Leader of Qatar-and Al Jazeera-Cancels Bid on 2 East 63rd Street

Just as the New York Academy of Sciences was poised to Sign Up For Our Daily Newsletter Sign Up Thank

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accept a $27 million bid for its mansion on East 63rd Street off of Fifth

Avenue, that offer-from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad

bin Khalifa al-Thani-was

rescinded in early October.

The Emir, the highest official of the nation of Qatar, has

come under fire recently for the apparent relationship of his government-owned

network, Al Jazeera, with terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden-airing unedited footage of Mr. bin Laden’s statements and reportedly ferrying questions to him

on behalf of CNN. Spokesmen for the Emir and the Academy said they didn’t know

why his offer for 2 East 63rd Street

was withdrawn, or whether it had anything to do with the events of Sept. 11.

“At the moment, there is no interest in that building,” said

Robert W. Thabit, the legal advisor to Qatar’s

permanent mission at the United Nations. “I prefer not to discuss it; this is a

matter that involves the security of the Emir.”

The Emir made the offer back in May; employees of the New

York Academy of Sciences said it was for $27 million. Richard Ravitch, a member of the Academy’s board of governors and

the head of a subcommittee working to sell the building, said only that the

offer was “well over $20 million.”

Academy spokesman Fred Marino confirmed that the offer had

been on the agenda of the Academy’s Oct. 9 board meeting until it was retracted

only days before. Several board members said the offer

would have been accepted at that meeting. “They’ve been negotiating for months,

and we had every right to assume that he was interested. And we finally agreed

on their price,” said Mr. Ravitch. “I haven’t the

vaguest idea why he pulled out of it.”

Paul Massey of Massey Knakal

Realty, the Academy’s broker, said that as of Oct. 16, the building was “still

on the market.”

The 75-foot-wide, four-story mansion is laid out in a

20,646-square-foot sprawl that includes a basement, a sub-basement and a

penthouse. The mansion was built in 1919 for William Ziegler, a prominent

businessman, politician and then-president of the American Foundation for the

Blind, and it was designed by Stern and Wolfe in a neo–Italian Renaissance style.

The building is set apart from the run-of-the-mill town house by its stone

façade, round-arched entrance and large window with scroll cornices and

cartouches; the interior features ornate moldings, a grand central staircase,

fireplaces and large entertainment rooms, including a ballroom overlooking a

generous courtyard-all in the Renaissance style. In 1929, Norman Baily Woolworth, of the retail-store family dynasty, bought

the house and lived there with his family until 1949, when he donated it to the

prestigious New York Academy of Sciences.

According to Mr. Marino, the Emir was looking for a New

York residence, and would have returned the mansion

to its original single-family use had he bought it. Some speculated that recent

events had something to do with the Emir’s decision. “I’m not sure what

happened; it may have something to do with the current situation in terms of …

terrorist problems or something,” said Jacqueline Leo, a member of the

Academy’s board of governors and the editor in chief of Reader’s Digest.

But one source close to the deal surmised that it was just

business as usual in the high-end townhouse market. “We understand that they

were also dickering for another building,” said the source, “so we suspect they

might have been playing one against the other for a while.” That building is

the Lycée Français’ Beaux

Arts–style residence at 9 East 72nd Street,

currently on the market for $25 million with the Corcoran Group.

When the Emir started looking for an extra-large residence

in the spring, word spread quickly among the handful of brokers who sell the

most expensive townhouses. Jed Garfield, a broker with Leslie J. Garfield &

Co., said he was contacted by a banker who was an associate of the Emir early

last summer. When Mr. Garfield found something he thought would interest the

Emir, he contacted the banker, but never heard back.

The nation of Qatar

already owns a 1,956-square-foot, eight-room condominium apartment in the St.

James Tower at 415

East 54th Street. City records show that it was

purchased in January 1999 for $1.15 million. But Mr. Thabit

would not respond to questions about the apartment’s use by Qatar

or its dignitaries.

Meanwhile, the Academy-which in June made a much-criticized

financial decision to shut down The Sciences, an award-winning magazine with

big-name contributing editors like Stephen Jay Gould, Laurence Marschall, Rosamond Purcell, Robert Sapolsky

and Hans Christian von Baeyer-is unable to pursue its

consolidation plans until it finds a buyer for 2 East

63rd Street.

