A Real Estate Mogul’s Library Finds a New Home

Upper East Side

SEYMOUR DURST’S PRIVATE LIBRARY IS SOLD, COLLECTION TO BE DONATED. In the years just prior to his death in 1995, real estate developer Seymour Durst lived with his granddaughter in a five-story brownstone at 120 East 61st Street with more than 10,000 maps, prints, books, signs and other New York City memorabilia, a collection he had turned into a nonprofit entity called the Old York Foundation. After he passed away, his daughter, Wendy Durst Kreeger, took control of the building and the archive. On Dec. 10, the Old York Foundation sold the building for $2.8 million; Durst’s son, Douglas Durst, president of the Durst Organization, is close to finding a new home for the collection.

Mr. Durst said his father, who was widowed in 1950, began collecting memorabilia 40 years ago. “He had a house originally on East 48th Street–12 feet wide–and it just became so filled with books that it wasn’t safe anymore,” Mr. Durst said. “He bought this house just to be a library about 12 years ago for about $1.5 million.”

The house was technically not supposed to be a residence. “My father had a special agreement with the Internal Revenue Service that he could live there,” said Mr. Durst. “The whole thing was a library. There were five baths, but the only bedroom was the one he used.”

“Idiosyncratic is really what describes it,” said Jan Seidler Ramirez, deputy director of interpretation at the Museum of the City of New York, who used the library in 1991, with Durst’s assistance. “And I was absolutely fascinated by the way his mind had sorted out materials about New York. This had nothing to do with the Dewey Decimal System, but how he visually and intellectually experienced New York.” Ms. Ramirez recalled that the collection contained “almost anything in a kind of reproductive media that would give information about the city of New York.”

The Durst family put the house on the market last spring for $2.9 million and, in August, a plastic surgeon from Connecticut signed a contract to buy it for $2.8 million. Mr. Durst said his family was considering keeping the building and the foundation inside it, but “that turned out to be not feasible,” he said. “It really just wasn’t a proper building for that function.” Mr. Durst valued the collection at less than $1 million.

Mr. Durst added that the library would probably be bequested to the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, which would house the books at its new facility in the old B. Altman building between 34th and 35th Streets and Fifth and Madison Avenues.

The new owner, a doctor who has owned another house just down the block for about four years, plans to put together an all-female plastic surgery practice and use the first two floors of the brownstone as offices; there would be two private residences upstairs–one to rent and one for her. “She has been searching for a long time for the right house” in which to start such a business, said the doctor’s broker, Joyce Glowe of Prudential/M.L.B. Kaye International Realty. The doctor plans to have the practice in full swing by the summer,. which means that the collection will have to be removed well before then.

Broker Michele Friedman of the Halstead Property Company, who represented Mr. Durst, said that the house itself is New York City history. It dates from 1869, slightly earlier than many of the neighboring brownstones, which were erected in the 1880’s or later. But Mr. Durst said that there is very little original detail left inside.

Upper West Side

Broadway and West 84th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,250-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $599,000. Selling: $560,000.

Charges: $1,245; 48 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one week.

YOU STUFF HIM WITH DUMPLINGS, I’LL FOIST MY OLD APARTMENT ON HIM. “It was the cutest day,” said broker Jane Goldberg of the time–over Chinese food on West 72nd Street last summer–that her client decided to purchase this apartment. “We had absolutely scrumptious dumplings. And by the end of lunch, I was on my cell phone, phoning in a starting offer.” Her client was moving from Brazil, and this was his third trip to New York. The seller’s broker, Curtis Jackson, had lived in the apartment himself two years ago and renovated the prewar space from scratch–wiring, plumbing, windows, floors. In June 1997, he sold it to a single woman, who is now moving to Napa Valley to open a home furnishings store. Due to Mr. Jackson’s meticulous improvements, the place needs nothing. “It was really just a matter of bringing a toothbrush,” he said. Broker: William B. May Company Real Estate (Jane Goldberg and Curtis Jackson).


250 East 54th Street (Mondrian)

Two-bed, 2.5-bath, 2,283-square-foot postwar condo.

Asking: $2.09 million. Selling: $1.25 million.

Charges: $1,617. Taxes: $2,151.

Time on the market: one day.

BACHELORS WITH PENTHOUSES HAVE MORE FUN. The London-based bachelor who bought this penthouse as a Manhattan pied-à-terre had been dreaming of the New York skyline. His broker, Kellee Buhler, had been shepherding him to and from various uptown listings–modern joints like the Channel Club on East 86th Street and 3 Lincoln Center. This apartment in the Mondrian has plentiful perks in addition to its 360-degree views: practically floor-to-ceiling windows, private access by key elevator, eat-in kitchen. “It’s just a beautiful apartment–I can’t even tell you,” said Ms. Buhler. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Kellee Buhler).

Tudor City

First Avenue and East 41st Street

One-bed, one-bath, 900-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $265,000. Selling: $249,000.

Charges: $856; 57 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two months.

