In the latest issue of Depatures, Michael Gross, chronicler extraordinaire of the rich and real estate obsessed, takes a look at the race to cross the most tantalizing of all residential thresholds—the $100 million mark. Things have come close, of course—the $94 million contract signed on a One57 penthouse, the $95 million contract at 432 Park, the many conceited listings whose asks far exceed $100 million (reach for the moon, right? And if you fail, you’ll fall among the stars, drifting through a dark, oxygen-less abyss.) Besides breaking some news—notably, that the Zeckendorf’s 50 UN Plaza is offering its top three floors as either a $45 million floor-through and $55 million duplex, or $100 million triplex (which comes with what is sure to become the next must-have in trophy real estate: a private, 50-foot-long heated outdoor pool), Mr. Gross’s piece also includes some ridiculously good quotes. A few of our favorites, below:
Some months back, James Lansill, a senior managing director at the Corcoran Sunshine group told us that a good number of buyers at the Brodsky Organization’s luxe, ultra-popular 135 East 79th Street condo tower were highly sophisticated empty-nesters from the neighborhood looking to downsize. Not so Michael Gross, the 51-year-old CEO of Solar Capital—a financial firm specializing in debt and investments in leveraged companies—who has just paid $22.45 million for one of the building’s two 17th-floor penthouses, according to city records. (The lone available listing in the new building, which inspired a feeding frenzy last year, is currently asking $22.35 million; Mr. Gross’s pad, slightly larger than the yet-unspoken-for unit, was last listed for $23.5 million.)
Extell’s plan to cantilever over the Park Avenue Christian Church didn’t work out so well—neighbors and the Landmarks Commission kind of freaked out over the developer’s plan to build a 210-foot-tall condo tower that would wrap about the historic church’s spire and block a wall of stained glass windows. Extell has since backed off of the Park Avenue plan, promising a less controversial design by preservation experts Beyer Blinder Belle. But that doesn’t mean the developer is giving up the dream of cantilevering over a landmark—and this time it’s the Art Students League.
Real estate kerfuffles
In the midst of the current real estate craze, it sometime seems that buyers are closing deals on apartments that they’ve scarcely had a chance to tour, let alone examine carefully. But West Coast-based interior designer Waldo Fernandez definitely had ample opportunity to consider (and re-consider) the contract he signed on a two-bedroom co-op at 69 Washington Place.
The sun-filled spread, which music producer and D.J. Mark Ronson bought for $1.8 million from real estate chronicler extraordinaire Michael Gross in 2006, entered contract way back in March 2012. Many, many months later, the deal has finally closed, and we hear, for Mr. Ronson’s $1.99 million asking price (the sale has yet to hit records). Douglas Elliman broker Raphael De Niro, who spent the last year and a half slogging through a seemingly interminable closing, declined to comment on the sale.
Grand Dames of Real Estate
Despite the rainy, windy weather that is set to hit New York tomorrow and a last-minute lawsuit filed to stop Extell from evacuating two co-op buildings adjacent to One57, plans to repair the crane broken during Hurricane Sandy are still moving forward Saturday morning.
Which means that the unfortunate residents of Alwyn Court, the landmarked building at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 58th Street, will either vacate the building voluntarily in the next few hours or face forcible eviction. The crane repair involves swinging a boom over Alwyn and two other buildings before hoisting it up the side of the unfinished tower.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
In the world of Manhattan co-ops, River House is the dowager queen: beautiful, powerful and regal, but not as beautiful, powerful or regal as she once was. For years, she has clung to her hidebound traditions—her exclusive club within a club, her distaste for all but the most financially-secure and publicity-averse residents, her refusal to let the building’s esteemed name be mentioned in conjunction with a sales listing—even, or perhaps especially, as her grip on the wealthiest, most influential sliver of Manhattan residents has slipped.
But now the Has Been, as this salmon-colored paper once crowned her, is finally making an attempt to reclaim the throne, Manhattan real estate chronicler Michael Gross reports. Mr. Gross, who recently penned an article in Avenue about the grand dame and her underpriced units, noted that one of River House’s apartments—a 16-room duplex in the tower—just came on the market asking $25 million.
The opening shots of Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream show the famed avenue in all its moneyed glory: idling Mercedes, impeccably coiffed society women and stern limestone facades with white-gloved doormen stationed outside like sentries. It is a vision so lofty that it is almost otherworldly—can the vast majority of Americans even conjure this up as the apex of the American dream, let alone attain it?
It’s a question that director Alex Gibney revisits repeatedly in his documentary about the growing gulf between the rich and poor and how that gulf has been widened by the political manipulations of the country’s wealthiest citizens.
On a rainy Wednesday evening in the middle of June, Sunshine Cinemas was bright with flashing bulbs as photographers snapped pictures of a gaggle of impossibly tall, impossibly beautiful women. The angelic onslaught was not a coincidence: they were all there to see a special screening of Girl Model, a documentary by Ashley Sabin and David Redmon that was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Girl Model follows a 13-year-old Siberian girl who wins a modeling competition and is whisked off to Tokyo, where a modeling agency has promised her fame and fortune.
The documentary paints a grim, Dickensian portrait of the unpleasant, exploitative working conditions endured by some the world’s most attractive people; the situation depicted is not at all uncommon, and the audience, made up of dozens of models—blondes, brunettes, the occasional redhead—was rapt.
After the credits, French model Rachel Blais addressed the room. Her struggles are featured in the film, and she has become a spokesperson for better treatment for fashion models, traveling to screenings and other speaking engagements. Because of her outspokenness, she noted, she is now treated like a pariah.
New Yorkers who live on Central Park certainly reap the benefits of parkside abodes, especially when it comes to resale values, but they’re less than generous about giving back.
Only 17 percent of parkside denizens have donated to the Central Park Conservancy since 2010, according to a recent story in Crain’s by Michael Gross. And Mr. Gross, chronicler of luxury New York real estate and the author of consummate building biography 740 Park should know. Not only does Mr. Gross seem to have his eye on every move that uptown dwellers make, but he’s also a parkside resident himself.
When we heard Michael Gross was working on yet another book about an uber-rich New York residential building, our eyes rolled ever so slightly. The Observer had read and loved his opus on 740 Park (“The World’s Richest Apartment Building”), but with one in the works about 15CPW, titled The House of Outrageous Fortune, what more could he possibly have to say about the nesting habits of the extraordinarily wealthy? Beyond what he had already written on the subject for us, of course.
A lot, it turns out.