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Paper Chase

On the East End, there's still plenty to choose from -- for a price

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Realty Bites: Paper Chase
Did the Times spook Hamptons renters?

Sure, Lee Radziwell's east hampton spread just rented for a record-setting half-million dollars to Snapple owner Thomas King. But with the traditional Memorial Day full-force Hamptons invasion upon us, many brokers are wondering why so many houses still haven't been rented for the summer. "There are properties available at almost all prices," says Diane Saatchi, president of Dayton-Halstead Real Estate. Tapping into his computer, Stuart Epstein of Devlin McNiff Real Estate finds that half of this year's 1,600 listings still haven't gone. Partly, he says, it's because many of the would-be local landlords weren't serious: "A lot of them are throwing places on the market for a lot of money just to see if someone will pay." Another broker complains that his own historic house in East Hampton ($30,000! Cheap!) hasn't rented for August. ("The only call I got from a broker was a wrong number," he says.) He, along with many of his colleagues, blames the Times. Back in March, the paper of record ran a piece titled summer rentals are going, going . . . that trumpeted, "Nowhere is panic over renting more palpable than in the Hamptons." Broker Tina Fredericks gripes wearily about doing battle with the perception created by articles that say the market is overheated. "We keep paying for ads, and nobody seems to report that there's still plenty left," she says. "Every day, I get between three and six owners who are desperate to rent and are even willing to split the summer." Of course, not everyone blames the Gray Lady; some blame other brokers for tempting people to buy by dangling absurd rental estimates that can't be met. Or maybe, as another broker puts it, "there's a lot of crap out there remaining."
CARL SWANSON

Astor's Place, Uptown Price
Legendary penthouse selling to new East Ender for $20 million

The $20 million apartment -- it's not just for Fifth Avenue anymore. Now there's one on East End Avenue, which is as far from the subway as Avenue B is. Brokers say a buyer just signed on to shell out almost that much for Vincent Astor's old penthouse at 120 East End. (Ashforth Warburg, which represents the property, refused to comment.) Astor was John Jacob's great-great-grandson; he built 120 himself with the architect Charles Platt in 1931. Back then, the 23-room apartment had a gym, two libraries, and a 63-foot-long entrance gallery. The current owners, who are divorcing, bought it in 1994 for $5.65 million from financier Asher Edelman. They renovated, reducing the number of rooms to eighteen, six of them bedrooms. Their taste ran toward what one broker described as a mix of neoclassical and modern elements that the suitor -- a Goldman Sachs partner, sources say -- apparently plans to gut. "It's one of the most amazing apartments you've ever seen," says one broker, who mentions the landscaped terraces and rooms the size of small houses. Maintenance is $8,800, which apparently didn't intimidate the would-be owner any more than the walk. Maybe the board will: It's notoriously tough.
C.S.

Big Deals

East Village
307 East 12th Street
Two-bedroom, 2 and 1/2-bath, 1,500-square-foot carriage house. Asking: $950,000. Selling: $990,000. Maintenance: $1,150. Time on market: two and a half weeks.

You have to cut through the lobby of a four-story co-op -- a former women's hospital -- to enter this two-floor carriage house on East 12th Street. Your Chinese-food-delivery guys will be baffled. But the trade-off is a private mews and a roof deck. (James Ferrari of Benjamin James Associates brokered the deal.) Also, since the house is part of the building's thirteen-unit cooperative, the buyer -- part owner of an art gallery -- won't have to worry about letting the plumber in; there's a super.
CHRISTOPHER BONANOS

Midtown
721 Fifth Avenue
Two-bedroom, 2 and 1/2-bath, 1,600-square-foot condo. Asking: $1.2 million. Selling: $1.2 million. Charges: $2,500. Time on market: one week.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is celebrating the successful Broadway resurrection of Jesus Christ Superstar by buying a new place on the forty-fifth floor of Trump Tower. The Cats-man must like the building: He already owns a duplex on the fifty-ninth and sixtieth floors he bought for $5.5 million in 1987 and had decorated by Robert Kime, the designer who redid Highgrove Palace after Prince Charles split up with Lady Diana. He plans to gut the new place, too. Of course, if he spends only a few weeks a year in New York, what would he do with a satellite apartment? Sotheby's Dolly Lenz, who did the deal, wouldn't comment.
C.S.


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