That’s Patriotism! Two Houses In Deals for $10.5 Million-Plus

Someone tell Rudy! In banner deals for 2001, two townhouses on East 69th Street between Fifth and Park avenues have gone into contract for $10.5 million and $11 million in the past month.

In November, a $10.5 million deal was signed to sell 46 East 69th Street, the home of the late Doris Magowan, daughter of Merrill Lynch founder Charles Edward Merrill and widow of the founder of the Safeway chain of stores. A little over two weeks later, Richard Schaps, the chief executive of Van Wagner Communications, a major billboard company, signed a contract to sell his red brick neo-Federal townhouse at 6 East 69th Street for $11 million, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Though the sales of 19-20 Gramercy Park for $16.5 million and 16 East 69th Street for $11.5 million closed at the beginning of this year, those deals were cut in 2000. Only one other Upper East Side townhouse has sold for more than $10 million all year-4 East 74th Street, for $11 million in August-whereas up to half a dozen $10 million–plus townhouse sales were recorded in 2000.

Said townhouse specialist Leslie J. Garfield, “I guess [people] are gingerly stepping in and buying large townhouses again. I would say that’s what these sales are about.”

Both 69th Street houses are five stories high, 25 feet wide and designed by prominent architects-No. 6 by John H. Duncan, who also designed Grant’s tomb, and No. 46 by Mott Schmidt, who designed homes for Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne. But they are as different as their sellers.

Doris Magowan, who died in April, lived at 46 East 69th Street for roughly 30 years. She was a mother of five, a grandmother of 13 and a great-grandmother of six. She was also a philanthropist, a trustee of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral and a Dame of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John’s in Jerusalem (a position that requires a nod from the Queen of England). Her husband, Robert Magowan, who ran Safeway stores, died in 1985.

Mr. Schaps, who bought his house in January 1999 for $8 million, sits on the boards of Free Arts for Abused Children and the New York University Child Study Center. His company, Van Wagner, owns outdoor advertising space, including billboards, kiosks and the sides of buses. He’s estimated that they manage about 85 percent of the space occupied by neon signs in Times Square.

Mr. Schaps’ house at 6 East 69th Street is relatively plain from the outside: a featureless red brick building with a little wrought-iron fence. But one broker who showed the house to a client said the inside has been all gussied up-“you know, in terms of elaborate draperies and bed spreads and such.” It has been recently renovated with a new elevator, central air conditioning, new plumbing, gas heat, a sprinkler system, an electrical system, satellite-television capability and video security.

By contrast, Ms. Magowan’s house has a more “classical elegance,” according to one townhouse broker, but inside there’s a “subdued elegance,” the broker said. “It was just a house that was lived in for a very long time, and the owners obviously had very good traditional taste.”

Despite the high contracted purchase price for both houses, the asking prices were even higher. Magowan’s estate was marketing 46 East 69th Street at $11 million, and Mr. Schaps wanted $14 million for 6 East 69th Street. One real-estate executive surmised that that kind of negotiability indicated a buyers’ market. Meanwhile, Mr. Garfield said, there are more than 30 Upper East Side townhouses currently on the market for $10 million or more.

Bob Weinstein Gets Green-lighted

Miramax Films co-chairman Bob Weinstein and his wife, Annie, were combing the city in search of the perfect apartment even before his studio released The Cider House Rules two years ago. They’ve been all over-including checking out a few rentals in Tribeca, near Miramax’s headquarters on the corner of Greenwich and Franklin streets-but mostly they’ve scoured the Upper East Side. Declaring they didn’t want a typical Park or Fifth Avenue apartment, they also decided they didn’t want one in a modern high-rise, either.

Finally, on Dec. 11, the couple paid $5.25 million for a 4,500-square-foot duplex on East 66th Street that once belonged to the Rothschild family. The price had been dropped three times since it came on the market in October 2000 for $6.5 million. The most recent price reduction was from $5.995 million to $5.35 million in April 2001.

On the corner of Lexington Avenue, the East 66th Street building was designed by Charles A. Platt in 1905, who also designed its sister building on 67th Street. Though one long block from Park Avenue, some brokers maintain that the boards of these two buildings are among the toughest in the city to pass. “There are a few buildings that actually, in some weird ways, are more difficult to get into than Park Avenue buildings,” said one broker who has sold apartments in the building. “It is very Old Worldly, and has the kind of people who are well known in an old-family kind of way.” Socialites Wendy Vanderbilt Lehman, Podie Lynch and Jim Torrey live there.

Several years ago, the board rejected a purchase by Carolyne Roehm, the fashion designer– cum –interior decorator with a monthly column in House Beautiful . One broker said the reason was that she was too high-profile. In 1995, when Ismail Merchant wanted to film parts of The Proprietor in one of the apartments, the board denied him access, though he had the permission of the apartment owner and the building’s management. “We were completely shattered. This has never happened to us,” said Mr. Merchant at the time.

Though he may not be as high-profile as his older brother Harvey, Mr. Weinstein was warned that getting into this building might be difficult, but he decided to persist-not least of all because of the 12-room apartment, which was listed in excellent condition. Sources who have seen the apartment say that a large detailed, curved staircase is just inside the front door. The walls are said to be extraordinary: stenciled in the double-height living room, covered with hand-embroidered fabric in the dining room and made out of carved oak in another.

