At the Grinnell co-op in NYC, where units are rarely offered for sale

A stately co-op in Upper Manhattan, The Grinnell may be the city’s best-kept secret for now.

Packed with spacious homes, a strong sense of community, and significantly lower maintenance costs than comparable buildings, the property sits in a sleepy corner of Washington Heights at 800 Riverside Drive. It also rarely has openings – but house hunters and otherwise curious locals now have their best chance in years to join this exclusive and hidden club.

In this 83-unit building, where residents typically spend decades, there are now an unprecedented four apartments for sale. If they change hands, they will mark the first sales at the Grinnell since 2020, according to StreetEasy, when just two units were sold. In 2019, only three units found a new owner.

The Grinnell is home to units with dazzling older-world features, like this wood-paneled dining room featured in a $1.99 million ad for unit GRI.
Hausit
The kitchen of Unit GRI is equipped with restored original oak cabinets.
The kitchen of Unit GRI is equipped with restored original oak cabinets.
Hausit
Hardwood floors and moldings galore round out the features of unit GRI.
Hardwood floors and moldings galore round out the features of unit GRI.
Hausit

‘I don’t remember when [four homes] were on the market at the same time,” says Bruce Robertson, 71, a longtime Grinnell resident. Robertson, also a Compass broker, represents the six-room unit 8H, which went on the market Saturday for $1.59 million — the first time it went on sale in 45 years. Aptly referred to as a “hidden gem” in its marketing description, this top-floor spread has three bedrooms, a great room over 25 feet long, a kitchen with windows and the original glass-fronted cabinets, a formal dining room with wainscoting and views on the George Washington Bridge.

A day later, according to StreetEasy, a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment—and tony accents like moldings—was listed for $1 million at RE/MAX Sparrow Realty.

Among the other availabilities: Unit GRI, an eight-room duplex, now asking for $1.99 million after listing for $2.2 million in April. It features three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Features include French doors, a wood paneled dining room, original oak floors and cabinets, and mirrored mahogany doors. (Instead of a traditional listing, this home — represented by Hauseit — is an assisted listing for owner sale.)

There’s even Unit 2A – an 1,800-square-foot three-room with French doors, crown molding, and bonus areas including a library, foyer, maid’s room, and pantry. It listed for $1.35 million in September – and is represented by Jamella Swift of Keller Williams NYC.

The light-filled Unit 2A, listed for $1.35 million, has French doors.
The light-filled Unit 2A, listed for $1.35 million, has French doors.
Keller Williams NYC
Unit 2A also has wainscoting and chic trim.
Unit 2A also has wainscoting and chic trim.
Keller Williams NYC

Occupying a completely triangular block between 157th and 158th Streets – and Riverside Drive and Edward Morgan Place – the Grinnell features homes from a bygone New York era. The smallest apartment has five rooms and measures 1,100 square feet; the largest has more than 10 rooms and covers 2,700 square feet. Built in 1911 and designed by architects Schwartz & Gross, it is a historic highlight with a Mediterranean-style façade, a porte-cochere entrance to a courtyard – and other classic interior details, including hardwood floors, stained glass transoms and 3 meter high ceilings. Amenities include a fitness room, bicycle storage and a roof terrace.

Aside from the grande-dame glamor and multimillion-dollar asking prices, many New Yorkers don’t know it’s a Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) cooperative. purchase at home. It is one of the most successful co-ops of its kind, and it “has worked well over the years to sustain Grinnell’s large infrastructure,” Robertson said.

That said, the Grinnell is the early 20th century apartment building fit for savvy New York royalty who, with the right income requirements, can now act to land a coveted deal. It is no surprise that residents are staying put.

The Grinnell occupies a full triangular block on Riverside Drive in Washington Heights.
The Grinnell occupies a full triangular block on Riverside Drive in Washington Heights.
Stephano Giovannini
The mighty building offers views in all directions, this one looking north across West 158th Street.
The mighty building offers views in all directions, this one looking north across West 158th Street.
Stephano Giovannini
The Grinnell dates back to 1911.
The Grinnell dates back to 1911.
Stephano Giovannini

“People who buy into the Grinnell don’t move because it’s a great place to live,” says Robertson, who is also a former member of the building’s board and has sold 10 units in the building over the years.

