After 20 months on the market, the labyrinthine and ornate parlor-floor apartment in the Berwind Mansion co-op, listed for $9.495 million, has been sold.
According to a source with knowledge of the deal, commercial real-estate developer Howard Ronson bought the 110-foot-long space in the 111-year-old mansion, using the pseudonym Twin-828 L.L.C.
So Mr. Ronson won’t be moving far: As reported by The Observer, that limited-liability company has already spent $14.45 million on two duplexes in the mansion at 828 Fifth Avenue.
Together, his family fortress now totals five floors and 32 rooms. Tragically, other apartments (like the glass penthouse) still belong in others’ hands.
According to city records, the high-tech wizard Joel Birnbaum had owned the parlor-floor apartment. From 1984 to 1999, he was the chief scientist and director of Hewlett Packard’s research labs, where he led innovations in computing and printing.
Mr. Birnbaum will probably miss the mammoth and pristine gold ballroom—built for magnate Edward J. Berwind, whose coal powered the Navy during World War I.
The listing describes the space as “capable of seating some 80 people for a concert,” which is probably what Madonna was considering when she reportedly spent a quarter of an hour on its floor, gazing up at the 18-foot ceilings.
The listing broker, Brown Harris Stevens managing director Paula Del Nunzio, wouldn’t comment for the record on the deal.
But she was willing to describe the apartment—including its clandestine mezzanine bedrooms, built for a previous owner by the I.M. Pei Group.
“They’re totally camouflaged; you have no idea they’re there,” she said. “Just like you have no idea that behind a door, there’s a full stainless-steel kitchen, or behind another door, there’s a full onyx powder room …. You have no bloody idea!”
Indeed, mirrors hide the one-person elevator and spiral staircase that lead to those mezzanine bedrooms. Likewise, wood paneling in the rotunda hides the clothes closets.
The apartment was first listed at $9.975 million, before the price reduction to $9.495 million. It was also marketed as a bundle with the duplex below. Did the co-op close near the $9 million range? “We wanted what we wanted,” said Ms. Del Nunzio, “and we waited until we got it.”
‘It’ Couple Pays $1.26 M. at 43 Fifth
The southernmost stretch of Fifth Avenue is the kind of coolly charming but non-patrician place that arty and elegant young couples revere.
So, naturally, the Park Slope–born writer-director Noah Baumbach and his new actress/movie star wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, are expanding their current domain at 43 Fifth Avenue: According to city records, the couple paid $1.26 million for their next-door neighbor’s co-op.
The sellers are artistic types, too: Joseph Montebello, the former creative director of HarperCollins, had lived in the 102-year-old co-op since 1964, and fashion designer Roland Leal moved in back in 1974.
Through the epochs, their bedroom went from chocolate brown (“It was the 60’s!”) to Chinese lacquer red (“That was the 70’s, yeah”) to a statelier white.
The entire apartment was part of a bigger one, long ago broken into three parts. “My dining room was actually a maid’s room, and what became the kitchen was a maid’s powder room,” Mr. Montebello said. Elsewhere, it was mostly books—75 cartons’ worth, apparently.
He confirmed that his buyers (lucky for them) could combine their new and old apartments. Will they keep future progeny there, or maybe a maid like in the olden days?
Surely an auteur like Mr. Baumbach deserves space to stretch: His Philip Roth–caliber film, The Squid and the Whale, was nominated for an Oscar last year. Ms. Leigh stars in the follow-up, Margot at the Wedding, with Jack Black and Nicole Kidman.
The couple approached their older neighbors about the purchase. “I’d been thinking about it for a while, because I don’t spend much time there anymore,” Mr. Montebello said from his New England home. “It just seemed like the right thing to do.”
According to the Web site PropertyShark, Holly Hunter paid $4.1 million for an apartment at the 11th Street building in 2005, and Julia Roberts used to live there, too. “People don’t fuss over them,” the seller said. “You don’t ask for autographs or anything! It’s pretty low-key.”
Columbia Kingpin Kasdin Pays $3.48 M. on Central Park West
Bespectacled Ivy League administrators don’t often get leafy uptown co-ops. But Columbia University senior executive vice president Robert Kasdin and his scholar wife have bought an eight-room apartment at 239 Central Park West. According to city records, they paid $3,485,000.
Mr. Kasdin is overseeing Columbia’s $7 billion expansion into 17 acres of Harlem, which university president Lee Bollinger described to The Observer last week as “a place of great magic, of mystique, of tremendous creativity and accomplishment.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Kasdin’s co-op is further south, at West 84th Street—the land of “gracious entertaining and bucolic views,” to borrow a phrase from the Brown Harris Stevens listing.
According to the brokerage, Mr. Kasdin’s place also has “old world luxury.” So, for example, the master bedroom and library and 396-square-foot living room all sit on the park. Sadly, only the latter has a wood-burning fireplace.
Will Mr. Kasdin wine and dine his Columbia colleagues? His new formal dining room “sets the stage for festive gatherings,” according to the listing. Kegger at Kasdin’s!
The maid’s room is another Old World perk. (According to the floor plan, it’s part of the “service suite”—which adjoins the windowed kitchen, which adjoins the pantry, which adjoins the dining room.)
The building has even plumper setups: In 2005, NBC president Jeff Zucker sold his 16-room duplex there for $15.7 million.
Mr. Kasdin’s seller is listed in city records as Thelma Marco-Bilbao, but her profession isn’t clear. Did the university pay for the bucolic splendor?
Spokesman Robert Hornsby said that no Columbia financial assistance was involved in the purchase, and that the administrator isn’t given a housing stipend.
This is not Mr. Kasdin’s first stint on Central Park: He was the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s chief investment officer from 1993 to 1997. His wife is the political scientist Claire Ullman; she received her Ph.D. from Columbia and is now an assistant professor there.
Did Redskins Owner Plunk Down $4.8 M. for East Side Townhouse?
Has Daniel Snyder, the immodest billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins, bought a modest Upper East Side townhouse?
City files list the buyer of the $4.8 million four-story house at 248 East 78th Street as Havas Holdings Inc. That’s a subsidy of the French ad firm Havas, which bought the tycoon’s firm, Snyder Communications, for a record $2 billion in 2000.
And, according to deed records with the firm First American R.E.S., the purchase was made “c/o: Daniel Snyder.”
But why would the man who personally finances Tom Cruise’s films, and who owns the wealthiest franchise in American sports (the Redskins), and who controls the silly but enormous Six Flags company, want a relatively small townhouse near Second Avenue?
To be sure, it does have a few lush assets. According to the listing with Corcoran senior vice president Jackie Vincent, there’s a 700-square-foot garden behind the 36-foot-long family room, and then a 300-square-foot slate-tiled terrace upstairs (“for enjoying meals on those warm summer evenings”).
But is that enough to lure a tycoon? Indeed, a source with knowledge of the deal was uncertain that Mr. Snyder was the townhouse buyer.
According to city records, the sellers are Dr. Hanne Meiland, an OB-GYN, and her husband Daniel, the former chairman of the executive search firm Egon Zehnder.
How did they decorate the place? “Some townhouses are very traditional and Old World–looking,” said Ms. Vincent. “The sellers’ taste has more of a contemporary feel.” (Contemporary is the new old!)
Martine Capdevielle of Mercedes/Berk represented the buyer, though she wouldn’t discuss the deal or confirm her client’s name. “You know, it’s a very—how will I say?—it’s a very nice block,” she said in a Parisian accent. Maybe Mr. Snyder thinks so, too.