Jerry Seinfeld is finding Hamptons homeowners to be a pretty tough crowd. In April, the 45-year-old comedian’s second attempt at buying an oceanfront mansion–preferably a compound in East Hampton, L.I.–fell apart. After signing a contract to buy the East Dune Lane house of Lee Radziwill and Herb Ross for $19 million, Mr. Seinfeld’s deal was called off because the owners had a sudden change of heart, according to Hamptons brokers.
The former sitcom star has been searching since last fall for just the right property: an oceanfront spread in East Hampton that he and his business-manager sister, Carolyn Liebling, could share. According to local brokers, Mr. Seinfeld was looking to be settled by Memorial Day, when the social season begins.
“He’s desperate to be out here,” said one local resident familiar with his search.
The comedian’s house-hunting, which began last October, has included stops at the East Hampton home of James Marden, who was asking $17 million for 11 oceanfront acres on Further Lane, and photographer Richard Avedon’s 7.5-acre, three-house beachfront estate in Montauk, L.I., which was on the market for $10 million. At the time, only Wasserstein, Perella & Company president Frederic Seegal’s old-timey house and cottage on Tyson Lane in East Hampton appealed to Mr. Seinfeld. According to broker Tina Fredericks, who was representing Mr. Seinfeld at the time, he rejected the Marden house because it was “big, postmodern and Palm Beachy,” and the Avedon spread because “he didn’t like the rocks on the beach.”
In January, Mr. Seinfeld offered Mr. Seegal $14.5 million for his property.
But, shortly thereafter, he was outbid by fashion designer Helmut Lang, who offered $15.5 million and won the two houses.
Mr. Seinfeld quickly dropped Ms. Fredericks–who had also been representing Mr. Lang–and signed on with the East Hampton office of Allan M. Schneider Associates. By March, according to real estate sources, he was again combing the beach for possible acquisitions–which led him to the house of film director Herb Ross and Lee Radziwill, his wife.
East Hampton neighbors said that although the couple’s house was never formally on the market, Ms. Radziwill had been murmuring for some time that for the right price, she would be amenable to selling. “She was telling everyone she’d take $20 million,” said one fellow property owner.
The Rosses’ stucco house with adjoining pool and tennis courts on East Dune Lane–a prominent address off Highway Behind the Pond, along the beach–is famous not only for its owners, who paid $6.2 million for it in the late 1980′s, but also for the couple’s longstanding dispute with next door neighbor Alice Lawrence. In 1991, Ms. Lawrence erected a wall that obscured the Rosses’ ocean view. (Despite winning the approval of the local Zoning Board of Appeals on the wall, Ms. Lawrence, an octogenarian widow, subsequently put her house on the market. Its current asking price is $12.5 million.)
Real estate sources said Mr. Seinfeld, schooled by experience, bid an ambitious $19 million on the Ross house in April. Although the bid was accepted, after receiving both a signed contract and a check for the house’s down payment, Ms. Radziwill abruptly changed her mind.
Local brokers said Mr. Seinfeld has not thrown in the towel. But, they said, there is nothing else on the market for $10 million or more in which he has expressed interest.
Reached for comment on his rejected $19 million offer, Mr. Seinfeld said through his publicist, “This is a lot of fun. These people are out of their minds.”
UPPER WEST SIDE
IS THE FORCE WITH RICHARDSON AND NEESON? COUPLE SIGNS $4 MILLION DEAL. Just two months after leasing a three-bedroom apartment on the 32nd floor of the Park Millennium on West 67th Street, actors Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson have decided to keep the address permanently. During the last week of April, the couple signed a contract to buy three apartments in the building to create a six-bedroom, $4 million apartment.
Ms. Richardson and Mr. Neeson moved into a $12,000-a-month rental in the Park Millennium on Feb. 1 after selling their co-op at 91 Central Park West, near 69th Street, in January. In between moving children and furniture, the couple has somehow found time for their day jobs as well: Ms. Richardson currently stars in the Broadway play Closer , and Mr. Neeson’s latest film, the Star Wars prequel called The Phantom Menace , opens on May 19.
But despite making about $800,000 on the $2.2 million sale of their co-op, the couple didn’t especially strike a bargain on their new place. The three units–each with two bedrooms and together totaling over 4,000 square feet–were being marketed as a package deal for $4.14 million and still have to undergo a renovation to be combined. Real estate sources say that Ms. Richardson and Mr. Neeson plan to knock down the walls as soon as the deal becomes final in late May. Spokesmen for the couple did not return calls seeking comment.
245 West 104th Street
Two-bed, two-bath, 1,400-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $575,000. Selling: $575,000.
Charges: $1,017; 50 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: six weeks.
