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The Enforcers

Downtown condo boards discover they have muscle—and start to use it.

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EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER BONANOS

Autonomy has long been the key to a condo’s appeal. Traditionally, anyone who could afford the bills could buy a condo—as opposed to a co-op, where a potential buyer must demonstrate to an often-persnickety board that he’s worthy, personally and financially. And when a co-op board rejects someone, it doesn’t even have to reveal its reasons. But now the old distinctions are blurring, and a growing number of condo buyers are starting to feel as if they’d mistakenly stumbled into a stiff-backed co-op.

Broker Rob Gross of Douglas Elliman has been trying to get a client through the picky condo board in a Wooster Street loft building. “The application is pretty much identical to that of a co-op,” he says. “He has to get a letter from his employer, two personal and two professional references.” And Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier was shocked when the board at 129 Lafayette Street demanded financial details about her buyer before accepting his application for a $2 million apartment: “They wanted to know everything, practically his blood type!” Kleier expects that in the near future, condo boards will insist on interviews with potential buyers—just as with co-ops. Why the change? New developments downtown are luring deep-pocketed buyers who want to live, not just invest, in lofts. “People who live in condos are all of a sudden interested in who lives next door,” says Barrie Mandel of the Corcoran Group. “They’re going to care if someone has four dogs.” Notoriously tough condos include the Chelsea Mercantile—home to Bobby Flay and Penélope Cruz—and 16 Hudson, where the board recently rejected two consecutive buyers for Robert De Niro’s daughter’s place. And the new buildings at 59, 299, and 302 West 12th Street are slowing down the approval process to discourage buyers they consider unfit.

Condo boards have begun imposing strict rules on those they do approve, too. One of the first buyers at the Carl Fischer condos on Cooper Square was excited to move in, renovate, and rent out his apartment for lucrative TV, movie, and magazine shoots—which in the past wouldn’t have raised eyebrows in a downtown condo. “But it’s like being in a Fifth Avenue co-op,” he says. “It was like pulling teeth just to get the still-photo permission” from the board. And that permission came at a price, including a nonrefundable $300 processing fee and a stiff security deposit of $1,000 a day.


House Comics
Daniella Rich flips her place; Imus flirts with trump.
Stand-up comedian Daniella Rich, the newly married daughter of socialite songwriter Denise and fugitive financier Marc, has sold her unfinished apartment at 420 West Broadway—it has 24-foot ceilings and three terraces— for $4.65 million. And she’s not the only one to sell before moving into the former home of the Castelli, Sonnabend, and Mary Boone galleries. Earlier this year, Meg Ryan sold her $9.7 million penthouse duplex after it was burglarized. Rich’s broker, Shaun Osher of Douglas Elliman, declined to comment. . . . Uptown, Don Imus is trying to unload his apartment at 75 Central Park West for $11 million. A source says he has expressed serious interest in a penthouse at Trump Park Avenue. . . . Billy Baldwin and Chynna Phillips are selling their apartment at 15 West 81st Street for $5.75 million. They also own a one-bedroom in the same building—servant’s quarters?—for which they’re asking $950,000.


Big Deals
Upper East Side
23 West 83rd Street

1-bed, 1-bath, 600-square-foot co-op.
Ask: $449,000.
Sell: $500,000.
Time on market: 3 days.
“In the course of a few hours, I must have had 160 people come through,” says Douglas Elliman broker David Glick of the open house he hosted for this apartment, “and I had eight offers in no time.” The winning bidders were parents buying a first apartment for their newly graduated daughter; according to their agent, Lawrence Treglia, they were originally looking in the East and West Villages, but they loved the “safe” location and the “good karmic feel” of the immediate environs. The only snag? The awkwardly angled front door, which required the panicked broker to call in an emergency “couch doctor” to disassemble an offending piece of furniture just minutes before the apartment was handed over.

West Village
71 Bedford Street

5-bed, 5-bath, 3,200-square- foot townhouse.
Ask: $3.05 million.
Sell: $2.9 million.
Time on market: 4 months.
This Federal–Greek Revival townhouse has a gorgeous garden and a separate garden-level apartment in addition to an enviably grand triplex space with lots of light (the neighboring buildings are blissfully distant). It stayed on the market so long, according to Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy broker Michael Phillips, because some buyers perceived the address as “too far south,” and the interior was somewhat dated. In his words, “It wasn’t awful, but it definitely needed a rethink.”

ADDITONAL REPORTING BY SARA CARDACE


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