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Real-estate story: Angelo Cosentini and the Blue Building

Published by The New York Sun on 2005-12-01

What to name a blue building consisting of shimmering pixilated floor-to- ceiling glass that changes shades each hour of the day?

"Blue," of course.

"What else?" the co-developer of the Lower East Side's first full-time doorman building, Angelo Cosentini, said yesterday. "The randomness of the design isn't really random. My partner John Carson and I wanted to create a building that we could walk by 20 years from now and say, 'Wow! Look what we built!'"

To build such an edifice, Mr. Cosentini and Mr. Carson commissioned Columbia University's former dean of architecture, Bernard Tschumi. The celebrated architect came up with plans for a 16-story building that will contain 32 one-and-two-bedroom condominium apartments.

They range in size from 759 square-feet to 2,494 square-feet; there will also be a penthouse. The Corcoran Group is selling the apartments from $745,000 to $3.95 million. The ground floor will feature retail shops.

"I see 'Blue' as part of a re-energizing of the Lower East Side," Mr. Cosentini said. "At 'Blue,' it's all about the distinctively designed apartments - units offering light, generous layouts and wonderful views. And there's the history associated with our building."

His reference was to the fact that "Blue," located at 105 Norfolk Street, is being raised on what used to be the parking lot of Ratner's, the kosher restaurant renowned for traditional Jewish dairy dishes. The restaurant closed last January after being in business for 100 years.

That Blue is being built at all - for around $17 million - is testimony to the Canadian-born Mr. Cosentini's skills as a deal maker.

"As a child, I was always around business conversations at the family dining table," he said.

Those conversations occurred because his parents, Corrado and Sara - both immigrants from Calabria in southern Italy - ran a banquet hall. Mr. Cosentini worked as a busboy, waiter and dishwasher during evenings. In his teens, he found summer jobs on construction sites.

"I was driven," he said. "My parents instilled in me the belief that I could do anything I wanted as long as I worked fiercely and had a passion."

His parents were disappointed, however, when Angelo opted against college. He got into the restaurant business, and started what eventually became two successful eateries - Italian cuisine, of course - in Toronto.

Mr. Cosentini then moved to New York to join his girl friend - and now wife - Maya Neighbour, who was developing a sweater enterprise. A mutual friend introduced them to Mr. Carson, native of a small Pennsylvania community, who'd established a successful contracting business. Mr. Carson's clients included many celebrities, including Jane Pauley, Michael J. Fox, and Judd Hirsch.

"It was good chemistry from the start," Mr. Cosentini said.

The chemistry resulted in the formation of a real-estate company that specializes in developing high-end residential condominiums. The partners still live with their spouses in the same four-story brownstone on Thomas Street that they purchased as their first property in 1990.

"We feel blessed," Mr. Cosentini said. "Luck has played a role, of course, but I don't take 'no' for an answer - and I never give up. That's a Canadian's way of making it in New York."

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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