After Pining for It, Investor Jarecki Gets 19 Gramercy Park

In 1978, Dr. Henry Jarecki, a psychiatrist and investor, was outbid when he tried to buy the 1887 mansion at 19 Gramercy Park South, on the corner of Irving Place. “A baron” offered more than Dr. Jarecki and bought the home, which was built by Stanford White for the Stuyvesant Fish family, said Douglas Elliman broker Leslie Mason, whose mother, Patricia, brokered that sale. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, Mr. Jarecki, who co-founded MovieFone with his son Andrew in 1989, has finally got the keys.

The baron, Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff, owner of Evyan Perfumes, sold the home to designer Richard Tyler and his wife, Lisa Trafficante, in 1985 for $3.5 million. (Mr. Jarecki does not seem to have been even in the background on that deal.) After sprucing the place up, Mr. Tyler put it on the market last January for $18 million. The selling of the home has been kept in the Mason family, with Leslie Mason representing Mr. Tyler this time around. In early December, Dr. Jarecki and his wife, Gloria, bought the mansion for $16.5 million.

Brokers said Dr. Jarecki intends to use the mansion as a home and headquarters for his family’s charitable trust, the Timber Falls Foundation. Dr. Jarecki would not comment on the purchase.

Philanthropist is but one of the many hats the doctor wears. He was born in Germany, and received his medical degree in that country in 1957. He is currently assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and has a home in Rye, N.Y. He went into business in 1970 and is now chairman of the board of his own investment banking firm, the Falconwood Corporation. His most public success has been the sale of MovieFone Inc. to AOL–Time Warner in May 1999 for $351 million in stock. His most impressive private acquisition could be the island of Guana in the British Virgin Islands, which he bought in 1975 and made into a wildlife preserve and small resort where his friends and a few informed New Yorkers vacation.

Also notable has been his appointment to the troubled Sotheby’s board of directors in August. He and his wife also contributed $10,000 apiece to President Bill Clinton’s legal defense fund.

Owning 19 Gramercy Park will be another destinction. The buildings history dates back to 1844, when William Samuel Johnson, a prominent Whig politician, erected a house on the northerly portion of the site. In 1850, Mr. Johnson sold the house to Horace Brooks, a prosperous paper merchant, who built a stable on the unused land to the south and added a fifth story to the house in the French Second Empire style. In 1887, the very social Stuyvesant Fish family bought the house and spent over $130,000 to transform it into a bona fide society spot worthy of lavish parties, hiring Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White to design the alterations. (Mr. White lived across the park.)

The Fish family owned the mansion and rented out parts of it until 1909, and over the next 30 years, a number of well-known New Yorkers lived in the building’s apartments: Cecilia Beaux, Norman Thomas, Ludwig Bemelmans and actor John Barrymore. In 1931, legendary flack Benjamin Sonnenberg moved into a duplex apartment on the first two floors-with his collection of Old Master drawings, sculptures and English and Irish furniture. Mr. Sonnenberg combined the house with an adjacent six-story apartment building.

Ms. Mason said the combination didn’t hurt the house. “It flows as a one-family house,” she said. The six-story, 18,000-square-foot townhouse overlooks the park and has more than 37 rooms. A caretaker’s apartment is on the first floor. A master suite with his and hers bathrooms is on the third floor; they feature white marble fireplaces with Greek nymphs emerging from their shells on either side of the mantle. The fourth floor has three bedrooms and three bathrooms; Mr. Sonnenberg designed guest suites on the second and fifth floors.

The house also features a wine cellar, a William & Mary drawing room paneled with wood carvings, a library with 18th-century pine paneling from London, several sitting rooms, two kitchens, 13 fireplaces and a 25-by-40-foot penthouse ballroom with a musician’s raised balcony and a bar. Mr. Tyler had renovated the ballroom and used it for his fashion shows.

The ballroom has great views, but the house has no terrace or garden. “The roof cries out to be developed,” said Ms. Mason.

Just after selling this house, on Dec. 14, Mr. Tyler closed on a deal to buy a townhouse at 727 Washington Street for $6.1 million. (It had been on the market for $7.75 million.) Back in June, Mr. Tyler attended a book-signing party for the Architecture Address Book, published by Rizzoli International. “The minute Richard [Mr. Tyler] walked in, I had this vision that someone from the fashion world would buy the house and have a fashion show over the reflecting pool,” said broker Wendy Sarasohn of the Corcoran Group, who represented the sellers.

Indeed, Mr. Tyler will stage his February fashion show in the landmarked townhouse, whose glass roof and side panels open with James Bond–like drama to the envy of every New Yorker who ever wanted a terrace. The interior was renovated from 1989 to 1992 by architect Steven Mensch, who is married to Pamela Newhouse, the daughter of publisher S. I. Newhouse. In 1998, they sold the house to Raymond King, grandson of art collector and dealer C. C. Wang, for $3.922 million. Ms. Sarasohn said that Mr. King had sold his software company and moved to Portland, Ore., with his wife Deneen to start an Internet company.

