Rockefellers Want $44 M. on Fifth as Little Rocks Move Downtown; Nicky’s Erstwhile Brother Buys

Last month, whispers that the sprawling triplex belonging to the late Laurance Rockefeller at 834 Fifth Avenue was making its way onto the market fluttered through Manhattan’s high-stakes real-estate circles, with the prospects of a record-setting asking price starting a race among an elite pack of Upper East Side brokers eager to catch the coveted listing.

Well, for real-estate watchers, bloggers and brokers cheering each successive record-sales attempt ($70 million for the penthouse at the Pierre!), the wait is over.

According to sources familiar with the Rockefeller estate, on Nov. 19, Brown Harris Stevens broker Mary Rutherfurd officially listed the property at $44 million, well above the $37 million paid by Blackstone financier Stephen Schwarzman in March 2000 for Saul Steinberg’s 740 Park Avenue triplex penthouse (the apartment that had once belonged to another Rockefeller: John D.); and just shy of the current record of $45 million that London-based financier and Mexico native David Martinez paid for the 12,544-square-foot duplex penthouse at the Time Warner Center in July 2003.

Ms. Rutherfurd clearly hasn’t broken out the champagne and truffles to celebrate her listing-which, if sold, would be the most expensive co-op sale in history. The property isn’t being marketed on her Brown Harris Stevens Web site, and is not included among her properties on her company voice mail.

When reached for comment, Ms. Rutherfurd declined to discuss the listing or its weighty eight-figure asking price, though she did confirm that she is the exclusive broker.

Laurance Rockefeller, the middle grandson of John D. Rockefeller, died in July at age 94, and his triplex-and the luxuries that lie beyond its private entrance-have been sealed and largely out of public view for some 40 years.

The Rockefeller triplex sits at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 64th Street, the gateway to perhaps one of the richest blocks in the entire world (just look at a current selection of listed properties: The townhouse at 20 East 64th Street is asking $29.5 million, while the Versace townhouse at 5 East 64th Street is being shopped at $32 million).

Coveringthe14th through 16th floors, the Rockefeller co-op has a total of 20 rooms, including seven bedrooms, 11 1¼2 bathrooms, a top-floor library-solarium, a main hall and reception room on the 15th floor, and a gallery and three maid’s rooms on the 14th floor. One of the city’s most rarefied addresses, 834 Fifth counts Alfred Taubman and John Gutfreund as residents. Brown Harris Stevens manages the co-op.

A broker familiar with the listing said, not surprisingly, that “any prospective buyer would need extensive pre-approval.” This, in a city where the sharky judgments of Fifth Avenue co-op boards now make for theatrical drama (see Charles Grodin’s The Right Kind of People, which debuted on Nov. 20 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco).

The Rockefeller triplex now finds itself tossed into the upper strata of the Upper East Side real-estate market, which is witnessing a rash of new townhouse listings that threaten to push the price envelope back to the chest-thumping days of 2002, when moguls like Seagram heir and Warner Music chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. lobbed his trophy home at 15 East 64th Street onto the market for $40 million, and the Wildenstein family listed their double-wide limestone mansion next-door for an equally stratospheric $35 million.

Those days may soon return.

In the past year, Woody Allen set a Carnegie Hill townhouse record when he unloaded his 40-foot-wide Georgian mansion for $24.5 million to Goldman Sachs executive Barry Volpert. Down on 64th Street, Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola traded his townhouse for nearly $20 million in late 2003.

In the past several weeks, a cavalcade of ultra-luxury townhouses has rekindled brokers and sellers’ hopes.

In mid-November, the 25-foot-wide townhouse at 20 East 64th Street came on the market at $29.5 million, listed by Kirk Henckels of Stribling Private Brokerage and Julie Kammerer and Barbara Kemp of Douglas Elliman. Corcoran’s Deborah Grubman is currently shopping the 35-foot-wide Versace townhouse at 5 East 64th Street for $32 million (which, according to a source, was recently visited by Ralph Lauren; we can only imagine the interior-design ideas spawned by such a purchase). And Sami Hassoumi of Brown Harris Stevens is currently offering Matthew Bronfman’s 25-foot-wide townhouse at 7 East 67th Street for-a bargain!-$24 million.

“I’m beginning to suspect the last quarter of 2004 will be the townhouse quarter,” Mr. Henckles said of the string of listings. “It was slow going leading up to the elections though now it’s picked up.”

Ms. Grubman, while declining to speak specifically about her Versace listing, said the market for these trophy townhouses never really went away.

“I think there has always been a market for these properties,” she said. “At the high end, there are now a lot more qualified buyers, and more buyers interested in the privacy [of a townhouse]. There will always be a market for this kind of property.”

Meanwhile, the younger wing of the Rockefeller family seems to be opening a new chapter in the Rockefeller real-estate saga-downtown.

According to city deed records, Stuart A. Rockefeller, a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Havesford College and the grandson of the late Nelson Rockefeller, paid $3.38 million with his wife, Julia D’Amico, for a four-story townhouse at 316 East 18th Street that was built in 1857. Kathleen Rupy of Michel Madie, who sold Mr. Rockefeller the property, declined to comment on the deal.

N icky Hilton’s Nov. 8 marriage annulment to Todd Meister scotched their 85-day brush with matrimony that began at 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 15, when the two took their vows in a Las Vegas wedding chapel.

Ms. Hilton may also have ditched a place to crash when out prowling West Chelsea’s throbbing clubs.

