My Wardrobe’s Soggy! The Fairchilds Unload an Awful, Leaking Mess

James Fairchild, the would-be heir to Fairchild Publications, and his wife, Whitney Fairchild, were called a modern-day Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald by a friend in their New York Times wedding announcement in September of 1994. But the couple, who both work for Ralph Lauren, are not immune to modern problems. On March 9, they signed a deal to sell the penthouse apartment they purchased just five weeks earlier at 136 East 64th Street, an address known as the “incredible sinking building,” said sources familiar with the deal.

The 1,500-square-foot apartment was perfect for a couple with no children. Mr. Fairchild, 43, whose father sold Fairchild Publication to S.I. Newhouse Jr. in August of 1999, and his wife, 33, are, respectively, vice president of design for men’s and women’s golf and tennis apparel, and senior design director for Black Label in women’s apparel at Ralph Lauren. The apartment they bought has just one bedroom–a master suite–living and dining rooms–each with a wood-burning fireplace–a kitchen and a small office or den. Finally, there’s a 1,650-square-foot terrace that wraps around three and a half sides of the full-floor apartment.

“They were just dying for it!” said broker Barbara Kniffen of Gumley Haft Kleier Inc., who worked with them on their purchase. When they saw the 12th-floor apartment in December, they decided not to buy a different apartment and outbid someone who had signed a contract for the penthouse, which had been on the market for about a year at $1.6 million. The couple bought it for $1.25 million in February.

But, according to another broker, the Fairchilds never moved into the penthouse at 136 East 64th Street, and put it back on the market for $1.495 million on March 9 with a different broker, Anne Cutbill Lenane of Douglas Elliman. On March 22, the couple signed a contract to sell it for a figure that was logged into brokers’ computers only as “over the asking price.” The Fairchilds did not return calls.

“I was shocked when I saw that it was back on the market,” said Ms. Kniffen.

But she needn’t be. The apartment–and others in the building, home to Harvard University president Neil Rudenstine and George Pataki’s chief of staff, Bradford Race–has been plagued with structural and plumbing problems for more than a decade. In 1990, the co-op’s board filed a lawsuit claiming that the city was responsible for a 1989 flood in the basement, the effects of which earned the address its nickname as the sinking building. The board claimed the construction of the subway station at Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street caused the problems, including shutting down the gas lines in the building for 18 months.

Following this were leaks in apartments, especially 12-C, the one the Fairchilds owned briefly. The former owner, Evelyn Konrad, author of the 1978 thriller Indiscretions , bought the apartment in December of 1986 from the sponsor for $700,000. According to court documents, in February 1990, the steam pipes in the apartment burst, spewing asbestos. But even before that the roof, the south and east walls and the terrace of the penthouse leaked. In 1992, even after the walls and ceiling were repaired, an engineer declared them still wet internally. Ms. Konrad, hasn’t lived in the penthouse since 1991 because of all the repairs and a lawsuit she has filed in which she holds the co-op board responsible for the damages. She said she has spent about $2 million on assessments, remodeling and legal fees.

“It leaked like a sieve,” one source said of the penthouse.

The basement of the building last flooded in 1994. But in 1998 the residents of the 11th floor banded together and made shareholders pay for repairs of leaks in their apartments.

“There were a lot of problems with the building and these apartments prior to the purchase,” said Ms. Kniffen. “But I thought everything had been repaired.” When Ms. Kniffen was showing the apartment, she said, there was only evidence of some minor water damage around the windows in the maid’s room.

Ms. Kniffen said the Fairchilds knew all about the litigation between Ms. Konrad and the co-op board over the water damages, which began in December 1991 and is still unresolved. But the couple decided to buy it anyway.

Other sources say the history of problems had nothing to do with the couple’s flipping of the apartment, but that it was due to an entirely different dispute with the co-op’s board.

“They wanted to build another powder room, which would have been simple,” said Ms. Kniffen.

“The co-op board wouldn’t commit to anything” in the way of renovations, said one source.

Fairchild’s broker, Anne Cutbill Lenane of Douglas Elliman, would not comment but told a source that the couple decided to sell the apartment because of “a change of lifestyle.”

UPPER WEST SIDE

FORMER WASHINGTON WIFE, RITA JENRETTE, SELLS TWO-BEDROOM PAD TO MAKE WAY FOR A NEW HUSBAND While Monica Lewinsky was knitting handbags to sell at Henri Bendel on March 22, Rita Jenrette, a Washington firecracker from an earlier generation, was cutting a deal to sell her penthouse at the Grand Millennium at 1965 Broadway near West 66th Street for $1.9 million.

In 1979, Ms. Jenrette, now 50, wrote her version of Monica’s Story detailing the 1976 election-night victory party for her then-husband, South Carolina Representative John Jenrette, to which she wore nothing but a mink coat. Other tales in My Capitol Secrets

include sex on the steps of the Capitol building, during which the couple tripped an alarm that summoned the police and the F.B.I.

The sequel might include posing for Playboy after her husband was busted for accepting a $50,000 bribe, her shower scene in the movie Zombie Island Massacre and her claim to fame in this capital: brokering the sale of the GM building for $820 million to Donald Trump last August.

The deal she just cut for her two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the Grand Millennium between 66th and 67th streets for $1.9 million would seem hardly significant if it didn’t signal that Ms. Jenrette is planning to remarry. Ms. Jenrette would not reveal her fiancé’s identity or discuss her deal, which is not yet final.

