Lang’s Strange Trip

For more than two centuries, just three miles away from Helmut Lang’s oceanfront summer house on Tyson Lane (the kind

For more than two centuries, just three miles away from Helmut Lang’s oceanfront summer house on Tyson Lane (the kind of place where rubbernecking at the hedgerow is a summer diversion for the less well-heeled), there sat a little farmhouse, far from the glitz of the current Hamptons scene. It was a place reminiscent of earlier times, when painters, poets and actors lodged in shabby-chic bungalows among the potato fields and ran up and down the Hamptons beaches, declaiming Shakespeare to the seagulls by the hour.

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So what was the Austrian fashion designer up to when he bought this modest, landlocked, three-bedroom house?

In February, Mr. Lang sealed a $1.5 million deal on the shingle-style residence built in the 1700’s. It hasn’t had a major renovation in recent memory, and a broker familiar with the property said it was “kind of falling apart.” Mr. Lang declined to tell The Observer what he’s going to do with it or to comment on the sale.

It’s a fair amount of property: The 6.7-acre property sits on a northern stretch of Three Mile Harbor Road, near an inlet of the Long Island Sound. It’s about three miles away-almost another world, by East Hampton standards-from Tyson Lane.

Assuming it’s not Mr. Lang’s intention to tear the main structures down, he’s got a two-story house with two bathrooms, a few smallish windows, wide-plank flooring and a chimney to work with, as well as a large barn.

Mr. Lang’s new property belonged to the estate of an Abstract Expressionist artist named John Little, who died in 1984 and left behind this bit of artsy, old-school Hamptons. Little had founded a company that produced fabrics and wallpaper inspired by the work of the Abstract Expressionists, who famously made the Hamptons their playground. He used the large barn as his studio.

“What was wonderful about the house was the incredible barn,” said the broker who described the place to The Observer . “Actually, the barn was much nicer than the house.”


Developers of condominiums have been getting trounced by the State Attorney General’s office lately for failing to provide the kind of top-notch construction that apartment-buyers were promised in their offering plans.

The latest to be forced to pony up money for condo owners is the developer of a Tribeca condominium tower that is home to Mariah Carey and Bob Vila. The sponsors there have agreed in principle to pay $1 million to the building’s condo board to settle complaints arising from building defects.

The building, Franklin Tower, located at 90 Franklin Street, is a 17-story former office building that was converted into 25 luxury apartments in 1999. Ms. Carey has a triplex penthouse unit, and Mr. Vila has a floor-through apartment directly below her. In June of 2001, The Observer has learned, residents of the building filed a formal complaint with the State Attorney General’s office, in which they alleged that the building had many defects which the building’s sponsors-Corn Associates, in which developer Robert A. Levine is a principal-hadn’t disclosed to the buyers.

According to an independent engineer contracted by Corn Associates and the Attorney General, those defects included window leaks, loose bricks in the building’s façade, drainage problems with air-conditioning units and defects in the building’s fire-proofing insulation.

“Some of it was trivial, some of it was major,” said Assistant Attorney General Oliver Rosengart, who is handling the complaints.

The complaint did not take the form of a lawsuit; rather, it’s a negotiation that Mr. Rosengart is brokering between the condo board and the building’s sponsors.

Scott Mollen, Corn Associates’ attorney, said that his clients have been “cooperating aggressively” with the Attorney General and the condo board.

“We are working in a positive and constructive way to reach a resolution that will provide a truly win/win situation,” he said.

Mr. Rosengart, who handles many such cases for the Attorney General’s office, echoed Mr. Mollen’s characterization of the relatively cordial settlement procedure.

“The way they’ve handled it demonstrates that the sponsor has been cooperative,” he said.

It still remains for the sponsor and Franklin Tower’s condo board to hammer out some particulars of the settlement, but Mr. Rosengart anticipates that everything will be resolved in a matter of weeks.

“There’s a basic agreement, and now the details about that agreement are being worked out,” he said.

And as for the allotment of the approximately $1 million settlement, Mr. Rosengart said that the money “is going to the building, and the building will do what it pleases with it.”

By the way, if you’re interested in becoming Ms. Carey’s downstairs neighbor, Mr. Vila’s apartment is on the market-and it has been reduced in price from $5.25 million to $4.5 million. The Corcoran Group has the exclusive.


As the owner of places like the Mercer Hotel in Soho and the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, hotelier André Balazs knows a thing or two about luxury accommodations. So when a 25-foot-wide Greenwich Village townhouse came on the market last spring, he snapped it up for the asking price of $4.2 million before most brokers were even aware it had hit the market.

Mint-condition 25-footers on West 12th Street don’t come along that often.

