Fifth Avenue Co-op That Snubbed Oilman Welcomes Another

RONALD STANTON GETS INTO 998 FIFTH, DESPITE HIS PREDECESSOR’S DIFFICULTY The co-op board of 998 Fifth Avenue has finally let someone buy the 16-room apartment of Archibald Cox Jr. In mid-November, the son of the Watergate prosecutor and his wife, Jean, sold the co-op for close to the asking price of $16 million to Ronald Stanton, chairman and chief executive of Transammonia Inc., a company that trades and ships chemical products.

The sale has been an ordeal, since the fussy board of the building–which is composed of a representative of every apartment–drove away the first buyer. The building postponed two meetings with Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani, chairman of Mondoil Corporation, a New Mexico-based oil company, and his wife Sharmin, a managing director at Goldman Sachs & Company, who had signed a contract for the apartment in May. The couple gave up trying to purchase the apartment in September.

But in mid-November, the board quickly signed off on Mr. Stanton. This despite the fact that Mr. Stanton and his wife, Mei, had been turned down at 927 Fifth Avenue, where they wanted to buy an $11.2 million apartment earlier this year. That apartment sold to Kenneth Cole and his wife, Maria Cuomo Cole, in March.

Perhaps 998 Fifth Avenue’s board was impressed that Mr. Stanton’s company was No. 129 on Forbes magazine’s list of the top 500 private companies in November 2000. Mr. Stanton, who is on the boards of Lincoln Center and Yeshiva University, had been one of two or three buyers who had been waiting in the wings to pounce on Mr. Cox’s 998 Fifth apartment if the Mossavar-Rahmanis’ deal fell through. He signed a contract on Sept. 25 and put his three-bedroom, second-floor apartment at 920 Fifth Avenue on the market for $11.95 million. (He bought it in 1994 for about $6 million.)

When Mr. Stanton’s deal closes, he’ll get the keys to a 5,000-plus-square-foot place with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a huge gallery, a corner master bedroom and a library facing Central Park. The maintenance is $6,600.

His future neighbors include Morton Hyman, the board president, who runs a company called Overseas Shipholding Group and is also chairman of the board of trustees of Beth Israel Medical Center; Stephen Mann, a lawyer and real estate investor and the board’s vice president and treasurer; socialite Ann Slater; Joseph Perella, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter’s managing director and worldwide head of investment banking; Steven Rattner, a founder of the Quadrangle Group, an investment fund in New York; and Nathan Bernstein, a former managing director at Lazard Frères & Company and an art dealer.

Vacant apartments in the building are a rare commodity, but a 14-room apartment on the fourth floor went on the market in July for $16.5 million, represented by Gumley Haft Kleier.

MAKEUP KING FRANÇOIS NARS WANTS ONTO C.P.W. Cosmetics maker and photographer François Nars signed a contract to buy two apartments in the El Dorado, 300 Central Park West, in November for about $5 million. The 26th-floor apartments are in the building’s south tower and will be combined to create a three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment that will occupy the entire floor.

Mr. Nars, who could not be reached for comment, does not yet have a date to meet the co-op board of the 1929 Art Deco building, which was designed by Emery Roth. Brokers said that before he settled on the El Dorado, Mr. Nars had seriously considered buying a $7.5 million apartment at 271 Central Park West. The apartments he wants went on the market on Oct. 20; maintenance is $3,113 per month.

Mr. Nars, who was born in France, moved to New York in 1984. He launched his cosmetics line in 1994. The lipsticks bear a minimalist logo by graphic artist Fabien Baron and have naughty names like “Baby Doll” and “Candy Darling.” Mr. Nars has said that his goal was to create a product that looked the same in the tube as it did on the model’s face. He’s also a fan of convenience: One product, aptly named “The Multiple,” is a color for cheeks, eyes and lips.

His photo book of makeup tips, called Makeup Your Mind , will be published next September by PowerHouse Books, which published his first book, X-Ray, in November 1999. That time around, Mr. Nars took the photos and Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley wrote the text.

Mr. Nars’ broker, Robby Browne of Douglas Elliman, wouldn’t comment on the deal, and John Burger of Brown Harris Stevens, who represented the seller, didn’t return calls.

UPPER EAST SIDE

740 PARK AVENUE TO STEPHEN SCHWARZMAN: NO HAMMERING ‘TIL SPRING! Some things even tycoons can’t change. Foremost among them in Manhattan are certain co-op house rules. Take the case of Stephen Schwarzman, the investor who paid a cool $35 million for the apartment of Saul Steinberg at 740 Park Avenue earlier this year. The move made him the owner of the most expensive co-op apartment in Manhattan. But when Mr. Schwarzman started making over his new palace, the board wouldn’t budge.

