Secret Neverland: Jackson in Manhattan Renting for $75,000

Michael Jackson is living on East 74th Street.

According to real estate brokers, the king of pop has kept an address on the Upper East Side since June when he signed a $75,000-per-month lease on a six-story town house on 74th Street near Fifth Avenue. Mr. Jackson’s publicist said he was in town to record an album with Sony Music Entertainment. His lease, which represents the highest monthly rent ever paid for a Manhattan town house, runs through November.

This is the second time the carefully guarded singer, who usually resides at his 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch near Los Olivos, Calif., where he has exotic animals and kiddie rides, has encamped on the East Side. After wedding Lisa Marie Presley in 1994, Mr. Jackson holed up in a penthouse in Trump Plaza with his bride. That time, the tabloids quickly got word of the honeymooners, and fans and members of the media held vigil down on the street.

Twenty blocks north, the singer, his wife, Debbie Rowe, and their two young children, Prince Michael and Paris Michael Katherine, have been living virtually unnoticed by all but a couple paparazzi for three months. In July, the family was spotted outside the building, sparking speculation in the real estate community that the singer was inspecting Woody Allen’s apartment at 930 Fifth Avenue, which was on the market for $15 million. But a businessman signed a $14 million contract on the Allen apartment. Then, in mid-August, the paparazzi caught the carefully guarded singer on East 74th Street and again at the Mark Hotel on East 77th Street.

The Jackson house is 12,000 square feet. On the ground floor, there’s a large foyer, a powder room, a kitchen and a dining room in the front, and a deep family room toward the back, where there’s a garden. On the second floor, there’s a 36-foot parlor, a formal dining room, a butler’s pantry and a wet bar. The third floor has a master bedroom with two baths in the back and a library with a powder room overlooking 74th Street. The fourth floor has two bedrooms, each with baths, a small kitchen and a laundry. There’s a three-room guest apartment on the fifth floor, and a billiard room and another laundry room. On the top floor is an exercise facility with a north-facing terrace, and a small caretaker’s quarters.

The house was last purchased in 1994 for $3.1 million by Richard Sabella, who painstakingly renovated it from rental units back into a luxurious town house. According to The New York Times , Marc Chagall once lived there. “Is it great taste? No,” said one broker familiar with the property. “But it’s glitzy.”

Mr. Sabella put the house on the market in July 1997 for $12.5 million; in March, that was raised to $12.75 million. Brokers said the price is unrealistic, but not compared to what Mr. Sabella is getting in rent. The owner had been asking $65,000 per month, said one broker.

“Twenty thousand dollars or $25,000, that’s high,” said Kathleen Hoffman, director of William B. May’s town house division, the company which sold the house to the owner who preceded Mr. Sabella. “Seventy thousand dollars would be the highest I’d heard of.”

One broker familiar with Mr. Jackson’s plans said he may be doing his own renovations to the building. What’s missing: a zoo?

WATER MILL, L.I.

ROSE HILL ROAD RESIDENT CLEANS UP IN $15.5 MILLION SALE, BREAKS PETE PETERSON’S RECORD. In Water Mill’s most expensive real estate deal, cleaning services mogul Brian Marlowe recently sold his 7.4 acres of land on Rose Hill Road to money management executive Gerald Unterman and his wife, Elaine Unterman, for about $15.5 million.

According to Southampton real estate sources, in late July Mr. Marlowe sold two parcels near Mecox Bay–a 6.1-acre swath containing a French stucco house, dock and gardens, and a 1.3-acre lot across the street, which the owner apparently kept intentionally vacant. Mr. Marlowe was traveling and could not be reached for comment. Mr. Unterman, chief investment officer at GEM Capital Management in Manhattan, did not return a call for comment.

According to brokers familiar with the property, Mr. Marlowe, who is chief executive of a Manhattan-based wood-, marble- and metal-cleaning service called Remco Maintenance Corporation, had owned the Rose Hill Road weekend home for over a decade. The two-story house was built in 1970, and brokers described it as having grand rooms, beautiful gardens and 450 feet of frontage on Mecox Bay, from which Mr. Marlowe, an animal lover, would feed swans and other waterfowl during the winter. Mr. Marlowe also kept a bird sanctuary on the grounds.

“If the bay was frozen, it was a place for them to come and eat,” explained one broker.

Mr. Marlowe’s house first went on the market in June 1998 for nearly $17 million–$15 million for the parcel containing the house, 157 Rose Hill Road, and an additional $1.9 million for the undeveloped lot. Although the Untermans did not pay that, at $15.5 million they paid more than Peter G. Peterson, the Manhattan financier who is chairman of the Blackstone Group L.P., who spent $13.5 million last spring for a house on five acres on the same road. Mr. Peterson spent $2.7 million per acre–the highest price paid per acre in Water Mill–while the Untermans have spent closer to $2.1 million.