Sometime in the intervening months, however, Mr. Balazs and his wife, Ford Models president Katie Ford, decided that townhouses weren’t their thing. So they traded up: In late February, they closed on a 6,166-square-foot Soho loft that listed at close to $3.995 million, and put their townhouse on the market for $7 million, without ever having moved in.

A spokesperson said of Mr. Balazs and Ms. Ford: “They just didn’t want to live in a townhouse. They wanted to live in a loft.”

Their new apartment takes up the entire fifth floor of 59 Wooster Street, a landmark co-op loft building on the corner of Broome Street. It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a 100-foot southern exposure, a 75-foot exposure to the east, and north and west windows facing a courtyard. The loft also boasts a 1,500-bottle wine cellar, a huge gourmet kitchen, library and separate laundry room.

The townhouse they put on the market is located at 16 West 12th Street, an area known as the Gold Coast of Greenwich Village. Mr. Balazs and Ms. Ford bought it in May of 2002 from Condé Nast International chairman Jonathan Newhouse, who lives in London with his wife, Ronnie Cooke Newhouse, a founding editor of the original Details magazine, a former creative director of Barneys and the owner of her own creative consultancy in London. They had purchased the property in 1993 for $1.86 million. The townhouse is a two-unit building, with a medical office on the ground floor and an 11,000-square-foot, three-story apartment above.


For the last 30 years, sculptor Tony Rosenthal used the first-floor garage of his carriage house at 173 East 73rd Street as a work studio. Although he’s best known for creating Alamo , the huge swiveling cube on Astor Place, Mr. Rosenthal has also erected numerous other prominent pieces of installation art across the city. At 88 years old, he’s still sculpting-but soon he’ll be taking his chisels and soldering torches out of town.

Mr. Rosenthal recently sold the three-story building for $3.996 million and moved to Southampton, where his second wife has family. Reached by phone on the day of his departure, Mr. Rosenthal sounded stoic about the loss of his three-decade-old home and workspace.

“I’ve done a lot of work here, so there could be some nostalgia,” he said. “But I’m not allowing it. No, I’ve decided it’s going to be a new life for me out there, and I’m anxious to go.”

Alamo was installed on Astor Place in 1967, and was soon after accepted as the city’s first permanent contemporary outdoor public sculpture. Some of his subsequent Manhattan installations include Steel Park , a minipark of rectangular metal pieces at 80th Street and First Avenue; Rondo , a polished bronze disk in front of the Public Library branch on East 58th Street; and Five in One , a series of interlocking disks near Police Plaza in lower Manhattan. Mr. Rosenthal’s first wife, Halina, who died in 1991, was among the co-founders as well as the first president of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, a not-for-profit preservation advocacy organization.

The buyer of Mr. Rosenthal’s home is a commercial real-estate developer who intends to use the property to house his family. He snagged it at the asking price, just shy of $4 million. Apparently, it’s been a while since the house last got a face-lift.

“The house has a lot of character, but it needs a renovation,” said the buyer’s broker, Lydia Rosengarten of Leslie J. Garfield & Co.

The three-bedroom, 4,600-square-foot building is 20 feet wide and has a garden at the rear of the studio, in addition to a planted terrace on the third floor. Ms. Rosengarten said that the new owner plans to add a fourth floor to the property.

Brokers Stephen Perlo and Sarah Bond, both of the Corcoran Group, shared the exclusive on the property.


303 East 57th Street

Three-bedroom, four-bathroom co-op.

Asking: $1.375 million. Selling: $1.193 million.

Maintenance: $4,192; 48 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: 14 weeks.

A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL Real-estate broker Larry Kaiser and the Panamanian ambassador to the United Nations, Mary Morgan-Moss, were recently walking across a narrow suspension bridge that spanned the Panama Canal when the talk turned to apartments. Mr. Kaiser, the president of Key Ventures Realty, was in Panama to attend the wedding of the ambassador’s daughter. On the last day of his trip, Mr. Kaiser decided to do some business. “We were crossing this rickety little bridge-which wasn’t open to the public, it’s only open to officials-and I said, ‘Mary, when you get back to New York, I want to start showing you some apartments.'” According to Mr. Kaiser, Ms. Morgan-Moss considered his statement for a moment, and then replied by gesturing toward the vista before them and saying, “Larry, this is what I want: light, water, views.” Mr. Kaiser had just the place in mind, so when they returned to Manhattan, he brought her to the Excelsior, where he sold her this spread of two combined units. It has tremendous light, terraces, and eastern and southern views of the East River. “It’s like Panama in New York,” said Mr. Kaiser. Ms. Morgan-Moss also liked the expansive spread of the place, according to Mr. Kaiser, because she and her husband, an investment banker and real-estate developer at RBC Dain Rauscher, “love entertaining.”

Lang’s Strange Trip