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Giving It All Away

Do-gooder groups with townhouse headquarters are cashing out with the best intentions.

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I’d love to see a big family living here,” Michael Osheowitz announces in the master bedroom of 23 Gramercy Park South. It would be a fitting new life for the 23-room Greek Revival, where he chairs the Edwin Gould Foundation for Children—and which has just gone on the market for $16.9 million. That’s not the only instance: The Hineni Heritage Foundation is soliciting buyers for its $6.75 million West End Avenue mansion. The Synergos Foundation’s neo-Georgian manor at 9 East 69th Street just went into contract for an undisclosed price (it was listed at $25 million), and last November, the New York Academy of Sciences’ building at 2 East 63rd Street sold for $31.25 million.

Why now? The market’s become harder to read lately, but it’s clear that townhouses are as coveted as ever. “Demand for townhouses is incredibly high,” confirms 23 Gramercy Park South’s listing agent, Corcoran’s Erin Boisson Aries. Cashing out now means philanthropic groups can boost their endowments and continue their work. Charitable institutions are often in prime locations, allowing them to command impressive asking prices, says townhouse expert Jed Garfield, who brokered the sale last year of Richard Avedon’s home, the proceeds of which benefited his foundation. (If it goes for anywhere near its listing price, 23 Gramercy Park South will set a per-square-foot record for a townhouse in the area.) “Even after the operating costs, we will still net $13 million or so,” says Osheowitz, a tidy sum the group will funnel toward its educational programs that support fledgling nonprofits, New York high-school students, and foster children who age out of the system. “They don’t lose anything, and the gain is tremendous,” says Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Suzanne Sealy. So where do they go from here? Like others, Edwin Gould—which has made a lot of money in real estate, this being the third townhouse office it’s selling at a profit—is headed to more modern offices in the financial district.

It’s doubly ironic that the houses are coming full circle: Built by industrial barons and now owned by organizations focused on the needy, they’re being sought primarily by high-net-worth types who don’t care for co-op-board scrutiny. In short, they’re headed back to their nineteenth-century function. “They’re wonderful relics,” says Elliman’s George W. van der Ploeg, whose clients have toured both the Gramercy Park and Academy of Sciences buildings. “They have amazing provenance.”


MOVERS
Liv in Brooklyn?
Is Liv Tyler tiring of the West Village? Sources are wondering if she’s considering a move to Brooklyn Heights with her husband, Spacehog rocker Royston Langdon, and their young son, Milo. She’s been spotted touring a twelve-room townhouse in the neighborhood, the same five-story facing the promenade that garnered much press last year when it was put on the market for an unheard-of $20 million. (Since there were no takers, the asking price was later cut to a quasi-reasonable $16 million.) The house, even at that price, is pretty spectacular: 8,000 square feet, period details like pocket doors with etched glass, fireplaces everywhere, and views of the river and the Statue of Liberty. Still, locals doubt she’s buying the place, which for the moment has been taken off the market. In fact, says her publicist’s office, “Liv is not moving at all. She is staying put.”



TRIPLE ASSESSMENT
142 East 16th Street, Apartment 17C
600-square-foot co-op studio with one bath.
Asking Price:
$489,000.
Monthly Maintenance: $740.
Broker: Susan Orbach Scott, Bellmarc.
The owners of this priced-to-move postwar co-op had an offer in hand, only to be left at the altar when its buyers decided they didn’t want to sell their stocks. Our panelists say it should find a new suitor soon, especially if its owners give it a quickie makeover.

Eric Benaim, Nest Seekers International: Benaim likes the apartment’s layout, which he says “flows easily . . . but it needs a paint job. And I’d get rid of the appliances in the kitchen. They’re really old, and buyers pay lots of attention to those things.”
His assessment: $492,000.

Anna Milat-Meyer, Halstead: “It’s very stark, the way it shows now,” she says. “It needs some color to warm it up. [But] the location trumps everything. That’s why I’m not worried to start my pricing a little high.”
Her assessment: $515,000.

Justin S. Parks, City Connections Realty: Like the other agents, Parks was taken with how bright the apartment was. Still, “it’s only in fair condition, and everything seems dated. They need to get someone in there to stage it so it has a more modern feel, or take it off the market and renovate, and they’ll get an even better price.”
His assessment: $495,000.


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