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Manhattan apartments boast extravagant amenities

NEW YORK - It used to be that a full-service apartment building in New York meant a doorman, a roof garden, maybe a gym.

These days, the can-you-top-this amenities include chic screening rooms; covered dog runs; golf simulators where you can practice your swing in front of a screen; wine cellars; bocce courts; rooftop beaches with sand and hammocks; and your own personal 'art concierge,' to dispense expert advice on what to hang on your walls.

With Manhattan's luxury real estate market awash in money from rich foreigners and Wall Street investment bankers with big bonuses to spend, developers are competing hard to attract tenants.

At William Beaver House, a 47-story tower under construction in lower Manhattan, developer Andre Balazs - the hotelier and sometime Uma Thurman boyfriend - has promised valet parking, a covered dog run and a cinema with purple-upholstered lounging areas for recumbent movie viewing.

Apartments there range from $900,000 for a studio to $2.6 million for a three-bedroom.

Nearby, at a building called 75 Wall Street, maids from the hotel on the lower floors will be available to make tenants' beds.

On the 42nd-floor rooftop, there will be a solarium, lounge, sandy beach, hot tub, hammocks, grills and a lounging area with a fireplace and a kitchen.

'Without a doubt, amenities have become an essential element,' said Kelly Mack, the president of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, which sells luxury condos. 'There's a need for them to be customized as part of the lifestyle package specific to each building."

The past few years have seen a surge in residential development in New York, as builders have put up new towers or converted commercial space into apartments.

According to Census figures, 31,599 permits were issued for privately owned residential units in New York City in 2005 and 30,927 in 2006, the highest two-year total since the 1960s.

The high end of the market is particularly strong, for reasons that include the abundance of cash on Wall Street, and the slumping dollar, which has made Manhattan real estate a relative bargain for foreigners.

Charles and Jane-Mary Stewart live on a 13-acre farm outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, with three ponies, a horse and a donkey.

They wanted something more urban for their second home.

'My wife and I just love New York,' Charles Stewart said. 'We've been quite a few times.'

The couple - he's a lawyer, she's a doctor - selected a spacious one-bedroom condo at 650 Sixth Ave., a seven-story building with an art gallery on the ground floor.

While they were at it, they picked up a $35,000 painting of diamond-studded dog tags by Israeli artist Nir Hod to put in it.

'I think it'll be a great combination,' Stewart said. 'It just spoke to me.'

The Stewarts' 67-unit building is a gut renovation of an 1892 Beaux Arts structure in the historic shopping district known as Ladies Mile.

Apartments start at $930,000 for a studio. One-bedrooms are around $1.3 million and two-bedrooms start at $1.6 million.

'Month after month, you're going to be able to walk through the lobby and see something new on the wall. And if you see something, you like you can buy it,' said real estate marketer Michael Shvo, who was hired to conceive the project.

The gallery will also offer art collecting advice to residents. The building's Web site lets you drag a painting from room to room to see where it would look best.

Around the corner is another building being marketed by Shvo's firm called the Jade, as in Jade Jagger.

There the draw is the connection to the rock-star daughter, who designed its interiors.

Amenities include landscaped terraces on the 13th and 14th floors, reflecting pools, hot tubs, a lounge and a spa.

'It's about having her lifestyle,' Shvo said.