55 Central Park West Bounces Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer … Twice!

Upper West Side

CENTRAL PARK WEST CO-OP TWICE REJECTS NICHOLS AND SAWYER. Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer are at war with the co-op board of 55 Central Park West, which has twice rejected their $7.5 million offer to purchase Calvin Klein’s duplex penthouse in recent months.

According to a lawyer representing Mr. Nichols, the film director, and Ms. Sawyer, the recently appointed anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America , the deal struck last fall between the power couple and designer Calvin Klein for the 4,500-square-foot apartment near West 66th Street has been mired in a disagreement over ownership of the apartment’s terrace, for which the building’s board wants $1 million. According to real estate sources, Steve Gottlieb, who owns the music label TVT Records, has offered to buy Mr. Klein’s apartment for $8.6 million.

Stephen Rabinowitz, a real estate lawyer at Greenberg, Traurig, Hoffman, Lipoff, Rosen & Quentel who is representing Mr. Nichols and Ms. Sawyer, told The Observer that the couple signed a $7.5 million contract in mid-September to purchase the designer’s penthouse at 55 Central Park West. A few weeks later, Mr. Rabinowitz realized that the apartment’s terrace had been claimed by the co-op board and was not included in the purchase contract. It seems that when the apartment first belonged to Mr. Klein, he illegally installed an outdoor hot tub that became a point of dispute between him and the board.

Just prior to the original closing date in early November, Mr. Rabinowitz asked the managing agent of 55 Central Park West to include the terrace as part of the apartment in the closing documents–as had been the case with all previous owners. The board said No. But after a conversation with the co-op board president, Mr. Rabinowitz thought the board seemed amenable to closing the deal–penthouse included–around Christmastime.

However, at a co-op board meeting in early November when the board was to consider the terrace issue, the board decided to reject the couple’s offer to buy the penthouse. A lawyer for Mr. Klein, Robert DiPaola of Rubin, Rubin & DiPaola, telephoned Mr. Rabinowitz the next day and told him what the board had communicated to him: that if the couple would pay $1 million directly to the building, they could have the apartment and the terrace. Mr. Nichols and Ms. Sawyer agreed. According to Mr. Rabinowitz, Mr. Klein and Roger Erickson, a William B. May broker who was working for Mr. Klein and the couple, even offered to help defray the extra cost. Mr. Klein and Mr. Erickson had no comment. The lawyer for the co-op board, Maurice Heller of Heller, Horowitz & Feit P.C., would not comment either.

But it was all for nought. In early January, when the board convened again, the couple was rejected a second time.

For some reason, the would-be buyers are still interested in the apartment, which boasts 11-foot-high ceilings, two fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and a greenhouse on the roof. “If the co-op board would reconsider their position,” said Mr. Rabinowitz, “Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer are willing to cooperate … They’re still interested in purchasing this apartment on the terms that they agreed to.”

One real estate source said that Mr. Nichols was so steamed about the broken deals, he was contemplating legal action. “We are considering our options,” said Mr. Rabinowitz.

Since the couple lost the apartment, they have been forced to put the sale of their current apartment at 1030 Fifth Avenue, which, according to real estate sources, is priced at $8.5 million, on hold. Real estate brokers say they are also looking at other apartments.

As for Mr. Gottlieb, he is already a resident of 55 Central Park West and is said to be offering $8.6 million. The music mogul is a Harvard Law School graduate who dropped out of law at 28 to found TVT with $250,000. The company puts out everything from techno to Broadway soundtracks. Mr. Gottlieb had no comment.

17 West 71st Street

Three-bed, three-bath, 2,200-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $1.2 million. Selling: $1.075 million.

Charges: $2,123; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one month.

MARATHON RENOVATION IS JUST THE WARM-UP. “Nothing was usable,” said broker Jeff Levitas of this apartment in a 1927-style building near Central Park West. “It was in total-wreck condition.” So the couple who bought it so they could ride bikes in the park whenever they could get a baby-sitter, slapped together a 10-week, lickety-split renovation plan to open up spaces like the kitchen and dining area to give the boxy-looking layout a more flowing feel, add new moldings, strip the walls and repaint. Before three months were up, they had it done, and they’ve already moved in. Broker: Corcoran Group (Jeff Levitas).

Upper East Side

955 Park Avenue near 82nd Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,200-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $525,000. Selling: $505,000.

Charges: $1,276; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: 14 months.