According to her broker and former partner, John Sullivan of Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales L.L.C., Ms. Jenrette’s 1,616-square-foot penthouse went on the market in July 1999 for $1.795 million. Mr. Sullivan showed the apartment, which features floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the Hudson River and Lincoln Center, to about 25 prospective buyers who bid in the $1.8 million-to-$1.9 million range. But Ms. Jenrette, who now owns Garlington Jenrette, another commercial real estate firm, was holding out for a better offer. She bought the apartment in 1998 for $978,000.

“She didn’t want to sell at first,” Mr. Sullivan told The Observer . “She didn’t need to sell.”

Until a couple looking for a pied-à-terre offered $1.9 million in cash. “She was stubborn, but I gave her a price she couldn’t turn down,” said Mr. Sullivan. The buyers have a home in New Jersey. They saw the apartment at the beginning of March and made a second appointment to visit it a week later. “The wife was in at 4:30 and the husband joined [her] at 7 and by 7:15 we had the deal,” said Mr. Sullivan.

Mr. Sullivan has been showing Ms. Jenrette and her fiancé, an executive at a real estate firm, properties ranging from $4 million to $6 million, uptown and downtown. “When two people get married, they want a fresh start,” said Mr. Sullivan.

375 Riverside Drive

Three-bed, three-bath, 1,500-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $795,000. Selling: $785,000.

Charges: $1,299; 25 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: seven months.

PARENTS LIVE TO TELL ABOUT HAZING “Their son is a freshman in high school and whenever his friends would come over, they’d take over the apartment,” said broker Ariela Heilman of Klara Madlin Real Estate Inc. about the couple who purchased this apartment on March 21. “They felt they needed more space.” This newly renovated apartment has a master bedroom suite with a bathroom featuring Hudson River views and upgraded appliances, cabinets and ceiling fans. The buyers made a separate agreement with the contractor to add prewar-style moldings. They didn’t even have to introduce the whole gang to the co-op board because the apartment was still owned by the sponsor who converted the building to co-ops.

UPPER EAST SIDE

170 East 87th Street

Four-bed, four-bath, 3,000-square-foot condo.

Asking: $1.67 million. Selling: $1.62 million.

Charges: $1,698. Taxes: $1,160.

Time on the market: one month.

AN OFFICE AWAY FROM THE OFFICE The couple who bought this condo can walk to the office–or move their offices here. She is a rehabilitation and sports medicine doctor and he is the manager of both of her offices located off Madison Avenue and on Central Park West. They just sold their 1,800-square-foot Park Avenue apartment in favor of this condo, which will better accommodate their three children. It’s actually three separate units combined to create a large, open space with a library, dining room, living room and three balconies. “The kitchen is one of the largest in the building,” said their broker, Branko Vujanic of Douglas Elliman. “It’s a very nice layout.” The building has a large swimming pool, a health club, a steam room and sauna, and a small garden in the back. Sound like somebody’s office? “It’s exactly what they were looking for,” said the broker.

122 East 82nd Street

Three-bed, two-bath, 1,500-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $750,000. Selling: $750,000.

Charges: $1,524; 40 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: 10 weeks.

INVESTING IN THEIR UNBORN CHILD The young couple who bought this apartment between Lexington and Park avenues–just one block from the P.S. 6 school district–are counting on some pretty sharp future children. The sellers sent their three kids to the prestigious elementary school but decided to move after spending 27 years in this apartment. They were in no rush to sell, because they were retiring to their country home upstate. “They were particularly proud of their home,” said their broker, Judith H. Saunders of Halstead Property Company about the sellers. “They were very happy living there but thought they should take advantage of market conditions.” They had renovated the kitchen with top-of-the-line materials including a Sub-Zero refrigerator and transformed the maid’s room in a breakfast nook. In the 1950’s, the bathrooms had been remodeled with burgundy-colored tiles and rose-colored fixtures. The 1912 building has a small garden in the back for tenants and a 24-hour doorman.

CHELSEA

42 West 17th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 2,250-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $1.21 million. Selling: $1.28 million.

Charges: $1,275; 60 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: 1 1/2 months.

LOFT BUYERS NOWADAYS NEED ‘A CLEAN RECORD’ Chelsea is still hip, even if the trendiness of Keith McNally’s restaurant Pastis is getting tacky. Four bidders competed for this sixth-floor prewar loft with 13-foot-high ceilings and a wall of windows facing south. “We had a bidding war, but I had to cut it off,” said the broker, Michael Chan of Citi Habitats. “We accepted the best client: She had a clean record, her credit was good, she was very personable and would get along well with the board.” The all-cash deal closed on March 8. The apartment, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, gets light from every exposure but north and has hardwood floors, a newly renovated marble bathroom and kitchen, a den and a breakfast nook. The seller, who bought the loft four years ago, moved into a rented townhouse in Murray Hill. The co-broker was Debora Warner from Halstead Property Company.

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS

187 Hicks Street

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

Asking: $399,000. Selling: $399,000.

Charges: $935; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

WHERE THE LIVING IS EASIER The busy couple who bought this apartment were in search of more for their money–particularly in the education of their first child. This apartment is in the neighborhood of Packer Collegiate, Brooklyn Friends and St. Ann’s. They were all business: They offered the sellers their asking price and rested on the fact that the place needed no repairs or renovations. “They work a lot,” said the selling broker, Rhea Cohen of William B. May Real Estate. The kitchen and bathrooms are brand new. “It was done beautifully,” said Ms. Cohen. “The living room looks west, with views of the city skyline.” Glass shelves inside a little nook in the hallway and lots of built-in shelves in the living room also add to its charm. The prewar building, between Clark and Pierpont streets, has a part-time doorman. The seller loved the neighborhood so much that he moved to a larger apartment just a block away. “A lot of people are coming here from Manhattan.” The deal closed on Feb. 8.

My Wardrobe’s Soggy! The Fairchilds Unload an Awful, Leaking Mess