Robin Williams, Ruffled by C.P.W. Co-op Board, Sells Pad For $9 Million

Academy Award-winning funnyman Robin Williams has found a buyer for his penthouse at 271 Central Park West–for about $1 million less than his asking price.

Mr. Williams put 12E, his nine-room apartment, on the market for $10 million on March 14, after the co-op board of his building would not allow him to purchase 12W, another penthouse for sale across the hall, in order to combine the two apartments. The board was worried about any individual tenant owning too many shares in the 27-unit building.

A broker told The Observer that Mr. Williams wanted to snag the 11-room duplex apartment primarily because–unlike his apartment–it has a terrace. But even if the penthouse hadn’t been denied to Mr. Williams, the comedian was outbid.

The seller, Agnes Nolan, a former real estate executive, wanted $7.9 million. Mr. Williams offered $5 million. And Dr. Lindsay Rosenwald, 44, the chairman of Paramount Capital Investments, a biotechnology merchant banking and venture capital firm, offered $7.2 million. Mr. Rosenwald signed a contract to purchase the apartment in January, but was rejected by the board in late April. Another deal with a third interested buyer is pending.

In reaction to having been rebuffed by the board, brokers said, Mr. Williams decided to move out of the building. His 2,850-square-foot apartment has three bedrooms, two maid’s rooms, three bathrooms and a library. He paid $2.325 million for it in 1994.

Mr. Williams and a buyer signed a contract for about $9 million on May 16. Mr. Williams’ broker, Roberta Golubock of Sotheby’s International Realty, would not comment on the deal, and Mr. Williams could not be reached.

HERE’S $6.5 MILLION TO YOU, MR. AND MRS. ROBINSON Ousted American Express chief executive James Robinson III and his wife, Linda Robinson, the new vice chairman of Young & Rubicam Inc., must be pretty confident that they’ll be welcomed by the co-op board at 778 Park Avenue, where they made a $17.7 million offer in mid-May to purchase Greenwich, Conn. investor Clifton Robbins’ 17-room apartment.

On June 1, the Robinsons’ seven-room apartment at 550 Park Avenue went on the market for $6.45 million. (They bought the 17th-floor apartment in 1991 for about $2.9 million). Though they made their play for their friend Mr. Robbins’ apartment without any brokers, the Robinsons hired Lisa Silverman of Ashforth Warburg Associates to sell their place.

“It’s going to sealed bids today,” said a broker on June 5. “It will go for over the asking price, for sure –I thought it was cheap when I heard the price.”

The Robinsons are expected to go before the board at 778 Park soon. Neither the couple nor Ms. Silverman would comment.



In mid-April, 3,000 orchids emerged from a townhouse at 240 East 61st Street. They were delicately loaded into the bed of a Federal Express truck by people from the Brooklyn Bortanic Garden and transported to John F. Kennedy airport, where they boarded a plane to Quito, Ecuador.

Four stories above, two greenhouses–orchid laboratories for almost 20 years–sat empty. In a month or two, they would probably be converted into a personal gym.

The orchids’ owner, and the owner of the townhouse, Harry Zelenko, 72, had closed down Harry and Marion Zelenko, an advertising and graphic design firm. He had sold his townhouse for $3.5 million and was moving back to Ecuador. The orchids, his passion, were moving with him.

“The orchids were put on an airplane and arrived two to three days after I shipped them,” said Mr. Zelenko, who has devoted the past two decades to cultivating and studying exotic flowers. He published The Pictorial Encyclopedia of Oncidium , a book of his paintings and research, in 1998. Mr. Zelenko has bought a compound in Quito, a hotbed of orchids, which are native to South and Central America. “They’re doing fine in Ecuador,” he said.

One of the reasons Mr. Zelenko bought the 61st Street house in 1972 for $175,000 was that he could erect the greenhouses: one 19-inch by 31-inch greenhouse that created an 80-degree tropical environment through two gas heaters and a humidity system that periodically misted the flowers, and a second 12-inch by 16-inch greenhouse for cool-growing species, located on the building’s fourth floor along with two bedrooms.

His daughter Lori, 45, a marketing consultant, referred to the orchids as her father’s “other kids,” and recalled caring for them with her human brother and sister while her father traveled abroad to collect plants. “When you have the responsibility in the dead of winter, at dawn, to water [the orchids] before the heat of the day gets to the plants, you certainly share his passion,” said Ms. Zelenko about her “unique appreciation” of orchids. “When you’re up there and it’s hot and steamy and smells of earth and flowers and vanilla, you can understand why he’s obsessed.”

Now all that is gone and a British Internet entrepreneur and his Brazilian fiancée, both in their 30’s, are installing themselves in the 20-foot-wide 1869 townhouse, between Second and Third avenues. It took them only 10 minutes on a Saturday afternoon in December to bid $300,000 less than the asking price. Marcos Cohen of Douglas Elliman, who represented the couple, said it was difficult to get in to see the house, and when you did “he had birds flying around the townhouse–big parrots.” Broker Paula Del Nunzio of Brown Harris Stevens represented Mr. Zelenko.

The home’s extraordinary contents also delayed the closing a bit while Mr. Zelenko acquired the proper paperwork to bring the orchids into Ecuador. “We had to wait for the freaking orchids to be transported,” said Mr. Cohen. “He didn’t leave a single one.”

530 East 72nd Street

Three-bed, three-bath, 2,000-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $1.395 million. Selling: $1.25 million.

Charges: 2,300; 40 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: one week.

