A Photo Tour of Williamsburg's Latest Real Estate Travesty

Today’s great story on New York City as real estate investment and money laundering capital of the world has lots to recommend it, but in particular it confirms one of those things you already know but don’t have the numbers on:

The Census Bureau estimates that 30 percent of all apartments in the quadrant from 49th to 70th Streets between Fifth and Park are vacant at least ten months a year.

Amazing. Such validation! The rest of us, well… we work here, so we should probably have some place to sleep.

The Spire Lofts in Williamsburg have been going on the market in waves, with an open house held this weekend for most of the units. It has “three floors” (double height floors, basically, and also no elevators), each floor organized by a long, straight and rather creepy central corridor. (The building’s top floor, full of skylights embedded in its plastic fake slate roof, is going last, and should be inspected and approved and ready for viewing in about two months.) “The Spire” was formerly St. Vincent De Paul Church, located right on North 6th Street between Bedford and Driggs, and the exterior of the building is entirely churchy. Available apartments now range from $6000 a month to $11,000 a month (but no fee!). Poking through the building, the fascinating if weird idea of a church conversion becomes even weirder when suddenly you look around an apartment and discover there… are no closets. And maybe nowhere to live.

This was the lone closet, in the kitchen, of a 1.5 bedroom. Strange furnishings abound, making every apartment feel identical yet strangely different: Weird sliding wood doors covering the glossy brick windowless bathrooms, other construction sites outside almost every window (“but they don’t work on Saturdays!” we were told, which means… they work on Sundays), the stairs on which you have to dodge and weave to not crack your head open, kitchens that you could maybe get a small table in, strange washer and dryer doors hidden behind other doors on tiny landings at the top of stairs, exposed electrical conduit to bizarre lighting fixtures…. Awkward tortured spaces, with walkways, or rooms that “could” be bedrooms, or… could not be. “Could I get a closet unit into that strange angled high space above the kitchen?” Maybe so.

The obligatory and somehow lonely wine rack atop every refrigerator. You like wine? Of course you like wine. “You can’t call that a bedroom because it doesn’t have a window” is something you might be told.

It photographs quite attractively, if you’re trying to sell the apartments. Actually being in them is something else.

These are apartments for people who don’t have anything. They’re nothing that several dozen Ikea furnishings couldn’t make complete. They are apartments for people who will wake up and wonder: Where am I going? What am I doing here?