Clancy’s Gotham Safe House

Tom Clancy said the September terrorist attacks were a doomsday scenario he couldn’t have written himself. But he wasn’t researching his next novel when he toured Ground Zero for the January/February issue of Book magazine; he was just taking note of the transformation the city had undergone in the wake of the attacks.

“I didn’t think New Yorkers had this in them, and I was wrong about that,” the Maryland native said, before getting his licks in: “I’m sure they’ll be back to their normal asshole selves in a few weeks.”

A post–Sept. 11 sentiment fitting for a New-Yorker-to-be: Mr. Clancy recently purchased a $2.685 million penthouse at the Promenade at 530 East 76th Street, on the East River. It’s a three-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom, 3,000-square-foot corner duplex, replete with herringbone-patterned oak floors, a circular oak staircase and “one of the nicest bathrooms I have ever seen,” according to William B. May senior vice president Eric Ozada, who brokered the deal and has sold over 180 units in the building.

Mr. Ozada said that it was Mr. Clancy’s mother-in-law, a New York native, who first spotted the apartment. She called her daughter, former television reporter Alexandra Llewellyn, whom Mr. Clancy met through her second cousin, Secretary of State Colin Powell, at a fund-raiser and married three years ago. She and Mr. Clancy “came and liked it and bought it,” Mr. Ozada said. “It was fast, easy negotiating.”

Mr. Clancy’s lawyer, Lowell Bowen, declined to comment on the purchase.

The seller, an Internet mogul with two young boys, wants a place where the family can stretch its legs a bit more (they’re thinking Scarsdale).

Mr. Clancy’s got plenty of room elsewhere. He spends most of the year at Peregrine Cliff, his 24-room mansion on 416 acres overlooking Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay-and the World War II–era Sherman tank he’s got on his lawn.

His building on the Upper East Side probably won’t accommodate that, but it does have its fair share of amenities: a pool and solarium, an English roof garden, a library, a health club and separate business and public lounges. Mr. Clancy’s apartment is on the 34th and 35th floors of the 39-story, Costas Kondylis–designed Promenade.

And it gives him a place to stay and hammer out his next contract with his publisher, Penguin Putnam Inc., and to spend some of the $45 million he’s already negotiated for his next two books. The first of those, Red Rabbit -a Jack Ryan novel that takes place before the events of Mr. Clancy’s 1984 debut, The Hunt for Red October -comes out in August.

The movie version of Mr. Clancy’s 1991 novel The Sum of All Fears , starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman, hits screens May 31.

Sandra and Dennis’ Movie Hideout Sells, Courtesy Warner Bros.

When Sandra Bullock and Dennis Leary hightail it through New England in the 1996 bomb Two if by Sea , a stolen Matisse in hand and the F.B.I. on their trail, they find a hiding place in a conveniently uninhabited rustic beach house in a luxurious island resort town, where they proceed to drub their relationship into dramatic listlessness while the feds close in. But what a house they do it in!

Seven years later, the house, actually built by David Chapman for the movie set in Nova Scotia, has sold-on Sound Shore Road in Northville, N.Y., a small town on the North Fork.

What gives? Well, Warner Bros., actually. During the house’s construction, Mr. Chapman, the movie’s production designer and a single, 63-year-old ex-architect, realized that he was falling in love with the place he was designing.

“Every designer and architect fantasizes about the house they would build if they had the time and the money, and I realized that’s what I was doing,” he said.

As the filming drew to a close, an idea dawned on Mr. Chapman: Why not take the house and set it down on land he already owned on Long Island? The studio didn’t protest; most sets get trashed after filming wraps, anyway. They charged him $25,000 for disassembly costs, and Mr. Chapman forked over $4,500 to transport the pieces on three 48-foot trucks down the Eastern Seaboard.

“I was blown away by how cheap it was,” he said.

Nor did he get any guff from the town of Riverhead. While the house was still standing in Nova Scotia, Mr. Chapman videotaped the place and sent a copy to a building inspector in Long Island. It seems the four-bedroom, three-bathroom place cast its spell on her, too.

When the trucks arrived in Northville, they plopped the house down on a five-acre plot with steps leading down to the beach.

