Cox Communications Inc. heiress Margaretta (Retta) Taylor is buying a townhouse at 2 Sutton Square, just a few blocks from her mother’s apartment at 1 Sutton Place South and East 56th Street, but she’ll probably send the butler if she needs to borrow a cup of milk or, more likely, some aspirin, in the coming months.
Ms. Taylor’s mother, Anne Cox Chambers, is worth $10 billion, making her the 18th-richest person on the 2000 Forbes 400 list–but soon all the money in the world won’t be enough to prevent life at Sutton Place from becoming a little less distinguished. In the next few months, the F.D.R. Drive between 56th and 63rd streets will be repaired; the ceiling of the drive goes under the gardens along Sutton Place, which will be disturbed during the yearlong construction project.
“The Sutton area community is really very bright and is very cooperative about work that has to be done,” said Carol Pieper, district manager of Community Board 6. “Clearly, if they didn’t do work needed to be done to renovate the F.D.R., the future would hold far greater problems.”
Despite the looming inconvenience, Ms. Taylor, 53, signed a contract in early January to purchase the five-story townhouse at 2 Sutton Square for close to the asking price of $9.995 million. The house, on the corner of East 53rd Street, has been owned since 1998 by Edward Germano, the owner of Hit Factory, a recording company. Mr. Germano bought it for $4.5 million from Emilio Azcárraga, the chairman, president and chief executive of Grupo Televisa S.A., Mexico’s largest broadcasting company. (Brokers said Mr. Germano has bought an apartment at 400 East 57th Street for about $3 million.)
Though Ms. Taylor is moving into Mr. Azcárraga’s old house, Cox Communications could eat Televisa for breakfast. The Atlanta-based media empire is among the nation’s largest broadband communications companies. The 100-year-old company was founded by Ms. Cox Chambers’ father, James M. Cox, a three-term governor of Ohio and the 1920 Democratic nominee for President. With revenues totaling nearly $5 billion, Cox Enterprises has extensive interests in newspapers, television, radio stations and Web sites.
With her sister, Barbara Cox Anthony, Ms. Cox Chambers owns much of Atlanta, including Cox Enterprises, which owns local radio station WSB and publishes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ms. Cox Chambers is on the board of directors of Cox Enterprises, is the chairman of Atlanta Newspapers and is a longtime Democratic Party supporter.
Ms. Taylor lives less in the spotlight than her mother and her sister, Kathy Rayner, who is married to William Rayner, an artist and former Condé Nast publishing executive. The Rayners own an estate in East Hampton near the homes of Calvin Klein and Steven Spielberg. Ms. Taylor has been living in an apartment at 775 Park Avenue. She also owns a home in Southampton.
Brokers said Ms. Taylor’s purchase of 2 Sutton Square will be final by the end of January. Ms. Taylor’s broker, Lee Summers of Sotheby’s International Realty, wouldn’t comment on the deal, but other brokers said the house went on the market a couple of months ago, and its asking price had been reduced from $11 million to $9.9 million on Dec. 6.
Ms. Taylor’s new townhouse was extensively renovated by Mr. Germano and features a computerized home theater and a professional music studio. The 6,500-square-foot home has 10 rooms, including four bedrooms, a library, a full dining room, original moldings and a housekeeper’s apartment. A terrace on the top floor has a view of the river.
“It was a spectacular renovation!” gushed one broker.
But another broker called it “a better address than a house.”
Besides her mother, Ms. Taylor’s new neighbors include Sandra McConnell, the widow of Avon heir Neil McConnell, who died in a fire in the couple’s house at 8-12 Sutton Place, and John C. Whitehead, the Deputy Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, who lives at 16 Sutton Place.
COUNT MARC ANTHONY OUT OF BATTLE AT THE ICE HOUSE On Jan. 17, when residents of the Ice House, a new luxury condo at 27 N. Moore Street, filed an $8 million lawsuit against the developers of the building, Latin crooner Marc Anthony had already abandoned the problem-plagued building and moved into a new home on Long Island.
During the second week of November, Mr. Anthony signed a contract to sell his four-bedroom, 4,567-square-foot apartment in the Ice House for $3.8 million. He had bought the brand-new loft for $2.1 million in the fall of 1999 and put it on the market on Aug. 21 for $3.99 million.
Mr. Anthony’s publicist, Jennifer Nieman, insisted that the singer’s decision to sell his loft–which also features a large mezzanine, a library, three and a half bathrooms and a 30-by-36-foot living room with 14-foot-high ceilings–had nothing to do with the shoddy construction in the building that has been alleged in the lawsuit.
The Ice House, a 13-story loft conversion between Varick and Hudson streets that once served as a freezer for ice from the Hudson River, has been causing tenants grief for over a year. Soon after the residents–including comedian Billy Crystal and CBS sportscaster Warner Wolfe–started moving in, they noticed the building’s faults, like defective fireproofing, air conditioning and heating; buckling floors; leaky plumbing; and brick veneer where real brick was supposed to be. There was also no sign of the promised high-end fixtures–not to mention the marble lobby–that tenants had been promised by the developers.
The building’s 57 units were sold for a total of $58 million in 1999, but since then the owners have already paid $8 million in repairs. The New York State Attorney General’s office filed the suit on behalf of the owners against the building’s sponsors, Joseph Pell Lombardi, Jack Lefkowitz and Abraham Berkowitz, a principal of 27 N. Moore Associates.
