Tommy Boy’s Big Address: Hilfiger O.K.’d At 820 Fifth

Baggy-clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger has cracked the co-op board at 820 Fifth Avenue.

In early June, a $10 million deal between Mr. Hilfiger and the estate of the late poet Louise Crane for the languishing fourth-floor apartment of 820 Fifth was approved by the board of the high-pedigree building. The apparent ease with which the designer, whose drooping designs have been co-opted by hip-hop culture, sailed into one of the most closely guarded buildings in the city has high-end brokers in shock. The deal was expected to close on June 9.

In early May, Mr. Hilfiger toured the Crane apartment at 820 Fifth, a 1916 building at 63rd Street populated by such well-to-do Manhattanites as gallery owner William Acquavella, who spent $9.8 million for the 11th floor in 1993; Warner Brothers chief executive Terry Semel, who bought the seventh floor for $12.25 million; and socialite Jayne Wrightsman, the influential co-op board president who lives on the third floor-just below Mr. Hilfiger’s would-be home.

UPPER EAST SIDE

TOMMY HILFIGER PASSES 820 FIFTH AVENUE BOARD. Real estate sources familiar with the fourth-floor apartment said access to it was restricted by Jim Dolan, a lawyer for Mrs. Wrightsman. According to one broker, individuals wanting to tour the space had to be preapproved by Mr. Dolan before they could even make an appointment.

The 6,500-square-foot Crane apartment had been placed on the market by her estate in February 1998 for $13.5 million. This spring, the asking price was lowered to $11.5 million. Fashion designer Valentino Garavani was interested in buying the space, but the co-op board nixed him.

Shortly thereafter, Band-Aid heiress Libbet Johnson attempted to spend $27 million on both the Crane apartment and the fifth-floor apartment above it, an equally sprawling pad being sold by socialite Nancy Richardson-who wanted $16.5 million for the home she shared with her ex-husband, financier Frank Richardson. But duplexing the two units would have been expensive and time-consuming, especially considering the co-op’ summer-only work rules,and by that August, Ms. Johnson had backed out of the deal-even though she had been pre-approved by the board in March.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hilfiger was busy making the right connections, real estate sources familiar with his deal said. The designer and his wife, Susie Hilfiger, were able to establish a friendship with Ms. Wrightsman. One broker also said that Mr. Hilfiger had recently purchased some costly art from Mr. Acquavella-perhaps in an attempt to curry favor in the building.

A member of Mr. Acquavella’s gallery staff would not confirm the sale of art to Mr. Hilfiger. “The only thing I know is that he’s trying to get into the building,” she said.

Mr. Hilfiger isn’t likely to move in before the end of summer 2000, given the apartment’s need for renovations and the co-op’s stringent renovation rules: Work can be done only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If all goes according to plan, though, the designer will have pulled off a coup both social and financial.

As one high-end broker put it, “Eleven and a half [is] a tremendous value for that apartment … being one of the top three or four buildings in New York.”

68 East 86th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,700-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $675,000. Selling: $655,000.

Charges: $1,651; 65 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: six weeks.

WESTCHESTER VACATION. With a student at Brearley and a co-ed at college, a couple bought a place in Westchester and put this 1,700-square-foot co-op up for sale: They were asking $675,000 by summer. (Goodbye, tuition check!) Another couple with their own spread in the suburbs saw the two-bedroom, two-bath apartment between Park and Madison avenues as a good spot to throw dinner parties-there’s a very formal dining room. After four months of searching and 25 inferior prewar apartments, the suburbanites paid $655,000 in late May. Look, kids: Bedford, Mount Kisco! Broker: William B. May (Joanne Greene); Charles H. Greenthal & Company (Mickey Cohen).

131 East 69th Street

Three-bed, three-bath, 3,000-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $1.85 million. Selling: $1.875 million.