THE HEAVY-APPLIANCE BAIT-AND-SWITCH. This couple had to be walking distance from midtown. There had to be a washer and dryer in the apartment. There had to be a doorman. And most importantly, the apartment had to have southern exposure, so they could grow orchids. After several months of fruitless searching, the couple was delighted to horn in on this middle-floor co-op. But the hitches–which persisted from contract to closing–were to begin almost immediately. The co-op board played hard to get regarding scheduling an interview. When at last the couple got an appointment, they waited for more than an hour. According to broker Sam Bader, “Finally someone came by and didn’t even recognize them, saying, ‘We don’t know who you are. We haven’t read, or seen, your package.'” The couple was “terribly annoyed,” said Mr. Bader, but they persisted and the board finally approved them. Then, the night before the closing, they discovered that the coveted washer and dryer–which had been intact when they first saw the apartment–had been removed. In fact, the seller, a female doctor, had even unscrewed the overhead light fixtures, and hanging in their stead were a bunch of naked wires. While Mr. Bader contemplated how his clients could move in in the dark, the buyers suggested a partial refund for the loss of the electronic appliances. They got it. After all their trouble, the buyers were amused to find out at the closing what the seller, a single woman, did for a living. “She didn’t show up, but she sent an attorney,” said Mr. Bader. “They said, ‘What kind of a doctor is this?'” The answer: She treats stress. Broker: William B. May (Sam Bader); Jeffrey Weisbord Real Estate (Robert Scali).

Gramercy Park

242 East 19th Street

One-bed, one-bath, 875-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $320,000. Selling: $300,000.

Charges: $935; 40 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

ANOTHER GIRL IN A BERET MAKES IT. After 18 years in a rented studio at 56th Street and Broadway, this editor at a women’s fashion magazine decided to put down roots. “Even Mary Tyler Moore got an apartment in her sixth season,” she said, claiming that the television character rented for the first five years of The Mary Tyler Moore Show . With that in mind, the editor began searching Murray Hill and other downtown neighborhoods for her ideal apartment: a prewar, doorman one-bedroom in the $300,000 range. Her friend and broker, Mark Schoenfeld, steered into a place suitable for a successful working girl: Art Deco lobby, with wall sconces from 1926, when the building was first erected; elevator operator, beam ceilings. The seller, a new mom who needed suburban-sized space, had spruced things up pretty nicely. All it needed was a warm body. Broker: Corcoran Group (Frank Percesepe and Mark Schoenfeld).

East Hampton

Baiting Hollow Road

Three-acre parcel with two structures.

Asking: $1.375 million. Selling: $1.3 million.

Time on the market: two weeks.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR’ S WEDDING PLANNER SNUBS MALIBU FOR THE HAMPTONS. Waldo Fernandez, the Los Angeles-based interior designer whose clients include Merv Griffin, Goldie Hawn and Elizabeth Taylor, has again snubbed Malibu for the Hamptons. Mr. Fernandez recently bought a $1.3 million parcel with two houses on it on Baiting Hollow Road in East Hampton, L.I. Mr. Fernandez said he will sell his one-acre home on Montauk Highway. Reached for comment at Waldo’s Designs, his store in Los Angeles, Mr. Fernandez said: “I love the Hamptons. There’s no beaches like [in] Long Island. I tell everybody here, ‘Why buy in Malibu? Buy there!'” Mr. Fernandez purchased the Baiting Hollow Road property–which has a house and a small pool house on it–from the Ackerman Institute for the Family, a nonprofit center for education and clinical research in family-oriented psychotherapy. According to Leslye Lynford, the director of institutional development, “The main house is all one story, and it was built, I would say, in the 1950’s. The other piece of property is a pool house, built 15 years ago.” She added that the two houses had been put on the market together for $1.375 million. Mr. Fernandez, who opened a branch of his store on East 58th Street in 1995, declined to get specific about his plans for renovating the property. “The house is secondary to the piece of property,” he said. Meanwhile, the Montauk Highway house–with three bedrooms and four and a half baths–is now on the market for $895,000, according to Mr. Stilin, who is the listing broker. Mr. Fernandez purchased the house, which is near Georgica Road, in the early 1990’s. A family had used it as the offices of its Pony Farm real estate firm, now known as Cook Pony Farm. The company got its name because the owners’ neighbors gave pony rides on their property. After Mr. Fernandez moved in and remodeled, he dubbed it Jake’s Pony Farm after his 6-year-old son, who happens to have Ms. Taylor for a godmother. (Mr. Fernandez played wedding coordinator when Ms. Taylor wed Larry Fortensky.) Mr. Stilin described Mr. Fernandez’s first house as having “stunning interiors” as well as gorgeous grounds with mature trees. “Really, it’s the way an East Hampton Cottage should be,” he said. But, as one Hamptons real estate source put it, there are cars whizzing by “five feet from the house.” “I didn’t mind being on the highway,” said Mr. Fernandez. “It’s beautiful on the inside.”

A Real Estate Mogul’s Library Finds a New Home