The next phase, however, was “a freakin’ nightmare.” Because the house had started as a movie set, it didn’t have amenities like water pipes, electrical wires, heating or insulation. (It’s a good thing Ms. Bullock had a trailer.) The guy Mr. Chapman hired for the job turned out to be “the absolutely worst contractor” on Long Island, he said, and it took the better part of a year to make the place livable.

But when the job was completed, it was like finding the house that he’d always dreamed of.

The window-strewn design afforded dazzling light displays that shifted during the day. “It was an undiluted joy just being there. The light, the space-it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

When Mr. Chapman found himself designing sets for movies that did a little better-the John Cusack movie High Fidelity , to be precise-his work took him to the West Coast too often for him to make use of his bachelor bungalow, and so he decided to put it on the market for $825,000. Once up for sale, the house contributed yet another volley to the battle of the sexes, the unabashedly “masculine” beam structure setting off tiffs among couples who came to see the place.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, a couple would walk in and the guy would say, ‘I want this,’ and the woman would say, ‘I couldn’t live here,’” he said. “It was amazing how it split down the middle.”

Lucky for him, Cook Pony Farm Real Estate broker Beryl Dank found a rustic-minded single guy who thought the place was Shangri-La-and though Mr. Chapman had to take a lowball offer for the place, he still made a mint when you consider how heavily Warner Bros. had subsidized it to begin with.

“He’s a young fashion photographer,” Ms. Dank said of the buyer. “And he bought it because it reminded him of California, where he’s from. It’s very different from anything else on the North Fork.”

UPPER EAST SIDE

188 East 78th Street (the Empire)

Two-bed, two-and-a-half-bath condo.

Asking: $3.4 million.

Selling: $2.45 million.

Charges: $1,115.

BAGELS ON THE BRAIN A middle-aged couple had been splitting their time between Darien, Conn., and a gated community on John’s Island in Vero Beach, Fla., when they started to feel themselves suffocating in a crowd of “Wendy WASP’s and Peter Preps,” according to their broker, Elise Henning at Stribling and Associates. So they went in search of a place to live where there was more “stimulation.” Of course, that meant ruling out New York’s uptown co-ops with their “stuffy” boards, so they opted for something a little younger and sexier. Florida wasn’t all bad, it seems, because they were attracted to the almost “tropical” light that poured in through the unobstructed three-exposure windows of this 2,158-square-foot Empire penthouse; but in true city style, their first move is to roam around until they meet “all the neighborhood purveyors.”

MIDTOWN EAST

860 United Nations Plaza

Three-bed, three-and-a-half-bath co-op.

Asking: $1.495 million. Selling: $1.495 million.

Maintenance: $2,711; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one day.

CUTTING THE BAIT This Manhattan lawyer had renovated himself a dream bachelor pad with jaw-dropping western and southern views that look over the United Nations, the U.N. gardens and the East River. But when he met the woman of his dreams, everything changed-fast. The couple decided to get out of New York, and the lawyer put this place on the market for $1.495 million, holding an open house the same day. They crossed paths with another couple on a reverse migratory course. The second couple snatched the place up on the spot, without evenhaggling about the price. The newcomers will be bumping intoWalter Cronkite in the elevatorofthe building, where Robert Kennedy Jr., Johnny Carson and Truman Capote have all lived. Joanna Simon of Fox ResidentialGroup and Norma Hirsh of Insignia Douglas Elliman brokered the deal.

SOHO

143 Prince Street

1,750-square-foot loft co-op.

Asking: $1.65 million.

Selling: $1.5 million

Maintenance: $1,470;

55 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: six weeks.

ART OF THE DEAL Uptown co-op boards are infamous for their capricious standards, rejecting buyers for everything from having an account at Sears to being prominent pop-culture figures. Downtown it’s a little different, and this savvy buyer, an art collector, pegged it perfectly. According to his broker, Douglas Wagner, president of Benjamin James Real Estate, this board is a relic of the old Soho artists’ co-ops. So in preparing his board application for this seventh-floor Soho apartment with 1,000 square feet of outdoor space, the buyer made sure to include an array of “thumbnail” photographs of his collection “to demonstrate to the board that he was of similar standing.” And while the buyer’s finances were certainly under review, the board was also adamant that “their building not change profile from an artistic community to a banking community,” Mr. Wagner said-adding that this is the second time this year he’s been involved in an artistic co-op screening.