It’s vastly, massively unlikely, but what if New York rose from this economic pandemonium with less of the frothy-mouthed greed that ignited our troubles in the first place? Sometimes we get bursts of selflessness: Carnegie Hall’s executive and artistic director Sir Clive Gillinson recently turned down a 3,335-square-foot, four-bedroom apartment that the hall had bought for him.
The price for the East 63rd Street condo, custom-made aquarium included, was $8.4 million, according to a deed filed in city records last month.
“As the economic picture had changed significantly since the contract for the apartment had been signed,” Carnegie Hall’s vice chairman and treasurer, Klaus Jacobs, emailed The Observer, “Clive Gillinson suggested that the apartment be rented out until the economy improves, and the board accepted his suggestion.”
Back in April, the board told Mr. Gillinson, who became the first-ever knighted orchestra manager in 2005, though he does not go by “Sir,” that the director needed a place to regularly entertain donors and artists. His current apartment in the neighborhood, Mr. Gillinson conceded, “is not particularly classy.”
They agreed on a budget of $4 million to $5 million. “We got a real estate—whatever you call them. A realtor … He said, ‘Look I’ll tell you the honest truth, I’ll show you things at $4 to $5 million, I don’t think you’ll find something.’ He was correct.” But before Carnegie Hall agreed to consider bigger apartments, shouldn’t everyone have noticed the economy was plummeting? “Nobody had any conception that this was where the world was heading,” he said.
In August, the Carnegie Hall Corporation signed its contract for an apartment at Barbizon/63, an 82-year-old neo-Gothic women’s hotel that was turned into luxury condos. The apartment, “hip and modern,” according to a listing, with a wood-paneled library but also a custom-designed aquarium, finally closed in December. “What happened was, the transaction just seemed to go on and on,” Mr. Gillinson said. “Meanwhile, when the turmoil broke out, I went to the chairman and the vice chairman and I said, ‘Look, I accept that for Carnegie Hall this was the right decision when you made it in April and August; I think now it is totally inappropriate.”
He was correct. And oddly gallant! “I don’t think so. I just think it’s completely right,” he said. “Like every organization, one is insane if one is not looking really rigorously at every aspect.”
So the apartment is being rented out to a third party, though it’s not clear to whom or for how much. Meanwhile, Mr. Gillinson is still dining with artists and donors. “Well, we’ll do what we always have to do,” he said, “which is you eat out.”