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The Covetables

Illustrations by Jason Lee  

The Architectural Wonder:
998 Fifth Avenue
The stately building was conceived more than a hundred years ago as a lavish palazzo by the storied firm McKim, Mead & White, which was charged with convincing the well-to-do at the time that high-rises could be desirable. This limestone beauty still sets architectural historians’ hearts aflutter. “998 Fifth embodies the aspiration to make New York a great and grand city on a par with any European capital,” says New York’s architecture critic, Justin Davidson. “It’s like three Florentine palazzos stacked on top of each other.” No surprise that the building was dubbed “the most remarkable thing of its kind in America” in the early 1900s by Architecture magazine. Murry Guggenheim, Jack Astor, and Ann Slater, who’ve all lived here, appear to have agreed. Inside, the apartments are as marvelous as one would expect, with long entrance galleries, sweeping staircases, dentil moldings, stained-glass windows, and etched ceilings.
Other architectural wonders: 165 Charles Street, 100 Eleventh Avenue, 40 Bond Street, 40 Mercer Street.

The Manhattan Mansion:
9 East 71st Street
This single-family mansion has a rare 48 feet of frontage and a gorgeous limestone façade. (The sidewalk’s reportedly heated, so its owners aren’t inconvenienced by ice.) Plus, it has an interesting lineage: It was built by Herbert Straus, an heir to R.H. Macy & Co.; owned by the Archbishop of New York, who deployed it as a satellite hospital; served as the Birch Wathen School; and housed billionaire Leslie Wexner and controversial financier Jeffrey Epstein, who may still live there. (He was just spotted taking a stroll around the hood with his around-the-corner neighbor Woody Allen). With the low-lying Frick across the street, inhabitants enjoy views of the park even if they’re not right on Fifth—Jed Garfield, president of Leslie J. Garfield, a firm specializing in townhouses, says many mansion owners wouldn’t want the traffic on the avenue, anyway.
See also: the Duke Semans Mansion, 11–13 East 62nd Street.

The Impenetrable Co-op:
960 Fifth Avenue
This building, designed by famed architect Rosario Candela, may not have an entire book chronicling its selectivity—ahem, 740 Park—but it’s equally difficult to get into. It’s blessed with massive apartments—only nineteen over fifteen floors—gilded with grand ballrooms and coffered ceilings and direct views of Central Park, says Kirk Henckels, vice-chairman of Stribling Private Brokerage. It has perks few can claim, such as a dining room serving chef-catered haute cuisine to its residents. Toys ’R’ Us founder Charles Lazarus just sold his duplex there for $21 million, and while smaller apartments in its sister building next door, 3 East 77th Street, fetch a little less, stringent board requirements still apply. A broker told the New York Observer in 2006 of potential buyers who were turned away because they “were not board-­qualified, socially.”
See also: 820 Fifth Avenue, 834 Fifth Avenue, 778 Park Avenue.


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