Like other top-tier buildings, 740 Park allows “heavy work” to be done only from mid-May through mid-September, when most tenants, like Ronald Lauder and Courtney Sale Ross, are safely ensconced in their summer homes. Mr. Schwarzman hired architect Peter Marino to oversee the project and did some work last summer. On Oct. 25, he had a permit approved to further renovate two floors for $167,000. However, the president of the board at 740 Park, Charles Stevenson, an investor who was a Yale undergrad with Mr. Schwarzman, said the board had ruled that the renovations were too extensive to begin anytime soon. They included opening an elevator that had been closed for security reasons by John D. Rockefeller Jr., the apartment’s original tenant.

When he presented his plans to the board of his new building last spring, Mr. Schwarzman did not succeed in finding a way around their opposition. “He obviously expressed some disappointment with the rules,” said Mr. Stevenson, but “he was pretty decent about not harassing the shit out of the board …. There are a lot of people with a lot of money that are complete shits, and he’s not one.”

However, there was some suspicion that the plans that Mr. Schwarzman submitted to his neighbors were just the tip of the iceberg. “One hundred and sixty thousand dollars won’t paint that apartment!” declared one tenant. Said another: “[Mr.] Marino doesn’t do little things.”

Under the circumstances, Mr. Schwarzman will be lucky if he finishes his renovations by next fall, but for now he’s shacking up in a hotel. Last March, he sold his duplex apartment at 950 Fifth Avenue for about $18 million to Dennis Kozlowski, chairman of the board and chief executive of Tyco International Ltd., a Bermuda-based company that makes industrial gadgets.

UPPER EAST SIDE

799 Park Avenue

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

Asking: $975,000. Selling: $915,000.

Charges: $1,875; 50 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

PARK AVENUE FOR UNDER $1 MILLION A couple of empty-nesters from Long Island had been looking for a New York City apartment for several years. Their initial plan was to keep their Long Island place and buy a pied-à-terre in Manhattan to use on the weekends. Instead, they bought a place in Florida and continued their pursuit of a two-bedroom on Park or Fifth avenues in the $1 million price range. This apartment, near 74th Street, had belonged to a concert pianist until she was well into her 90’s. “She had very old things that at one time were very beautiful,” said the selling broker, Ann Macaluso of Douglas Elliman. “But now the apartment has to be renovated and brought up to the year 2000.” The new buyers plan to redo everything, starting with new kitchens and bathrooms and all new floors.

UPPER WEST SIDE

190 Riverside Drive

Three-bed, three-bath, 3,315-square-foot condo.

Asking: $3.2 million. Selling: $3.2 million.

Charges: $1,977. Taxes: $784.

Time on the market: one day.

STAKEOUT A family made sure to have a 9 a.m. appointment on the day this 11th-floor corner apartment (actually two apartments that need to be combined) came on the market. They had already missed out on the last apartment that was sold in this 11-story building, where rental apartments are being combined into large condominiums, and they had to wait three months before two adjacent apartments were vacated. They’re in such a hurry that they’re not waiting for the developer–the Property Markets Group, who bought the building in 1966–to recombined the apartments; they’re going to do it themselves. Although the apartments in this building were chopped up years ago, much of the original detail has remained intact. The family’s recombined apartment will have an oak-paneled living room and dining room and lots of other turn-of-the-century details. There is a small glass-enclosed sitting area off the dining room, and the apartment has south, east and north exposures.

SUTTON PLACE

200 East 57th Street

Four-bed, four-bath, 3,500-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $1.645 million. Selling: $1.645 million.

Charges: $3,639; 50 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

THE BIG BARGAINS ARE UP HERE! A couple in their early 40’s with one kid had been living in Chelsea without enough space. They looked around several downtown neighborhoods, including Chelsea and Tribeca, but soon gave up on the idea of finding something in a location they liked and just started looking for the most space they could get for a million and a half. They ended up on 57th Street!–or, to put it another way, on the corner of Third Avenue!–with 3,500 square feet. The largest inexpensive apartment they could find was right in the heart of Sutton Place; it hadn’t been renovated in 25 years. “It was well kept, but the buyers are going to renovate the apartment completely,” said Stribling Wels & Gay’s Yury Holohan, their broker.

Fifth Avenue Co-op That Snubbed Oilman Welcomes Another