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Toxic Calm

The mold panic at 515 Park is winding down. Could it have been just hysteria all along?

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EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER BONANOS

For the past year and a half, 515 Park Avenue has borne a scarlet M—a stinky, furred mark of the beast. TOXIC MOLD, bellowed the tabloids, after resident Richard Kramer filed lawsuits against the building’s developers last winter, claiming that fungus had made his family sick and ruined his antiques. The first new residential building on Park Avenue in 60 years had been attracting swank buyers like Senator Jon Corzine, theater scion James Nederlander, fallen Vivendi mogul Jean-Marie Messier, and music producer LA Reid. But it promptly became a black hole on the realty map. “We never had anything else like this, where the inside of a building was keeping the outside world from it,” says Corcoran COO Scott Durkin.

Was it a false alarm—the work of spinning lawyers rather than sinister spores? Real-estate sources now say the prevailing theory in the building is that Kramer (who didn’t return calls for this story) may have brought mold upon himself by restructuring his ventilation system. One broker even insisted that Kramer’s own lawyers are filing suits against him, a statement that couldn’t be confirmed as of press time. Developer Arthur Zeckendorf refused to comment—hung up on us, actually—but his lawyers issued this statement: “We retained nationally recognized experts to investigate . . . Thorough and lengthy investigation revealed that there is not and never was any mold contamination in the building.”

Whether that’s truth or spin, one thing is certain: The building has largely lost its taint. Last week, former Bankers Trust chief Frank Newman sold his 5,000-square-foot duplex to an unnamed family for $16.1 million, down from $23 million after two years on the market. “There was definitely a hesitation for an investment of this size,” says the buyer’s broker, Richard Ferrari of Douglas Elliman. “No one was going to buy it without doing testing.” In fact, buyer and seller each paid for two mold tests before inking the deal.

Kathy Sloane of Brown Harris Stevens, who shared Newman’s listing with Patricia Cliff of the Corcoran Group, considers the deal a watershed. “The pace of sales in the building really halted when the lawsuit was filed,” says Sloane. “It only takes one closing,” adds Durkin, audibly relieved. “And I think this one will certainly shake the fence.”


Musical Apartments
Kravitz and Bronfman can’t make a deal.
Is Matthew Bronfman somehow short of cash? Highly unlikely, but that didn’t stop him from making a lowball offer on Lenny Kravitz’s giant loft at 30 Crosby Street. Bronfman, the Seagram heir and brother of Warner Music chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr., recently made an offer said to be “a few million dollars” shy of Lenny’s $12.95 million asking price, but Kravitz wouldn’t bite, even though the loft— five bedrooms in 6,000 square feet, designed by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz—has been on the market for two years. According to brokers, Bronfman also recently toured Sky Studios, a $20 million triplex penthouse with a pool at 704 Broadway. Meanwhile, last month, he shaved $3 million off the asking price of his townhouse at 7 East 67th Street, which he listed for $27 million in August 2002.


Big Deals
Park Slope
443 12th Street

1-bed, 1-bath, 1,000-square- foot co-op. Ask: $475,000.
Sell: $475,000.
Time on market: Two weeks.
“I call it Soho in Park Slope,” says Corcoran broker Nicole Shaw of this apartment in the former Ansonia Storage Warehouse. “Normally, in Park Slope, you’d expect to walk into a brownstone on a tree-lined street, and this is a converted warehouse. It’s a really fantastic space.” And that’s not all that attracted its new owners: The developers added a marble bathroom, Mexican tile in the kitchen, miles of exposed brick, and a shared roof deck with covetable views of the real Soho.


Harlem
104 West 113th Street

Four-unit, 5,000-square-foot townhouse. Ask: $1.775 million.
Sell: $1.8 million.
Time on market: Three weeks.
How does a Harlem brownstone that’s not on Strivers’ Row approach the $2 million mark? This one’s ideally located (three blocks off the park), gracefully laid out (wide-open living rooms and tons of windows), and extra-wide (25 feet instead of the usual 20). The buyer’s looking for an investment, and according to Douglas Elliman broker Todd Stevens, the four superluxe, gut-renovated, two-bedroom apartments will bring in some of the highest rents in all of Harlem. “Having four tenants paying $2,200 each is unique for the neighborhood,” says Stevens. “That, in addition to having four units you will never have to renovate, is a very big deal.” Impressive for a building that in recent years housed a nightclub—one that Stevens describes as “a really nasty space.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SARA CARDACE


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