Here’s a recent mini-trend in the Manhattan luxury real estate market that’s worth watching: Of the 16 contracts signed at $4 million and above in May, seven were either apartments that featured terraces or townhouses with gardens. You could make the argument that outdoor space is becoming a must-have pandemic feature. COVID-19 has forced city residents to reconsider the course of their daily lives. When will they be comfortable going to the theater, restaurants and retail stores?
Think about it. For the foreseeable future, the continuing threat of COVID-19 will limit the amount of time that city residents will spend outside their homes. So it’s understandable that outdoor space is now even more desirable than in previous years.
What can you do with outdoor space in New York City? Count on creative and resourceful New Yorkers to figure it out. Depending on the size of the terrace or garden, I have seen pools, putting greens, greenhouses, half-court basketball courts, fully-equipped kitchens and every kind of landscaping imaginable.
“There is nothing better than a glass of white wine on our terrace looking at Central Park and the reservoir,” said Hugh Robertson, who with his wife, Betsy, own an Upper East Side duplex apartment with an enormous landscaped terrace a stone’s throw from Central Park.
Nevertheless, on March 19, fearful of the impact of COVID, the Robertsons left the city for their second home off an island in Maine, having packed the car with masks, gloves, disinfectants, medicine and food. “We had three snow storms, a power outage and had to confront local hostiles,” said Mr. Robertson. “Plus there’s not a lot to do.”
Numerous cases have been reported in the Northeast of locals acting aggressively towards people driving in cars with New York plates. “We had become increasingly nervous about parking our car,” said Mr. Robertson, referring to incidents of locals vandalizing cars.
Mrs. Robertson was shocked at their treatment, as her family is the third generation to own a Maine property and had donated generously to local community organizations.
By April 11, the Robertsons had had enough, and returned to their Manhattan apartment, where they tended to their 1,000-square-foot-plus terrace garden as the pandemic raged on throughout the city. They took shelter high in the sky, planting lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, broccoli rabe, peppers, eggplant and herbs. They also have fig and peach trees and strawberry and blueberry bushes. “When we take produce to our friends, we tell them that it’s from our Manhattan farm,” said Betsy Robertson.
The rest of the Robertson’s terrace is lushly landscaped with rose trees, hydrangeas, sage, geranium, peonies, clematis, phlox, lilacs and shrubs of various varieties. They often eat outdoors amidst their fantastical garden and have music piped in.
“A terrace is very important now,” said Manhattan broker Michele Kleier of Kleier Residential. “You don’t know how long COVID is going to last—especially if you don’t want to be exposed to other people. ” Ms. Kleier added, “ A lot of my clients now say that they want either a townhouse or an apartment with a terrace. Personally, I’d kill to have a terrace.“