Habitats/East 64th Street – A Backyard Hot Tub On The 43rd Floor

New York Times, Sunday July 14, 2002
By Trish Hall
Photographs by Frances Roberts for The New York Times

It Costs $11,000 To Raise It To A Penthouse Terrace.

Barry Skolnick and his hot tub, which cost $8,000, on his penthouse terrace in his East 64th Street building. It took five hours to raise the hot tub from the street.The penthouse has views north and east, as well as west to Central Park.

Manhattan is many things, but it is not hot-tub territory. For Barry Skolnick, however, the city’s natural barriers were merely an obstacle to overcome. And although many hurdles can be surmounted by will and creativity, Mr. Skolnick, an Upper East Sider, found that when it comes to hoisting a hot tub at a high-rise, money is crucial.

He had bought a Dimension One hot tub for $8,000. For an additional $11,000 he found a Manhattan company, Auer’s Moving and Rigging, that was capable of raising the 670-pound tub 43 stories to the upper terrace of his duplex penthouse on East 64th Street.

The five-hour procedure took place a few weeks ago, and much of it was captured by Mr Skolnick on video. It wasn’t terribly dramatic, but it did manage to attract a crowd that watched as the tub, held by ropes connected to a winch attached to a truck, marched its way up the side of Mr. Skolnicks building.

There was just one unanticipated detour; the tub had to stop for a rest period on the terrace of a downstairs neighbor because the heat generated by the ropes winding on the winch was threatening to derail the project.

Now the tub is on the terrace, along with a hose for filling it. The water, he said, has to be changed every 6 months or so depending on how much of the tub is used.

Mr Skolnick grew up in East Rockaway, on Long Island. He is a real estate developer who began his business more then 20 years ago by investing in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. But when it came to his own Manhattan apartment, he was a renter, not an owner, for decades.

Since 1979, he had lived in a one-bedroom rental on the Upper East Side. His friends, he said, kept pushing him to buy, but it never really seemed necessary to him.

One day, however, a friend told him about the duplex in the East 60’s, and it was clear to him that if he was ever going to buy, this was the place. “I always said, ‘If I move, I want it all,’ ” Mr Skolnick said. “As soon as I walked in, I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ “

The apartment, with views north and east, as well as west to Central Park, couldn’t feel more open and light if it rested on a cloud.

Although Mr Skolnick bought the apartment, a condominium, two and a half years ago for $2.7 million, he didn’t move in immediately. The apartment had a tenant and it didn’t become free until after Sept. 11, when the tenant decided to leave the city because of the attack on the World Trade Center.

The interior is elegantly furnished, but it is clear that Mr. Skolnick’s heart lies with the outside. His lower level terrace is lush with flowers and trees, and recently he also filled the second terrace, where the hot tub now sits, with potted plants.

“Landscape design is a hobby of mine,” he said. He has gardens at his country house in Gilbertsville N.Y. – a Catskills town west of Oneonta – as well as at his house in Quogue on Long Island, near his two sons, who live with his former wife.

Mr Skolnick didn’t originally plan to have a hot tub at a high-rise. He at first wanted to enclose the upper terrace in glass and use it as another room. He certainly wasn’t accustomed to having a lot of outdoor space in the city. Although his previous apartment had a balcony “you could maybe put a chair on it,” he said.

But when the condo board refused to give permission for the enclosure he decided to install a hot tub something he has at both of his other house.

Although he said he would have to use the hot tub – which the condo board approved – “thousands of times” for the cost to make sense, he didn’t think that would be a problem.

“It’s just phenomenal,” he said. “You’re relaxed, and you sleep like a baby.”