NEW YORK – The real-estate ad warned, “Think Treehouse or Cruise Ship Cabin,” but the size of the apartment – 160 square feet – still looked like a misprint.

It wasn’t.

Barely twice the size of a Death Row prison cell, the itty-bitty studio on Perry St. in the West Village just might be the smallest co-op for sale in Manhattan.

It has a twin bed built into the wall, with a cubbyhole at the foot for a small television, a speck of a kitchenette and room left over for a chair.

It also has a buyer.

Even with a price tag of $135,000, it didn’t take long for the Corcoran Group to find someone who would skimp big time on space for a prime spot.

“There were people who looked at it and said, “Next!’ ” said broker Luke Evans. “But the building is the epitome of location, location location.”

All across Manhattan, home hunters otherwise priced out of the market are snapping up apartments that would fit inside the master-suite closet at Trump World Tower.

• An East 30th Street studio with a 16-by-10-foot living area and a small separate kitchen recently went for $165,000.

• A 250-square-foot apartment on Lexington Avenue, a half-block from Gramercy Park, is going for $167,500.

• A 240-square-foot second-floor walkup on West 10th Street is generating interest at $179,900.

Alex Gray, 23, paid $130,000 for a 220-square-foot Chelsea studio. He thinks he got a great deal but admitted it’s a tight squeeze. “My television is in the fireplace!” he said.

Corcoran Chief Executive Pam Liebman said these mini studios are good investments because they’re cheaper than renting and likely will go up in value.

“Yes, you sleep in the same room you work in and entertain in, and you tend not to have many guests unless they’re very skinny or very close to you,” she added. “But it’s owning a piece of Manhattan.”

Her piece of the city

That’s exactly how Lisa Iapicco, a 41-year-old human resources worker, saw it.

After 15 years of commuting from New Jersey, she moved to the city, renting a one-bedroom on the upper East Side for $1,800 a month, then subletting a West Side studio.

When she started looking to buy, Bellmarc broker Robert Snaider showed her a fifth-floor unit in a doorman elevator building on East 77th Street.

It had an 11-by-17 main room, including a Pullman kitchenette, and the bathroom was a decent 5 by 7 feet.

Iapicco got it for $136,500. Between the $774 mortgage and maintenance of $383, her monthly outlay is less than $1,200.

She’s building a Murphy bed unit to double as a desk and closet, and installing an 18-inch dishwasher and half-stove. And she chucked out her size-6 clothes that no longer fit.

“I can deal with this until I can afford my dream apartment in New York City,” she said.

Manhattan prices

In the other boroughs, $150,000 will buy a nice-size one-bedroom, but in Manhattan, the average price for a studio is more than $250,000.

Anything substantially cheaper starts to look like a bargain, especially with low interest rates and the real-estate market on the rebound.

Apartment sales plummeted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack.

But in the most recent quarter of 2003, prices shot up 11 percent and the bargain-conscious want to buy before they go any higher, experts said.

Broker Vince Gabrielly said that after slashing the price of the West 10th Street walkup by $5,000, he’s close to selling the Lilliputian property.

The building is a little shabby, and it’s within spitting distance of the West Side Highway. There’s just about enough room for a full-size bed, a desk and a comfy chair – but it has a big closet, a bathtub and 10-foot ceilings.

“There is nothing in the Village proper that’s decent that’s under $200,000,” Gabrielly said. “So this is good for a student, a first-time buyer or a pied-a-terre.”

It’s not for everyone, though.

Sandor Polster, a Maine journalism professor looking for a crash pad in Manhattan, rejected a bunch of hideaways before finding a 350-square-foot place on the West Side.

He remembers one he saw on West 92nd Street that was around 260 square feet and was going for $95,000. When he got inside, he realized why.

“It had a bathroom that I joked was smaller than an airplane bathroom, with a folding door and a shower stall that you couldn’t turn around in,” he said.

But Liebman called these mini studios “hidden treasures.”

In Tudor City Place, there are plenty of pocket-size apartments, and their owners get the same amenities – the Art Deco lobby, doorman and East River views – as the guy who shelled out $1 million for his three-bedroom.

“On Perry Street, you can buy an apartment in the Richard Meier building for $18 million or you can buy a 160-square-foot studio for $135,000,” Liebman said. “And that’s New York for you.”

250 square feet

140 West 69th Street

Square feet: 250

Price: $139,000

Maintenance: $505 a month

The kitchen is a refrigerator, stove and sink sandwiched into the hallway, the “full bath” has only a shower, and it takes just four steps to cross the main room.

Its other selling points?

It’s in the back of the building; the ninth-floor “view” is a sliver of the cityscape, and a loft bed dominates the space.

“It needs renovation,” Corcoran broker Daniella Schlisser admitted. “And it does not show well.”

But this smidgen of a studio in a doorman building near Lincoln Center sold anyway.

When Schlisser put it out at $169,000, she got no takers, but when the price went down to $139,000, “there was a lot of interest.”

The buyer is a woman who wants it for her daughter, who will be a freshman at a nearby college starting in September.

“The mother is a cabinet designer, so she was able to see past what’s there and envision what it could look like,” Schlisser said.

220 square feet

113½ West 15th Street

Square feet: 220

Price: $130,000

Maintenance: $433 a month

When Alex Gray tells people about the Chelsea studio he bought in May, they think he’s lying.

It’s not the dimensions of the apartment they don’t believe – it’s the price tag. At $130,000, the quaint co-op was the cheapest thing below 34th Street when it went on the market, and that was enough to get Gray to think small.

The ad agency worker, a transplant from Los Angeles, traded in a big one-bedroom rental for his new place. It required some adjustment – like eliminating clutter.

“It was sort of a Zen-like cleansing experience,” he said. “Things were a little claustrophobic at first. It’s just a matter of keeping things away.

He bought a futon that serves as sofa and bed, and when he needs to stretch out, there’s always the shared garden in the back.

Jim Strain, the Citi Habitats broker, said that despite its size, selling the place was a cinch. “It went in the first showing,” he said.

“I didn’t even have an open house. My cell phone was ringing continuously.”


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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-08-04-03 0616EDT

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