HMO Mogul Buys Rocky’s ‘Moldy’ Digs at 810 Fifth Avenue

Here we go again. In early February, John H. Foster, founder of Novacare Inc., a health care company in Pennsylvania,

Here we go again. In early February, John H. Foster, founder of Novacare Inc., a health care company in Pennsylvania, signed a $16 million contract to buy two floors of the former triplex apartment of Nelson A. Rockefeller at 810 Fifth Avenue.

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The 13th- and 14th-floor, 17-room penthouse apartment near 62nd Street was inherited by Mary Tod Rockefeller when she and Nelson Rockefeller divorced in 1962; Mr. Rockefeller kept the 12th floor of what was once the family’s triplex. Originally priced at $19.5 million last October, the apartment boasts unparalleled views and a choosy co-op board that nixed multibillionaire Gary Winnick, chairman of Global Crossing Ltd.’s $16 million offer on Jan. 4. Mr. Winnick was allegedly rejected by the board, presided over by Eric Sheinberg, a former partner of Goldman, Sachs & Company, because he planned to do extensive renovations that would have disrupted the sensitive tenants. Mr. Winnick had hired architect Charles Gwathmey to oversee the remodeling of the six-bedroom apartment before the co-op board called off the whole deal.

The apartment’s condition has not changed. “It’s awful,” said one broker. “It’s a moldy apartment. It needs every single thing.”

It is unclear whether the co-op board has had a change of heart about any new owner doing significant renovations–or if, in fact, that was ever the real issue concerning Mr. Winnick’s application to purchase the apartment. The notoriously tough board includes art patron Maureen Cogan; Elizabeth Rohatyn, wife of the U.S. Ambassador to France; and socialite Jan Cowles.

Mr. Foster, 56, is the founder and managing partner of Foster Management Company, a venture capital firm based in King of Prussia, Pa., that was incorporated in 1972. In 1984, he founded Novacare, a firm that specializes in providing rehabilitation services like prosthetics care and long-term orthotics, building it up to a $2.5 billion company. Just a few months ago, he stepped down as chairman of Novacare and, as of Jan. 24, became the chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors at, a printing Company launched by Foster Management in 1994. specializes in creating lithographs on computers and in providing networks that can print documents at the same time in different offices. In 1991, Business Week estimated Mr. Foster’s net worth to be at least $100 million, and largely liquid. According to one report, he donated $50,000 to the Democratic Party in 1997 and attended one of President Clinton’s White House coffee parties during his re-election effort.

Mr. Foster received a business degree from Dartmouth College in 1967. He recently sold Dolobran, a 100-acre estate at 231 Laurel Lane in Haverford, Pa., for approximately $15.9 million. He and his wife are currently renting an apartment in Manhattan and a house in Pennsylvania.

“He splits his time between New York and Pennsylvania,” said a source.

Mr. Foster’s broker, Debbie Solomon of Douglas Elliman Realty, did not return The Observer ‘s phone calls. “We have no comment,” said someone at Mr. Foster’s office, about the deal.


IT’S NOT FUNNY! STILLER AND CAREY ARE STUCK IN THE LOBBY Ben Stiller, who just wrapped a new film, Meet the Parents , with Robert De Niro, will soon be his co-star’s neighbor. The actor-comedian–who played the nice guy who won the sweet but ditsy blonde in 1998’s hit There’s Something About Mary –just bought himself a brand-new condo at Franklin Tower, on Franklin Street near White Street. The purchase by the actor, who was raised on the Upper West Side by comedian parents Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, is expected to be final in a few weeks.

But Mr. Stiller and Mariah Carey, who has also bought a place in the building, aren’t sure when they can get into their apartments. The building, which was supposed to be completed by late 1999, still wasn’t ready for occupancy in February. According to a real estate source, Ms. Carey is not thrilled to be temporarily residing on two floors of a town house at 42 East 75th Street, between Madison and Park avenues, while she waits for the condo’s renovations to be completed. And Mr. Stiller is still in his Greenwich Village apartment on Fifth Avenue.

“The building was the fastest condo conversion project in history. It sold out in 22 weeks!” boasted one real estate source. None of the condos in the building went for less than the asking price–Mr. Stiller paid just under $1 million.

Mr. Stiller’s apartment, almost 2,000 square feet, comes equipped with a bathroom that includes a steam shower, two bedrooms, two baths, a huge living room, high ceilings and walls of windows with views of TriBeCa, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. His broker, Bruce Ehrmann of Stribling & Associates, would not confirm the deal.

