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Pool's Out

Residential pools fail to make a splash; Alan Alda, $5 million man

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Realty Bites: Pool's Out
New apartment towers dry up.

When Neil Binder, head of Bellmarc Realty, looks at the list of 30-odd residential buildings now under construction in Manhattan, he wonders where the pools are. The Chatham? The Impala? The Century Tower? All dry. "It used to be everything," he says. "Any site that had over 150 apartments had a pool." But that was back in the eighties, when yuppies were a newly discovered species and Reebok was still a sneaker instead of a sports club. At the time, pools were marketing magic; residential-tower architect Costas Kondylis says the Milstein development family was there first, installing rooftop pools in the seventies. By the condo boom of the eighties, they had become bait for what Kondylis calls "pioneering locations" like 72nd and York, site of the Oxford. "They had to give the buyers something," remembers Douglas Elliman's Dolly Lenz. Except that nobody uses the pools. "It's a waste," says Sumitomo Realty's Roger Novatt, who lives in a 1984 tower with a desolate pool. "Buyers thought they wanted them, but they don't have time to swim." Meanwhile, they still have to pay for them. "It's extremely hard and costly to have a professional clean the pool," says Binder. And it doesn't make your apartment worth more: "You build this wondrous pool and nobody pays more money," he adds. These days, the pools that do get built aren't what they used to be. Kondylis put one in the Trump World Tower's basement ("We're calling it the lower concourse"), and his far-West 42nd Street River Place has one in the gym. But don't dive in -- both were built as lap pools to save money on lifeguards. "Presumably," says Kondylis, "four feet deep solves the drowning problem."
CARL SWANSON

Is There a Doctor in the House?
Alan Alda performs emergency bidder-ectomy to win apartment.

Maybe alan alda isn't such a sensitive guy after all -- at least when it comes to the cutthroat world of Manhattan real estate. Fresh from his long-term guest stint on ER, the actor sewed up a deal for a pair of adjoining apartments, ripe for combining, in the Millennium Tower on West 67th Street. But the TV surgeon first had to cut out a rival bidder -- stat! -- who thought he was about to close a deal. The Corcoran Group's Nina de Rovira had a firm offer of $4.35 million, from a buyer who lived nearby in the Park Millennium, until the negotiations got mashed: "Alda came in from left field and way outbid our offer" with $4.9 million. The sellers -- who had owned both apartments since the tower went up five years ago -- had been renting them for a total of more than $11,000 per month, through De Rovira. (Their leases aren't up, and Alda has arranged to buy out the tenants when the whole deal closes in October.) The two apartments together add up to 2,400 square feet and have "drop-dead views" over the park and midtown, says De Rovira. Just the thing for a New York Hawkeye.
CHRISTOPHER BONANOS

Big Deals
Greenwich Village
712 Broadway
2,900-square-foot co-op loft. Asking: $799,000. Selling: $765,000. Maintenance: $1,370. Time on market: four and a half months.

Broker Miriam Sirota of Bellmarc Realty had sold other places in this eighteen-unit co-op, home to dot-commer haberdashery Antique Boutique on the street level. The "raw" second floor was the only one that hadn't gone residential. But "raw means different things to different people," Sirota says. When she walked in, "I saw a fully working machine shop with oil-schmutzed concrete floors, parts stacked to the ceiling, and welders blasting away." Elevator parts were made there; it had no walls and "disgusting w.c.'s." On the other hand, it's hard to find a loft with views and fourteen-foot ceilings for under $1 million. So she got traffic. Bellmarc's Sheena Acharya found the buyer, who works in the construction industry and had been looking for two years for the right project to pour his expertise into.

Carnegie Hill
129 East 91st Street
Five-bedroom, 5 and 1/2-bath, 5,100-square-foot townhouse. Asking: $3.5 million. Selling: $3.4 million. Time on market: three weeks.

"I sold it to this couple 32 years ago for $107,000," says broker Leslie J. Garfield. That was before the legions of Wall Street millionaires arrived, moving their Peg Pérego strollers into position outside Spence and Dalton nearby. This 1885 Queen Anne- style redbrick house has its original shutters, hardware, and dumbwaiter, and a terrace upstairs. After three decades, the sellers were reluctant to leave and backed off two deals. The Wall Street-funded buyers might expect to settle in for a while. Garfield says the owner before the sellers was there 45 years.
C.S.


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