to become an upper west sider, there is the time-consuming process of scouting the neighborhood, finding an apartment, signing a lease, moving and (usually) paying market-rate rent. but a company wants to give people the chance to live in the neighborhood without actually making the move-all for around $60,000 a week. fine times inc., a real estate company, is seeking to convert a vacant landmarked beaux art-styled rowhouse into units for a "private residential club" called the harmonia. the club, to be located at 15 w. 68th st. and central park west, will allow wealthy prescreened "members" to bring up to 22 guests to the proposed eight- to 12-unit building for tens of thousands of dollars a week. one member and their nearly two-dozen guests will be allowed to reside in the building at a time.
this proposal would be the first of its kind in new york city. fine times already has a private residential club in the bahamas, a building being restored in venice and is searching for property in london, according to mitchell korbey of herrick feinstein, a lawyer representing the project. korbey said the rate, which has yet to be finalized, could be as high as $50,000 to $60,000 per week. the company claims the harmonia would provide a private chef, live-in manager, garage space and one communal kitchen. the club is marketing the harmonia through advertising at cultural events to a top echelon of wealthy clients with a taste for fine art and museums. to complete this project, the company is taking advantage of a land use provision that allows for a change in zoning or land use in a landmarked building that includes a preservation plan. the interior, however, can be changed at the owner's discretion. while the property's facade is not in dire need of maintenance, community board 7 members applauded the fact that the plan would provide ongoing upkeep. council member gale brewer agreed that it was a good thing to have a maintenance plan, but said that the proposal to construct an "island caribbean on 68th street" was odd. "it's very strange and bizarre," brewer said. "we think of these kinds of places in the bahamas, vienna, not in residential neighborhoods." the company has started the process in getting approval for the project. lawyers and architects have presented the proposal to community board 7 committees three times already. at the last meeting, on april 13, the board's land use and parks and preservation committees voted in favor of altering the building's entrance to be handicap accessible, and approved the preservation plan that has been submitted to the landmarks preservation commission. "this is the only salvation for this building," said lenore norman, co-chair of the land use committee. "i'm not wild about the use." with a positive advisory vote, fine times will push forward with the plan, which will be presented to the landmarks preservation commission on april 21. the proposal will then go to city planning and eventually return to the board for review. both the city council and mayor will also have to sign off before it can be finalized. community groups are awaiting more details before passing judgment on the plan, according to a representative of the west 68th street block association, who did not want to be named so as to not speak for the group. "the block is pretty split. some in favor, some not. it's just too new," said the representative. "they want to do something that is not commonplace in new york."