On Nov. 31, Joyce Leighton, president of the 75th Street Block Association, walked out of her co-op building at 7 East 75th Street and saw a photographer setting up a tripod across the street. He was preparing to take photographs of 10 East 75th Street, the eight-story townhouse that the Hewitt School had bought from developer Aby Rosen for about $8 million in early September.
“I asked him what he was taking pictures of,” Ms. Leigh-ton said, “and he said he worked for the Corcoran Group, and he was taking pictures because the house was going on sale.”
Ms. Leighton was confused. A month before, she’d been part of a small community delegation that had met with Hewitt’s headmistress, Linda MacMurray Gibbs, to discuss the school’s plans for the building. And on Nov. 8, she’d attended a meeting, held at the Whitney Museum of Art, with about 45 other residents of 75th Street between Fifth and Park avenues to discuss how to prevent Hewitt from turning the house into a school. At the meeting, neighbors suggested as potential rallying points the building’s lack of egress (all schools need to have at least two exits, but the current building has only one) and the fact that there was no space to install the mandatory wheelchair ramp in the front of the building.
“I love children and all that,” said Ms. Leighton, “but I was hoping that we could keep the block residential.”
As it turns out, there may be no reason to worry: Hewitt has indeed put the house on the market, listed with broker Carrie Chiang of the Corcoran Group for $8.75 million.
Ms. Gibbs, a short blond woman from Tennessee who started her second year as Hewitt’s head of school this year, said that Hewitt decided to put the building on the market not because of neighborhood pressures or logistical problems, but to turn a profit. “We long ago solved the issues of two means of egress and handicap access,” she said.
Ms. Gibbs said the board hasn’t made any decision as to whether they’ll sell yet.
“We have a strong offer on the [10 East 75th Street] property for more than our purchase price. The board is considering the offer and will meet again later [the week of Dec. 3] to decide if we should proceed to the contract stage,” said Ms. Gibbs. “As you understand, this type of sale is complex, because the board of the school is highly responsible and aware of its fiduciary responsibility to the constituencies. We also have a responsibility to our strategic plan, and to address the space needs which have been identified. We are considering another property at this time, but it is premature to say more than that. We definitely will either keep the current building at 10 East 75th Street or purchase another building.”
The purchase of the building was a coup for Ms. Gibbs and the school. When she took over Hewitt, Ms. Gibbs made finding additional space her No. 1 priority. The school has been expanding in recent years, and with the kindergarten class numbering more than 40 children, Hewitt is currently at absolute maximum capacity. The house at 10 East 75th Street seemed like a perfect solution to the space crisis: It had already been gutted by Mr. Rosen; it would’ve given the school a much-needed extra 12,000 square feet; and it’s only one block away from the school’s location of 30 years, 45 East 75th Street.
Although Hewitt’s plans for the building had not been finalized, in an earlier interview Ms. Gibbs said that the 10 East 75th Street building would probably be used to house the lower school.
790 Riverside Drive Two-bed, two-bath, 1,600-square-foot co-op. Asking: $455,000. Selling: $429,000. Charges: $929.43; 40 percent tax-deductible. Time on the market: four months. LIVE IN STYLE, LIKE A CO-ED Finding an apartment in New York when you’re not a multimillionaire is all about priorities: Do you want space, or do you want a specific location? After looking for a long time, this apartment buyer chose space-more specifically, lots of prewar space. She left a small apartment in Chelsea for this 1,600-square-foot, two-bedroom co-op near 157th Street. The place has side-by-side living and dining rooms (the dining room, regrettably, had lost its original wainscoting long ago), a maid’s room and a freshly renovated eat-in kitchen. Though not as convenient as Chelsea, the neighborhood isn’t so bad. “It’s like what the Columbia area was like 25 years ago,” said listing broker Merope Lolis of Bellmarc Realty. “The No. 1 train is right on 157th Street, and all your shopping needs are on Broadway.” The seller knew she had a good thing going; she sold this apartment to buy a three-bedroom place in the same building.
359 West 11th Street (the Left Bank) Four-bed, three-bath, 2,138-square-foot condo. Asking: $1.125 million. Selling: $1.125 million. Charges: $1,174. Taxes: $114. Time on the market: one week. THE LONG WAIT In 1999, a couple that lived around the corner from this new condo development between Washington and West streets signed a contract to buy a 2,138-square-foot apartment based only on architectural renderings. They anticipated a wait of a little less than a year-but instead ended up waiting almost three years. “There had been a number of construction obstacles that we have finally overcome,” said Louise Phillips of Insignia Douglas Elliman, the exclusive broker on the building. “These people were just incredibly patient.” And, it turns out, they weren’t the only ones. According to Ms. Phillips, only one buyer pulled out of the deal because of the delays. “But that was about timing,” she said. “She got pregnant again, and they bought a townhouse.”