But the concern on the part of the brokers-Alexa Lambert of Stribling and Associates, who represented the Weinsteins, and Whitney Gettinger of Insignia Douglas Elliman, who represented the seller-turned out to be for naught: The Weinsteins were promptly welcomed into the fold. Sources say the couple will move in soon.

Upper West Side

15 West 81st Street Two-bed, two-and-a-half-bath co-op. Asking: $2.05 million. Selling: $1.72 million. Maintenance: $1,650; 49 percent tax-deductible. Time on the market: 13 months. JIMMY BRESLIN’S SON SIZES UP THE MARKET “There were multiple negotiations,” said James Breslin, the 46-year-old son of the newspaper columnist, about selling this 2,400-square-foot Emery Roth–designed classic-six apartment. “It was rare”-or at least it used to be, he said. Mr. Breslin, a broker with Insignia Douglas Elliman, was representing a family of three moving to the Upper East Side. But their timing couldn’t have been worse: They put this apartment up for sale last November, when the market was still rising; when no one matched their asking price, they realized that they would have to negotiate with a buyer. But, apparently in no rush to make a deal, they decided not to risk lowering the asking price. When they found a couple who had raised kids in New Jersey (the husband is a doctor with a practice in the city) and wanted to be close to Lincoln Center, months of haggling ensued. “The apartments have expanse, they have style; it’s beautiful to show them,” said Mr. Breslin. The buyers were loath to lose the place, even if they thought the asking price was high. The deal finally closed Dec. 9, at a price 15 percent lower than the original asking price. “There are a lot of changes that have occurred not only in our city but with our economy, and it’s something that obviously these owners recognized, as did this purchaser,” said Mr. Breslin about the negotiating that took place to close the deal. “And this is not going to be uncommon, in my opinion.”

Upper East Side

40 East 78th Street Two-bed, two-bath, 1,277-square-foot condo. Asking: $940,000. Selling: $930,000. Charges: $1,068. Taxes: $457. Time on the market: seven months. THINK PINK … FORMICA! No one is denying that this apartment in the Charles House near Madison Avenue has its finer points. There are the four walk-in closets, the modern kitchen with a sub-zero refrigerator, and the great rooftop view. But there was trouble too: the totally 80’s décor. There were mirrors, there was a raised-platform living room-and the bedrooms all had pink Formica furnishings. “I’m sure at one time it was very state-of-the-art,” said Steven Cohen of the Corcoran Group, who represented the buyer. But he added that the apartment had great “bones.” Though the buyer, a businessman who lives overseas, conducted most of his business with Mr. Cohen over the Internet, Mr. Cohen said he knows what he’s getting into, pink Formica and all. “He sent a family member over to look at this place, and she loved it,” said Mr. Cohen. “They just see it as big space.” Needless to say, the businessman will do major renovations before moving, and will use it as a pied-à-terre .

Greenwich Village

40 East Ninth Street One-bed, one-bath, 1,000-square-foot co-op. Asking: $585,000. Selling: $565,000. Charges: $1,108; 60 percent tax-deductible. Time on the market: seven months. I’LL TAKE GREENWICH VILLAGE Right now, a retired nurse from Texas is loading the contents of her longtime home in Houston and pointing the driver toward Greenwich Village. “She was one of my favorite clients,” said broker Tony Rotolo of Bellmarc Realty about the woman, who grew up on the East Coast and has children living here. The former nurse, who had kept a small studio pied-à-terre in Manhattan for a while, is moving for good into this place, which has a small terrace overlooking a garden. Even after a little renovation, however, it surely won’t hold all of her old keepsakes.

Upper East Side

Marc Lasry Discounts 895 Park Pad

When Marc Lasry, a managing director of Amroc Investments Inc., and his wife, Cathy Cohen (daughter of Irwin Cohen, the developer and partial owner of Chelsea Market), signed a contract in June to buy, for just under $15 million, the six-story townhouse at 4 East 74th Street that Michael Jackson had rented two years ago, they put their apartment at 895 Park Avenue on the market for $7.75 million.

Now Peter Marsh, a founding partner of Cogswell Realty Group-which owns more than five million square feet of commercial office space, primarily in the tri-state area-has bought the Lasrys’ 12-room apartment for $6.4 million.

The Lasrys’ new townhouse, which Michael Jackson rented for six months in 1999 for a whopping $75,000 a month while recording his new album Invincible , gave the couple and their children considerably more space. One broker estimated that the apartment at 895 Park Avenue was 4,000 square feet, compared to the townhouse’s 12,000 square feet.

Their old apartment, at 895 Park Avenue-a prestigious Art Deco building on the corner of Park Avenue and 79th Street-went on the market with Amy Tucker of Sloan Square Realty on May 29. The price was later dropped to $7.3 million. The apartment has five bedrooms and five and a half baths. The listing described the place as “mint traditional,” but one broker who has seen the apartment didn’t agree. “It was really overdone,” she said. “It was kind of like Versailles.”

Neither Mr. Lasry nor Mr. Marsh would comment.