Doumanian and Safra Sell House Where Cass Gilbert Lived

1895 HOUSE WILL GET $9.5 MILLION IF SALE BEATS JAN. 1 DEADLINE Jean Doumanian and her longtime boyfriend, Jaqui Safra, have sold the legendary limestone townhouse at 1 East 94th Street that Mr. Safra has owned for about 15 years. The buyer agreed to pay $9.5 million for the home where architect Cass Gilbert lived a century ago. The deal has a contingency that the sale be finalized before year’s end, brokers said.

This is not to be mistaken for the house where the couple now lives, on 75th Street just off Fifth Avenue. Nor was it the headquarters of their managing company, Global Pursuits, under which name the 94th Street house was owned. In fact, 1 East 94th Street has been unoccupied–except by two designers’ show houses–since Mr. Safra, the nephew of the late Edmond Safra, moved out several years ago.

Still, the house was a great keepsake for the couple. Ms. Doumanian produced all of Woody Allen’s films from 1993 until March of this year, including Small Time Crooks, Deconstructing Harry and Everyone Says I Love You . That partnership ended with Small Time Crooks earlier this year. Mr. Safra reportedly invested $30 million in Sweet and Low Down and had a bit part in Radio Days .

Mr. Safra bought 1 East 94th Street in 1986 for $2.3 million, and sources say that in June of 1999 he signed the house over to Global Pursuits. Mr. Safra’s assistant at Global Pursuits said the couple would not comment on the sale.

The house was built in 1895 by a local builder named Francis J. Schnugg, who lived there for 30 years. At that time, it had full views of Central Park, but by the time Cass Gilbert bought the house in 1925, the Willard Straight House (which formerly housed the International Center of Photography) had been built, blocking almost all its western views. Mr. Gilbert redid the exterior and interior of the house, extending the house to the plot line and turning the basement into a new entry floor. On the second floor, he created a three-room suite entirely paneled in pine and oak. Mr. Gilbert lived in the house until 1943, when he moved to an apartment on Park Avenue.

At that time, 1 East 94th Street was remodeled into three apartments: a triplex on the three lower floors, a four-room apartment on the fourth floor and a duplex on the top two floors. A garage was also added. Now the house has five bedrooms, five fireplaces, a formal garden with brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows in the drawing room. The house still gets light from every direction, said townhouse specialist Paula Del Nunzio of Brown Harris Stevens.

Not that it made this house an easy sell. The mansion originally came on the market in April. At that time, the co-brokers, Marilyn Kaye of Prudential MLB Kaye International Realty and Joanna Kimberley of J.P. Kimberley Inc., listed the asking price at between $15 million and $19.995 million, a type of listing called value-range marketing. “Basically what it means is that they’ll take $15 million,” said one source.

But no one bit. “It was a preposterous asking price,” said one broker, and so the price kept dropping. On July 17, the range dropped to between $13.5 and $14.995 million. On Sept. 15, the range was abandoned and the sellers were asking a straight-up $13.5 million. Throughout October, the price dropped incrementally to $12 million, and by November, the asking price was $9.75 million–if the buyer would agree to close by the end of the year. On Nov. 15, the price dropped even further, to $9.5 million.

The last drop in price finally drummed up some interested buyers and, according to Ms. Kaye, six offers were made, mostly by families who wanted to use the house as a single-family home, but also by a few schools. The buyer was represented by Anna Burak of Ashforth Warburg Associates.

“In the end, it was a very good deal,” said one source. “The house was overpriced in the beginning, but it’s a nice house for that price.”


A MANSION IN NEED OF A DEBUTANTE This summer, the Leo Baeck Institute, a research center devoted to the history and culture of German-speaking Jews, decided to sell the neo-Italianate mansion it occupies at 129 East 73rd Street. And why not? An extra $7.3 million can cover a lot of archiving.

Until July, when the market for Upper East Side mansions reached new heights, the institute had been using the building as its headquarters for more than 35 years. It moved into new offices in the building known at the Center for Jewish History, located at 15 West 16th Street. (The building also houses four other not-for-profit agencies that support Jewish scholarship, art and history.)

The townhouse first went on the market in October 1999 for $8.975 million–but no serious potential buyers were given a peek until it was vacated. Barbara Stone of Marcus & Millichap, the firm selling the townhouse, said that during the first two weeks in December, the mansion has been shown to “several prominent New York and European families for use as their residence,” as well as “a well-known gallery owner and a foreign consulate.”