According to city transfer records, Keith Meister, a technology financier and the brother of her former beau, purchased a 3,000-square-foot loft with 14-foot beamed ceilings at 511-525 West 22nd Street for $3.05 million. The deal was finalized back in June.

The second-floor spread, on 22nd Street between 10th and 11th avenues, has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, concrete floors, exposed brick and a wood-burning fireplace (how very late 90’s!). It first landed on the market for $3.15 million in May, before Mr. Meister snapped up the place later in the summer.

“He walked in and loved it,” said Corcoran vice president Wigder Frota, who shared the listing with fellow Corcoran senior vice president Robert Browne (who, having brokered the $45 million Time Warner sale, is no stranger to big-ticket deals himself).

“I would call it an ‘It’ building,” said Mr. Browne.

When former Douglas Elliman broker Michael Shvo ankled the 2,000-agent firm last month to start his own company, the Shvo Group, the move sparked anticipation in Manhattan’s real-estate bubble over whether his grab-bag of high-profile listings would follow him to his new operation. While he’s currently offering the eight-bedroom penthouse at Donald Trump’s 845 U.N Plaza for $28.24 million, perhaps his most famous listing, the Sky Studio triplex at 704 Broadway belonging to Israeli investor Jonathan Leitersdorf, has been mysteriously absent for the past several weeks.

Until now.

On Nov. 29, the 11,000-square-foot penthouse, perched atop a 19th-century Noho building, resurfaced on Corcoran’s Web site in a listing by Wendy Maitland and carrying a $19.99 million asking price. The new listing was first flagged by the blog Curbed.com.

Just how did Ms. Maitland secure the most expensive loft in Manhattan history?

Ms. Maitland said Mr. Leitersdorf, the founder of New York–based L Capital Partners, approached her recently about taking over the listing after she sold the second- and third-floor apartments in the building for a combined $7.3 million.

“[Jonathan] was impressed about the speed at which they sold and the prices they got,” Ms. Maitland told The Observer. The two first met, she said, at a party in the Sky Studio triplex last April.

“I was happy to get the listing; I think it’s the most fabulous loft in Manhattan.

“Jonathan never said anything bad about Michael Shvo-he was very positive,” she said.

Mr. Shvo, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.

The listing is significant, if only because the apartment-besides carrying the highest asking price for a downtown loft-has become something of a media darling. Over the years, the space has been a downtown backdrop to a variety of flash-bulb-splashed events, including an episode of Sex and the City, a Hillary Clinton fund-raiser and Jerry Seinfeld’s December 1999 wedding to Jessica Sklar.

Some of the triplex’s luxuries include 16-foot ceilings, a living room with a Dutch Tudor wood-burning fireplace opposite a zinc and mahogany bar, and-perhaps most notably-a heated rooftop pool with hand-painted Spanish tiles that Mr. Leitersdorf described to The New York Times as “always [being] fun and … always [breaking] the ice,” a reference to a party when two revelers dove naked into the pool.

But while the apartment has deftly played host to A-list soirées on the downtown party circuit, finding a willing buyer has proved a more challenging endeavor. This isn’t the first time that brokers have been shown the door. The apartment first landed on the market in March 2002 with Stephen McRae of Sotheby’s International Realty, asking $27 million. Mr. Shvo took over the listing in May 2004, and now Ms. Maitland will see if she can break the stalemate and close a deal.

Recent Transactions in the Real Estate Market

Greenwich Village

12 East 14th Street

Two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.

Asking: $895,000. Selling: $895,000.

Maintenance: $1,216; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three weeks.

DEEP DISCOUNT ON 14TH Move a few blocks and save a few hundred thousand dollars. That’s the takeaway from the sale of this 1,300-square-foot prewar loft just steps from Union Square. “[This apartment] is not for everybody: It’s a funky old loft building on 14th Street, between Fifth and University. You put something else like it in another neighborhood and it’s a million [dollars]. That’s the catch to it,” said Douglas Elliman senior vice president Ed Hardesty. The buyer, a single finance guy who works in Long Island and is planning to commute each day, obviously wasn’t deterred by the tacky wigs-hats-bags discounters, N.Y.U. flotsam and skate punks crowding the street. While downtown lofts, even along the once-gritty blocks of the Bowery, routinely fetch north of $1 million, this spacious spread was a find at well under a seven-figure sales price, thanks to its-er-unique location. The owners, a married couple, were relocating to Los Angeles after 11 years in the loft, which has 13-foot ceilings, a pass-through kitchen and a second bedroom. The buyer now plans to update the kitchen with a renovation. Ivana Tagliamonte of Halstead Property represented the buyer.

Park Slope

523 Eighth Street

Two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.

Asking: $495,000. Selling: $515,000.

Maintenance: $623; 30 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three weeks.

DENVER-ON-GOWANUS After four years in this prewar two-bedroom just a block from Prospect Park, the owners of the 1,000-square-foot spread decided to trade Park Slope for its spiritual sister in the Rockies-Colorado. Immediately, a clamor ensued for their prime slice of the verdant Brooklyn nabe: The apartment closed $20,000 over asking. A newlywed couple who were renting in Boerum Hill (she works as a financial journalist; he teaches at St. Ann’s) traded up to this Park Slope spread between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West. The apartment has an open kitchen, a master bedroom with bay windows, hardwood and parquet floors. Cindy Whiteside of the Corcoran Group had the exclusive.