Charges: $2,838; 33 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

ESTATE OF PHOEBE CATES’ FATHER ASKS $1.85 MILLION QUESTION. Joseph Cates, the creator of the 1950′s game show The $64,000 Question and the father of actress Phoebe Cates-otherwise known as Kevin Kline’s wife-lived in this apartment until he died in October 1998 at age 74. Seven months later, the sixth-floor apartment prompted a two-party bidding war; the new owners, a couple, drove the price up $25,000 to $1.875 million. Located at the corner of Lexington Avenue, the apartment has nine rooms, but Cates had combined the living room and the library and merged two smallish maid’s rooms into one large spare bedroom. Broker: William B. May Company (Roger Erickson); Edward Lee Cave (Jane Cannon).

UPPER WEST SIDE

401 West End Avenue

Two-bed, one-bath, 900-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $375,000. Selling: $370,000.

Charges: $1,112; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three months.

HOW MANY BATHROOMS DOES THAT CO-OP IN THE WINDOW HAVE? The photograph in the window of the Corcoran Group’s Upper West Side office did not emphasize that there was only one bathroom. A Polo Jeans merchandiser and her banker husband, married just six months, espied the listing of this two-bedroom, one-bath prewar co-op from the street. They had been living in what broker Joy Weiner described as a “tiny, stark rental,” and the co-op in the window was housing a family of four. Within a day, they had made an offer of $370,000. The sellers had purchased a larger apartment on West 112th Street near Riverside Drive, officially putting an end to the family’s morning shower line. Broker: Corcoran Group (Joy Weiner and Carolyn Edwards).

GREENWICH VILLAGE

17 Grove Street and 100 Bedford Street

Three-story town house and two-story cottage.

Asking: $3.2 million. Selling: $2.975 million.

Time on the market: three weeks.

TWO BUILDINGS FOR THEM, NONE FOR YOU. Ever thought about buying your own house? Maybe one with a guest cottage? Perhaps in the West Village. Got $3 million in cash? An entertainment executive and his wife did. And they forked it over to the real estate shark who purchased this pair of buildings at the intersection of Grove and Bedford streets in 1996 for $1.625 million. Sure, he spent $900,000 on renovations to the 1822 house and its accompanying guest cottage-a sophisticated watering system for the courtyard garden, central air-conditioning, and a fancy stereo in the cottage, not to mention the current must-haves like a Sub-Zero refrigerator, marble baths, and a granite kitchen-but it paid off, didn’t it? The first step was landing those splashy spreads in Travel & Leisure and New York magazine when it went on the market this spring. He wanted $3.2 million for the renovated pair of houses. The three-story house has a master bedroom plus two to spare; there’s another bedroom in the cottage. The buyers had owned a couple of town houses on the Upper East Side, but with the kids out of the house they thought they’d let their hair down in the Village. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Rosa Murphy and Gail Ward).

SOHO

170 Mercer Street

One-bed, two-bath, 2,400-square-foot condo.

Asking: $995,000. Selling: $996,000.

Charges: $642. Taxes: $807.

Time on the market: two weeks.

ITALO-AMERICAN WAR ON MERCER STREET. When the Italian businessman who owned this apartment informed the sublessor that he was putting it up for sale, the renter went on strike. He stopped paying rent and held the sunken living room, fireplace and French windows with courtyard view hostage, according to broker Richard Orenstein. The apartment couldn’t be shown until a lengthy court battle finally forced out the tenant-who, in an act of vengeance, snipped the wires under the switch plates on the walls. Not a problem for the scientist in his 50′s who bought the place for $1,000 above the asking price. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Richard Orenstein).

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS

54 Willow Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,050-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $359,000. Selling: $340,000.

Charges: $911; 54 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one month.

FLYING TO DUMBO. A bond trader and a reporter for Forbes magazine moved their dog and their child into a new condominium near the Manhattan Bridge. A female vice president at Quick & Reilly, a Manhattan stock brokerage firm, bid $340,000 for their old apartment-a two-bedroom, two-bath co-op on Willow Street near Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights-after seeing it at an open house. The couple wanted $359,000, but the V.P. was not outbid.

Broker: Corcoran (Ann Doyle).

Additional reporting by Sam Charap.