A botched apartment renovation at 610 Park Avenue is pitting one of Los Angeles’ most generous art philanthropists against Donald Trump and renowned New York architect Costas Kondylis.
The case stems from art collector Audrey Irmas’ 1999 renovations to her apartment in her tony condo building, the Mayfair, on Park Avenue and 65th Street, which was developed in part by Messrs. Trump and Kondylis. But this legal mess started when Donald Trump sued her.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers alleged that Ms. Irmas’ renovations went beyond the changes for which she had gotten approval, and ultimately caused extensive water and mold damage to the apartment beneath hers. When Ms. Irmas-who is the vice chairwoman of the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and is not a full-time tenant at 610 Park-allegedly ignored pleas to rectify the situation, the building’s board of directors, along with the Trump Corporation as the building’s managing agent, filed suit, as did the owner of the eighth-floor apartment and his tenant there. (The space is owned by a limited liability company, 9/1/88 Investments L.L.C., which-until recently-rented it out to the principal of an executive-management firm.)
Ms. Irmas, in turn, sued her contractor, blaming them for the muck-up; that gave the eighth-floor tenant enough traction to name Messrs. Trump and Kondylis in his suit, claiming that the building bore responsibility for flaws in the initial construction that facilitated the water damage. That suits seeks $1.7 million in damages.
“It really boils down to a simple set of facts,” said Mr. Trump’s legal counsel, Bernard Diamond. “Someone made an improper renovation, which caused the leak, which damaged the unit below. And who caused that? It’s the unit owner and her contractor, and no one else can be blamed.”
Mr. Kondylis declined to comment on the story, as did the attorney representing the owner of the eighth-floor apartment-9/1/88 Investments L.L.C.
“We’ll do our talking in court,” said the attorney, Michael Sommi, of the firm Cozen, O’Connor.
The Mayfair, home to chef Daniel Boulud and, until recently, Luther Vandross, is a 15-story former hotel that was converted into 70 luxury condo units in 1998. Although the Trump organization oversaw much of the conversion, Mr. Diamond played down the company’s involvement.
“The Trump entity didn’t draft the plans; it didn’t do the installations; it was essentially the sponsor’s eyes in the field,” he said.
That sponsor, Colony Capital, which is also being sued by 9/1/88 Investments L.L.C., declined to comment on the case.
Ms. Irmas was the subject last year of a 2,300-word cover story in the Los Angeles Times . According to that piece, she and her late husband, Sydney, began collecting art in the early 1970’s, and by 1992 they had amassed enough to donate what became the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection of Artists’ Self-Portraits. Ms. Irmas is also a benefactress to many charitable organizations. In January 2000, she was honored by Bet Tzedek, a Los Angeles nonprofit law center, for her myriad contributions to the development of low-income housing. Indeed, Ms. Irmas has at times been an outspoken critic of showy, gaudy architecture. According to the L.A. Times , Ms. Irmas won an injunction in 1985 against TV producer Aaron Spelling for the construction of his 56,500-square-foot Holmby Hills mansion-which sat right across the street from her house, blocking her sunrise views. She called the palatial mansion “Look-at-me-I’m-rich architecture” and added, “I hope I never lay eyes on them.”
Mr. Diamond, the Trump Corporation’s general counsel, said he expected a judge would consolidate all the competing legal claims and set a trial date approximately two years from now. As for the eighth-floor unit, the 2,100-plus-square-foot spread is now raw space, the apartment’s owner having paid to repair the water and mold damage. It’s also on the market for $2.75 million.
“It’s a construction space with park views,” said the apartment’s marketing agent, Michele Kleier, president of Gumley Haft Kleier. “But it’s ready to be rebuilt into your dream home. And you’re halfway there, because all the deconstruction has already been done.”
UPPER WEST SIDE
260 West End Avenue
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $915,000. Selling: $950,000.
Maintenance: $1,646; 45 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: 13 days.
CURMUDGEONLY ARMS When the couple that bought this apartment first took a look at the place, they were already a year into their house hunt. It seems the woman had been a fairly merciless customer when it came to assessing apartments. “The wife was vehement about hating everything she had seen,” said the apartment’s exclusive broker, Joy Weiner of the Corcoran Group. But this 11th-floor unit-which Ms. Weiner said had a “Parisian” feel-would prove to be a tough pad to hate. Not only did it have gorgeous river views, it also had new windows and intact prewar details like beamed ceilings. “She had to search for things she didn’t like about it,” said Ms. Weiner. “She was like, ‘I don’t like the way the mirror is hanging over there.'” At that point, according to Ms. Weiner, the critic’s family members had had enough. Said the husband: “I’m not leaving this apartment until you buy it.” Said the grown daughter: “I’m not going to any more apartments with you. If you have to scrape this hard to find something wrong with it, it’s good.” Finally persuaded, Mom gave in-even going so far as to engage in a bidding war that pushed the price $35,000 over the asking. “We had interest from film and media celebrities-I’m not naming names-but [in the end], the money takes it,” said Ms. Weiner.
