park Avenue, the super-tall, super-luxe condo tower overlooking Central Park on the corner of Park Avenue and 57th St. in Midtown Manhattan (aka ‘Billionaire’s Row’) is not quite what they expected when they shelled out tens of millions for one of the building’s 125 units and moved in back in 2015. At 1,396 feet tall, the $3.1 billion, Rafael Vinoly-designed spire was the tallest residential building in the world when it was completed in 2014 (it’s now the third-tallest, after two other NYC giants - Central Park Tower at 1,449ft, and 111 West 57th at 1,427ft), but its claim to fame quickly revealed a few downsides - including plumbing woes, elevator outages, and an alarming tendency to sway and creak in the wind. 

According to the Times, plumbing defects have caused “frequent flooding and extensive water damage" in the building, including one instance in November 2018 when a major leak “propelled water into elevator shafts, shutting them down for weeks” and compelling one buyer to back out of purchasing a $46.25 million unit. Along with water, wind is also having an elemental impact on 432 - causing still more elevator malfunctions (including one that reportedly trapped an unfortunate resident in a lift for over an hour), as well as spooky groaning, booming sounds throughout the building whenever there’s more than a light breeze blowing outside. And its billionaire residents — some of whom paid as much as $88 million for their homes - are blaming project developers CIM Group and Harry B. Macklowe for what they say are design flaws and construction defects.

On top of the physical issues bedeviling the building, New York magazine adds that “Residents are now required to spend $15,000 in annual fees for the building’s private restaurant, which is run by a Michelin-starred chef, though when 432 Park opened, they were told this cost would be merely $1,200.” The once-complimentary breakfast offered each morning is also no longer free. 

Both articles note that along with all that, residents are warring with the condo board over ever-increasing insurance and common charge increases, and with each other over an array of complaints, grievances, and opinions on what should be done about it all. Which goes to show that money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness - and sometimes it doesn’t even buy you a little peace and quiet.

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  • I remember reading an article here when the building was in process, it was heralded as utilizing new and advanced building materials and techniques to be able to build so high. I don't understand why the initial buyers spend millions of dollars without first paying for a home inspection to catch some of these construction defects. I also don't understand why people pay for properties that are not yet completed.
  • An inspection, alone, isn't going to find these problems. These are transient effects tied to environmental conditions, and they're building-wide, btw. But, doesn't mean you couldn't or shouldn't get an evaluation of the apartment as part of the building, how the parts might all affect each other. When you can afford $20million, $30mn, $40mn or more for a condo, you can afford to seek out and pay for an assessment and anticipate possible problems. That's not a standard type of inspection as far as I know, but I'm pretty sure you could get an evaluation from a structural engineer, or an engineer/architect team, whatever. I think they could be persuaded if you have the need and the pockets to pay. If you have doubts but not enough to back out entirely, you would have to get some language into your contract allowing a back-out. I mean, of all the things the billionaire class might lack for, professional services and lawyers are NOT hard for them to attain. What a s---hole, though.