Waiting on Trump, Marty Richards Loses River House Buyer

PRODUCER’S DUPLEX MAISONETTE IS BACK ON MARKET FOR $18.5 MILLION When producer Marty Richards decided to trade in his 16-room maisonette apartment at the River House, an exclusive co-op which looks over the East River from 435 East 52nd Street, for a $6 million double-sized condo at the Trump World Tower last summer, he devised a seemingly foolproof strategy that wouldallow him the minimum inconvenience: At the height of the seller’s market, he’d find someone willing not only to pay him $17.5 million for the apartment but also to let him live there for another year while his new home was being finished.

The plan worked like a charm. Last June, Mr. Richards signed a $17.5 million contract to sell the duplex maisonette to Joseph W. Luter III, the chief executive of Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest hog producer and pork processor. Written into the deal was the contingency that Mr. Luter would not move in until April of this year, when Mr. Richards’ new apartment at the Trump World Tower was scheduled to be ready for occupancy.

The deal was going pretty smoothly through October, when Mr. Luter passed the notoriously tough co-op board at the River House, getting the green light to move into Mr. Richards’ 8,000-square-foot duplex with 14-foot ceilings, large reception rooms and views of the East River. The lower level houses private bedrooms; the upper level, two maids’ rooms, a large European country kitchen and aguest room.

Butjust as the market got shaky, Mr. Luter’s new wife grew impatient. According to brokers, she wanted to live closer to Central Park and encouraged her husband to buy a 5,200-square-foot, five-bedroom apartment at 888 Park Avenue for $11.5 million. Mr. Luter signed a contract on Dec. 1 to buy the apartment from Linda Jurist, sister of Saul Steinberg (the former Reliance Group chairman). The sale was final on Jan. 16.

By that time, according to brokers, Mr. Luter had decided to lose his deposit on Mr. Richards’ apartment and “walk away from the deal” rather than go through with the purchase and resell the apartment. Perhaps he was eager to be rid of the hassles of Manhattan real estate: In 12 months, he had bought and sold a condo at the new development at 838 Fifth Avenue for about $14 million without ever moving in and sold his former home at 791 Park Avenue for $6 million. One source said that Mr. Luter probably lost $1.7 million by backing out of his contract at the River House. Responding to a call placed to Mr. Richards’ office, his attorney, Gael Maranda-Schmidt of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy, said, “The contract was terminated. That is all there is to say. The apartment is now back on the market.”

The second time around, Mr. Richards has another plan: charge more and get out quick. On April 12, his apartment went back on the market for $18.5 million with Kathy Sloane of Brown, Harris, Stevens. (Maintenance is $6,000.) But, sources say, the two condo units Mr. Richards plans to combine on the 72nd floor of Trump World Tower, between 48th and 49th streets, are not yet ready for occupancy. Only 30 brave residents have so far moved into apartments in the 90-story building.

On a recent morning, there were stacks of mottled gray, black and white marble slabs stacked up in front of Trump World Tower, and scaffolding still surrounded the lower part of the south side of the black glass tower. Work is finished on the lobby–it’s almost entirely marble and features three giant chandeliers–but it’s accessible only through a maze in the construction mess, as is a portion of the broad front staircase.

Selling his River House apartment a second time, Mr. Richards has some minor competition. Some of those wanting simply to live in the storied co-op may be just as satisfied with the apartment of attorney Lorenzo Lorenzotti, a seventh-floor, 4,300-square-foot apartment with three bedrooms that went on the market on April 17 for $6.5 million. (Residents of the River House knew the apartment was for sale two weeks before it came on the official market–a standard procedure.) Like Mr. Richards, Mr. Lorenzotti has priced his place high; he bought the apartment for $4.1 million a year ago.

CHELSEA

CROUCHING TIGER COMPOSER LANDS A TOWNHOUSE WITH A PERFECT HIDDEN GARDEN Accepting the Academy Award for best original musical score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , 43-year-old Chinese composer Tan Dun thanked his family at the end of his speech. “Lastly, this is for two tigers in my family,” the composer said. “My wife Jane, Ian, [my] son, both born in the year of tigers. Thank you.” Back in New York, Mr. Dun gave them an even better thank-you: He bought atownhouseon19th Street for himself and his two tigers for $2.8 million on April 16.