74 Grand Street
One-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $875,000. Selling: $930,000.
Maintenance: $805; 45 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: two days.
THE PAPER CHASE A Swiss art dealer bought this co-op in the late 80’s, but he hadn’t lived there since moving back to Europe in the early 90’s. Most of the other artistically minded tenants in the five-story building had also bought in over two decades ago-and there hadn’t been much turnaround since. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that when the art dealer accepted an offer on his place, no one could find the co-op’s offering plans. “The people who bought there stayed forever, and they hadn’t bothered to keep the financials,” said the broker on the deal, Tristan Harper, a vice president at Insignia Douglas Elliman. “But if someone is paying $1 million, they want to know what they’re paying for.” Luckily, the Swiss art dealer’s real-estate lawyer from the 80’s was still around, and though it took him more than three weeks to do it, he was able to locate and dust off the original documentation. Thus the way was paved for the building’s first Gen-X tenants, a couple-she’s an advertising executive, he’s a corporate lawyer. They took the extra step of hiring an engineer to inspect the 1,800-square-foot loft. A caretaker had been maintaining the place intermittently, but in a building without a managing agent, you never know. It passed inspection, and they had a deal. Getting the building’s record sale wasn’t a problem: Most of the other tenants had paid around $60,000 for their places.
42 Grace Court
Seven-bedroom, five-bathroom townhouse.
Asking: $2.5 million. Selling: $2.45 million.
Taxes: $11,600 per year.
Time on the market: five days.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES For the past several years, neighborhood children have scampered over to this townhouse to take piano lessons from the teacher who lived there. But about a year ago, she and her husband-a “New Age” voice-and-piano recording artist-decided it was time to move to Scottsdale, Ariz., and a new troupe of giddy seekers started to traipse through the building. Among them were a mother and father from Manhattan-expecting their second boy, and a year into their house hunt. “We walked into the house, and after one minute [the father] says, ‘This is it. We’ll do whatever it takes to get this house,'” said the broker on the deal, Christine Dugan of William B. May Real Estate. But the enamored couple knew there were other bidders on the five-story townhouse. They needed an angle, an “in.” They found it on a side table-which contained a picture of a grandfatherly man who used to live in the house. He had apparently been good friends with the current owners. According to Ms. Dugan, the conversation went like this: “I know this man!” the prospective buyer said. “You can’t,” the piano teacher said about her old friend. “He’s dead.” “Yes, but we used to live near each other in Cape Cod,” the buyer said. “We always used to celebrate his birthday together.”
The connection made, the two couples plunked down on chairs and began to converse about their departed common friend. They struck a deal within 10 minutes. But the coincidences kept on coming. The building’s large bay window had a small hole, and shortly before it was to be repaired, the new buyer learned that his best friend from childhood had made the hole-while throwing pennies some 30 years ago. “At that point, the buyer said he wanted to keep the hole forever, because it was precious to him,” said Ms. Dugan. “You couldn’t make this stuff up. Talk about serendipity! This was absolutely meant to be.”
Isabella Rossellini Downgrades to Homey $1.79 M. Condo on the Park
Actress Isabella Rossellini, most recently the star of Roger Dodger , a Manhattan tale of sexual predation, downgraded from her dapper Upper East Side digs to a more modest perch on the Upper West Side. Ms. Rossellini, the Italian-born daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, spent $1.79 million on a penthouse condo at 30 West 86th Street, a 10-story apartment building just steps from the park. Her new spread is just over half the size of her old place on East 85th Street-a 3,000-square-foot penthouse that went on the market last February for $5.49 million. Still, her new home is no utility studio. The West 86th Street apartment has 1,800 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a double-height living room whose glass casing gives it a greenhouse-like feel. She has 400 square feet of exterior space-spread over two terraces-along with hardwood and marble floors, and a marble bath.
Ms. Rossellini, who had a 14-year-run as the spokesmodel for L’Oreal’s Lancôme division, has made a habit of choosing mostly outside-the-mainstream movie roles, appearing in films like Blue Velvet , Immortal Beloved and Wild at Heart . She has been briefly married to Martin Scorsese and had relationships with David Lynch and Gary Oldman. Ms. Rossellini declined to comment on the purchase, as did representatives for the Corcoran Group, which had the exclusive on the apartment.