Realty Bites: Co-oped Up
Unlocking shareholder value. Earlier this year, Jed Garfield of Leslie J. Garfield & Company got a call from the president of a five-unit co-op on the Upper East Side with a question: "What do you think we could get?" The board was interested in selling their building back into mansion-hood (it was converted in 1975). "You're seeing it quite a bit because the whole is now worth more than its parts," Garfield says. Before the New Economy, the only way to save Manhattan's turn-of-the-last-century palazzi was to cut them up into affordable apartments; these mini-co-ops were a trend twenty years ago, but they often turned out to be economically unstable ("Few of them made it out of the early-nineties recession alive," says Robert Knakal of Massey Knakal Realty). Now there's a new threat: Today's rich folks want the mansions back. Douglas Elliman's Wilbur Gonzalez has a ten-unit co-op at 102 Bedford Street on the market as a single-family house for $3.2 million. Philanthropist Otto Kahn converted the place for artists' housing in 1925 to keep the Village from becoming a "desert of mediocrity." Today's Village doesn't have much use for bohemia; an apartment hunter who considered buying a single unit in the building last year described it as "some smelly English bedbug thing." "In their bylaws, they only need 80 percent of the owners agreeing to sell, but I think they have everyone signed on," says Gonzalez. But it's hard to get co-ops to cooperate: William B. May's Midge LaGuardia, who's been selling small buildings in Manhattan for 24 years, says most of these efforts founder. "It's difficult enough when there are two partners, but when you get a co-op with four or five owners, it's nearly impossible."
Al Roker's Forecast: A Townhouse
TV weatherman finds a new place to hang his slickers.
Remember when that weirdo on the sidewalk waved a rubber phallus at Al Roker through the window of the Today show's studio? The jolly weatherman must have gotten over his trauma, because he's moving to the street level himself. This summer, he and his wife, 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts, sold their eight-room prewar co-op on East 68th Street and bought a townhouse in the East Eighties off Lexington. Roker's broker, Spencer Means of the Corcoran Group, says the TV couple called him after attending a dinner party that Spike Lee and his wife, Tanya, threw in their Upper East Side townhouse (which had been owned by Gypsy Rose Lee). "They fell in love with the idea of townhouse living," he says. Their search took only a month -- "Al gets off at noon, so we could look till four every day." The house they settled on is four stories and "very, very traditional," Means says. Roker's kids, Leila and Courtney, get their own floor. Sources say Roker and Roberts sold their old place for about $1.5 million to an advertising executive; their new house, which had been occupied by the previous owners for two generations and needs work, put them back $3.25 million.
Upper East Side
1120 Park Avenue
Three-bedroom, two-bath, 2,800-square-foot co-op. Asking: $3.3 million. Selling: $3.35 million. Monthly maintenance: $2,706. Time on market: one week.
This venture capitalist's big adventure began when he sold his old apartment at 120 East 87th Street for $2.2 million. That's "a record price for this building," says his broker, Douglas Elliman's Arthur Fenton. Then Fenton found him a classic seven at 1120 Park Avenue -- a lucky break, says Fenton, because the the supply of such places is "at best minimal." To get it, his client spent his good fortune, setting another building-price record (for a seven-room place, anyhow). The seller, an attorney represented by Stribling & Associates, moved across the park.
420 West 144th Street
3,800-square-foot two-family townhouse. Asking: $799,000. Selling: $750,000. Time on market: seven months.
"A greenwich village townhouse uptown" is how broker Willie Kathryn Suggs describes this two-family brownstone. That means "high ceilings, four stories, narrow lot." It was gut-renovated about fifteen years ago, before the recent seller moved in; though the house is in good shape, the lack of architectural detail may explain why it didn't sell for a while. The buyer, represented by William B. May's Curtis Jackson, says he and his partner actually prefer the stripped-down interior, since "we didn't have to worry about keeping the original integrity." Renovations are in the works, though "we're keeping the first-floor apartment intact," says the new owner, and its tenants are staying put. The seller, an attorney with a family, is "trying apartment living for a while," elsewhere in Harlem.