True to form, the listing for a $7.9 million, 14-room apartment at 435 E. 52nd Street never breathes the words “River House.” It’s all “white glove co-op” this and “colossal art deco masterpiece” that.
River House—a co-op so exclusive that it has long forbidden the use of its name in advertisements—has its reputation to protect, after all, a reputation the co-op has carefully maintained by turning away some of the more questionable types that have come knocking on its esteemed doors, among them Gloria Vanderbilt, Diane Keaton and Joan Crawford.
But times change, a heartbreaking phenomenon well-chronicled The Observer, and while River House still has its good name to trade on (much like our favorite tragic heroine Lily Bart), money does not flow to its hallowed halls as it once did.
But then, were things really ever the same after the FDR put an end to mooring one’s yacht in the marina?
While other listings around the city are going for tens of millions (consider the $88 million sale of the Sandy Weill penthouse at 15 Central Park West, Teddy Forstmann’s co-op in contract for $40 million and the $52 million contract signed for the Ross co-op at 740 Park) the elite River House has yet to break the $15 million mark.
Apartment 4/5E, listed with Douglas Elliman broker Betsy Green, is a prime example.
The stately, sprawling five-bedroom has big bay windows that look out over the river, wood-burning fireplaces, en-suite bathrooms, a Juliette balcony and a 30-foot window in the master bedroom, but it has lingered on the market since its $11.5 million debut with Stribling in fall 2007.
Besides some fusty decorations and the owner’s odd decision to put stainless steel floor in the living room—going for a ship’s galley look?—the co-op is lovely and must be quite confused after being snubbed by buyers, so confused, in fact, that the listing even tried a bold reach for $15 million in 2008 with Brown Harris Stevens, before beginning a slow acceptance of new realities. That is to say a steady march of price reductions.
After being reduced from $8.5 million to $7.9 million just this past week, we’d say that the aging debutante is now deigning to seriously consider Simon Rosedale’s marriage proposal.
Why has River House suffered so? Some blame its secluded location (once one of its greatest assets), others the rise of hassle-free condos. Or maybe it’s the dwindling pool of “our” kind of people.
Regardless of its recent decline in the hearts of the city’s elite, the building still retains its cultish, country club appeal: there’s a cul-de-sac where your car can sit idling for long stretches, membership in the hoity-toity River Club, and neighbors like Henry Kissinger and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild.