Twelve months of tremulous Code Orange alerts, a stampeding Republican flotsam and an economy buoyed by Wall Street bonuses, yet confounded by anemic employment, did little to dampen New York’s celebrity real-estate circus. As we conclude the year talking about network news anchors turning over the keys to their nightly broadcast, it’s fitting that we began the year with NBC news anchor Ann Curry uprooting her clan from a Gramercy Park apartment for a $2.9 million Upper West Side townhouse built in 1894. In January, Ms. Curry and her husband, software executive Brian Wilson (not that Brian Wilson!), snapped up an 18-foot-wide townhouse covering some 6,000 square feet. While Ms. Curry trekked north, downtown, Jean-Georges Vongerichten planned to go west. The owner of Vong, (Mercer) Kitchen and Spice Market is about to hop over to his Richard Meier fishbowl loft on Perry Street (still not completed!), so he listed his 2,800-square-foot loft at 66 Leonard Street to divest himself of his Tribeca holdings.
Last winter brought some matrimony-induced real-estate shakeups, too. City records showed that Sopranos impresario James Gandolfini lost out on his adjoining condos at 99 Jane Street to his ex-wife, Marcella Wudarski-Gandolfini, in a $2.5 million deal following the couple’s December 2002 divorce. But Mr. Gandolfini got off easy: Earlier last year, G.E. chairman Jack Welch forked over $10.7 million for the company’s 47th-floor condo at 1 Central Park West following the acrimonious split with his wife, Jane Beasley, when news that he had taken up with former Harvard Business Review editor Suzy Wetlaufer created a media scandal for the corporate titan. No stranger to writing about conflict himself, last winter Perfect Storm scribe Sebastian Junger traded up to a $764,500 loft on West 36th Street from his perch in the Lower East Side.
“I got tired of the ice-cream truck parking below my window while I was trying to work,” Mr. Junger told The Observer at the time of his move.
Sean (P. Diddy) Combs is never one to be out of the real-estate headlines. In February, the hip-hop mogul unloaded his 12-story Park Avenue townhouse for $17 million, a deal that came only months before he would list his combined lofts at 169 Hudson Street for $4.3 million. (What is it with rap stars and Tribeca? See: Jay-Z vs. Damon Dash!)
A bit further north, along the limestone canyons of the Upper East Side, the four luxury condos being carved out of the Carhart Mansion-one of six townhouses that had been part of the Lycée Français de New York’s real-estate collection-landed on the market for a total of $61.3 million, sparking some members of the elite French expatriate community to cry merde! that the prized building had sold for just $15 million only two years before.
Back downtown, News Corp. scion Lachlan Murdoch and his Sports Illustrated swimsuit-model wife, Sarah, unloaded their 3,290-square-foot loft at 285 Lafayette Street as spring rolled in. The move for the bombastic tabloid chief followed one of the most surprising real-estate deals in recent years: his $5.25 million purchase of a creepy-looking 19th-century Nolita building covering some 14,500 square feet, and known among downtown denizens for its rows of dark windows, each lit with a single burning taper.
Around the time Mr. Murdoch skipped Soho for Nolita, another entertainment mogul, CBS chairman and chief executive Les Moonves, purchased a nine-room apartment at 535 Park Avenue that had been listing for $5.695 million.
Apparently, network chiefs still live better than their bustling anchors.
In May, Shepard Smith, the host of the No. 1–rated Fox Report (and who became an Internet cult celebrity for his infamous on-air J. Lo gaffe), purchased a 2,341-square-foot loft for $1.87 million on West 13th Street. He wasn’t the only Fox News minion wading into the blue-state real-estate waters: In July, Greta Van Susteren, Fox News’ legal expert and host of the prime-time program On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, went to contract on a one-bedroom condo in the Essex House on Central Park South for $657,000.
July was also a good month for Woody Allen. After turning down a reported bid of $23 million on his neo-Georgian Carnegie Hill mansion, Goldman Sachs executive Barry Volpert paid $24.5 million for Mr. Allen’s 40-foot-wide home on East 92nd Street, setting a townhouse record.
In October, dethroned Tyco executive L. Dennis Kozlowski’s corporate residence at 950 Fifth Avenue-one of the most potent symbols of corporate malfeasance, with its treasure-filled interior that included a Renoir valued at $4.7 million and the infamous $6,000 shower curtain-traded for some $21 million, slightly below the spread’s $24.95 million asking price. James Dinan, the 45-year-old founder and senior managing director of York Capital Management, was the reported buyer.
Fall is the time that New York gets serious. And so does the real-estate market, which saw two record-setting listings hit the market. In September, rumors swirled that the regal co-op of the late Laurance Rockefeller at 834 Fifth Avenue would hit the market for a record $44 million. It did. Recently, the New York Post reported that the 20-room spread sold in December near its record asking price-but that record price is still nearly half of what Wall Street financier Martin Zweig wants for his triplex atop the Pierre. The trophy residence is still listing for a stratospheric $70 million.