Mr. Dun, originally from a small village in central Hunan, first came to Manhattan in January of 1986, when he was offered a fellowship at Columbia University. He was already well known in China; his first symphony, Li Sao , which he wrote at the age of 22, won a special prize at the first National Symphonic Competition there, and in 1983 his String Quartet: Feng Ya Song won a Weber prize in Dresden, making him the first Chinese composer to win an international prize since 1949.

In New York, Mr. Dun has continued to rack up music awards, including a 1997 citation by The New York Times as one of the “Classical Musicians of the Year,” and a 1992 Suntory prize commission (from Japan), which John Cage, Toru Takemitsu and Hans Werner Henze have also won. In 1998, he became the youngest recipient of the Grawemeyer Award in Music, the world’s most prestigious prize for composers, for his opera Marco Polo .

Mr. Dun’s new five-story, red-brick Italianate townhouse, which one broker said “has one of the nicest façades in Chelsea,” is in excellent condition, and is divided into three different units with several fireplaces located throughout the house. Most spectacular, however, is the large landscaped garden, which features a fairly large goldfish pond with a fountain and what looks like a slate floor covering.

Brokers Joseph Dwyer, Sara Gelbard and Viviane El-Yachar refused to comment on the deal. And Mr. Dun, reached through a representative at Sony, did not return calls for comment.

UPPER EAST SIDE

983 Park Avenue

Three-bedroom, four-bath, 3,500-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $4.6 million. Selling: $4 million.

Charges: $3,700; 50 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: six months.

SCRAPING TOGETHER THE ALIMONY This apartment originally went on the market last June, but back then the sellers wanted $6.2 million–a hefty price tag, said broker Renée Bross of Ashforth Warburg, even for this nine-room prewar apartment on a signature Park Avenue block (between 83rd and 84th streets). The problem: The sellers were slogging through a messy divorce, Ms. Bross said, and couldn’t agree on an asking price. When they got no bite, the price was lowered first to $5.9 million, then to $5.2 million, before it finally found an interested buyer at $4.6 million. But the board turned down the elderly couple that agreed to that price, and the search went on. Not for long: These buyers, a couple with two young children–he’s on Wall Street, she’s a doctor–weighed in at $4 million even, just two days after the elderly couple’s board turn-down.

CLINTON

349 West 53rd Street

Four-story, 3,350-square-foot townhouse.

Asking: $1.125 million. Selling: $885,000.

Time on the market: two months.

HELL’S KITCHEN HILTON This four-story building, configured as four floor-through apartments, was home to a group of transplants for about 15 years. Back in the mid-1980’s, Hilton Hotels needed more parking space for its hotel at Sixth Avenue and 53rd Street, so they bought the apartment building next door. To get the tenants to leave, the Hilton Hotel Corporation bought and renovated this building and rented it out to them cheaply–the price goes up nominally each year–and promised that they would not be asked to move again. Now, with only one of those tenants still in the house, Hilton has sold this building to a family from New Jersey. According to Christoffer Brodhead of Massey Knakal Realty, the broker representing Hilton, the family is still in the “architect stage” and has not yet decided whether they will take over three floors for their own use or just two. One thing is for sure: The lucky Hilton-era holdout tenant, on the top floor, doesn’t have to go anywhere.

GREENWICH VILLAGE

65 West 13th Street

One-bed, one-bath, 1,653-square-foot condo.

Asking: $745,000; selling: $745,000.

Charges: $1,075; 50 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: two months.

SIEGEL’S DEPARTMENT STORE, FOURTH FLOOR A couple living in Battery Park City locked in on this fourth-floor apartment in February 2000. They were one of the first to buy into the building, called the Greenwich, a Brown, Harris, Stevens loft-style condo development off lower Sixth Avenue. But the apartment was only ready for them to move into last month. Formerly a Siegel’s department store–a lower-priced annex to the nearby Siegel-Cooper store at Sixth Avenue and 18th Street–the developers saw potential in the building’s high ceilings and old, loft-style architectural details, but they had to solve the problem of getting light and air throughout the vast floors. To do so, they scooped out the middle to create a center courtyard. Coming from Battery Park City, the buyers sacrificed light–but, desperate for a more vibrant neighborhood, this solution suited them. Michele Conte, the managing sales agent for the condos at Brown, Harris, Stevens, said it may be a sign of things to come: Considerations that used to make or break a deal five or 10 years ago may not be considerations anymore. “You see that a lot downtown,” she said, “where people love the space so much, and the lifestyle, they’ll give up a lot of what used to be so important–like views–just to have the peace of all that air around their heads.”