SELLERS MUST SIGN A NONWAVERING WAIVER. In this sellers-take-all real estate market, having to wait six weeks for someone to pay you what you want for your apartment is a lot to ask. Right off the bat, there were two offers for this renovated, five-room apartment near Broadway, but the bids were closer to $500,000 than the $575,000 the sellers were asking. For about a second, the sellers debated lowering their asking price, but broker Enid Card wouldn’t have it. A few weeks later, Ms. Card was proven right: A teacher from West-chester quickly coughed up the entire $575,000. Broker: Corcoran Group (Enid Card and Jackie Schwimmer).
325 West 86th Street
Two-bed, 2.5-bath, 1,700-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $775,000. Selling: $737,500.
Charges: $1,369; 40 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one month.
A LITTLE WHITE PAINT NEVER HURT ANYONE. A textile designer and her home-furnishings business manager husband sold both their Norwalk, Conn., and East Hampton houses just to be able to live on the Upper West Side. It wasn’t so much that the crime was worse in the metropolitan area’s outer reaches, but the trains just didn’t run fast enough. “It was an hour and a half each way; now it’s about 20 minutes,” said the woman of her and her husband’s new, shorter commutes to their separate offices. Then, they experienced a bit of sticker shock. They paid $737,500 for this apartment on West 86th Street to a single man who thought he was moving to London. “It didn’t even need any painting,” said the new owner. Then again, she may change her mind about the Pottery Barn-style color scheme. “Our bedroom is blue, my son’s room is green, and the dining room is red.” Broker: William B. May Real Estate (Joanne Greene); Douglas Elliman (Bobbie Baxter).
220 East 54th Street (Leslie House)
Two-bed, one-bath, 1,100-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $340,000. Selling: $325,000.
Charges: $917; 60 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: two weeks.
SHEL SILVERSTEIN WAS HERE. Two and a half years ago, a young couple bought this two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot co-op just south of the Roosevelt Station post office on Third Avenue and 54th Street. The couple jazzed up the place significantly with antique furniture, french doors and built-in bookshelves; the nursery even got poems hand-painted on the walls, and cupboards specially made for dolls and toys. At the first open house, another young couple, from northern New Jersey, passed through and made an offer right away. There were three competitors that week, but broker Marsha Hartstein advised the sellers to go with the Jerseyites, whom she described as A-list co-op material. Broker: Corcoran (Marsha Hartstein).
66 Crosby Street
One-bed, one-bath, 1,350-square-foot prewar co-op. Asking: $660,000. Selling: $645,000.
Charges: $1,093; 60 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: five months.
LOFT LOVERS FEAR STAGE FRIGHT. This boxy loft apartment near Spring Street suffered a lot of insincere courting before it sold to a guy in his 30′s and his girlfriend. Last fall, a single man offered to buy it for $690,000, but took back his bid after reconsidering its value. Then a couple offered $630,000, but reneged their bid when they broke up a few weeks later. By January, the seller–a lawyer who works in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and who bought this apartment about five years ago for just over $300,000–was eager to offload the place. She had fallen in love herself and moved to Boston with her fiancé. The problem may have been the fact that the apartment has exactly two and a quarter windows–one has been nearly obscured by an addition recently completed in a neighboring apartment. The bedroom may also have caused some would-be buyers to back out: It’s on a raised platform, located behind an opaque-glass wall. When two competitive bids came along, the lawyer took the higher one–for $645,000–and ran back to Boston. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Cathie Bell and Richard Orenstein).
170 Duane Street
Three-bed, 2.5-bath, 2,750-square-foot prewar condo loft.
Asking: $1.5 million. Selling: $1.205 million.
Charges: $300. Taxes: $540.
Time on the market: three months.
BANKER’S TRIPLEXING PUT OFF UNTIL AUGUST. In 1994, a music engineer and his banker wife bought a studio loft on the second floor of this prewar building between Greenwich and Hudson streets for $416,000. Four years later, the couple purchased the two-bedroom apartment upstairs, a third- and fourth-floor duplex, for $346,500. The couple moved to the duplex, and found a tenant for the second-floor apartment. After the birth of their first baby in 1998, they decided to sell the duplex; they put the second-floor apartment on the market, too, but figured it would be hard to find a buyer until the tenant’s lease was up in August. As it turned out, a young male banker wanted both apartments–which are easily triplexed–and was willing to pay $1.2 million for them. With a new house waiting in Westchester, the couple sold the two apartments together–even though they were asking $300,000 more for them separately. Broker: Douglas Elliman (Faith Makriplis); Stribling & Associates (Tracie Golding).
In the April 19 issue, The Observer reported that publicist Peggy Siegal had rented out the screening room at Goose Creek, photography agent Bryan Bantry’s house in Wainscott, L.I., for press events. Although Ms. Siegal was involved with the planning of some press screenings at Goose Creek, she personally never paid to use the space for the events.