Are the Good Times Back? 15 Central Park West Penthouse Sells for $37 M.

15cpw1 Are the Good Times Back? 15 Central Park West Penthouse Sells for $37 M.These are anxious days for very expensive, wildly high, overly plush New York apartments. On the one hand, it’s so common for fancy sellers to be losing money on their real estate deals that no one’s really shocked when a Jean Nouvel condo sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars less than it was bought for–or when a Central Park South sprawl loses millions. On the other hand, there are increasingly frequent signs that high-end Manhattan real estate isn’t going to be this drab for much longer.

According to a deed filed in city records Wednesday afternoon, a penthouse at 15 Central Park West has sold for $37 million, which would have made for the most expensive New York apartment sale only a decade ago. There’s something particularly magical about it, considering that no one saw it coming: The $45 million listing for the penthouse with Brown Harris Stevens came off the market half a year ago with no sign that it was going to be sold.

But, to be realistic, the sales price is nowhere near the $80 million that the penthouse was once asking. “I think there is an element of some paralysis,” listing broker Richard Wallgren told The Observer last year, after the apartment was taken off the market, and before it was re-listed at nearly half the price this February.

Reached on his cell phone Wednesday, Mr. Wallgren hung up twice. His listing had described the penthouse as a 5,276-square-foot, 14-foot-tall, 9.5-room, four-bedroom sprawl–with an additional 1,222-square-foot suite on the building’s ground floor.

The seller is a limited liability corporation, Prominence, which bought the apartment for only $21.5 million in 2005, though the deal didn’t close until last year, when the building was finished. That corporation has been tied to Amit Ben-Haim, a London-based investor who made his fortune with the sale of a medical-device company based in Israel. The buyers are listed as the corporations Novgorod and Novgorod Two–as in the Russian city. Paul Wrobleski of Clarfeld Financial Advisors, listed as a contact for the buyer, did not return several messages.

So is New York back to its old, plush ways? Not necessarily. The sale is a lot like Andrei Vavilov’s $37.5 million purchase at the Time Warner Center this year: Hilariously huge, but somehow slightly disappointing. That sum was enormous, but also a lot smaller than the $65 million the owner there had originally wanted.

Still, that seller, and this one at 15 Central Park West, made an ungodly amount of money. “Somebody saw something that was irreplaceable and unique, and they were willing to pay for it,” the broker Paula Del Nunzio, who sold the city’s most expensive townhouse, said about this penthouse sale. “They wouldn’t pay $80 million! But they would pay $37 million.”

mabelson@observer.com