121 Pacific Street Three-bed, three-and-a-half-bath, 2,000-square-foot co-op. Asking: $895,000. Selling: $875,000. Charges: $1,484; 40 percent tax-deductible. Time on the market: two months. STEP TWO: FILL THE BEDROOMS The plan was: ditch the rental, buy a proper apartment and start procreating. Because a family-sized place is more easily (and more cheaply) found in Brooklyn, the couple decided to go for a look. It took them a while to find the perfect nest-broker Steven Gerber of the Corcoran Group said they were looking for about a year-but they finally settled on this place in the Atlantic and Pacific Building, located on Pacific Street between Henry and Clinton Streets. Their new place used to be two separate apartments before the sellers combined them. In the process, they did some high-end renovations: The apartment now has a wood-burning fireplace, a large kitchen, and a washer and dryer. The only work that the new owners will have to do is to start filling up the bedrooms.
Actor goes from Mulholland Drive to Greenwich Village
“I didn’t anticipate how awful Los Angeles can be,” said 30-year-old actor Justin Theroux, en route to change his address to the brownstone apartment off of Washington Square that he’d just bought. Mr. Theroux had spent the last 10 months in L.A. filming the CBS drama The District , in which he plays a public-relations guy. But since 1990, he’s called New York home.
Coming off a starring role in Mulholland Drive and a minor role as a D.J. in his friend Ben Stiller’s recent movie, Zoolander , Mr. Theroux is now in a position to really plant himself here, he said. “It’s boring to talk about how awful L.A. is. It’s better to talk about how great New York is.”
But true to form for someone who loves New York, Mr. Theroux had a few biting things to say about some of its trendiest neighborhoods. “I’ve lived in every neighborhood,” he said. After a brief stint on the Upper West Side, he moved to a loft on 30th Street between Fifth and Madison avenues.
“That was a hideous apartment,” he said. “[The bathroom] had just a toilet, so I’d have to go shower at this gym which I had to join down the street, where I obviously never worked out. Every day I’d sort of trundle down to the gym with my towel and a toothbrush.”
Before long, he’d scored a sublet on Bleecker Street and Bowery-his favorite New York apartment so far. “It had a bathtub in the kitchen-slash-dining-room, but it was really beautiful.” When his roommate decided to “get married and have a baby and all the rest of it,” he had to go.
First, he talked with his friend Philip Seymour Hoffman-they’d done a play together, called Shopping and Fucking , years ago-about buying a building and splitting it in half.
But buying a whole building “turned out to be a headache,” Mr. Theroux said. The two started looking for their own places-and he went to “every neighborhood below 14th Street,” spending most of the last year (when he could get away from The District ) apartment hunting.
“Soho was prohibitively awful and touristy,” he said. “I think it’s a wrecked neighborhood, ever since they paved over the cobblestones.”
Tribeca was worse. “I had to do a sort of lunch date down there,” he said. “And I realized what a nightmare that was. Little Hyannisport,” he dubbed it.
Finally, he found
a co-op apartment off Washington Square that he liked. And luckily, the owner, anxious to sell, could be talked down to a price tag “in the 700 range.” “This is my first adult-style place!” Mr. Theroux said. “I couldn’t stop laughing in the closing; it just seemed so absurd that I’d actually be purchasing an apartment.”
The duplex has a big outdoor deck. “It’s about 1,000 square feet….It’s in an 1840’s brownstone, and it’s just beautiful: wood floors, old quirky little pieces of molding-it’s not contemporary at all.”
He’ll have a few months to settle in before things get hectic again; he’s doing a play in Boston, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme . “It’s a big Irish behemoth about the Irish Ulster Division that was the first division to go over the trenches into France during World War I, and it was sort of a famous slaughter.”
He’s also developing a pilot with Mr. Stiller, a comedy. If it works out, he’d be the star and the show would ideally be shot in New York. Then again, he’s thought that before. “With The District, they had said it was going to be such and such a cast, and they were going to shoot in Baltimore or New York,” he said. “And then when they called again, they said it was gonna be different actors, in L.A.”
No matter where work takes him, Mr. Theroux said, he’ll keep his place in the Village. “It’s no secret that L.A. is a good place to go and do a money grab and then come home.”
Brokers said Mr. Hoffman is still looking around intermittently, mostly in Tribeca. Though one lamented: “I don’t think he’s serious.”