How Cooperative!

Photo: Donald Bowers for New York Magazine

Co-op boards and real-estate brokers traditionally have an uneasy relationship. Boards have the power to turn down buyers and kill otherwise lucrative deals, frustrating the brokers behind those sales. Brokers, in turn, are forever rolling their eyes at these rejections, finding the building’s gatekeepers capricious and difficult. (The boards, in turn, find the brokers devious and willing to do anything to make a sale.) But at a few Manhattan buildings, that fractious relationship has warmed up, as the boards have begun scheduling meetings with local brokers. After all, both have one goal at heart: making sure the prices of apartments in those buildings stay competitive.

“I wanted to see if we were missing something,” says Scott Grayson, president of the co-op at Cannon Point South, the building at 45 Sutton Place South. So he invited Elaine Clayman of Brown Harris Stevens to a specially convened board meeting; she advised the board to streamline its application process, which it promptly did. At the Future, a building at 200 East 32nd Street that also asked for her advice, Clayman and her partner, Dan Ruiz, suggested a lobby renovation, adding a roof deck, and sprucing up the plaza out front. All the suggestions were approved. “People want to buy into a building that they know will continue to increase in value,” says the building’s board president, Julio Marquez. “The brokers are the ones who are really attuned to the market.” Ruiz has given several boards the same advice this year: Clean up public areas and improve the staff’s professionalism. “The boards want to make sure they’re doing everything they can to maximize prices,” he adds. They don’t charge for consultations, preferring to make their money on the other end: “It’s to everyone’s advantage, including ours,” says Ruiz. “It becomes a B building to a broker if a luxury building falls into disrepair.”

Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier has advised boards to add a gym or do a one-shot assessment instead of raising the maintenance, because a higher monthly fee can scare off buyers. Dolly Lenz, the kingpin of high-powered brokers at Douglas Elliman, has lately met with a half-dozen “significant buildings” that asked for counseling. (Several are run by Elliman’s management division.) “They’re getting maybe $900 per square foot, and they want to bring the average sale up to $1,200. Some are already at $1,200 and want to move up,” says Lenz, who suggested upgrades like new uniforms for the doormen and lobby rehab. “They never did it before, and I don’t know why,” adds Lenz, before pausing to formulate a theory. “Maybe it’s coming to a head now, since all the Tycos of the world are making the boards more responsible and responsive.”

LeFrak City Expands to East 73rd Street!
Real-estate magnate Richard LeFrak is adding one more piece of turf to his portfolio—this time, for himself. The president and CEO of the LeFrak Organization, landlord to 70,000 New York and New Jersey households, is said to have bought the East 73rd Street town house owned by Alex Von Furstenberg. Located on the block between Fifth and Madison, the house went for $14.5 million. Von Furstenberg, who put the building on the market around the time his separation from his wife, Alexandra, became public in 2004, owned the property for only about a year and a half. Calls to Richard LeFrak’s office were not returned; the seller’s broker, Richard Steinberg of Warburg Real Estate Partnership, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the sale.

Due south, Filipina supermodel Anna Bayle has put her two-bedroom, two-bath co-op at One Fifth Avenue on the market for $1.565 million. Bayle, who strutted down catwalks in New York and Paris in the eighties for Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino and was the face of the Shiseido cosmetics line, is upgrading to a bigger place, says her broker, Elliman’s Leonard Steinberg.
—S. Jhoanna Robledo

Same Space, Different Place
Would You Walk Eighteen Blocks for a Million Dollars?
It’s axiomatic that the Upper West Side gets cheaper the more “upper” you go. Consider this pair of town houses, essentially identical: Both are four-story houses off Columbus Avenue, with their original stoops out front and a pair of apartments inside, and both were renovated a few years back, to good results. The difference? One’s on 69th Street, on a block that’s been lovely for decades; the other’s on 87th, which, until a decade or so ago, was still raffish but is now quite bourgeois. Whether the difference is worth $1.2 million—31 percent—is, of course, up to the market. We know how we’d vote.

127 West 69th Street
Four-story, two-unit town house.
Asking price:
$4.995 million.
Taxes: $12,234 per year.
Broker: Anne Snee, Corcoran.

113 West 87th Street
Four-story, two-unit town house.
Asking price:
$3.795 million.
Taxes: $11,593 per year.
Broker: Carol Samaras, Corcoran.

How Cooperative!