Opera

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2166 Broadway, New York City, NY

Opera
Opera-NYC-Exterior1.jpg

The Opera on Broadway
Building Information
Developer Next City Corporation
Architect Tilion & Tilion
Number of Units 113
Number of Floors 24
Year Built 1927
Construction Method Concrete
Type of Roof torch-on
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2166 Broadway, New York City, NY
Distance to Public Transit Less than one block
Region New York City
Municipality New York City
Zoning C4-6A
Title of Land Cooperative


Contents

Background

It takes on a whole new meaning when one says, I'm going to The Opera - when this is where you live.

The Gothic styling of the Opera
2166 Broadway at 76th Street, known as The Opera, reflects the Gothic style of architecture, at least on the top part of it. It's been around since 1927 serving first as a hotel owned by the Manhattan Congregational Church and later as a rental property.

The hotel iteration of Opera, named Manhattan Towers at the time of opening, had 626 rooms and was operated by a separate company, Manhattan Towers Inc., who would pay the church $20,000 a year in rent. In addition the rental income from Manhattan Towers Inc., the church would also rent out the retail space - but only to those businesses that agreed to remain closed on Sundays.

The Gothic styling of the Opera from its original marketing brochure
But Manhattan Towers Inc. went out of business in 1931 and the building was placed into receivership. The new owners paid only $200,000 for the building at auction, about a tenth of its construction cost of $2.1 million. In 1938, the building was again put up for auction but drew no bids. In 1943 the city assumed ownership of the building to cover back taxes amounting to $420,000.

In 1944, the building was used for navy housing and 200 Waves moved in. It served that purpose until 1946. Moving forward to 1973, the building, now called Hotel Opera, was in use as a single-room-occupancy, or S.R.O., where many of the residents were welfare recipients.

In 1974, the new owner evicted nearly two thirds of the occupants and change the name of the building to Opera Apartments. A massive renovation created 110 rental apartments out the former SRO rooms.

In 1980, it all changed again when the building was converted to a luxury cooperative.[1]



Location

Even though the Opera is on Broadway, it's a little further north of the heart of the theater district, which lies closer to Times Square, so it is considered "off-Broadway".

Opera as it was situated on a map in the marketing brochure
But that's not a draw back to Opera's location. It is well situated in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan about midway between Central Park and Riverside Park along the Hudson River. It's only four blocks north of the neighborhood of Lincoln Square, home of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Columbus Circle is an easy stroll to 59th Street, past notable neighbors like the Ansonia, the Apple Bank Building, and the Dorilton just past Verdi Square. If residents are not up for a leisurely stroll, they may choose from a number of public transit options that travel Broadway continuously.

The Upper West Side is home to many famous schools including the Robert Louis Stevenson School, PS 811M or the Mickey Mantle School, and the Rodeph Sholom School, more than 40 in the half mile range.

Residents can get their "designer coffees" at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, steps away from the building. Groceries? Just a bit further at about .12 of a mile. But what's .12 of a mile? Sometimes hard to imagine, but it's only a bit over two end-to-end football fields.

Big Nick's Burger & Pizza Joint sounds like an indulgence, but then so does Grom Gelato. From the Chirping Chicken to Planet Sushi, there are many culinary choices in the neighborhood.

So if one is off to the opera, meaning the real opera at the Met, or any other form of entertainment, both pre- and post cocktails can be had at the Amsterdam Ale House just over 200 feet from Opera - the building.[2]


Construction

One of the Opera gargoyles amid the mottle-colored brick façade[3]
Gargoyles may seem to be an odd thing to attach to a building with their fearsome features and sometimes sinister poses, but they actually serve a valid purpose.

Storm water is directed from the roof and other surfaces to the gargoyle heads protruding from the building. The water then spews from the mouths of gargoyles away from the walls of the building so that water does not run down the side of the wall and perhaps find a way into the structure. Sure, an ordinary pipe jutting from a wall would serve the same purpose, but it wouldn't be wrapped in mythology and superstition like the sometimes nightmarish imaginings of the artisans who make gargoyles.

