Tough Field

Location: What was your childhood like?Ms. Field: Very Middle America; perfect; ideal; Donna Reed … My mother wore the apron;

Location: What was your childhood like?
Ms. Field: Very Middle America; perfect; ideal; Donna Reed … My mother wore the apron; president of  the PTA; had a baking day, had a shopping day; Ashtabula, Ohio.

You were a Pan Am flight attendant in the late ’70s, when you married. Where did you meet your husband?
Four twenty-nine East 52nd Street, it was a new rental building called River Court. I, and a lot of stewardesses, moved in—one-bedroom apartment; we had five girls. We heard about a guy who was moving into the same floor, a corner two-bedroom. And I knew he had a lot of closets, and I had no closets for my clothes.

After Pan Am, there was a job in marketing, which you left to raise your daughters. So why, in the late ’90s, did you return to work by becoming a real estate broker?
Because my children were desperate to get me out of their hair; I was everywhere in their lives. My children were in plays, I was the woman backstage doing the costumes; my children went on a field trip, I was the woman on the field trip. … I was totally overbearing.   

You sell a very particular, blue-blooded slice of Manhattan real estate, which your Sotheby’s profile calls ‘the ultra-luxury segment.’
I might sell someone’s townhouse, and his niece or his ex-wife’s new lover needs a place to live. They’ll still keep me and call me, and it might be a studio in the Village, or it might be a West Side one-bedroom walk-up. We take the business. … You want to sell everything. There are some brokers that say, ‘Oh, no, I only handle these guys.’

In 2003, you set a Carnegie Hill townhouse record for price-per-square-foot when you sold an $11.25 million house at 13 East 94th to a software executive. Is that what put you on the map?
I look at my first important sale as my first million-dollar sale. … That’s always on my mind, that’s always the big sale.

Your longtime real estate partner, Gillian Jolis, died in March 2005, after battling cancer.
In December, we had the single most complicated deal of our entire career. It was a major, high-profile person … and Gillian was at Sloan-Kettering, finalizing the deal. … Real estate attorneys came and went on this; the other broker on the other side was fired; and she kept it all together. She was doing deals right up to the end.


Last year, you sold $66 million of real estate, making you one of the 100 biggest brokers in the country. But this July you said your team’s volume was off by 50 percent from that time last year. What about now?
We just did our numbers: We are off last year’s by almost 40 percent.

You have quite a history at River House, the East 52nd Street co-op so fancy that it wants to be called by its street address, not name.
Well, all you have to do is put two and two together and look at all the listings at River House that haven’t been moving. I guess that’s not working for them, is it?

Tough Field