Tax the Rich
Why exactly the ground-floor Unit #C at 740 Park Avenue came to break off from the duplex just above it to become first a stand-alone two-bedroom apartment, and then a doctor’s office, is something of a mystery. “It was ages ago,” said Judi Lederer of Town Residential, who has been tasked with selling the property, which just hit the market asking $5.85 million. “Nobody knows for sure.”
Michael Gross, author of 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building, told us that #C was originally a segment of one of three triplex maisonettes, all of which were broken up in the 1930s. “Its original owner was Sherbourn Becker,” he said. A Wisconsin native, Becker made his fortune in railroads, shipping and banking, and had a son who lived in a duplex on the 12th and 13th floors. But by September 1940, Mr. Gross said, the ground floors of all three maisonettes had become professional offices.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
It’s a story that pops up every few years: New York City’s co-operative apartments—especially those on the Upper East and West Sides and in the wealthiest neighborhoods in brownstone Brooklyn—pay next to nothing in property taxes, leaving massive tax burdens for poorer renters.
Back in 2009, for example, the Manhattan Institute found that 740 Park Avenue, that limestone-faced bastion of privilege home to billionaires like David Koch, was taxed as if it were a postwar rent-stabilized building in Yorkville.
According to a report released today (.pdf) by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, nothing’s changed.
We received a press release yesterday heralding the release of a new film. It read: “740 Park, the bestseller by Michael Gross, becomes Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream.”
This struck us as odd because we had, in fact, heard about this documentary before, but described in a very different way: the famed building would be used as a foil for Park Avenue in the South Bronx, as a means of discussing income inequality in America. This had seemed to us like a very good idea. Not that we wouldn’t also like to see Michael Gross’s engaging social history become a movie (or an inspired-by Dallas-style TV show that would blow 666 Park and its many real estate inaccuracies out of the water), but that would be a very different movie indeed.
This was, of course, the same movie we had heard about, a movie that is described more accurately and evenhandedly, we discovered through some extensive googling, on the Independent Television Service website. But back to that first release and how its spin got under our skin.
We always knew Jonathan Sobel had a way with money. And now the former Goldman Sachs partner has done it again. Not only did Mr. Sobel shift from one of the finest buildings on the Upper East Side to perhaps the finest building in the all of Manhattan, but he managed to pocket $2 million in the process.
Talk about arbitrage!
Of Doormen and Drama
Let’s face it: prices at the Ritz-Carlton, while resplendent, pale in comparison to the blindingly spectacular sales at buildings like 15 Central Park West and the Plaza. But with the $70 million Steve Wynn buy behind it and a new $50 million listing, The Wall Street Journal asks: is the Ritz ready to rise again?
It’s not as if the building has been doing shabbily or anything, but it hasn’t been the brightest star in the sky, The Journal notes. Built in 1930 as the Hotel St. Moritz, it’s lost some of the luster it once had and its debut on the luxury market was less than stellar. The condo conversion finished shortly after Sept. 11, and then the building got kind of eclipsed by the Time Warner Center and 15 Central Park West.
Not even the most coveted address or the most celebrated building is immune from the occasional financial contretemps, it would seem, regardless of the building’s all cash financing requirements.
Foreclosure proceedings are moving full-force ahead on the 740 Park Avenue apartment of Kent Swig and estranged wife Elizabeth Macklowe Swig, reports Michael Gross, the author of the consummate book on the consummate building.
After nearly four years on the market and a $12 million price reduction, co-op 4/5 C at 740 Park Avenue has finally found a buyer. And just when it had been empty long enough to attain spooky apartment status among the building’s exceedingly well-heeled children! What door will they dare each other to run past now? Perhaps Madoff crony Ezra Merkin’s will do?
The 15-room duplex, listed with Sotheby’s brokers Serena Boardman and Meredyth Smith for $23 million, is now in contract, according to the Olshan Luxury Market report (it was also last week’s biggest residential contract, broker Donna Olshan reveals).
The deal, coming close on the heels of the record-for-a-co-op sale of Courtney Sale Ross’ apartment to Oaktree Capital Chief Howard Marks, means the end of available units at the most venerated of all New York addresses.
We bet Howard and Nancy Marks didn’t bat an eye when they forked over $52.5 million for the Courtney Sale Ross duplex at 740 Park Avenue, setting a record for the most expensive co-op ever. After all, $52.5 million is pocket change when you manage a $75 billion investment group.
Unlike those who watched their fortunes deplete or disappear during the recession, Mr. Marks, the co-founder, principal and chairman of Oaktree Capital, managed to enhance his by investing billions in distressed debt. With so much cash burning a hole in their pockets, it looks like the couple was just waiting for the chance to pick up a phenomenally expensive apartment (albeit at something under the $60 million ask).
Courtney Sale Ross may not be getting the full $60 million ask for her deluxe duplex apartment at 740 Park Avenue, but the sale will still set a record at $52 million, the highest price ever paid for a co-op.
While last week brought rumors that a buyer with deep-pockets had fallen in love with the sprawling apartment, The Journal reports that the feeling is mutual, and the famously picky co-op board has given the nod of approval, culminating in the signing of a $52 million contract.
It’s not only the bright, shiny and new buildings like 15 Central Park West and One57 that are topping the $50 million mark these days. Rumor has it that the massive 740 Park Avenue home of Courtney Sale Ross has found a buyer willing to pay the $60 million asking price
Gadabout Michael Gross, the author of the consummate book on the consummate building, reports that he’s heard from a reliable source that the unit, a deluxe duplex, has gone into contract for the full asking price.