The bustling commercial center of New York city, in the shadow of the mighty Empire State Building, is the home of some of the priciest land in the entire world -- and some amazing bargains!

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398-402 Park Avenue South

Our favorite example! There's just so much to say about this site. A large surface parking lot, right on top of a Subway station in one of the priciest locations in Manhattan.

Land value: $4,900,000 (the city thinks the value has only gone up by a mere $760K in the last two land-boom years...)

Current tax bill: $201,212
with 75% BR LVT: $266,953
with The Real Deal: $1,177,960

This lot is irregularly shaped, 65 ft. on Park Ave. by 150 feet on 28th St. The assessed value seems high, but this is midtown Manhattan. The lot is clearly under-assessed. The land under the 8-story building next door, measuring 85 by 86 feet, is assessed at $7,542,200. The similarly-sized lot under the 16-story building across 28th St. is also assessed at $7.4 million. But stay tuned for...

420 Park Avenue South

This block has looked like this for some time: the painted ad on the tall building is for typewriters and adding machines.

We're looking at the tiny bank building on the corner. Its tax Class is 4

Land value/Building value: Now here's an economic miracle. According to NYC, this site lost $12,000 worth of value between 2006 and 2006, while the building, to which no changes were made, became worth $2,000 more!

The city says this lot is worth $288 PSF. The current tax bill: $60,374. With the Real Deal, they would pay $233,188. That might seem like a lot -- but let's compare with the 16-story office building with the FACIT ad on its side. It has 23 total units. Its land is supposedly worth $11,000,000 -- 5.2 times more per square foot than the corner lot! Its current tax bill is $655,091, and the Real Deal would charge it $2,644,400.

It's interesting to note that this corner lot is only 28% as large as the parking lot shown above, which is two blocks uptown from this site. In March of 2006, 420 Park Avenue South sold for $15,100,000. The rolls list the single-story building as "designed exclusively for banking", but we would be justified in classifying it as a teardown. That leaves us with a land value per square foot figure of $4,496. The city's figures were off by a factor of more than fifteen.

12, 14 & 16 West 45th Street

Here are three buildings, erected in 1925, 1947 and 1916 respectively, that are neatly tucked in a few doors down from Fifth Avenue, a ten-minute walk from Grand Central Station. The picture below, which looks upward from the roof level of #16, shows the market-clearing level of development on this block. All are zoned commercial (C6-4).

Number 12: Three stories; the lot is 16x100. Current "land value" is $709,000; building value is listed at $521,000.
Number 14: Five stories; same zoning; lot is 21x100. Although the lot is five feet wider than #12, land value is shown at $600,000; although the building is two floors taller and has three more rentable units (which seem to be occupied; they all have air conditioners), its value is listed at $304,000.
Number 16: Seven floors tall, it lists seven units. The lot is also 21x100. Land value is $741,000; building value is $419,000. These three parcels combined have a street frontage of 48 feet, and a property tax bill of $148,369 for '07. That might seem like a lot, but the next-door lot, 60 feet wide, with a 17-story hotel on it, pays $555,001.

The Hotel's market value is listed at $13 million. That's quite low in the current boom market; a 4-story brownstone one block uptown, valued at less than $1 million, sold last year for $7,555,000. And a 40x99 lot at 41 West 41st Street with a two-story building on it sold for a cool $100 million in May, 2006!

All three of these parcels are allowed to build up to twelve stories as currently zoned (and "up to 14.4 with bonus," whatever that means), so, we cannot blame zoning requirements for their underdevelopment. The city lists their building class under section K, "Store buildings -- taxpayers included."

302 5th Avenue

We're looking at the seventeen-story building on the corner.

Land value: $5,270,000 ($975 PSF)
Building value: $2,000,000

Current tax bill: $314,107
with 75% BR LVT: $361,976
with the Real Deal: $1,266,908

Mysteriously, the City tells us that the land under the 4-story building next door (whose upper three floors are unoccupied) is worth a mere $350 per square foot!

But you know, if you bundled these two parcels, you could make some real money. Up the street at 391 5th Avenue, an 8-story building with 42 feet of frontage sold in July 2006 for -- wait for it -- twenty-five million dollars. It had to have been paired with one of the neighboring lots, because the parcel the rolls list at this address ihas only 18 feet of frontage. Still the combined value of that lot plus the ones on both sides of it add up, in the city's reckoning, to less than a million dollars.

459 Park Avenue South

Here's another use of corner wall-space for advertising: what's the rate for that, in midtown?

Tax Class: 2B

Land value: $489,000 ($315 PSF)
Building value: $1,325,000

Current tax bill: $53,814
with 75% BR LVT: $52,488
with the Real Deal: $117,556

These figures are a tad low, however. We can say this with some assurance, because a 3-story building at 32 East 32nd St., also on a corner, sold in July '06 for $5,300,000. Since the building is actually smaller, the diffenence has to be a matter of land value.

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