Sophia Hollander of The Wall Street Journal reports on the resurgence of historic Madison Square Park over the past decade. Check out the documentary video included!
Published: July 13, 2012
When David Berliner moved to Manhattan’s West 24th Street in 1993, he would walk blocks out of his way to avoid the pit of Madison Square Park.
Dusty lawns bled onto broken pavement smeared with grease and garbage. Reminders of the park’s past glory, including a grand fountain and a statuary collection, formed a crumbling backdrop for drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless.
“It was a scary place where bad things happened,” recalled Mr. Berliner, who said he struggled to explain to relatives why he had moved into the area with his wife and young son. “It was shocking to me.”
Nearly two decades later, as the line for Shake Shack curls around sunbathers and laptop users sitting cross-legged, he is surprised by something quite different: “Don’t these people work?” he asked on a recent afternoon.
Mr. Berliner, now chairman of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, has helped plot a transformation that took longer and received less attention than the park’s more celebrated peers.
But the revival has spurred a renewal throughout the Flatiron neighborhood, where the average residential sale price has jumped by 127% since 2004, to just over $2 million, according to Streeteasy.com.
Commercial real estate has also soared. “All of it has a lot to do with the quality of that park,” said Robert Lapidus, president of L&L Holding Co., which purchased 200 Fifth Ave. for about $480 million in 2007.
That building neatly encapsulates the rising tide in the area bordering the formerly forlorn park, with tenants that now include Mario Batali’s Eataly marketplace as well as the headquarters of Tiffany & Co. Mr. Lapidus believes the value of his property has nearly doubled.
Before the recent turnaround, Madison Square Park spent nearly a century slipping off the city’s radar screen.