Lourdesy! Madonna Stays Put; The Spielvogels Buy Inland

MATERIAL GIRL GOES HOME EMPTY-HANDED

Sources say that the Madonna real estate watch can finally come to a disappointing end. The singer is taking her duplex apartment on Central Park West off the market and calling off the search for a grander residence, at least for now.

In her obsessively documented yearlong apartment hunt, which ranged from Duane Street to John McEnroe’s tower-top Beresford triplex, to the duplex penthouse at the New Museum Building to several town houses in Carnegie Hill, Madonna was, as usual, right in the Zeitgeist . Her real estate restlessness represented her latest easily identified-with persona: She embodied the desire in all of us to find personal transcendence through buying the perfect apartment. And, like a lot of non-superstars, she couldn’t find a place to her liking. Since the best offer she’s gotten so far for her glam duplex on Central Park West is $6 million, sources say, she’s decided to take the apartment off the market, install window guards and raise her daughter Lourdes there.

When Sean Penn’s name was also on the mailbox, the apartment had only two bedrooms; it has since absorbed four neighboring units. Madonna’s brother Christopher Ciccone fused them into an Art Deco palace with a marble-lined steam room that witnesses insist can seat 10, a soundproof gym, a hair salon, a 1950′s diner-themed breakfast nook and a long, barrel-vaulted hallway running from her bedroom suite (with its two fireplaces) to the living room. There’s no question it’s spectacular, although it doesn’t have the sweeping view of the park that a lot of big-money buyers feel entitled to.

Among the shoppers who decided not to buy it are Mariah Carey, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Keith Barish, Tim Burton and Lisa Marie, and Donna Karan (her assistant checked it out for her), not to mention a bunch of investment bankers looking for something to make them not so dull. Originally it was on the market for $7 million, a price that was dropped to $6.75 million and then down to $6.25 million last fall. The best offer was said to be about $6 million from the president of NBC television stations, Scott Sassa, who just made a $7 million profit after buying the town house at 11 East 82nd Street from his former employer, Ronald Perelman, for $7.9 million, and then reselling it for $14 million.

Madonna’s broker, William B. May Company’s Roger Erickson, declined comment, as did her spokesman, Liz Rosenberg.

Upper East Side

252 East 78th Street

6,000-square-foot prewar town house.

Asking: $1.5 million. Selling: $1.4 million.

Time on the market: one year.

SHUTTERBUG SNAPS UP TENEMENT FOR HIMSELF AND HIS LENSES. East 78th Street between Second and Third avenues boasts a cluster of six picture-perfect brick row houses dating from 1865, each an adorable 13 feet 4 inches wide. Not to mention several slightly larger Victorian-era houses dating from a few years later; the A.I.A. Guide to New York City singles the block out for its “pristine urbanity.” No. 252, however, is neither a child-size row house nor even especially pristine. It’s a four-story tenement building that until recently was hived with eight railroad apartments. Still, it’s on a wonderful block and it’s quite large–25 feet wide and 60 feet deep. Given the machinations of the market these days, when everyone wants a big house all to themselves, the building wasn’t destined to be owned by a wannabe landlord (rent regulation reform or no). Still, “it took someone with vision,” noted Leslie J. Garfield, whose firm sold the building. When it was chockablock with tenants a year and a half ago, its price tag read $960,000. Gradually, the leases began to expire and the building emptied out. As vacancies occurred, the price rose. When the sellers finally figured out how to insure that it was going to be delivered empty, a bidding war erupted. The winner was a photographer who’s going to use it as a live-work space, converting the downstairs into a studio and combing apartments into a multilevel residence upstairs. The last tenant left only a few days before the sale was finalized. Broker: Leslie J. Garfield & Company (Jed Garfield).

32 East 76th Street

One-bed, 1.5-bath, 900-square-foot postwar condo.

Asking: $395,000. Selling: $365,000.

Charges: $789. Taxes: $450.

Time on market: two weeks.

FRESHMAN ORIENTATION AT ZITOMER; SOPHOMORE YEAR AT BEMELMANS. After years of business-travel hotel stays in New York, the president of a French bank wanted a place to hang his hat (and his crisp blue suits). So, in 1984, he bought this pied-à-terre , mostly for the closets. It sits on the 14th floor of a narrow, L-shaped building that wraps around a prewar building on the corner of East 76th Street and Madison Avenue (you know the place: The Madison Avenue frontage of the new building is home to Zitomer pharmacy, the mirror-clad drug store.) The apartment itself mimics a downtown loft, with the bedroom overlooking a two-story living room with 14-foot-high greenhouse windows; the view from the living room is of the Carlyle hotel. The impeccable banker is now semiretired and didn’t need his New York apartment-cum-suit-storage-facility anymore. So, through some representatives at his bank (no one in New York involved with the deal ever met him), he sold the lofty apartment to a Brazilian college student. Voilà: dorm room par excellence. Broker: Fox Residential Group (Gloria Sokolin); Douglas Elliman (Marcos Cohen).

174 East 74th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,400-square-foot postwar co-op.

Asking: $535,000. Selling: $535,000.

Maintenance: $1,128; 56 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one week.