The townhouse, between Park and Lexington avenues, was designed by Harry Allan Jacobs for Charles S. Guggenheimer, a prominent attorney at the turn of the century. The 22-foot-wide neo-Italianate mansion features a limestone and marble façade, original moldings and approximately 9,545 square feet, plus a full usable basement with oversized ceiling height. It also has a grand entry with marble floors and curved stairway, eight wood-burning fireplaces and a library with a vaulted ceiling and French doors.

“With prices for state-of-the-art renovated buildings exceeding $1,500 per square foot, this building offers tremendous potential,” said Ms. Stone.

But, according to another broker, “it’s a complete mess. It needs absolutely everything.” The renovation could cost another fortune.

200 East 71st Street

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

Asking: $1.275 million. Selling: $1.250 million.

Charges: $1,793; 40 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

THE LEAST-CRAPPY $1.5 MILLION APARTMENT In September, a high-tech software executive left her job to become a full-time apartment finder. She and her husband (who works as a managing director at an investment bank) could no longer delay finding a bigger place now that they were expecting a child. After interviewing several brokers referred to her by friends, the soon-to-be mom settled on Marcy Sigler of Stribling & Associates to help her find a new home. The dream? “I wanted Upper East Side, high floor, lots of light and a quiet apartment. I said it would be ideal if we could get a terrace, but I never thought we’d get one, and we ideally wanted a three bedroom,” she said. The trouble? The couple’s price range was between $1 million and $1.5 million, and “there are a lot of crappy apartments out there for $1.5 million.” After a one-week whirlwind tour of the Upper East Side, Ms. Sigler took the mom-to-be to this apartment that fit all the criteria (even the terrace), and she had to have it. The couple made an offer; the seller accepted and honored their deal–even after another interested buyer came along and offered more money.

125 East 63rd Street

Two-bed, two-and-a-half-bath, 1,400-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $895,000. Selling: $873,000.

Charges: $1,771; 30 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: four months.

WHEN 1,400 SQUARE FEET IS TOO MUCH It’s almost unheard of in New York: Both parties involved in this sale just had too much space. The seller, a businessman who does not live in the United States, had bought this apartment as a pied-à-terre , but didn’t use it as much as he thought he would. The buyers were selling their townhouse and looking for just two bedrooms, since they also spend time at their home on Long Island. “They had this great big townhouse that they didn’t need,” explained their broker. This two-bedroom apartment in a small prewar building has a fireplace and a large beamed living room, and overlooks a garden. The buyers will do some work on the place before moving in.


54 Hamilton Terrace

Six-bed, four 1/2 bath, 4,000-square-foot townhouse.

Asking: $1.2 million. Selling: $850,000.

Time on the market: 1 1/2 years.

THE MOST EXPENSIVE HOUSE IN HARLEM Here’s how to sell the priciest old home above 125th Street: Take the potential buyers–in this case, a Chinese couple who were buying the place for their son, a recent Columbia graduate–to visit it on “Hi Neighbor Day,” an informal block party in Hamilton Heights. “They shut the street down, and there’s free food and booze, and everybody is coming out of their houses,” said Willie Kathryn Suggs, the exclusive broker on the deal. “The former president of our block was flirting with the kid.” Who could resist? Especially when the four-story house comes with eight fireplaces, original parquet floors, pocket sliding doors and a decorative tin ceiling, and was renovated recently. “He wanted something he could move right into,” said Ms. Suggs. The house is 17 feet wide and has a garden, a deck and a doorbell that can play 20 different songs. The deal closed in early November.


444 Central Park West

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

Asking: $899,000. Selling: $899,000.

Charges: $1,216; 40 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: five days.

CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC About a year ago, a family with small children was relocated to New York. They took a rental on the Upper East Side and started to make a life for themselves. The only problem: that life was across town. The kids went to an Upper West Side school, and many of their parents’ playmates lived in that neighborhood, too. When they decided to buy a place, they logged onto the Internet and found this six-and-a-half-room apartment with Central Park views–from the west–in the same building as one of their new friends. Of course, there were several other families interested in this apartment, despite the fact that it needed lots of work. They had to offer a sealed bid, but it was the one accepted. Not that they’ve moved in yet–because of the extensive renovation, they can’t take up residence until the new year. The apartment was sold by Carol Gat and Anna Kopel of the Corcoran Group. Doumanian and Safra Sell House Where Cass Gilbert Lived