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No Way In

When the going gets tough, co-op boards get tougher.

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EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER BONANOS

When Tristan Harper of Douglas Elliman applied to a co-op board on East 108th Street on behalf of a Sloan-Kettering doctor and her engineer husband, he felt confident of a quick okay. The newlyweds had been approved for a mortgage on the $655,000 three-bedroom, and had the down payment plus glowing recommendations. But they also had a pair of homes—bought before they met—and the board rejected their application. “Some of the board members were concerned because they thought my people were buying as an investment,” says Harper. “But they were buying this apartment to live in.” (For the record, they were eventually approved.)

A board north of 96th Street would never have been so demanding in the past, says Harper. But since boards around town had already been ratcheting up their pickiness meters before the current boom—mostly to ferret out overextended buyers lured into the market by low interest rates—Park Avenue exclusivity has been cropping up even in rather ordinary buildings. “More turndowns than any year I can remember,” says Warburg Realty Partnership’s Frederick Peters. “So now, in addition to being blamed in every bidding war, there’s a whole new category of things that the broker is at fault for.”

As JoAnne Kennedy, COO of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, explains, “Every time the market gets as hot as it is—and it’s blazing now—boards feel that if a candidate isn’t what they’re looking for, there are three more behind them.” Even for lower-priced properties: A Gumley Haft Kleier broker recently had a deal for a $275,000 co-op in the East Seventies, and the board requested a guarantor and three years’ maintenance fees in escrow. “It’s unbelievable!” says Michele Kleier, the firm’s president. “A lot of buildings think it’s an instant elevation to their status.” Her company also brokered the sale of a studio at 440 East 56th Street to Four Seasons partner Julian Niccolini, after at least two other people were turned down for the same apartment. “It’s not a bad building, but it’s not 740 Park Avenue,” says Kleier. (A representative of the board did not return calls for comment.) “They were looking for a prestigious person.”

Angelina Flips!
After less than a year, Jolie is moving on.


Angelina Jolie  

Last fall, Angelina Jolie managed—freaky lifestyle rumors and all—to get by the co-op board at 55 Central Park West. (You recognize the building from Ghostbusters; Madonna lives there, too.) On June 2, Jolie listed her two-bedroom for $2.7 million with Stribling broker Pamela D’Arc, who declined to comment on the deal. Previous boldface residents have included Calvin Klein, David Geffen, and Donna Karan.

CALL THE PIANO MOVERS: Cabaret master Michael Feinstein, co-owner of Feinstein’s at the Regency, and his partner, Terrence Flannery, have bought a $3.075 million townhouse on East 63rd Street through Corcoran broker Carrie Chiang. The slender four-story house has a library, but that’s not the main draw. “The music room in particular has a feeling of comfort and warmth,” says Feinstein. “It is not ‘a room with a view’—the less distractions, the better.” —D.S.

Big Deals
Upper East Side
115 East 87th Street
2-bed, 31⁄2-bath, 2,400-square-foot co-op. Ask: $2.995 million. Sell: $3 million. Time on market: One week.
According to broker Pat Palermo of Corcoran, the former celebrity inhabitants (no names, please!) of this elegant apartment had it set up as a two-bedroom with his-and-hers bathrooms and an eat-in kitchen “as big as most people’s dining rooms.” Its new incarnation? One happy couple’s new pied-à-terre.

Hudson Heights
259 Bennett Avenue
1-bed, 1-bath, 750-square-foot co-op. Ask: $135,000. Sell: $117,000. Time on market: One day.
Hudson Heights, an area on Manhattan’s western edge starting around 170th Street, is the city’s latest uptown boom neighborhood. “Usually a one-bedroom here goes for $225,000,” says Douglas Elliman broker Wayne Murray. Thanks to a technicality making it near-impossible to get a mortgage in a co-op building that’s less than 50 percent occupied (as was the case here), the buyer landed this apartment for much less—and even less than the asking price. Notes Murray, “The listing for this apartment went up, and the buyer made an offer that very same day.” —Sara Cardace


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