Architectural History: Manhattan Place at 630 First Avenue

Manhattan Place-Illustration by Travis Nichols

“What I always try to do is marry good architecture with good business,” says Costas Kondylis, architect of Manhattan Place, “You have to propose design solutions that increase the value of the building.”

 Architectural History

Manhattan Place’s 35 story, bronze-glass and brown-brick tower was completed in 1985, and features a large West-facing plaza with an impressive, tiered fountain designed by famous, urban landscape designer, Thomas Balsley. Its angled orientation was chosen to maximize views for residents.

Thomas Balsley

Thomas Balsley

Over nine years at the firm, Philip Birnbaum & Associates, Costas Kondylis grew immensely as an architect and his first design was Manhattan Place. Philip Birnbaum is credited with being the almost anonymous architectural hand behind many of the most imposing apartment towers in New York City.

What made him so popular among developers was the efficiency of his apartment layouts. There was virtually no wasted floor space in his units, meaning that builders could fit more apartments on a floor. Because he tried to eliminate interior hallways, occupants also got more usable room. He said he designed for the people who lived in his buildings, not the elite. Manhattan Place is among some 300 buildings designed by Mr. Birnbaum, alone or in association with others.

Costas Kondyllis

Costas Kondyllis

people need to have their own open space, even in a city of high-rises

”Most people don’t know Philip Birnbaum, yet he probably designed more buildings in New York than anyone else,” Donald J. Trump has said. ”Not all were great but they all made money. And some were, in fact, very good.”  Layouts were not his only trademark. Mr. Birnbaum also counted the rooftop swimming pool among his innovations. His daughter, Dara Birnbaum, a video artist in Manhattan who originally followed her father into architecture, said the idea was that ”people need to have their own open space, even in a city of high-rises.”

He would say, ‘Let’s use the roofs for the common good,

”He would say, ‘Let’s use the roofs for the common good,’ ” Ms. Birnbaum said. She traced this concern to a youth spent in railroad tenements so dark he would study outside by streetlight. Mr. Birnbaum grew up in Washington Heights, attended Stuyvesant High School and earned his architectural degree at Columbia. He was accepted at Princeton but was cautioned in a letter from the university that, as a ”Hebrew,” he might not fit into the environment. Mr. Birnbaum carried that letter around for many years, his daughter said.

I wanted ‘Manhattan’ because Manhattan is the best place to live

Jeffrey Glick of the Glick Organization, the building’s developers said about why he chose the name Manhattan place,  ”I wanted ‘Manhattan’ because Manhattan is the best place to live,” Originally, Manhattan Place had 485 units selling from $190,500 to $648,500.

In the building boom following World War II, Mr. Birnbaum did a great deal of work in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens, Queens, much of it for the developer Alfred L. Kaskel. Over the years, his practice was known as Philip Birnbaum, the Office of Philip Birnbaum or Philip Birnbaum & Associates.

Mr. Birnbaum also designed the Doral Beach Hotel in Miami Beach and the Doral Country Club in Miami, but most of his major projects were in Manhattan. The 47-story Excelsior, at 303 East 57th Street, was for a time New York’s tallest apartment building.

Other significant apartment towers besides Manhattan Place included 45 East 89th Street, at Madison Avenue; the Bromley, 225 West 83d Street; Le Chambord, 350 East 72d Street; the Promenade, 530 East 76th Street and the Horizon, 415 East 37th Street.

The skilled architectural design of Manhattan Place, impressive amenities,
smart apartment layouts and great staff continue to attract buyers from all
over the world. Historically, Manhattan Place has not only been a great place
to live, but also a smart investment

  • Architectural Firm: Philip Birnbaum & Associates
  • Architect: Costas Kondylis
  • Developer: Glick International Development
  • Awards: National Association of Homebuilder 1984 MIRM Awards. Five Gold Awards (including Best Overall U.S. Project). Two Silver Awards

Sources: The New York Times, Miami Haute Living, The NY Observer, Glick Development website.

If you’d like more information on Manhattan Place, or if you are interested in buying, renting or selling an apartment, please contact Tony Sarcone. I’d be happy to assist you with no obligation nor pressure.