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Bagels and Luxe

A new high-end residential development is seeking to add a shine of kosher chic to the historic—if also historically downmarket—Lower East Side

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The view from roof of the Madison Jackson building. (New York Architectual Renderings)

Six years after developing the old Jewish Daily Forward building into luxury condos, real-estate developer Michael Bolla is back with another building that will likely be of interest to Jewish New Yorkers. The Madison Jackson building—a palatial former school designed by architect Charles Snyder in 1908 that is being turned into high-end condos—will feature an in-house vegan restaurant with a hashgacha, or kosher certification, that will also offer room service to building residents. The organic juice bar outpost in the building’s basement will also be under hashgacha.

Luxe, observant living? It’s not such a crazy idea. Situated on Madison and Jackson Streets, mere blocks from the storied Grand Street Co-ops, where many Orthodox Jews still live, the long-empty building is nestled in the heart of the Lower East Side, historically a home for Jewish immigrants and, more recently, a hub for younger Jews attracted to the vibrant cultural scene. Bolla’s newest development is an attempt to reflect this changing real-estate market while also giving more than just a passing nod to the neighborhood’s religious roots.

“You can go from being single to being married to having a child without moving,” he explained of the surprisingly spacious, high-ceilinged units with simple lofted areas housing either one or two decent-sized, malleable bedroom areas. “Within the religious community, we think about things like this,” says Bolla, an observant Jew who grew up in Saddle River, N.J., before moving to New York City. “These really are lofts in the sense that you can manipulate the space to your purposes.”

Some people are a little skeptical—including longtime Lower East Side residents, who themselves have been frustrated by one of their neighborhood’s important downsides: the lack of an eruv, the ritual enclosure installed above observant communities that permits the carrying of objects on Shabbat.

“It’s an odd project,” noted Steven I. Weiss, director of original programming and new media at the Jewish Channel who lives in the Grand Street Co-ops, “recruiting observant Jews into an ever-shrinking Orthodox community, shrinking in large part because it’s the only major Jewish neighborhood without an eruv.”

The fitness center at the Madison Jackson building (New York Architectural Renderings)

Others wondered about the pricing. The 110 loft units, projected to be ready for occupancy early this spring, are priced competitively for Manhattan, at around $750 per square foot—which compares favorably to the attention-grabbing Blue Condo five blocks north at 105 Norfolk Street, averaged at $1,157 per square foot on previous sales listings. Further west at 7 Essex, a condo on Canal Street, units sold for an average of $991 per square foot. But Jacob Goldman, the founder of Loho Realty, claims apartments in the buildings closest to the new Madison Street development—including some lower-level units in the East River and Hillman co-ops—are priced at less than $400 per square foot.

There’s also no Shabbos elevator in the new luxury building, but, as Bolla notes, the historic former school measures in at only six floors—and, even with the high ceilings, the climb should be manageable. Bolla also said he would offer to upgrade any kitchen to accommodate a second sink for a kosher kitchen, if a buyer made that request. And of course, the new building’s amenities—including a 24-hour doorman, outdoor parking, refrigerator for food deliveries, and indoor pool and gym with indoor cycling at $10 a class—should appeal to more than just Orthodox Jews. In a borough where the soaring cost of spin classes can compete with monthly rental prices, the cycling alone might be incentive enough.

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Bagels and Luxe?

Why would you use a pun on liberal Ashkenazi food tastes to talk about observant Jews? Strange

As a former resident of the Grand St. Coops there are two points/questions in this article that need clarifying:

1. Why is there no eruv in this area (the Lower East Side)? It is mentioned in the article but not elucidated nor linked to.

2. Across the street from the Madison Jackson building (to the south) and closest to it are many blocks of public housing which have an above average crime rate. If the claims that “some of lower-level units in the East River and Hillman co-ops— are priced at less than $400 per square foot” are significant, then the public housing to the south is even more significant.

Neighbor says:

To answer Eli’s questions:

1) Short answer: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z”l. Longer answer: I’m not an expert on halachah or Orthodox politics. My understanding, however, is that Feinstein’s preeminent reputation and connection to the neighborhood + the current neighborhood Orthodox leadership’s generally conservative tendencies (including Feinstein’s son, who is still rosh yeshiva at MTJ on East Broadway and a halachic authority in his own right) have led the LES community to abide by Feinstein’s ruling even though it’s considered a minority opinion in the rest of Manhattan.

2) The proximity to the Vladek Houses and the distance from the subway are probably the reasons why these are priced around $750/sqft and not over $1000/sqft like most of the other high end condos in the neighborhood. There’s also a huge difference in price between the co-ops with their myriad restrictions (and heavy flip taxes) and nearby luxury condos. $750 for Madison-Jackson vs. $400 for the East River co-op nearby doesn’t seem that different from $1000 for the Forward Building (plus very high carrying costs) vs. $600 for the Seward Park co-op a block away.

To Neighbor: Thank you for your answers.

1)I fondly recall the times I consulted Reb Moshe zt”l on Halachic matters. He was a major presence in the community, especially when he just walked with a few others from MTJ/shul to his apartment (or vice-versa) in the East River co-ops. I did not know that he had forbidden an eruv.

2) I did live in the East River co-ops (and family still lives there). Personally, would rather be there than closer to Vladek houses even though the co-ops are older, lack the latest and added amenities and have other limitations as you note.

Marty Janner says:

Unfortunately, the Lower East Side I grew up with is not this! The pushcarts on Essex Street, which became a closed market, Gluckstern’s, Poliakoff, Ratner’s Dairy Restaurant, The Pageant Chinese Restaurant, all gone!

The bagel vibe is no substitute!

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Bagels and Luxe

A new high-end residential development is seeking to add a shine of kosher chic to the historic—if also historically downmarket—Lower East Side

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