Ms. Nieman told The Observer that Mr. Anthony had decided to sell his loft because his wife, Dayanara Torres, a former Miss Universe, is due to give birth on Feb. 14. “The couple wanted to move to a neighborhood where their child could be raised and go to school,” said Ms. Nieman.
“It sold right away,” said Jim Brawders, a senior vice president at the Corcoran Group, who sold Mr. Anthony’s apartment. “He never had any problems in his apartment that I knew of. He liked his apartment a lot, but he found that they weren’t living there that much.”
Mr. Anthony moved into his Long Island home in November.
Mr. Brawders also said “a nice young couple” had purchased the apartment, and the deal closed in late December.
There are currently two apartments in the building on the market, priced at $1.925 million and $2.3 million. In other words, Mr. Crystal and Mr. Wolfe’s multimillion-dollar homes aren’t up for grabs.
ANDREW RASIEJ, LAST OF THE DOT-COM RENAISSANCE MEN, BUYS HIS DREAM HOUSE Andrew Rasiej, the co-founder of the Digital Club Network, the Internet’s largest live-music channel, says he’s “not just a dot-com millionaire.” Nor is he behaving like one.
While many of his Silicon Alley peers are now being forced to sell off the condos they bought during the Internet gold rush, Mr. Rasiej, who founded concert venue Irving Plaza in 1992, is holding onto his real estate–two apartments in Zeckendorf Towers at 1 Irving Place–and buying more. In October, he closed on a deal to buy a townhouse on Leroy Street, near Bleecker Street, for $2.1 million.
“I’m not making my decisions based on the economy,” said Mr. Rasiej, 42, who is also the founder of Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education (MOUSE), a philanthropic organization he started six years ago that provides technology support for public education. “Decisions of what the real estate market may or may not do in relation to the stock market is secondary when you’re already in a position to be able to afford to live where you want,” he added.
Back in June, the hyperconfident dot-commer asked some brokers how much they thought he could get for his four-bedroom apartment, a combination of two units. Brokers agreed on a price tag close to $2 million–roughly the cost of a townhouse with a garage, which Mr. Rasiej coveted.
“I think everybody’s dream is to own a home in New York,” he said. “And [for] those of us in New York who also like to visit the beach or go upstate or visit their mom, having a place to park your car is an amazing convenience.” Mr. Rasiej contacted broker Debbie Korb of Sotheby’s International Realty and told her to put his number in her Rolodex and give him a call if she found something he’d like.
She did so just two days later.
He made an offer to buy on his first visit to the three-story, turn-of-the-century carriage house. It was previously owned by a family that ran a business delivering coal for boilers, and they parked their trucks in the 10-car heated garage with tin ceilings located on the first floor. Mr. Rasiej isn’t that cocky: He plans to use that floor for other purposes, saving just enough room for a couple of cars. The second and third floors will also get renovations; now, they both feature full-floor, five-room apartments. (Real estate taxes are $7,900.)
Mr. Rasiej and architect Wayne Turett started drawing up plans last fall. They will update the windows, create a garden in the back, and put glass on the back of the building to allow for more light. Construction will begin in February, as soon as a permit is approved. Mr. Rasiej’s apartment at Zeckendorf Towers is not yet on the market.
UPPER EAST SIDE
555 Park Avenue
Four-bed, four-and-a-half-bath, 4,500-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $8.2 million. Selling: $8.2 million.
Charges: $4,491; 45 percent tax deductible.
Time on the market: one month.
ONCE HE SAW HER CLOSETS, THE HONEYMOON WAS OVER After getting married about a year ago, an investment banker approaching 70 and his new wife, who’s in her 50′s, were planning on combining two apartments at 812 Fifth Avenue. But when the board turned down their combination plan, they got fed up and left the building altogether. The businessman would have preferred to stay on Fifth Avenue, but his broker, Jason Tames of Douglas Elliman, said that Park Avenue was a close second. Besides, they needed to find somewhere to move quickly. “It just wasn’t working,” said Mr. Tames. “If you saw how many clothes she has–they were using the second apartment as a storage closet.” He showed them about four apartments before taking them to this traditional-style apartment that has high ceilings, a wood-burning fireplace and an elevator bank with a mural of the Riviera. The newlyweds will redo the kitchen before moving in, but the rest of the apartment doesn’t need much work. The couple plans to move in by April. The deal closed Jan. 17.
5 East 17th Street
One-bed, one-bath, 5,600-square-foot condo.
Asking: $2.25 million. Selling: $1.9 million.
Charges: $1,154. Taxes: $1,025.
Time on the market: one month.
WHEN “RAW” IS A BAD WORD Last September, a couple in their 30′s with a new baby paid $1.95 million for this loft apartment in a recently converted non-doorman building. The apartment was delivered “raw,” except for one bathroom and a gourmet kitchen. Less than two months later, the wife changed her mind. “She decided she wanted a doorman, and she wanted to be uptown,” said their broker, Jeffrey Smith of the Corcoran Group. “At first, they thought they wanted to be downtown,” added Mr. Smith. “You have to really think about these things.” Although the couple tried to cash in on the wife’s fickleness by asking $2.25 million for the place, the plan didn’t work. The apartment eventually sold for $50,000 less than they had paid for it. “And by the time he paid the transfer taxes and closing taxes and all, he probably lost about $200,000,” said Mr. Smith. As for where the couple will move next, Mr. Smith couldn’t say. “I’m not sure if they will buy anything together at this point,” he said. “I think the trouble may go beyond this apartment.”