FRANK, ZSA ZSA AND ME Three years ago, a retired couple sold their townhouse on the Upper East Side and moved into this 1963 co-op. The building offers a doorman, a concierge and a garage–everything a townhouse does not, especially the apartment’s wrap-around terrace looking east. When the husband died a few months ago, the wife decided to move to the theater district to be closer to her daughter, who is an actress. She put the place on the market for $1.395 million and a young couple already living in the building bid $1.25 million. “She wanted a quick sale,” said Norma Hirsh of Douglas Elliman, the exclusive broker on the deal. “And because the people already lived in the building we didn’t have to worry about the board.” Ms. Hirsh, who has been selling apartments for 23 years, said “brokers used to call [this] the Frank Sinatra building because he supposedly had a penthouse co-op here.” She was more sure that Jolie Gabor, mother of Zsa Zsa, did.


TRAPPED IN EAST HAMPTON: PUFF DADDY BACKS OUT OF $3.9 MILLION QUOGUE DEAL Much to his neighbors’ chagrin, Sean (Puffy) Combs is spending the summer in East Hampton, despite searching as far as Westhampton for a more private place to entertain.

Mr. Combs was fined $2,000 by the town of East Hampton after last year’s Fourth of July bash, at which he allegedly had 500 more guests than his permit allowed. Catherine Baird-Bennett, a broker at Cook Pony Farm’s Bridgehampton office, told The Observer that Mr. Combs was “very interested” in buying Winnecomac, her family’s estate on seven acres in Quogue. “The deal fell through,” said Ms. Baird about the approximately $3.9 million offer Mr. Combs made in April on the place, which was built in 1907.

“Maybe he re-thought what was going on in his life … maybe it wasn’t the most appropriate thing to do–to buy a house of that grandeur at that time,” said Ms. Baird.

A spokesman for Mr. Combs denied Ms. Baird’s report. “He’s very happy at his current home,” he said.

Winnecomac was bought on June 1 by an attorney and his wife for close to the $3.9 million asking price. Vicky Reynolds of Norma Reynolds Realty, an affiliate of Sotheby’s International Realty, told The Observer that her clients, the couple and their two young children, moved into the house that same day. They owned a house in Southampton and maintain a primary residence in Manhattan.

“They wanted something bigger, they didn’t want the traffic from Southampton,” said Ms. Reynolds, who wouldn’t confirm the price. Ms. Reynolds thinks the British husband appreciated the red-brick and cream-stucco English manor-style mansion.

Even in East Hampton, and even with a pending legal battle over a December shooting at Club New York in Manhattan, Mr. Combs may find it hard to lie low this summer. He has been saying there is no party scheduled this year, but, his spokesman said, “nothing is confirmed.”

Meanwhile, the founder and C.E.O. of Bad Boy Entertainment is combing Manhattan for a new home. The 12-story building at 813 Park Avenue, which Mr. Combs bought in November 1998 for $12 million and where he lives on the bottom four floors, has been on the market for $15 million since February. One source said the tenants who rent the top floors have been moving out, which may signal a deal. At the very least, it will make the place easier to sell.


885 West End Avenue

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,700-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $849,000. Selling: $849,000.

Charges: $1,119; 45 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

KID COUNTRY A young couple with a kid on the way bought this apartment four years ago. After Home Depot-ing it–stripping and sealing the floors and moldings, putting a double cast-iron sink and wood oak cabinets in the kitchen and redoing all the walls–they put it on the block for $949,000. When the price dropped to $849,000 in November, they got several offers, but then got cold feet. “It was happening too fast for them,” said their broker, Karesse Grenier of the Corcoran Group. “And they had already planned a vacation in January.” So they put the place back on the market for $849,000 in February. In three weeks, a contract was signed. The buyers, a young couple with two daughters, moved from a rental nearby. They chose a building filled with people like themselves: Ms. Grenier has sold 11 apartments in this 12-story, 1912 building, almost every one to a family.


90 Prince Street

One-bed, one-bath, 1,500-square-foot condo.

Asking: $750,000. Selling: $801,000.

Charges: $367. Taxes: $300.

Time on the market: one day.

NICK DINE BAILS OUT OF SOHO IN STYLE In 1990, pop artist Jim Dine purchased this sixth-floor apartment for $350,000. Two years later, his son, Nick Dine, an interior designer and furniture maker, moved in, but not before gutting the place. “I did my thing,” said the younger Mr. Dine. “I basically turned it from a developer’s aesthetic into something much nicer.” Now, with an 18-month-old daughter named Violet and another baby on the way, Nick and his wife, Vanessa, both 35, have moved to Tribeca, which is suddenly more family-oriented than Soho. “[Ninety Prince] is a safe place to live but I’m certainly not going to miss the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s too dense. It’s like living on the corner of 57th and Fifth.” But 23-year-old Kishin Kirpulani, who graduated from Lynn University in Boca Raton in December, doesn’t seem to mind even the construction that just got started on the building next door. Originally from Alpine, N.J., young Mr. Kirpulani already had a job lined up working for his father’s clothing company, Plugg, when he started looking at apartments with his friend, Shai Shustik, a broker with City Habitats. By the time they arrived at Mr. Dine’s 1,500-square-foot loft with 13-foot-high ceilings and original moldings, someone had already offered the full asking price. “It was a bad situation because the kid was able to offer whatever he had to,” said Mr. Shustik of his friend who ended up paying $51,000 more than Mr. Dine had originally asked for. The deal was co-brokered by Mary Ellen Cashman of Eychner Associates. Mr. Kirpulani, who made sure to read a recent Harper’s Bazaar article on Nick Dine before meeting him, moved into his new home in mid-May and expects to stay in the building until he gets married. Robin Williams, Ruffled by C.P.W. Co-op Board, Sells Pad For $9 Million