Robertson has lived in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with his wife, also a real estate agent, for the past 22 years. They found the apartment on a whim after being priced out of their Upper East Side apartment and immediately knew the building was special. He likes the south-facing windows, the bright light, the solid construction, the high ceilings, the hardwood floors and the tranquility.

“All in all, it’s hard to summarize why the Grinnell is so special and how that came about. Especially because it really is a community of close-knit residents, many families that have grown and are now being replaced by young families that care about each other,” Robertson said. “We don’t always agree on the issues faced by a 112 year old listed building of its size and scope. But we work through it and pride ourselves on a beautiful structure that looks and feels like living in a castle, in a rural setting with great neighbors in other similar buildings.

Robertson has sold nearly a number of units in the Grinnell over the years.
Robertson has sold nearly a number of units in the Grinnell over the years.
Stephano Giovannini
Robertson is also a 22-year resident of the building.
Robertson is also a 22-year resident of the building.
Stephano Giovannini
A virtual staged image of Unit 8H, representing Robertson.
A virtual staged image of Unit 8H, representing Robertson.
Tina Gallo photography

Other old residents agree that it is a building with a beautiful spirit.

Bruce Kanze, 74, an adjunct teacher at the nearby City College of New York, moved into the Grinnell in December 1977 and lived in Apartment 3B. He moved into 8F, an eight-room, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, in March 1982, with his wife and three children, where he has lived ever since.

“There’s a sense of belonging to a community, and we love our neighbors,” Kanze said. He remembered fond memories of climbing the mulberry tree in front of the building and picking berries with his daughters, setting up summer lemonade stands with them—and crabbing parties with the neighbors. “We would buy bushels and cover the tables with paper bags and see who had the highest pile of crab shells,” he added.

But another reason people stay at the Grinnell for so long is because of its HDFC title. It is one of 1,100 HDFC cooperatives in the city, where residents are shareholders and jointly own the building. The status dates back to 1982 when residents successfully bought the Grinnell from the city following a campaign with the slogan “Buildings for people, not for profit.” Aside from the tony interior and like-minded community, part of the property terms includes a flip tax, which also keeps residents in their place. The funds thereof go to the capital reserve of the building.

Unit 8H, on the top floor, also has great light exposure in addition to beautiful hardwood floors and moldings.
Unit 8H, on the top floor, also has great light exposure in addition to beautiful hardwood floors and moldings.
Stephano Giovannini
The kitchen indoor unit 8H.
The kitchen indoor unit 8H.
Tina Gallo photography
The wood paneled dining room in 8H.
The wood paneled dining room in 8H.
Stephano Giovannini
8H has a northwest view of the George Washington Bridge.
8H has a northwest view of the George Washington Bridge.
Stephano Giovannini

In addition to the income restrictions, a reduction in property taxes makes maintenance less than other cooperatives of similar size and stature. In contrast, a 2,000-square-foot four-bedroom apartment on Pinehurst Ave. 116 u $1.58 million with $3,400 per month in maintenance. Similarly, a three-bedroom co-op in the century-old Riviera across West 157th Street from the Grinnell goes for $1.79 million with $2,174 a month in upkeep. For example, Robertson’s $1.59 million listing has $1,448 per month in maintenance. Both unit GRI and 2A have a $1,450 monthly fee, StreetEasy shows.

Wayne Benjamin, 64, an architect who bought a 1,300-square-foot, two-bedroom co-op at the Grinnell in 1987 for just $85,000 — about $228,000 today — has no plans to go anywhere. He enjoys cooking in his large kitchen and listening to music on his vinyl record player – or jazz on an old-fashioned FM radio with a pair of speakers. He also enjoys New York City’s rare cross ventilation, as every room in the apartment has exposure—so he can open the dining room windows, which face the courtyard, and the French doors and windows in the living room across the hall. , which face the street and enjoy year-round breezes.

But in the end it’s the people.

“It comes down to what’s important,” Benjamin said of the appeal the Grinnell has to keep him there. “There are things you have in common with others – common concerns and interests that you come together to address. That’s what creates the sense of community that can turn a building or neighborhood into a vibrant, beautiful place to live.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *