The Juiciest Madoff Fruit

  • The year’s most wildly frothed-over piece of plump New York real estate isn’t officially on the market. It’s not even one of those quiet listings, like the philanthropist Courtney Sale Ross’ duplex at 740 Park Avenue, which was mutedly made available late last year for more than $60 million.This co-op is six floors below hers. And it’s even nicer.

    Apartment 6/7B at 740 Park belongs to the disgraced financier J. Ezra Merkin, whose clients lost around $2.4 billion in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Brokers are talking; enquiring; circling. “I keep hearing, ‘It’s going to come on, it’s going to come on, it’s going to come on,’” one Brown Harris Stevens managing director said this week, “but nothing concrete, nothing solid.”

    “I keep looking for Merkin,” another Brown Harris director offered. “And I keep after it.”

    “For sure, that thing is coming. It’s not if, it’s when,” a Sotheby’s agent said. They think Mr. Merkin will have no choice but to sell—and that he would reap more than the $32 million that a neighbor got in the building last year.

    It’s been a bad year. So far Mr. Merkin has resigned from the General Motors financing arm GMAC, which lost almost $8 billion during his chairmanship; he agreed to a massive sale of his art collection after being charged with fraud by the New York attorney general, who alleges that he took more than $470 million in fees for simply passing clients’ money to Mr. Madoff; he’s even stepped down from his leadership role at Fifth Avenue Synagogue, founded by his father.

    Will the duplex really come on the market? Could his price be more than $40 million? And might his broker be blue-blooded Edward Lee Cave, who handled Ms. Ross’ place? Mr. Cave said there’s been “no communication,” and he’s no longer showing Ms. Ross’ quiet duplex. But: “I was assuming he’s so wrapped in the whole Jewish community, he’d be using someone who is Jewish,” one goy offered.

    Original floor plans obtained by The Observer—they’re old, hard to read, almost certainly outdated in places, and godly—show a colossal but beautifully organized duplex. This is an 18-room, eight-bathroom, six-bedroom sprawl that would be luridly gargantuan if it weren’t so poetic. The flow pulls you from the darkness of the rear maids’ spaces, all six of them, to the light on Park.

    “It happens to be a great layout, and it happens to wrap a corner, and it happens to be a great building, and it happens to be a great location,” one broker said. “So it’s prime." - Max Abelson

    mabelson@observer.com

  • Just in case that pantry isn’t enough, there’s bonus storage space. Phew.

  • Brokers get misty-eyed when they talk about a good co-op’s divine proportions. They look at the vertical rectangle of the living room and the smaller horizontal rectangle of the library next door and see a Vitruvian Man.

  • What’s called the reception room is probably a study. Either way, it has a fireplace, of course.

  • The dressing room with a window on Park Avenue would be a good first stop if there’s ever an open house—which there probably won’t be. “There will only be 10 people who can see the apartment,” Mr. Cave said last year about 740 Park’s Ross duplex. “Because there will only be 10 people who are appropriate to see it.”

  • “If you have a lot of kids, it’s an awesome apartment,” one broker told The Observer. “It has six proper bedrooms! How are you going to get that?”

  • Considering that there are a total of six maids’ rooms in the apartment (these four, plus two more), it’s a good thing that there’s a sprawling servants’ hall next to the downstairs kitchen.

  • Unlike Ms. Ross’ 12th-floor sprawl, which was cobbled together from one C-line and one D-line apartment, Mr. Merkin’s duplex was originally built as one place. It’s au naturel.

  • The duplex has a total of nine windows on Park Avenue, an astonishing sum. (These things are important: At nearby 834 Fifth, a ritzy Upper East Side agent once came up to Ruth Stanton and gushed, “You’re 10 windows.”)