Defending Eloise

transfersplaza Defending EloiseThe Plaza has gotten a bad rap. Uptown types like snickering about those nouveau Russians who bought its redesigned condos; Andrei Vavilov, the ex-Yeltsin finance minister who’s unhappy with his Plaza triplex penthouse, has done a grand job of getting publicity for his lawsuit against developer El-Ad Properties; the building has been overshadowed by its primmer, New Yorker-profiled rival, 15 Central Park West. It doesn’t help that Jimmy Cayne, loathed chairman of Bear Stearns, closed on a $28.24 million spread as his firm tanked.

All the same, when a 16th-floor one-bedroom Plaza suite goes to contract by early November—brokers say a foreigner will be paying about $5.5 million—the building’s 181 private apartments will be sold out. (Though two penthouses, including Mr. Vavilov’s, may come back on the market as sponsor units if their first buyers refuse to close.)

The place hasn’t done so awfully. Massive sales are still popping up in city records, like a $22.5 million duplex penthouse that sold in July (though the deed was filed this month). According to a source, the buyer is a member of the Beckmann family, which owns Jose Cuervo tequila. Floor plans for the penthouse show five skylights; a 24-foot-long living room that runs into the 16-foot-long dining room; a terrace off one of the three bedrooms; a wet bar (of course); and a walk-in closet the size of a kitchen.

But not only did the Beckmanns’ next-door neighbor, Mr. Vavilov, say in his lawsuit that his wife wept when she saw their spread, the suit even invokes the memory of dear Eloise.

Are these multimillion-dollar apartments so bad? Brokers agreed to give The Observer a look, on the condition that the penthouse floors were off-limits (because of the litigation).

First came a three-unit third-floor spread. Pre-renovation floor plans show 10,026 square feet, six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three powder rooms, three kitchens, eight walk-in closets and a dressing room, a 44-foot-long living/dining room, another living room, another dining room, a library, and a gallery, but those stats don’t prepare one for the grandeur or echoing emptiness of the marble-columned, undecorated space. The hotel’s five entrance flags hang from the apartment’s terrace. It’s dictatorial.

The Italian executive Luigi Zunino is reportedly going to close on the spread for around $50 million, but The Wall Street Journal has said he hopes to flip for twice that. (His Milan-based company’s stock is down about 90 percent from this time last year.)

An apartment on the fifth floor (decorated in all white) and a 15th-floor three-bedroom spread (decorated with a fair share of mink throws) were less monumental but still quite posh. The only disappointment was one of the Plaza’s so-called hotel-condo units on the south wing; the one-bedroom spread costs about $3 million, though the owner can only stay for 120 days per year—the other weeks, it’s rented out to guests. Worse, the owner can’t redecorate, which means three fake Renaissance portraits (with fake cracks!) can’t be tossed.

About half of those hotel-condos are still on the market.

“While a new building of the magnitude of the Plaza will have some problems, they’re minor to the good things that are happening here,” said Bernard Spain, a businessman who has a $7 million spread on the 16th floor. The two penthouse problems, or the fact that neighbors like Mr. Cayne might want to sell, don’t bother him. “What’s the difference? They can’t afford their apartments anymore. That’s the way it goes.”

mabelson@observer.com