To the high-end real estate agents of the Hamptons, such eye-popping property values are unsurprising. “If you have a house that’s the architecture of choice, which is traditional, the location that’s in demand, i.e., south of the water … people will pay a premium price for it,” said a broker from Sotheby’s International Real Estate, the company that represented Mr. Marlowe.

A broker familiar with the Untermans’ plans said that although the house is in good shape, the couple may want to make some changes to it, but that they’ll probably leave the vacant parcel alone. “I think they bought it for protection,” the broker said.

UPPER EAST SIDE

1 Gracie Terrace

Three-bed, two-bath, 1,500-square-foot postwar co-op.

Asking: $430,000. Selling: $430,000.

Charges: $1,091; 30 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: four months.

ON THE STREET WHERE RUDY LIVES. For several years, two attorneys and their two little ones got along just fine in a ground-floor apartment next to the East River on 82nd Street. But when mom was expecting her third child, they decided to relocate to Westchester County and put their 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment on the market for $430,000. The price, according to their broker, was low and interested a slew of buyers, but none of them was financially secure enough to warrant introducing them to the co-op board. Finally, a young couple, already living in the East 80’s, appeared presentable. In fact, the day the buyers passed the board, the sellers had a baby boy. Broker: Bellmarc Realty (Marilyn Fleming).

118 East 60th Street (Plaza Tower)

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,300-square-foot postwar co-op.

Asking: $419,000. Selling: $399,000.

Charges: $1,606; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one month.

ONE KID AND A WRECKING BALL. A family of three has had its eye on the Plaza Tower, a high-rise building at 118 East 60th Street, for some time. Now they have their eye on 1,300 square feet of it, which they will have to reconfigure and renovate. The place is a bit of a wreck and it has only two bedrooms. With one child and frequent guests, that means the kid gets to be junior architect and create his own domain out of the dining room. With what’s left over, they’ll create a dining alcove and knock out a closet. For all their trouble, the buyers go to pay $20,000 less than the asking price. Broker: Corcoran Group (Marsha Hartstein); Douglas Elliman (Tracy Rogers).

MURRAY HILL

136 East 38th Street

Five-story town house.

Asking: $1.395 million. Selling: $1.4 million.

Time on the market: four months.

WOMAN CANNOT LIVE IN FIVE STORIES ALONE. This town house was driving a power couple apart. They were both working all the time. Then she quit her job at the SoHo Guggenheim Museum and went freelance. He continued his long hours at Merck, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company. Before long, she was sick of being alone all the time in a five-story town house between Park and Lexington avenues. They put the house on the market for $1.395 million and bought a new one in Nyack, much closer to his office. Meanwhile, a quasi-retired Forbes reporter and his wife purchased the Civil War-era house for a cool $1.4 million and left Connecticut. They’ll renovate a bit (kitchens, bathrooms) and replace a spiral staircase so their Bernese mountain dog, Scoop, can make it up to the roof deck on his own. Broker: Corcoran Group (Maureen Flynn-Goldstein).

GREENWICH VILLAGE

645 East 11th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,300-square-foot prewar condo.

Asking: $425,000. Selling: $415,000.

Charges: $560. Taxes: none.

Time on the market: seven months.

DOCTOR GETS SPRUNG FROM ALPHABET CITY. In 1998, a doctor asked broker Miriam Sirota to arrange the sale of her renovated two-bedroom condo at 645 East 11th Street near Avenue C. The block looked bleak. The building was a stone’s throw from several empty lots, and things like shopping and night life were still a brisk walk away. Luckily, the doctor, who has a 6-year-old, wasn’t in a hurry. She put the apartment on the market for $450,000 and waited–for eight months. In early spring, a medical resident and her husband saw the ad in The New York Times Magazine . The address was conveniently close to the wife’s hospital, and the apartment was the right size. By the time they signed a contract in May, new residential developments were occupying the previously vacant spots, and new bars and restaurants were crowding in from Avenue B. Broker: Bellmarc Realty (Miriam Sirota).

61 West Ninth Street (Windsor Arms)

One-bed, one-bath, 800-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $329,000. Selling: $317,000.

Charges: $863; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two months.

CO-OP TAKES YEARS OFF HER MANOLO BLAHNIKS. A woman in advertising likes to walk to work, so she confined her property search to apartments around her office on lower Fifth Avenue. She found a one-bedroom place in a prewar building called the Windsor Arms on bucolic West Ninth Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues. The building shook off a decade’s worth of financial troubles a few years ago, but that heady period did not strip the apartments of their charm–the 800-square-foot apartment the advertising gal purchased for $317,000 has stripped oak floors, arched doorways, casement windows and a fireplace. After a few renovations, it’ll feel like home. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Julie Rupprecht).