Come the end of this week, a coterie of top brokers (like the game Mafia, no one will outwardly admit to having been tapped, but the usual suspects are presumed) will vie for the Petrossian of Candela caviar: the high-floor, five-bedroom duplex at 770 Park Avenue belonging to convicted felon Hassan Nemazee. Nemazee is serving a 12-year sentence at a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, for bilking three major banks out of more than $292 million in false loans; apprehended in August 2009, he was put under house arrest in the apartment until his sentencing last summer. The U.S. Marshals charged with the sale of the home where Nemazee and his wife raised their three children (the youngest of whom this reporter attended school with) will weigh the presentations of five brokers before committing to one listing agent to move the co-op on the front-corner A-line.
Just as with the late Bruce Wasserstein’s apartment at 927 Fifth Avenue, brokers, like pigs, can sniff a truffle a mile away.
“The problem is there aren’t too many apartments like that that come on the market,” Douglas Elliman superbroker Dolly Lenz explained. “The people who are buying those apartments are in them for a long time. It’s not like you’re trading up; if anything, you’re trading down.” She was taking the call from the sidewalk in front of the holiday-wreathed facade of the Plaza, where she was meeting with a client. “It’s really the last apartment you buy. So at any given time, the supply is very low. I mean, I can’t even come up with another example. And, of course, the scarcity factor is what makes them sell.”
In a city with Jean Nouvel-designed glass houses and the Disneyland nostalgia of Robert A.M. Stern, one would think attention would shift from the co-op dowagers on the Upper East Side. Not at all, dear reader. Spacious prewar co-op apartments in one of the dozen “good buildings” on either Fifth or Park avenues still command unique premiums.
And while prospective buyers exasperate their brokers with a Goldilocks-like frustration–new condos have space and views but lack charm and history; prewar apartments are disarmingly quaint but too small or lacking in location and amenities; and on and on–some deep-pocketed ones know that a handful of larger prewars prove worth the wait.
“The Nemazee apartment is in that unique category, but it’s subtle. You’ve got to know the buildings to know how unique an opportunity this is,” Kathryn Steinberg, a top broker with Brown Harris Stevens, said. “I mean, you walk into that dining room and you go, ‘Wow.’ It takes your breath away.” (Wasserstein’s three-bedroom duplex was bought by real estate mogul William Lie Zeckendorf for $27 million last month after prospective buyers were given just 72 hours to hustle together offers.)
Brokers are desperate for the Nemazee listing. One under consideration refused to speak to The Observer for fear it could jeopardize the broker’s shot. Another broker called it a “gem” she was “dying to have.”