The building features a rooftop exercise room and a full-time concierge. “Ben has been looking for quite a while and wound up choosing what I think was the best available condo on the market in downtown Manhattan for the price,” said a broker.


120 East 87th Street

Three-bed, three-bath, 1,896-square-foot condo.

Asking: $1.25 million. Selling: $1.2 million.

Charges: $1,246. Taxes: $1,098.

Time on the market: N/A.

A PICTURE THAT WAS WORTH $1.2 MILLION “It can only be bought sight unseen,” the owner of this apartment told Geovanna Lim-Haas, a broker at Sumitomo Real Estate Sales Inc. So, as buyers lusting for square footage are apt to do these days, an eager couple decided on Feb. 10 to buy this condo between Park and Lexington avenues based on a floor plan. The only consolation may be that they didn’t have to look into the sad eyes of the tenant who has been renting the place for $8,000 a month for the last five years, but will not have his lease renewed. “In this crazy market, you want to be fast,” said Ms. Lim-Haas. “It was an impromptu decision.” In 3-D, the place has a formal dining room and an open layout, helped along by 18-foot-high ceilings. “It’s one-of-a-kind for an Upper East Side lofty apartment,” said Ms. Lim-Haas. Back to Upper East Side reality, the building has a pool, a gym, a garden, a concierge and a parking garage.


11 Riverside Drive, at 73rd Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,200-square-foot co-op.

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

Charges: $890; 40 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: eight weeks.

ANTSY COUPLE MUST ENDURE TWO CO-OP BOARDS It was a December evening at 7 P.M. when a married couple saw a picture of this apartment in the window of a broker’s office. “They said they wanted to see it now,” said Lawrence Schier, a senior associate from the Corcoran Group who canceled his dinner plans after he got the O.K. from the seller to show the space. The evening was not a bust. Once inside, “[The couple] said, ‘We’ll take it,’ and paid the full asking price without asking any questions,” said the broker. The deal closed in early February, under one condition: The seller isn’t moving out until he’s approved by the co-op board of his new apartment. The apartment has 9.5-foot-high beamed ceilings, parquet floors, excellent light and garden views. It also just became the most expensive apartment per square foot in the Schwab House, which was built in 1950 and has a full-time doorman, elevator operator and concierge, a roof deck and a health club.


425 East 58th Street

Three-bed, four-bath, 2,900-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $2.1 million. Selling: $2.1 million.

Charges: $3,691.45; 60 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: 5 1/2 months.

HOW ABOUT A LITTLE MAINTENANCE ON THE HOUSE? The Sovereign, a co-op apartment building just off Sutton Place, has entered the $2.1 million club. On Jan. 18, a buyer paid that amount for this apartment; the price was the highest ever for any apartment in the building. Back in 1991, the seller paid $1.25 million for the co-op, which has north, south and east exposures. “The apartment is in really good condition,” said Avida B. Ghafari, a broker with William B. May Real Estate who represented the seller. She said the new owner would be doing “some minor work,” but would be in her record-breaking pad soon.

245 East 48th Street

Four-story, 3,500-square-foot town house.

Asking: $1.95 million. Selling: $1.8 million.

Time on the market: N/A.

BANKER IS DRAGGED TO HILLARY COUNTRY, FORFEITING HIS DOWN PAYMENT A banker signed a contract to buy this town house between Second and Third avenues last March, but got so impatient with the seller’s delays of the closing that he abandoned hopes of ever moving in and fled to the suburbs. “His wife got fed up and said, ‘I’ve had enough. I’m going where Hillary is,'” said broker Anne Snee from the Corcoran Group. In doing so, he lost his $180,000 deposit to Del Goldsmith, an attorney who has lived in the town house with his family for about 45 years. So Ms. Snee found another couple to buy the house in late January. The couple, both in the telecommunications business, had looked at only two other houses; they liked the backyard access to the landmarked and private Turtle Bay Gardens at this address. The 20-foot-wide house also has a spacious living room, a dining room, two utility rooms, and original details including crown moldings, fireplaces and oak floors. “It’s really charming, and it has retained a lot of its old-world charm,” said one of the new owners. Robert A. Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services Inc., represented the seller.

HMO Mogul Buys Rocky’s ‘Moldy’ Digs at 810 Fifth Avenue