Mr. Tyler outbid two other people for the four-story townhouse, which features three bedrooms, 10 built-in speakers, an alarm system with a camera, and eight back-lit trees in the courtyard. An office, which will be turned into a Richard Tyler boutique, is located on the ground floor; annual real estate taxes are $12,734.

Unlike Mr. Tyler, Dr. Jarecki and his wife have no plans to sell their prior residence on Pilgrim Road in Rye, according to brokers. That they will have their first party before February, however, is highly probable.

UPPER EAST SIDE

605 Park Avenue Two-bed, two-bath, 1,900-square-foot co-op Asking: $1.4 million. Selling: $1.3 million Charges: $2,080; 48 percent tax deductible Time on the market: four months

MIRROR, MIRROR ON EVERY WALL When asked to describe this apartment, broker Maria Theodore of Brown Harris Stevens said, “There were mirrors in the entrance gallery, mirrors on the ceilings, mirrors all around the dining room.” The couple that bought the place (she’s a designer) were two of very few visitors who were able to see a nice apartment beyond the reflecting glass. “It needed a lot of work,” added the broker. “It was a big job.” Or maybe the couple had no choice: They had been looking with Ms. Theodore for six months for an Upper East Side prewar apartment-and renting a place in the neighborhood-before taking this postwar apartment with all its potential. “It is a good size and it has great light,” Ms. Theodore said. “I’m sure they will create a magnificent apartment.”

211 East 61st Street Four-bed, 4 1¼2 bath, 4,100-square-foot townhouse. Asking: $4.195 million. Selling: $4.195 million. Time on the market: 10 days.

LEGAL SCOUT WRANGLES FIVE STORIES FROM OWNER Legal recruiter Elaine Dine, tired of living in a penthouse apartment at 1100 Park Avenue, was determined to find a townhouse on the Upper East Side. She said she “looked at 29 houses over the course of 13 months.” Ms. Dine looked with several brokers, and also kept tabs on new listings herself by checking the Internet every day. “I didn’t even know there were that many [houses] on the market,” said Lisa Wong, the broker for this house, which Ms. Dine bought in December. The five-story townhouse has a wine cellar, an enclosed glass conservatory and an imported Lalique staircase with crystal balustrades. After reading about the property online, Ms. Dine telephoned Ms. Wong and scheduled an appointment for the next day. While inside, Ms. Dine tried to call her lawyer from her cell phone. When she couldn’t get in touch with him, she invited Ms. Wong back to her apartment so as not to lose the sale to another anxious bidder. “She kidnapped me,” said Ms. Wong. “She asked me if I wanted to see her apartment-I thought maybe she wanted me to price it-she gave me some water, and the whole time she was trying to get in touch with her lawyer.” Ms.Dine finally did reach her lawyer and release Ms. Wong, and she signed a contract the following week. In the meantime, Ms. Dine has already sold her apartment all by herself, to a resident of the building who lived downstairs.

795 Fifth Avenue (the Pierre) One-bed, two-bath, 800-square-foot co-op. Asking: $725,000. Selling: $699,000. Charges: $2,115; 48 percent tax deductible. Time on the market: five months.

A HOTEL SUITE OF THEIR OWN It’s only one hour from Tuxedo Park to New York City, but it was one hour too long for the buyers of this 800-square-foot apartment at the Pierre, who desired a place to rest their shopping bags, clean up and hit the town again on occasion. The last place they had they’d frugally given up a few years ago. According to their broker, Lauren Muss of the Corcoran Group, after the couple had looked around at a few places, “we realized they liked hotel services.” That’s why they were patient with the seller, a businessman who was rarely available. “Nobody could reach him, nobody could find him,” said Ms. Muss. “We had an accepted offer in July, but nobody could find the owner to get a contract out.” But the buyers hung in there, and a contract was finally signed in September. “They were not happy [waiting], but this was the best place for them,” said their broker.

GREENWICH VILLAGE

692 Greenwich Street One-bed, 1 1¼2 bath, 1,600-square-foot condo. Asking: $999,000. Selling: $999,000. Charges: $429. Taxes: $632. Time on the market: two weeks.

LOVE AND THE HOCKEY STAR Just three weeks after moving into this apartment, which features 17 windows and a 700-square-foot terrace, former Chicago Blackhawk Ton Neiman, a professional hockey player in his mid-30’s, “met the girl of his dreams,” said broker Nancy Lee. The dream girl happened to live in California, however, and the athlete was forced to choose between his brand-new Greenwich Village condo and the love of his life. “He moved to Santa Monica and sold the apartment two and a half months later,” said his broker. And in this market, there was no penalty; Mr. Neiman made an extra $49,000 in the deal.

After Pining for It, Investor Jarecki Gets 19 Gramercy Park