In November, when River House, the non plus ultra of elite Upper East Side co-ops, put the 62,000-square-foot space that houses the River Club on the market, it seemed proof that no residential building could resist the temptations of the surging trophy market and the foreign billionaires who have come to dominate it. Listed at an unheard-of $130 million, the unconverted space’s purchase was said not to require the famously fussy board’s stringent review—River House was famous for having turned its nose up at the likes of starlets Joan Crawford, Gloria Vanderbilt and Diane Keaton—and seemed, as we noted at the time, a desperate bid for relevance in a market that increasingly favors the lax entry requirements of condos. The era of the social register had, it seemed, finally given way to that of the LLC.
The co-op board at River House, once sufficiently exclusive to reject applications from Diane Keaton and Gloria Vanderbilt, has lately relaxed its standards in effort to attract more buyers amid an increasingly condo-friendly high-end market. (It also recently listed the River Club on the market as an ultra-luxe, standalone mansion.) In fact, things are so laid back these days that the gatekeepers at 435 East 52nd Street did not even look askance at Uma Thurman‘s application, despite the actress’s starring role in Lars Von Trier’s forthcoming Nymphomaniac, a two-part film oft-described as pornographic, and which features Ms. Thurman in—ahem—compromising positions.
Fortunately for the actress—and for any red-blooded male in residence at River House—Mr. Von Trier’s erotic epic remains in post-production, the chatter at whisper level, and Ms. Thurman has passed muster with the board. For the price of $10 million, she has become the proud new owner of a four-bedroom unit on the sixth floor, according to city records. (The sale was first reported in The Post.)
Grand Dames of Real Estate
In years past, diplomats, movie stars and the crème de la crème of New York society clamored for entry into River House—the art deco co-op on the East River so elite, so elevated, so refined that it famously prohibited the use of its name in all advertising materials. It admitted only the staidest and most moneyed of applicants, snubbing movie stars and the young socialites alike, among them Diane Keaton and Gloria Vanderbilt.
But in the years since the snootiest of all co-ops first opened its closely-guarded gates, society has changed. There was World War II, and then all the hippies and feminists and radical activists of the 1960s and 70s, the yuppie splendor of the 1980s, the rise of the internet and these days, a real estate market swayed by the whims of Russian billionaires. Along the way, River House lost its place at the pinnacle of New York society. The closing prices of its well-appointed apartments lag tens of millions of dollars behind other top tier co-ops, Beekman and Sutton places have declined in prominence and the social register is now a quaint anachronism, like women wearing hats and gloves when they leave the house.
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.
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?
This River House co-op has as much charm as you can handle. The dining room has a mural of trees and birds, the living room has a view of the East River and there are wood-burning fireplaces to keep you cozy and warm. This particular owner has chosen to decorate the space with antiques galore, which gives you the full effect of the grandeur of the home. There’s even an old-fashioned sitting parlor with a grandfather clock and a piano.
The apartment has four bedrooms, a terrace, two balconies, a staff room, a laundry room and gym/office space. The listing doesn’t tell us the square footage, but for $15 million we’re guessing it’s enough to keep you and your family happy. Even if the old dame’s seen its better days.
Marty Richards‘ duplex at the River House has 14 rooms, and it seems like The Observer has written as many stories about the home in the decade-plus the famed producer has been trying to sell it. Finally, this reporter might be out of a job, as the home has sold.
Not just in contract, Read More
Manhattan Transfers Cheat Sheet
Yesterday, the Real Estate Desk poked a little fun at this $11 million, 14-room duplex at the “has-been” River House co-op. First off, it is asking a million dollars more than what is reportedly the $10-million record for the building — pre-recession, no less. And who could forget that the unit has changed Read More
– The “kind of pathetic” River House and a team of Sotheby’s brokers is out to prove The Real Estate Desk wrong. Back in March, our own Dana Rubenstein called the building a has-been, but that hasn’t deterred the owners of 4E/5E, a 14-room duplex currently asking $11 million. Sotheby’s Nikki Field and Patricia Wheatley Read More
As the city’s fortunes have changed, so have its neighborhoods. We plot where New York’s A-listers now live, and profile two buildings at the center of the shift.
Superior Ink: The Up-and-Comer >
River House: The Has-Been >
MAP: Who lives where, from the worlds of media, culture, business, and politics > Read More