He also claims that the leisurely sales pace is a strategy. “As prices go up, you don’t want to sell too quickly because you don’t want to leave too much money on the table,” he says. The last unsold apartment in Time Warner took five years to find a buyer, and it went for $16.95 million, nearly twice what it would’ve at the beginning. (“We rejected seven offers on that apartment, too,” Wine says. “We knew it was worth it.”)
However hard he’s spinning, it’s true that quick sales have only recently become a mark of success. “In the mid-1980s, two and a half years [was] a typical cycle, and most of the sales happened when the building was nearly done,” remembers Jonathan Miller. Now, if you’re not done within months, “the perception is it’s a dismal failure.” Besides, this class of buyers can afford to shop slowly. “People looking for $6 million apartments aren’t renting a junior four with a baby in a dining room and need to buy quickly,” Wine says.
So is it a flop or not? Most likely, Astor Place is just a highly visible casualty of a leveling market. It’s neither a disaster nor a smash hit, and has been snagged on high expectations and a catty rumor mill. Maybe it’s priced a little too ambitiously, maybe it’s just at the top edge. Wine admits they “bit off a huge challenge. But . . . you either can panic or you can believe in your product.” When all is said and done, Wine may be left not with a Brancusi, not with a landmark, not with an icon—but with an expensive apartment building out of which he’ll make quite a few million dollars. There are worse places to be.