Stephen G. Kliegerman
President of Development Marketing
By Gina Pace
As New York City gastronomes buzz about recent additions to the Harlem food scene, a quieter food revolution has been happening at the intersection of 120th St. and Fifth Ave.
Somehow three of the city’s top chefs all ended up in the same high-rise − and it wasn’t just kitchens that got them there.
Alain Sailhac, the dean emeritus of the French Culinary Institute; Olivier Reginensi, the chef of Americano, and Lee Ann Leichtfuss,a personal chef with high-profile clients, have moved into 5th on the Park, a massive 28-story condominium building across the street from Mount Morris Park.
The chefs’ move to the building is coincidental — when the Daily News dropped in to check out their apartments, they had only heard rumors about their counterparts moving in. But they say it makes sense when you consider the draws of the residential project, including views of Central Park from many of the units, more space for the price than you can find downtown, and proximity to multiple subway lines.
Bethel Gospel Assembly sits at the base of the 28-story 5th on the Park (Enid Alvarez)
“I heard there were a lot of new buildings in Harlem that were reasonably priced for what I wanted,” said Leichtfuss, who had lived on the upper East Side since 1993 and now has a sunny two-bedroom with sweeping park views. “I looked at every new building at Harlem at the time and nothing stood up to this place.”
Like much new construction in the city, 5th on the Park has faced controversy. A few buyers who put deposits down used a loophole in a law that requires developers to disclose sales figures to get their deposits back.
But despite the legal kerfuffle, sales at the 5th on the Park are picking up. They’ve passed the 50% sold mark, and remaining units average about $700 a square foot, according to Streeteasy. If resident chefs are any indication, the building is catching the eye of heavy hitters. The Daily News got a chance to visit with them and check out their new digs:
Lee Ann Leichtfuss
Lee Ann Leichtfuss (shown in the top photo), owner of Your Personal Chef, counts Ralph Lauren among her clients – and it seems that years around the designer have rubbed off on her chic home. The white and tan living room looks like a spread out of Architectural Digest. Leichtfuss plans to adapt the decor for cooler seasons ahead, adding a red couch cover and a black rug.
“The upper East Side is stunningly beautiful, clean and quiet — but you don’t get this view,” said Leichtfuss, gesturing to her expansive eastern and southern exposures on the 18th floor, where she can see planes taking off and landing at LaGuardia Airport. The afternoon sun is so abundant in the living room there is the impulse to don sunglasses.
“With the view and the sky, you see something different every day and you never get tired of it,” she said. “When the sun goes down, all the buildings light up along Central Park. It’s beautiful.”
Leichtfuss said the outdoor space has changed her life — and she’s outfitted it to serve as a second living room. Right after moving in, the space proved to be too much of a draw for her chocolate Abyssinian cat Chase. He jumped off the terrace and miraculously landed two floors down, and after convalescing can walk again. Chase still gets outside — but on a leash — because he still loves going out there, Leichtfuss said.
Leichtfuss was worried when she first moved uptown that it would be difficult to get her friends to visit. “Now it’s like Grand Central Station,” she said, estimating that she throws parties two to three times a month to show off the place.
Her reaction to hearing that others in the industry have moved into the building? “I’m more excited than surprised,” she said. “I think the building draws interesting, creative people.”
Father of two Olivier Reginensi wanted to find a location that was central enough for his children to go to Lycee Francais on the upper East Side; for his wife, Frederique, to get to her midtown job as the finance director for Le Bernardin, and for him to get to his post as executive chef at the newly opened Americano restaurant at the Hotel Americano in Chelsea, which serves Latin-inspired Mediterranean cuisine.
Reginensi devotes most of his time to his new restaurant, even multitasking by using an app on his iPhone to get the freshest fish on the market while making us pancakes when we come to visit. But he’s able to take advantage of the building’s location to spend time with his kids. He plays soccer with his son in a nearby park, and his daughter likes to swim in the 50-foot pool at the base of the building.
“The park is right there. I wake up in the morning and see the city,” said Reginensi of his northwest views that face Mount Morris Park’s hilly terrain. “You can come up here and feel like you live in a different town.”
Alain Sailhac was so taken with the view from the 22nd floor of the building that he had mirrored walls installed in his large kitchen.
“It’s good because I know I’m in New York,” said Sailhac, the first chef to earn a four-star rating in The New York Times when he was working at Le Cygne in the 1970s. “Sometimes when I’m cooking, I can’t tell where I am.”
Sailhac and his wife, Arlene Feltman Sailhac, the founder of De Gustibus cooking school, are still completing adjustments to their sprawling 1,970-square-foot space. It was originally four bedrooms, but they knocked out walls of one bedroom to create a dining room and transformed another into an office space.
“Harlem is one of the last areas in Manhattan where you can have space,” Arlene said. “I can see the park and feel a sense of non-hysteria.”
The couple have lived on E. 74th St. for 20 years and joked that they came to look at the development 25 times before they were sure.
“It was a very big decision for us. We wanted to make sure we felt it was the right place,” Arlene said. “At night, the view is dazzling beyond belief. It’s magical.”
Friday, November 18, 2011