Sayonara, Park Avenue

Now that renovations are nearly complete on the East 62nd Street mansion that the Japanese government purchased in 1998 for its ambassador to the United Nations, the ambassador’s current residence at 740 Park Avenue is set to hit the market for about $20 million.

“We plan to sell it,” confirmed a spokesman for the Japanese mission to the U.N. “We’re in the final stages of our internal conversation, but we haven’t decided yet [about the price].”

The 18-room duplex apartment sits on the fourth and fifth floors of the ultra-exclusive Park Avenue co-op building. The Japanese government, which has owned the space since 1962, has yet to finish negotiating with brokerage agency Brown Harris Stevens to bring the property to the market, but the government’s spokesman said the move was imminent.

“We haven’t formally decided to sign a contract with Brown Harris Stevens,” he said. “But the ambassador is moving out to his new residence.”

And what a residence: In December of 1998, the Japanese government paid $21.5 million for the 22,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts mansion at 11 East 62nd Street, then the highest price ever paid for a Manhattan townhouse. For the last 55 years, it had been the headquarters of the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, an aptitude-testing center. Michael Jackson was the only individual who seriously considered buying it.

Despite the record-breaking price tag, the 1898 property was a real fixer-upper, and the ongoing renovations now stretch back over three years. Asked about the ordeal, the Japanese spokesman pointed to the city’s stringent construction regulations.

“You really need to renovate it properly,” he said. “We want to preserve the beauty of this Beaux-Arts building, and at the same time, it’s necessary to meet the requirements of current landmark building rules.”

The spokesman said it still isn’t clear when the Japanese ambassador, Koichi Haraguchi, and his wife will be able to move into their new home.

But the apartment they leave behind is in one of the Upper East Side’s most storied buildings. Over the years, 740 Park-located on the corner of 71st Street-has been home to John D. Rockefeller Jr., Edgar Bronfman, Ronald Lauder, Henry Kravis, Marshall Field, Faith Golding (the first Mrs. Ronald Perelman), and Steve Ross’ widow, Courtney Sale Ross. It was also home to the most expensive co-op sale in New York history: financier Steven Schwartzman’s $37 million purchase, in March 2000, of Saul Steinberg’s 34-room triplex penthouse-part of the spread originally built for Rockefeller.

The Japanese ambassador’s current residence has six bedrooms, two libraries, seven maid’s rooms, and eight and a half baths. Brokers at Brown Harris Stevens declined to comment on any aspect of their expected exclusive.

Dentist Shakes Astronaut Hero’s Hand in $400 K. Upper East Side Closing

As one of the original seven right-stuff Mercury astronauts, NASA pilot Scott Carpenter was the second American to orbit Earth. But he’s through orbiting Manhattan for a while, now that his wife’s Upper East Side pied-à-terre has been sold to a dentist from Florida. And, as is often the case with real estate like this, hero-worship played a role in sealing this deal.

The apartment’s new owners, Dr. Charles and Sheila Haas, who have been married for almost 40 years, started their search for a retirement home in New York at No. 4A East 87th Street-a large, white-brick co-op building off Madison Avenue. Mrs. Haas liked the apartment they saw there, but her husband wanted to keep looking. They both left without realizing that the pied-à-terre was home to the NASA astronaut and his wife, who live primarily in Vail, Colo.

The dentist and his wife then embarked on an eight-month odyssey of apartment hunting with Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy broker Rob Kuhar. After two particularly frustrating deals fell apart, the dentist’s wife inquired again about No. 5 East 87th Street. It was still available.

“Sheila loved it even more than the first time she saw it,” said Mr. Kuhar. “[And] as we were walking through the apartment, Dr. Haas noticed some of the photos on the mantle-they were of Scott Carpenter, the astronaut. Soon after, any reservations Dr. Haas had melted away.”

According to Mr. Kuhar, Dr. Haas “was glued to his TV set” during the early days of the Mercury program, and he has always looked up to Mr. Carpenter as something of a personal hero.

“They spent about an hour together talking about the space program,” said Mr. Kuhar, “and Dr. Haas now has a signed photo of him shaking hands with Scott, which he hangs on the wall of his dental practice.”

After some brief negotiations, they agreed on a price of $418,500, all in cash, for the mint-condition 750-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.

She’s Embedded in Williamsburg: Leslie Cockburn’s Southside Loft

In pursuit of the story, television news producer Leslie Cockburn has spent time in war-torn places like Nicaragua, Colombia, Cambodia, the Persian Gulf, Somalia and Afghanistan. Her book about Russian nuclear smugglers was made into the movie The Peacemaker . With that kind of track record, it’s no surprise that the battle-tested journalist felt comfortable buying an artist’s loft in the somewhat less-than-gentrified neighborhood of South Williamsburg. Several weeks ago, Ms. Cockburn paid $800,000 for a 2,500-square-foot co-op on South Eighth Street, between Driggs and Bedford avenues.

“It’s a real neighborhood,” Ms. Cockburn said when asked about the locale. “Yes, there are problems, there are burnt-out buildings … but because of my experiences, and what I do for a living, I’m less bothered by what other people might regard as scary.”