When the Emir withdrew his offer to buy the mansion, the

Academy was negotiating to rent a full-floor office in the Ziff-Davis building

at 1 Park Avenue, which

would have eliminated its current need for back-office space at Madison Avenue

and 59th Street. “We don’t

have adequate meeting space here,” explained Mr. Marino. “We had our annual

meeting eight months ago, and it was spread across several rooms in the

building …. Part of the thing was to find a space that allows us to have bigger


Mr. Ravitch said the plan was to

sign a lease at 1 Park as soon as the board approved the sale of the 63rd

Street building. But after the terrorist attack

created a stampede for midtown office space and the Emir backed out, the

Academy eventually had to let the space go.

Now board members are hunkering down for a long wait until

the next serious buyer comes along. “There are so many of these upper-end

properties sitting on the market,” said Kathleen Burns-Hoffman, director of

townhouses for the real-estate brokerage William B. May. “[The houses] are

quite nice, but there are so many fewer people that can afford to pay for that.

And even when they can, some are almost too big to live in comfortably.”

Since the Academy’s plans were objectionable to some of its

members, the fact that the mansion won’t be sold-at least for now-is not seen

as a crisis. “I don’t think there’s anyone on the board who is going to say,

‘This has to be done tomorrow,'” said Ms. Leo. “There’s no reason to think




33 East End Avenue

One-bed, one-bath, 1,100-square-foot


Asking: $505,000. Selling: $495,000.

Charges: $1,248; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: six weeks.

MESSAGE IN A BARGE Some claim that

residents who live in this building near 81st Street

can actually tell what kind of boat is going by on the river by the sound it

makes. According to Michael Mansur, an Insignia

Douglas Elliman broker who has sold several

apartments in this building, it’s a particular talent that comes from spending

lots of time on the terraces that look out directly over the river. But the

psychologist who sold this apartment probably didn’t have that kind of time.

She lived here for two and a half years before getting married and moving to Seattle.

During that time, she redid the bathroom and kitchen and added new lighting

fixtures. On the other hand, the couple who bought the place were

immediately drawn to the river views from the large windows in the living room

and the dining room on several visits before signing a contract. (They closed

on the place on Oct.4.)  The place

clearly spoke to them.


465 Park Avenue

(the Ritz Tower)

1,200-square-foot, one-bedroom,

one-and-a-half-bath co-op.

Asking: $795,000. Selling: $770,000.

Maintenance: $2,700; 45 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one week.

THE LITTLE DEAL THAT COULD On the morning of Sept. 11, on

her way out of the house for the law offices of Stroock,

Stroock and Lavan, broker

Terri Stone of Charles H. Greenthal got a phone call

from the buyer of this apartment. “‘Turn on the TV,'” Ms. Stone said the woman

told her. “There it was: the first plane. I immediately called the attorney

representing the buyer, and I said, ‘Well, gee, this is a terrible accident,’

and can they messenger the papers to the [law firm’s] uptown office and make

the appointment a little later?” The sale of this apartment had been scheduled

for that morning. But when the second plane hit, the deal faded into the

background for a couple of days-until the buyer called again, still interested

and anxious to complete the deal. “Everything was a little bit upside-down in

terms of locating paperwork,” Ms. Stone said. The law firm’s offices, three

blocks away from the World Trade

Center site, were closed. “Ten days

later, we closed, and my buyers were thrilled,” Ms. Stone said. A married

couple eager to settle down in the “heart of the city” (though they own several

properties elsewhere), the buyers wanted a full-service building, and the Ritz

Tower fit the bill, with a four-star restaurant exclusively serving building

residents and their guests, a full-time doorman and concierge, and a business

center, fitness center and cleaning service available. The sellers, an older

couple, were getting the same treatment, but down South.



260 West 11th Street

3,345-square-foot, four-story townhouse.

Asking: $3.2 million. Selling: $3


Time on the market: six weeks.

UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS When an estate put this town

house-owned by the same man for almost 40  years-on the market for $3.2 million

with Jackie Vincent of the Corcoran Group, it was bucking a trend. Divided into

two apartments, the townhouse was marketed as such rather than as a potential

one-family home. The strategy made sense, since the two duplex apartments have

different styles: the lower one more contemporary, with a brand-new kitchen,

and the upper one almost entirely intact from the building’s 1840 origins. But

the Harvard-educated young couple, both in banking, who bought the place after

six weeks will have it both ways: They’ll occupy the

upper duplex until they have the time and capital to renovate the entire place

and take it over for themselves. In the meantime, their broker, Corcoran’s

Scott Stewart, got a second job: finding a renter to pay $6,000 a month for the

lower duplex. Mr. Stewart said that the income will help ease the couple’s pain

at having to be so far away from their “beautiful planted garden,” which, at

nearly 30 feet long, is much bigger than is standard in the area-at least for


Leader of Qatar-and Al Jazeera-Cancels Bid on 2 East 63rd Street