21 Astor Place
21 Astor Place, New York City, NY
|21 Astor Place|
The building's red-brick exterior
|Developer||The Elad Group|
|Architect||George Harney/H. Thomas Hara|
|Number of Units||50|
|Number of Floors||11|
|Type of Roof||IRMA|
|21 Astor Place, New York City, NY|
|Distance to Public Transit||54 nearby options|
|Region||New York City|
|Municipality||New York City|
|Title of Land||Condominium|
In 1847, about two years before its street would be named Astor Place after the United States' first multi-millionaire John Jacob Astor, a massive opera house opened near East 8th Street. The opera house was designed by Isaiah Rogers, already one of the country's famous architects for his work on the Tremont House in Boston, which was the first hotel to have indoor plumbing.
Intended to cater to the upper class, the house offered upholstered seats, available by subscription, instead of benches. The general admission seating area was designed to be independently accessible so that the higher classes would not have to mingle with the lower at any point. With these measures in place, as well as the enforcement of a dress code which included fresh shaves and kid gloves, the opera house hoped to limit the rowdy behaviour common to many theaters at the time.
Unfortunately, a peaceful theater was not to be. In 1849, tension between the affluent British and working-class Americans had reached a building point. The conflict was embodied in the theater world in the rivalry between the great British actor William Charles Macready and the first American theatrical star, Edwin Forrest. Newspapers in Britain and the U.S. were filled with articles on which actor was superior, and the actors themselves both insulted each other in the media and heckled each other at performances. The Astor Opera House itself, too, was a dominant symbol of class struggle in its exclusiveness and its opulence.
On May 10th, 1849, Macready was set to perform Macbeth at the Opera House, while Forrest was to perform the same play at the nearby Broadway Theater. Nearly 10,000 people entered the streets between the theaters, and a violent and widespread riot started almost immediately. Inside the Astor, Forrest supporters were attempting to set the opera house on fire, while outside, they hurled stones at the building. All the while, Macready continued to perform the play. As the riot spread, the police and then the military intervened, and shots were fired, first into the air as a warning, and then directly into the crowd. In the end, somewhere between 22 and 31 people were killed, and over 250 people were injured.
The Astor Opera House never recovered from its association with the riot, and closed in the middle of its next season. In 1853, the interior of the building was completely dismantled, and in 1890, the building was torn down by its new owners, the New York Mercantile Library, and replaced with the 11-story building which stands today. During this time, the building was known as Clinton Hall. The library, which was also used as a cultural center, was a hub for literate and philosophical discussion, and hosted public lectures from William Thackeray, Mark Twain, and more. The Mercantile Library remained in the building until 1920.
The building at 21 Astor Place served a number of different purposes over the next few decades, during which the neighborhood did not enjoy the same development boom as other areas of New York City. The building was throughout the decades a union headquarters, the Chinese consulate, a hotel, and an office building. Finally, the 21 Astor Place was converted to an apartment building in 1995.
Famous for Tony Rosenthal's 1967 sculpture "Alamo", a large black cube which can be rotated by pedestrians and which was New York City's first abstract sculpture, and Cooper Union, one of the country's most selective private colleges, Astor Place is one of the city's busiest areas. Between Greenwich Village and the East Village, the area is one of heavy traffic, but also one of easy transit and walking accessibility. 21 Astor Place has a walk score and transit score of 100 and a bike score of 87.
The architecture in the area is a mixture of the historic, including the Grace Episcopal Church, and the new, including the 21-story postmodern tower at 445 Lafayette Street. Once home to the most affluent of New Yorkers, the area gradually deteriorated over the first half of the 20th century, with revitalization beginning in the late 1960s. While development in the Astor area has not been as significant as in other parts of New York City, buildings like 445 Lafayette may represent the beginning of a change for the neighborhood.
The area is an eclectic mix of stores catering to all sorts of people, from Tavalon Tea Bar, which offers a live DJ to accompany tea time, to Israeli chocolate shop Max Brenner, the brainchild of an aspiring novelist turned chocolate tourist.
The architect during the conversion to condominiums was H. Thomas Hara, and the layouts were designed by Gal Nauer. Both worked to preserve the historic appearance of the exterior while creating a modern living space within.
The 9,000 square feet at the top of the building was converted into a penthouse level consisting of three separate units.
The building retains its distinct arched windows and red brick exterior. 
Layout and Features
21 Astor Place's 50 units are primarily one- or two-bedroom, ten of which are duplexes, with a few larger apartments. Units range in size from 1,187 to 4,275 square feet.
The building's distinct heritage exterior gives way to a modern interior, with a marble lobby leading to the newly-installed elevators. Common areas for the residents, like the climate-controlled fitness room, are similarly new in style.
The rooms take advantage of natural light with large windows, and those on floors two and seven enjoy the unique benefit of the curved tops of the arched windows. The rooms feature all the modern trappings, from Viking fridges, Bosch ovens, and Marshwood cabinetry in the kitchen toBelle Epoque porcelain floor tiles and Watermark bath fixtures in the bathrooms. Some of the apartments also offer fireplaces, and match the building's exterior with interior brick walls. The bedrooms feature closets with doors of translucent glass.
Here are some floor plans from 21 Astor Place.
- Cold storage
- Roof deck
|21 Astor Place Bylaws|
- The building is pet friendly.
- Rentals are allowed.
- There is no age restriction for residents.
21 Astor Place is not LEED certified and is not considered a green building. As with many of New York City's older buildings, however, the large windows are built to allow for natural ventilation and help to reduce the amount of energy spent on lighting.
The building's highly foot- and transit-friendly location also allows residents to reduce their environmental footprint by avoiding the use of a personal vehicle.
- During its period as Clinton Hall, the building enjoyed its own personal entrance to the subway platform. The doorway still exists on the southbound platform at Astor Place station, though it has been bricked up for decades, and it still reads "Clinton Hall" (pictured right).
- The Great Hall of the nearby Cooper Union was the site of Abaham Lincoln's "Right Makes Might" speech on slavery and the constitution, for which Lincoln was paid $200 (accounting for inflation, the equivalent of $4,000 today). The speech was an hour and a half and 7,715 words, in sharp contrast to Lincoln's famous Gettysburg speech, which was around two minutes long and a mere 269 words. Mathew Brady, considered the father of photojournalism, took a picture on the day of the speech which depicted Lincoln in an elegant and decidedly presidential pose. The picture gained widespread fame, prompting Lincoln to have reportedly later said that he owed his presidency to Cooper Union.
- Ariel Foxman, a current resident, is the first male to be managing editor of InStyle Magazine.
- The nearby diner The Famous Cozy Soup 'n' Burger's main claim to fame was its appearance in the Adam Sandler film Big Daddy.
- The current Astor Place Theater has no relation to the Astor Opera House, and of course sits on a different site. The theater is owned, and is the home of, the artistic organization Blue Man Group.
- A former resident of the building was Jared Kushner, a sign of the building's genuine worth, as Kushner is himself the principal owner of a real estate development company. Kushner moved out in 2011, the same year that his wife Ivanka Trump, daughter of Donald Trump, gave birth to their daughter.
- John Jacob Astor
- Isaiah Rogers
- Astor Place riot
- Mercantile Library
- Clinton Hall
- Cooper Union
- Walk Score
- Neighborhood History
- Shuster Management
- Carter Horsley
- Carter Horsley
- City Realty
- Mathew Brady
- Jared Kushner
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