Veteran WCBS-TV sportscaster Warner Wolf recently sold his duplex penthouse at 27 N. Moore Street for $4.45 million. It’s a full $2 million more than Mr. Wolf paid for the 3,642-square-foot apartment in 1999, but it wasn’t exactly a stress-free appreciation period. Shortly after the building’s conversion in 1999, residents including Mr. Wolf, Billy Crystal and Martha Stewart’s daughter Alexis filed suit against the building’s developer, citing shoddy construction work and sub-par finishes on the apartments. By February of 2002, the State Attorney General’s office-which had taken up their case-reached a settlement with the developer, Jack Lefkowitz, whereby the building’s condo board gained control of 6,000 square feet of commercial space in the building’s ground floor to help pay for the necessary repairs.
At the time, there was some question whether the flagging Tribeca retail market could support the units the condo board was given, but Tortola Hair Salon, a Tribeca mainstay for 20 years, bought and moved into a 1,700-square-foot space in the building in October. Brokers from Sinvin Realty Corporation are currently entertaining offers for the remaining 4,300 square feet.
“We’ve had a lot of interest, but not necessarily from people who would be approved by the condo board,” said Sinvin realtor Roxanne Betesh. “They don’t want food places or anything with alcohol-nothing with that kind of aroma, traffic or hours. They want a dry-use tenant that’s fairly well established.”
Residents’ complaints about the building and its units included floorboards that buckled, a leaking roof, faux bricks in place of real ones, improperly functioning heating units and a concrete lobby in place of marble. Singer Marc Anthony once owned a unit in the building, but he sold it before the case against the developer was resolved. Mr. Wolf declined to comment on his sale, so it’s unclear whether his move stems from those complaints. He put his penthouse on the market nine months ago. The president of the building’s condo board was out of the country and unavailable for comment.
The 13-story, 57-unit building, called the Ice House, was named for its former function as a storage depot for ice harvested from the Hudson River in the days before refrigerators.
Mr. Wolf’s duplex unit has three bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, and an arching skylight that drenched the double-height living room in sun. The planted terrace offered city-wide and Hudson River views.
Listing broker Lucy Aceo of Insignia Douglas Elliman had no comment on the sale or the apartment’s new owner.
Mr. Wolf began working for WCBS-TV in 1980, and his trademark phrases “Boom!”, “Swish!” and “Let’s go to the videotape!” earned him wide recognition across New York. He was three times awarded regional “Sportscaster of the Year” honors. Mr. Wolf left the station in 1992 when WCBS officials moved to cut his salary in half. He found another sportscasting job at WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., but found himself out of that position three years later. In 1997, during another shake-up at WCBS, station officials brought him back into the fold, and he remains on the air now.
The Upper West Side may have recently edged out the Upper East Side as the priciest neighborhood in town, but that hasn’t immunized high-profile West Side apartment owners from the ravages of a sinking high-end real-estate market. In recent weeks, hotelier Ian Schrager, real-estate baron Edward Milstein and Morgan Stanley exec William Lewis have all slashed millions off the asking prices of their palatial Upper West Side digs. The price drops come in the wake of an October Corcoran Group market report that saw the average price of an Upper West Side condo with three or more bedrooms hit $3.7 million, with comparable Upper East Side apartments averaging $2.7 million. Then again, the entire city’s luxury real-estate market, which was stagnating in October, has only sunk into a worse funk this winter.
Some of the recent West Side price drops suggest that that trend is slowly starting to penetrate sellers’ psyches. Notably, Mr. Milstein’s 7,000-square-foot co-op at 101 Central Park West, which went on the market in September 2000 for $18 million, now asks $14.9 million. Listing broker Robert Browne of the Corcoran Group called it “a very good buy for that square footage. A lot of people are sniffing.” At the same building, Mr. Lewis, Morgan Stanley’s head of global investing, may suffer the ignoble fate of selling his apartment for less than he paid for it. In February of last year, Mr. Lewis signed a $10 million contract for a seventh-floor apartment. Three months later, he put it back on the market for $12 million, but just this month, he reduced his asking price to $9.995 million. Listing broker William Costigan of the Corcoran Group could not be reached by press time. Just a few blocks north, Mr. Schrager’s Philippe Starck–designed penthouse at 115 Central Park West, which went on the market in March for $22 million, now asks $15.9 million. Listing broker Roger Erickson could not be reached by press time.