THE SINK STAYS. In real estate, there are two ways to interpret what a broker means by the words “original details.” There’s never-been-touched, start-from-scratch original, and there’s well-preserved, historic, I’ve-struck-gold original. But when it comes to bathrooms, the word often spurs negative imagery-tiles with moldy caulking, plumbing that dates from before World War II. In this case, according to broker Carole Sehres, the original bathrooms were “desirable-variety” original, “the kind of thing where the people would keep the sink because it’s a good sink,” she said. The sellers decided to make some money, what with that big empty house in Connecticut and all. When they feel like it, they’ll buy an even bigger Park Avenue pied-à-terre . Meanwhile, the buyer was one lucky bachelor: This is one of the few smaller units to face the street. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Carole Sehres and Susan Lincoln; Joan Weisman).

125 East 62nd Street

Five-story town house.

Asking: $1.8 million. Selling: $1.375 million.

Time on the market: four months.

HE’S THE CLEANING MAN. Marvin Tisser can empty a building. “I specialize in these smaller buildings with tenants in occupancy,” he said. “It’s a challenge, and it’s profitable.” He buys buildings with rent-controlled tenants relatively cheaply, like this one between Park and Lexington avenues, negotiates the tenants out, rehabs the building and sells it for a tidy profit. One of Mr. Tisser’s past projects was the refurbishing of a property on East 52nd Street that now houses the Thai Consulate. He’s currently under contract to purchase a property on West 83rd Street. This house is a 16-foot-wide apartment building with an owner’s duplex in the bottom two floors and six studios above, each of which has rent-controlled tenants paying about $1,000. Needless to say, the tenants weren’t eager to pack. By the time the deal closed in October, however, five of the tenants had vacated their apartments. No problem, said Mr. Tisser of the remaining tenant. Mr. Tisser has moved into the owner’s duplex, a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment which used to house an art dealership that specialized in Old Master paintings. “Tenants who are in occupied apartments in choice locations who are paying reasonable rents usually find a deal for themselves,” he said. In other words, he might give the tenant a cut of the resale profits if he or she will vacate quickly. Currently, he’s considering converting the whole place into a one-family residence, but for the right buyer he’s willing to tailor the renovations more individually. “When you purchase something that has some problems to it,” Mr. Tisser said, “and you can work out the problems in a reasonable time, you can create more value.… That’s what I do.” Broker: Massey Knakal Realty Services Inc. (Paul Massey).

Chelsea

429 West 22nd Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,200-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $725,000. Selling: $675,000.

Charges: $552; 65 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: seven weeks.

Three-bed, 2.5-bath, 1,800-square-foot prewar co-op

Asking: $1.2 million. Selling: $1.095 million.

Charges: $817; 65 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one month.

EVEN ALL THE RESIDENTS OF CHELSEA ARE NEW. This Chelsea brownstone just had a makeover. The fourth-floor penthouse and the ground-floor garden apartment both just got new owners. Upstairs, the master bedroom has both front and back terraces. The place was owned for six years by a couple who decided to relocate to Westchester; they sold it to a bachelor who wants to fix it up a little. Hopefully, it’s hot-wired: He works in the computer industry. The ground-floor duplex apartment was owned by a couple in fashion, and it had been renovated impeccably: a minimalist-style interior with bathrooms done in limestone slabs and stainless steel, and a backyard area landscaped in the tradition of a Japanese garden. The wife owns a furniture store on Elizabeth Street called Area … ID along with broker Bennett Goldworth. Since the sellers bought the duplex in 1997 for $820,000, they were able to walk away with a decent-size profit (less the decorating fees); they’re considering making a similar investment sometime soon. Broker: Corcoran (fourth floor, Bennett Goldworth); (ground floor, Bennett Goldworth and Alan Sands).

West Village

62 Bank Street

Three-story town house.

Asking: $1.7 million. Selling: $1.46 million.

Time on the market: one year.

SUDDENLY, FEDERAL-STYLE HOUSES ARE IN. This Federal-style town house with a bright yellow door, situated between West Fourth and Bleecker streets, was first built in 1835. In 1987, a woman bought it for $884,000. She did very little in the way of renovations over the years-just adding some terra-cotta tiles in the kitchen. The initial listing price-$1.895 million-was a little ambitious for the 22-foot-wide house with a south garden and fireplaces. When broker Lydia Rosengarten took over the listing in August, she suggested lowering the asking price to $1.7 million, at which point the seller began getting offers-for $1.1 million or $1.2 million. Eventually, two couples got into a bidding war for the property, and a set of young marrieds who were relocating from elsewhere in the West Village won out at $1.46 million. Broker: Leslie J. Garfield & Company (Lydia Rosengarten); Eychner Associates Inc. (Gigi Sharpe).