Let’s talk about the birds and the bees … of residential real estate.
The latest spin on green amenities is landscaped areas with beehives that produce honey for residents and spaces that attract migratory birds.
“Now, instead of just having pretty gardens for residents to spend time in, buildings are being more deliberate about the kind of nature experiences they offer,” said Corcoran real estate agent Tara King-Brown. “[Birds and bees] should be celebrated because they’re signs that warmer weather is ahead.”
First to the bees. New York City had 326 registered hives in 2020, according to city’s Department of Health and Hygiene, which tracks beekeeping. In 2021, that number jumped to 454 thanks to the pandemic and new developments eager to sweeten the deal (literally) for residents.
The Solaire, new residences for sale in Battery Park City, has a thriving community of hives on its rooftop that are managed by the bee servicing company Best Bees. Harvesting honey is part of their job. Aaron Goed, the building’s director of sales, says that all prospective buyers are gifted a jar when they take a tour.
“They appreciate the personal touch and the unique connection to nature and our greenspaces,” he said.
The Helena, on 57th Street, hosts seven hives on its 5,000-square-foot rooftop park.
They produce an abundance of honey that beekeeper Andrew Cote harvests and jars for residents.
The Durst Organization owns and runs the Helena, along with the adjoining VIA 57 West, and shares the bounty between the two buildings.
“We give it to residents as a housewarming gift, and they love it,” said Douglas Durst, the company’s president. “Tenants in larger units also get it as a holiday gift.”
VIA resident Carole Levine, 71, is a fan of her honey welcome gift and says that it made her appreciate the building’s greenspaces and how bees benefit the environment.
“I’ve since fallen in love with honey,” she said. “Plus, it’s very nice to be able to say that there are beehives in the building next door to where I live in the heart of busy Manhattan.”
Hunter’s Point South, a rent-regulated development on the East River waterfront in Queens, has an organic urban farm and apiary that’s pollinated by honeybees. Beekeepers harvest the honey and distribute it to residents who are members of property’s garden club.
Developments are also creating green respites that are meant to be inviting stopovers for migratory birds.
Take The Belnord on the Upper West Side, where the acclaimed landscape designer Edmund Hollander designed the courtyard garden. With guidance from the Audubon Society and Hollander Design, the oasis was planted with trees and dense flower beds that draw birds.
These include red maple trees, rhododendrons, azaleas and Christmas fern.
And then there’s Flatiron House, a condominium with a courtyard garden and planted loggias designed by the landscape architect firm Future Green Studio.
The lush greenery in the space includes agastache, a nectar plant that is a favorite of hummingbirds, and blueberry and strawberry plants, a lure for birds in general as well as butterflies. Fragrant lavender is also part of the mix and known to attract honeybees.
Sophie Muschel-Horton, an associate designer at Future Green Studio, says that native and adaptive plants such as these are integral to the company’s designs.
“They contribute to the sustainability and livability of our city,” she said. “Pollinators that visit these plants may be our planet’s most crucial species, from both an ecological and economical perspective, since flowering plants depend on them to reproduce.”