Opera was built following a Gothic style of architecture. Christopher Gray, the Streetscapes columnist for the New York Times describes the building best with, "One of the best features of Gothic architecture is its fractal nature; it has an overall design, but it is somehow self-referential with the vertical motif. The motley brick selection and original entrance-way (a rarity) make this rather interesting."

Stylized "H" shape with one side ax-shaped
Through its history touched on in the Background Section above, the Manhattan Towers ... er ... Hotel Opera ... the Opera Apartments ... and now, the Opera has seen many re-boots in its existence. Originally, the project was developed by the Manhattan Congregational Church where its pastor, Rev. Edward H. Emmet announce plans for new sanctuary beneath a 600 room skyscraper.

Indeed, a large three story sanctuary was created within the structure able to seat 550, and adorned with huge sweeping arches, Gothic-style. The building rises to the 15th floor where the first setback occurs. Then consistency is abandoned and smaller outcroppings and additional setbacks occur creating private terraces for some of the upper apartments.

From above, the building has a stylized broadly flattened "H" shape with one leg of the "H" lookin more like an ax head, than the straight line of an "H". See the archival image of one of the floor plans for the 'entire floor' shape to the right.

626 S.R.O. rooms turned into 110 luxury cooperative apartments. The sanctuary has been converted into a theater for "off-Broadway" productions.[4]

Layout and Features

The amenities list from an newer marketing brochure
Another of the gargoyles keeping watch over the building
After its conversion to a cooperative, the Opera has become a full service building in a desirable area of Manhattan.

The doorman is there around the clock to help out and provide additional security to the residents. If needed, the doorman can summon the resident manager.

Apart from the newly renovated lobby, the building offers a porter, laundry on every floor, a bike room, and a storage area.


Floor Plans

More than 30 plans exist for Opera. Here are a few highlights:


Amenities

  • Doorman
  • Health Club
  • Mixed-use tower
  • Good public transportation

Cons:

  • No roof-deck
  • No balconies
  • No sidewalk landscaping


Attention to Gothic detail

Bylaws

Opera Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets Yes
Age No
Barbecues Yes



  • Pets are permitted
  • Opera allows rentals and sublets for a maximum of two years
  • Barbecues can be used by residents with a private terrace only
  • Smoking is not permitted in the common areas of the building. If smoke seeps into adjoining apartments, the leaks must be stemmed, filled, or caulked to prevent further leakage. If the offending resident does not stop the seepage, a court order may be obtained and the necessary repairs done at that owner's expense.

Sustainability

In 1927, it was the styling of a building that made it popular, not the fact that it made a softer impact on the environment.

The Manhattan Congregational Church wanted to offer rooms to tenants, " ... who are in accord with the high principles for which a church stands."

It was re-purposed several times during its life, an environmental bonus in that no new structure needed to be built for housing.

After its final conversion to a cooperative, renovation activities added newer more energy conscious appliances, updated plumbing and fixtures, and more energy efficient lighting.

Just the mere location of Opera, close to neighborhood amenities and entertainment choices, creates a 'greener' lifestyle by reducing the use of a car.


Trivia

Zabar's Café is inside
A busy place

One blogger wrote about Zabar's Café, "Just a cute little hole in the wall, busy as can be. Fast, affordable, and delicious."

"Fast, cheap, and in control ..." wrote the New York Restaurants magazine.[5]

That seems to be the consensus about this little seemingly hectic emporium frequented by super busy patrons. The hustle and bustle, the rustle and tussle of students and parents getting to and from school, the workers going to or coming from their commute, neighborhood residents dashing in and out for a snack ... it's the "go-to" place of the neighborhood.

Many go at any time of the day for the all day breakfast special, a bagel with cream cheese and nova (lightly cured and cold-smoked) salmon, a small orange juice, and a small cup of coffee. Only $6.95!

Cheese cakes, cheese blintzes, matzoh ball soup is always on hand, and simple sandwiches. Fresh, hot or cold, Zabar's Café is a very popular neighborhood amenity. Now to try the "rosemary-sprinkled potato-and-onion squares" ...


References

  1. City Realty - Review
  2. Walk Score
  3. Gargoyles of New York
  4. NYC Facades
  5. New York Restaurants - Zabar's Café


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