Big, Nice Broker Browne Buys in 15 CPW For $2.65 M.; Rents Spread to Friends

Top Manhattan real estate brokers are a vicious lot. For an Observer feature earlier this year, for example, one big female agent called another an “animal” (off the record).

But Robby Browne is non-brutal. He rides his bicycle to listings, even though he has massive $26 million clients like Jon Bon Jovi; speaks in an avuncular Louisville accent; uses khaki or flannel to dress up; and takes up philanthropic gay and lesbian causes.

Now the nicest top broker is a very nice landlord. He closed last month on a two-bedroom apartment at Robert A.M. Stern’s new Fifteen Central Park West, the limestone condo near Columbus Circle. According to city records, he paid $2.65 million.

Mr. Browne says he was the first to sign a contract at the building, back in September 2005. Yet he already lived in a small apartment with a terrace elsewhere on Central Park West, bought for $550,000 last decade. He didn’t want to give up any outdoor space, yet he couldn’t afford Mr. Stern’s park-facing terraced condos.

So he compromised with a terraced sixth-floor unit, right above Best Buy, on the Broadway side of the building. The $2.65 million condo is cheaper than all but three of the 18 apartments he has listed for sale through the Corcoran Group; big brokers, in other words, don’t live like their clients.

But he’s not moving in to 15 CPW: “I’m going to rent it to some friends,” he said. The monthly price is somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000—very fair for the building. “Well, I don’t want to call it a deal, but they’re people that I trust. These are people that have good taste and will take care of my apartment.”

Does having a spread in the condo make it easier to sell other units there? “To my way of thinking, if I were willing to commit, then certainly that would be a stamp of approval. Well, I believe I took about 20 purchasers there, and two committed. That’s not very many.”