YOU CAN’T SMELL THE STREET FOR THE TREES. “The buyer wanted a two-bedroom with a twist,” said broker Margery Hadar of her client. “She didn’t care what–fireplace, outdoor space–just something unique.” This apartment, near Third Avenue, is on the second floor–a bit close to the sights, sounds and smells of the streets for some New Yorkers. But here’s the twist: There’s a huge terrace, wrapping 1,000 square feet around the length of the building, and a bay window on the dining room that looks out on trees, not just cars and pedestrians. It reminded the buyer of a town house. The building is 21 stories of red brick. The maintenance is low, but that’s partly because of a $2-a-share tax on the apartment imposed by the building that goes into the general fund for major capital projects every time any unit changes hands. Broker: William B. May Company (Margery Hadar); Douglas Elliman (Debby Solomon).

399 East 72nd Street (East View House)

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,400-square-foot postwar co-op.

Asking: $435,000. Selling: $435,000.

Maintenance: $1,445; 65 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three weeks.

THE STARS POINT TOWARD PARK AVENUE. Her astrologer told her to do it. That’s what broker Marlene Steiner, who sold this apartment, said of why the owner–who’d lived in this apartment in a 1961 co-op building for most of her life–decided to cash out. It wasn’t the siren’s call of the seller’s market. “It was in the stars,” said the broker. “It was time to make a change.” A couple with an impending baby appeared at the open house. They quickly made an offer since they were crammed into a tiny one-bedroom rental. “It is a sprawling space, perfect for a family,” said Ms. Steiner of their new home. The only hitch was that the seller “wouldn’t sign the agreement until Mercury was out of retrograde,” said the broker. That resolved, the buyers made it in before the baby was born (“I was nervous she’d [go into labor] at the closing,” Ms. Steiner said). One unforeseen result: “When she said to me that her astrologer told her to move,” said the broker, “I totally identified with her.” Not because the two women are psychic friends or anything, but because Ms. Steiner had been living for too long in a too small apartment. “Now I’m buying a big new apartment. She totally inspired me to move.” Meanwhile, the seller is waiting out the market in a prewar rental on Park Avenue. That is, unless the planets have other plans for her. Broker: Corcoran Group (Marlene Steiner).

Greenwich Village

622 Greenwich Street

Three-bed, two-bath, 2,150-square-foot prewar co-op loft.

Asking: $1.1 million. Selling: $1.1 million.

Maintenance: $3,008; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: five months.

JELL-O SCIONS’ DUPLEX LAIR SELLS. This is one of the many, many places that Madonna didn’t buy in her marathon real estate search across Manhattan. It’s a duplex penthouse that was being sold by some of New York’s haute-nerds (they work with computers) who had bought it from young, hip scions of the Jell-O family; “a really high-glamour apartment where they do a lot of photo shoots,” said the broker who sold it, Wendy Sarasohn. There are two big terraces, high ceilings and lots of glass lookouts on the Hudson River. Apparently, the sellers were spending their time in California and didn’t need the plush apartment. Appropriately enough, Ms. Sarasohn got a call from the Internet on the place–”from two Wall Streeters who lived in the neighborhood. They didn’t have time to shop,” though they did to surf. The Wall Streeters could only see it on Saturday, but the broker has a rule that she doesn’t work on weekends. Plus, there was already an accepted offer on the place. “I asked my daughter if I should show it,” and break the rule, said the broker. “She said, ‘How much is it? Do you want to make that money?’” So, shamed by her daughter (hey–it’s never too early to think about your inheritance, right?), she went downtown and showed it. “They were the nicest couple that I’ve ever met,” attested the broker. So nice that they wanted to pay the seller’s asking price. That detonated the earlier offer. And what about Madonna? She wanted the next-door neighbor’s apartment, too, so she and li’l Lourdes would have the full floor to themselves, but the neighbor wasn’t swayed. The new buyers–who may have never vogued–get to live next to Industria Superstudios. Broker: Corcoran (Wendy Sarasohn).

Southampton

THE SPIELVOGELS FIND HIGHER GROUND. After unloading their increasingly oceanfront Southampton house for about $14 million, former advertising executive Carl Spielvogel and his wife, historic preservationist Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, are moving inland. According to Hamptons real estate sources, the Spielvogels are buying a “great big old Southampton summer cottage” on Lake Agawam from a member of the local gentry. They are said to be paying about $6 million for the house, which is safely away from the northeaster-ravaged beachfront where their old house was located.The story of the Spielvogels in the Hamptons began when they bought the Gin Lane estate for around $5 million and poured millions more into it with the help of the late interior designer Jed Johnson. When they put up the For Sale sign in front of the Stanford White-designed house, they had bidders lined up round the dunes, but then the January storms hit, and John and Louise McBain, founders of Hebdo Mag Inc., who’d made the highest offer, tried to back out of the deal. To no avail: Their contract apparently held up better than their new neighbors’ bulkheads. Since then, brokers say, the Spielvogels have been quietly looking around for a new place, presumably on higher ground. The house they’re buying is on South Main Street and is nearly as grand as their old one. Sources say that it was not officially on the market, and the Spielvogels bought it directly from the owner. A spokesman for the Spielvogels did not return calls.