Of course, asking prices aren’t tumbling for every high-profile apartment on the Upper West Side. Dustin Hoffman’s apartment at the San Remo is still asking $25 million-but brokers interviewed by The Observer are biding their time, waiting for that price to come down, too.
405 West 23rd Street
One-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $695,000. Selling: $687,500.
Maintenance: $1,335; 52 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: three weeks.
LONDON FOG All set to move to California, a Sony music executive in his late 30’s put this one-bedroom apartment at London Terrace Towers on the market. At the last minute, however, he changed plans and decided to stay in New York. In the interim, his brokers-Bruce Solomon and Howard Margolis, both of Insignia Douglas Elliman-had already found a pair of buyers, and they were willing to pay a near-record price for that kind of apartment. The eager couple-one’s a senior art director at Bloomingdale’s, the other is a landscape architect-already owned a house on Fire Island, and friends had convinced them to settle down at London Terrace. The Sony executive they were displacing was distraught, and desperately sought out a way to remain at the Chelsea megaplex. “Once you have acclimated yourself to the porter and the doormen, it’s like family, and you want to retain that,” Mr. Solomon said about London Terrace’s services. So things got a little, well, amped. Messrs. Solomon and Margolis found four people at the Terrace willing to sell their place, but the Sony exec backed out all four times. “He had very specific criteria, and was adamant,” said Mr. Solomon. “He was looking for a high floor with a southern view.” There were even some unintended consequences to the mad dash. One of the four sellers wasn’t even planning on selling before Messrs. Solomon and Margolis came knocking. But after the Sony exec backed out of a deal with them, they kept their place on the market anyway. “They decided to move to Seattle after all,” said Mr. Solomon, who ended up with the exclusive on their apartment. In the end, the Sony exec found a studio with those southern views he wanted. “He downsized to a studio, but that shows you how great the building is,” said Mr. Solomon.
31 Pineapple Street
Three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse.
Asking: $1.695 million. Selling: $1.6 million.
Time on the market: five months.
LABORS OF LOVE Corcoran broker Ann Doyle was in labor pains with her first baby when she got a call from some clients. Would it be a crazy idea, they wanted to know, for them to move into an investment property instead of selling it? “It was a bit of a shock,” said Ms. Doyle. “But being in labor at the time, I said-between contractions-‘Whatever works for you is fine with me.'” Ms. Doyle then dispensed with her fiduciary responsibilities and turned her attention to her maternal responsibilities-giving birth to a son, Jack, a few hours later. Meanwhile, her clients had some adjustments of their own to make. They’re a married couple: He’s a history professor at the City University of New York who has written books on the American Civil War, and she does nonprofit work from home and in Chicago. At the time, they were living in a two-story carriage house that the Brooklyn Fire Department had erected as a stable in the 1880’s to house their horse-drawn fleet. The couple was also renovating another townhouse in the neighborhood. It was supposed to be an investment, but when the history professor’s wife saw how well the renovation was going, they decided to trade up. “When you look at a wreck, you can be overwhelmed and not see the possibilities,” said Ms. Doyle. “But as the house was coming together, the wife really fell in love with it.” So the couple put their carriage house-instead of the investment property-on the market. A few months later, Corcoran broker Deborah Rieders came on the scene with an interested couple. They’re both artists: He paints industrial landscapes and builds custom-made cabinets; she’s also a painter, doing graduate studies at CUNY. They’d been living in a one-bedroom near Union Square-good location, but not enough space for a truly artistic lifestyle. “The wife used to work out of her closet,” said Ms. Rieders. “Now she has this beautiful large room with half-moon-shaped windows right over the old stable door.”
34 Lee Avenue
Four-bedroom, three-bathroom house (with two additional half-bathrooms)
Asking: $3.995 million. Selling: $3.75 million
Time on the market: two months.
LUSH LEGACY If Lily Pond Lane is the ne plus ultra of tony East Hampton, Lee Avenue is its less trendy (though no less opulent) counterpart. The majestic, estate-lined avenue was home to Chevy Chase until he sold his house for $10.1 million in February of last year. Down the street from that residence, at No. 34 Lee Avenue, sits a two-story shingle-style carriage house that was long ago part of a grand neighboring estate. It most recently belonged to two Manhattan sisters who grew up summering at the property, and who inherited it a few years ago when their mother passed away. They cashed out of the property in January, when broker Paul Brennan, a vice president at Prudential Long Island Realty, sold the place to a “youngish couple with kids.” The house had recently undergone a high-end renovation, and the property is ringed with lush plantings. A portico with a colonnade at the rear of the house looks out over a rectangular terraced pool.