Ms. Cockburn, a frequent segment producer for 60 Minutes , among other investigative programs, will be sharing the loft with her 24-year-old daughter, Chloe, a recent Harvard grad who plans to use the loft’s studio space to create abstract paintings.

The building they will both inhabit is a former 1860’s schoolhouse that a group of artists, led by a Swedish poet– cum –business consultant, converted into loft spaces in 1985. The building is still inhabited almost entirely by artists, and the trail-blazing Swede, a 37-year New York resident named Lars Cederholm, recalled what the neighborhood was like when he and his fellow artists set up shop.

“There were shooting galleries everywhere. Packs of dogs were running around making life dangerous, and people were shooting up heroin all around,” he said.

A Hispanic biker gang ran the neighborhood, but Mr. Cederholm, who speaks Spanish, was able to broker a truce with the gang that kept the resident artists safe.

“Even when it was downtown Beirut, it was very safe,” he said of life after the agreement. “It’s counterintuitive, but that’s the way it was.”

Mr. Cederholm sold his own unit in the building last year. He owns a house in an upstate New York Buddhist colony, and wants to make that his primary residence.

The unit that the two Cockburns bought belonged to Mr. Cederholm’s ex-wife. It has 16-foot ceilings, two bedrooms, 10 south-facing windows and hardwood floors. Chloe Cockburn, an Upper West Side native who recently left San Francisco because “the art scene was terrible-the cool hip thing is graffiti-based stuff,” saw the loft on the Internet and soon concluded that there was no reason to be apprehensive about the neighborhood.

Her mother, Leslie, will be splitting her time between the Williamsburg loft and Washington, D.C., where she lives with her husband and longtime journalistic partner, Andrew Cockburn. She echoed her daughter’s sentiments about living south of the Williamsburg Bridge.

“The other morning I woke up in Williamsburg, and I was going to the L train, and there was a Hasidic family with a bunch of kids going to school, and also a gorgeous young woman in a pink petticoat, obviously on her way home,” she said. “I like the feel of the place. It reminds me of when I was living in Notting Hill in the 70’s. It has a lot of the qualities of downtown New York in 1974.”


755 West End Avenue

Three-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.

Asking: $945,000. Selling: $932,500.

Maintenance: $923; 42 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: 30 days.

PEEPING TOMS This apartment sits on the ground level, and while that could have been its biggest liability, it ended up being the apartment’s most valuable asset. About two years ago, the architect who last owned it gave the kitchen a renovation that his broker, Roxana Dorneanu of the Corcoran Group, called “one of the five best I’ve ever seen.” Among other features, the architect opened up the kitchen by combining it with the maid’s room and bathroom; he also used exotic Anegre wood for the cabinets, and laid down a cork floor topped with a high-luster polyurethane finish. “He’s a stickler for detail,” said Ms. Dorneanu. “He was going for absolute perfection.” As the renovation neared completion, a husband and wife who lived across the street would walk by the 1,600- square-foot apartment and sneak peeks into the kitchen from the ground-level windows. He’s a vice president at a large investment-banking firm, and she’s a new producer for a major network. They were so enthralled by what they saw that they began to entertain fantasies about doing some cooking of their own in that kitchen. So when the architect and his family decided to relocate to Santa Barbara, Calif., the two kitchen voyeurs made sure to put in the winning bid. “The movers didn’t even have to load up a truck,” said Ms. Dorneanu. “They just walked across the street.”


Edith’s New Bunker: Actress Jean Stapleton Trades Out of West Side Condo

In her role as Edith Bunker on the 1970’s TV show All in the Family , actress Jean Stapleton became indelibly linked to an insular and conservative pocket of Astoria, Queens. In reality, Ms. Stapleton has been a nearly lifelong resident of the cosmopolitan and liberal Upper West Side-and it looks like she’s staying put. A few weeks ago, the 80-year-old thespian traded in her one-bedroom condo in the West 60’s for a larger space in the same neighborhood, according to sources close to both deals. It only took Ms. Stapleton five days to sell the 950-square-foot condo for her asking price of $650,000. She’d been living there since 1998, when she bought it for $425,000.

Although Ms. Stapleton is an iconic figure to many of the millions of viewers who regularly tuned in to All in the Family , which aired from 1971 to 1979, the three-time Emmy Award–winning actress wasn’t able to cash in on her notoriety for this particular sale. According to real-estate sources, the new owner of her apartment-a single woman who had rented in the building years before-had no idea whose place she was buying.

“The buyer doesn’t even know to this day,” the source said.

The high-floor apartment has open river views, an eat-in kitchen and can be converted into two bedrooms.

Since being written out of All of the Family at her own request after the end of the 1979 season, Ms. Stapleton went on to a distinguished-and still ongoing-career in other television, theater and film projects. In June of 2002, Ms. Stapleton played a leading role in a Lincoln Center production of Horton Foote’s The Carpetbagger’s Children . Her husband of 27 years died in 1983.

Alida Rubin, a vice president at the Corcoran Group, had the exclusive on the apartment. Sayonara, Park Avenue