Soundproofing the Hamptons

Realty Bites: Life on the Road
Hamptons, hwy. vu.

The most-sought-after land in the Hamptons is south of Montauk Highway, but “we’re running out,” says Dayton-Halstead Real Estate president Diane Saatchi. What’s left is pretty much on the highway’s shoulder. So lately, “substantial and significant houses are being built in places you never thought they would be,” says Stuart Epstein of Devlin McNiff Real Estate. Land that used to be considered too close to the highway for Shingle Style vacation pleasure domes “now has $2 million spec homes,” says Saatchi. In the past year, houses built on one-acre lots near the corner of the highway and Georgica Road are selling for as much as $2.4 million. So what’s so relaxing about trading the city for the turnpike? “It’s the only place that’s still affordable,” says broker Tina Fredericks. It also forces buyers to spend $20,000 or more on trying to make that home-on-the-highway seem bucolic. Demand for East Hampton-based noise-abatement expert Bonnie Schnitta has “almost grown exponentially over the last three years,” she says. “We do it for one person, and someone else calls and says, ‘You saved their property – do it for me!’ ” Her company, South Fork Technological Consultants, installs fountains or waterfalls that have the same frequency as road noise, and fences backed with an acoustic material that muffles the roar of passing Range Rovers. The fountains often spout blithely away in the pool, probably doing the hulking vacation bungalows some good on the feng shui front too. The cost of getting peace and quiet for your peace and quiet? Only $10,000 to $20,000 for an “average house,” says Schnitta, though decorator versions run as much as $50,000.

Staples’ Big Box on Fifth
Chain founder buys Merriweather Post mouse pad.

Cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post was known for collecting husbands, Fabergé eggs, and category-killer residences. She owned an Adirondacks estate, a 25-acre spread in Washington, D.C., and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Springs, which was so over-the-top Donald Trump bought it. For a while she was married to E. F. Hutton – yes, the one people listen to – and kept a triplex at 1107 Fifth Avenue. Trump never got his hands on it, and it ended up being subdivided. Real-estate sources say that Tom Stemberg, founder of the Staples office-supplies chain, recently bought one part, a seven-room two-bedroom that was on the market briefly for almost $7 million. The building is known for its double-height rooms, but Stemberg’s ceilings are normal-height. He also gets only one room on Fifth. Stemberg, whose spokesperson didn’t call back with a comment, may not be a human brand like Post or Hutton, but at least one of his new neighbors is: Ralph Lauren.

Big Deals

Murray Hill
116 East 38th Street
3,220-square-foot townhouse. Asking: $1.45 million. Selling: $1.26 million. Time on market: 1 year.

You think diplomats get all the best parking spaces? In Murray Hill, they beat out several bidders and took a whole townhouse. “They just had deeper pockets,” says Massey Knakal Realty Services broker John Ciraulo, who sold the house to the West African nation of Mauritania for its U.N. mission. Brown Harris Stevens represented the buyer. The seller was the Door Store, which had used the building as its corporate office for about a decade; no word on whether they’re taking the furniture when they go. Because the buyer is a sovereign power, “they had to go to the Department of State – the deal’s contingent on approval.” (The rule is a formality except for nations like Cuba, which maintains its heavily guarded mission around the corner.) And you thought your building had a tough co-op board.

521 West 23rd Street
4,000-square-foot condominium loft. Asking: $3.1 million. Selling: $2.74 million. Charges and taxes: $2,515. Time on market: 14 weeks.

It took 25 years for SoHo artists to get priced out of their lofts; Chelsea’s turning bourgeois far faster. Consider the penthouse of the Artists’ Condominium, a ten-story loft building on 23rd Street where painter Sandro Chia sponsored the conversion, lived for ten years, and just sold to … a Wall Streeter. Richard Ferrari of Douglas Elliman represented the buyer; Elliman’s Whitney Gettinger, the seller. The other artists in the building are, Ferrari reports, “okay” with the news. Or at least with what their apartments are now worth.

Soundproofing the Hamptons