Palace Intrigue On East 72nd: Two Pools, 16 Bathrooms and a Million Rumors

Two things, at least, are certain about his techniques: they have continued to alienate tenants, and they have been lucrative. At the same time that Mr. Croman was busy with his massive renovation project on East 72nd, he continued to buy properties throughout Manhattan, including, in 2008, the multi-unit townhouse at 7 East 75th Street whose façade was made famous in The Nanny, for $14.5 million. (The property, still owned by Mr. Croman, remains an apartment building.)

“He’s always looking for a deal,” said one broker. “He used the law and got a good deal on 12 East 72nd. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an investor in the background.”

Others would be shocked if there weren’t. The emir of Qatar is undoubtedly the favorite, despite having failed to conceal his identity when he purchased a 44,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts mansion across the street at 7-9 East 72nd Street in 2003. One woman, who asked to be identified only as someone “familiar with the situation” because she finds Mr. Croman’s behavior and construction practices “very thuggish,” opined that it was “just crazy that any foreigner can glance into New York and do whatever they want.”

The emir did not return a request for comment.

It doesn’t help that construction has taken so long and been so loud that customers in the Ralph Lauren store on the corner of Madison and 72nd used to ask the employees if the store itself was in the midst of an excavation project. Or that the house has been wrapped up like an enormous present for more than a year. Or that the block invites intrigue, being home not only to the emir, but also to Huguette Clark’s formerly doll-filled apartments at 907 Fifth and both the Spanish and the Vatican Embassies.

“Everyone seems to think that the emir is the owner,” Mr. Croman said when The Observer finally reached him on his cellphone. “They also say that Ron Perelman is the man behind it.”

Both, he told us, were incorrect. “It’s just a single-family home,” he continued. “We weren’t looking for something that size, but that’s the building we found. We have a dog, kids. It’s just a private home. We like the block.”

He admitted, a little sheepishly, that there would be two pools and a basketball court, and that plans for the sister-in-law’s duplex had been dropped. The house would be occupied by him, his wife, their three sons and the dog. He had no intention of selling it once the work was completed, which he hoped would be some time this spring. He didn’t want to say what the renovation would cost, as the finish work, which has yet to be completed, “would be the bulk of it.”

Finishes such as…?

“Oh, just you know, nice high-end finishes,” he replied. “What you would expect in a townhouse like this. Tasteful. Just nice, nice finishes.”

And what did he think of the neighbors?

“People have been great,” said Mr. Croman. “We love the neighbors.”

kvelsey@observer.com