It’s been one year since the playwright Wendy Wasserstein died at the age of 55, and her old apartment, on the 11th floor of 75 Central Park West, has now been sold for $5.22 million.
“It was a pretty place to be,” said playwright Chris Durang, a friend since 1972. He called the apartment comfortable but unpredictable, and especially remembers the well-frequented TV den and the foyer.
“Sometimes the cats would sit on the table with the flowers—it was very picturesque!”
According to city records, the buyers are Dina and George Perry. Mr. Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is probably not as funny as his predecessor: Where Wasserstein wrote about big-willed women in The Heidi Chronicles or The Sisters Rosensweig, Mr. Perry writes papers for the center-left think tank with titles like The War on Terrorism, the World Oil Market and the U.S. Economy.
Maybe Mr. Perry, who did not return calls made to his office at Brookings, was attracted to the apartment’s less arty features: the chef’s kitchen, the formal dining room and a living room with a wood-burning fireplace.
It isn’t clear when Wasserstein bought the co-op, though the earliest tax records filed with the city go back to 1996. Published reports have said that money from the apartment sale will go to Wasserstein’s young daughter Lucy Jane, who is being raised by her uncle Bruce (C.E.O. of Lazard and owner of New York magazine.)
Mr. Durang often crashed in the apartment’s guest room—including once when he had badly burst a blood vessel in his nose. But that changed when his host’s daughter was born.
“I couldn’t crash with a bloody nose anymore,” he said.
Ms. Wasserstein also wrote nonfiction and one novel, and even a libretto: Her opera The Festival of Regrets debuted in 1999, part of a trilogy called Central Park.
Did Lehman Estate Get Close to $32 M. at 2 East 67th?
Back in 1978, well after the death of her colossal art-collector husband Robert Lehman, Lee Anz Lehman bought herself the ninth floor of 2 East 67th Street.
The queenly apartment will soon change hands after nearly 30 years: According to the Corcoran Web site, where the apartment was listed for $32 million, her estate has now signed a contract to sell the co-op.
Senior vice president Leighton Candler had the listing, which put the “magnificent full-floor apartment overlooking Central Park” at 11 rooms and 6,200 square feet. The other stats stack up nicely: There are five wood-burning fireplaces, six sunlit bedrooms and seven (and a half) bathrooms.
Ms. Candler didn’t return calls to her office, so it isn’t clear who the buyer is, or whether the contract was signed anywhere close to the stratospheric asking price.
But it isn’t likely. According to a broker who has seen the apartment, all of those bathrooms need to be redone, and the kitchen too. And there should be a “total renovation of all the systems,” like wiring and air conditioning.
As recompense, Ms. Lehman’s old apartment has a 484-square-foot dining room, according to the floor plan, as well as a long pantry (plus “butler’s room”) and a long kitchen, and then, naturally, a long “breakfast area.”
Ms. Candler’s listing says that the apartment has retained “all its original Rosario Candela details,” referring to the deified Upper East Side designer’s work from 1928.
What does that mean? Photos show that it’s the kind of apartment that should be looked at but not touched: There’s ancient-looking marble and White House–looking wallpaper and uncomfortable-looking chairs and Frederic Edwin Church–looking landscape paintings.
Ivory Tower Sells Penthouse for $4.625 M.
When anthropologist Arjun Appadurai was lured from Yale to become the New School’s provost and chief academic officer in 2004, the downtown university gave him a top-tier eight-room co-op at 2 Fifth Avenue.
He stepped down last year, and now the New School has sold off the Washington Square Park penthouse for $4,625,000. According to city records, Celeste Cheatham O’Neil—the daughter of Georgia-Pacific paper mogul Owen R. Cheatham—is the buyer. The deed lists her old address as being on “Lost Tree Way” in North Palm Beach.
“It was not the kind of real estate that we need right now,” said New School director of communications Caroline Oyama. Indeed: The place had three bedrooms, including a master suite with a private balcony, plus a park terrace off the sprawling living room.
“The standout thing was the view looking straight to Ground Zero,” said the professor, whose articles include “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.” “Of course we couldn’t see the excavation and all that, but [we saw] where the Towers of Light were, for example.”
When talking about jumping to the Manhattan apartment (and provost position) from his directorship at Yale’s Center for Cities and Globalization, Mr. Appadurai confirmed that the New School “bought it as part of that arrangement.”
Happily, his provost office was a short Fifth Avenue walk away.
“So they did two things at once: to make it convenient for me, because the job required me to be there often; and the second, to make a good investment in real estate.”
The latter is hard to evaluate, since it isn’t clear from city records how much the university paid for the apartment.
Despite its concierge co-op services, the building’s façade is grubby compared to its neighbors. “It is not a prepossessing building from the outside,” said Mr. Appadurai. And yet: “By the time you’re up at the penthouse level, it’s hard to beat! And the view would always change by the hour of the day and the season. The light—it was quite magical.”
He’ll remain at the New School as a distinguished social-sciences professor. Maybe if he saves up, he’ll have a magical penthouse again.
Cerf’s Up! Bennett’s Widow’s Estate Sells for $9.9 Million
Few Upper East Siders have lives or fêtes or surnames like the late Phyllis Cerf Wagner had. Even fewer possess a home like her five-floor townhouse at 132 East 62nd, which went on the market last week for $9.9 million.
“For the second half of the 20th century, probably more important people were in that house than any other private residence that I can think of,” said broker Edward Lee Cave, whose firm is listing the townhouse.
Ms. Cerf Wagner married Random House co-founder Bennett Cerf in 1940 (six years after he brought James Joyce’s Ulysses to America). When Cerf died in 1971, according to public records, the couple’s seven-bedroom house was transferred into his widow’s name.
And four years later, when she married former Mayor Robert Wagner, her house was so magnetic that the statesman moved in.
“It’s all about the most extraordinary people in New York, the people that contributed most. Writers! Cultural people! Politicians! And they couldn’t have been in a more pleasant atmosphere,” Mr. Cave said about the East 62nd Street house. “I mean, the drawing room in the back, you could have given a little dance in there. And to have people in a friendly but very correct environment must have been very conducive.”
Mrs. Cerf Wagner reportedly threw first-rate parties, hosting Capote and Sinatra and Faulkner. (On the other hand, she was prouder of having published Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and others through her Beginner Books imprint.)
Upstairs, her full-floor master suite had a bedroom and study, both with wood-burning fireplaces. Joyce and Seuss by firelight? “Magical! No, not magical—that’s such a dumb word for this house,” said Mr. Cave. “It’s a historical house—in the nicest sense.”
Despite an undistinguished façade, Denning & Fourcade did the décor. “It’s cozy and grand at the same time,” said listing broker John Glass at Cave, “but not elaborately fussy.”
Later, he said the house “has been lovingly cared for over the years”—which means it won’t need the gut renovation that often comes with estate sales. (Ms. Cerf Wagner died in November, at age 90.)
Are her old mirrored dining-room ceiling and big elevator and dumbwaiter common for the neighborhood? “Nope,” said Mr. Glass. “That’s what I mean when I say they really designed it for comfortable living.”
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