Will cyber pioneer get run out of town?

Realty Bites: Nobody’s Homes
Will cyber pioneer get run out of town?

Daniel Levy, president of cityRealty.com, says he simply wanted to set up a Website to get rid of “inefficiencies” in the market by allowing buyers to search through listings, and brokers to search through buyer requests. But other brokers are doing whatever they can to crash his start-up. “You can do most of the transaction online,” he explains, fiddling with the site on a laptop in the dim stateliness of the conference room in his Trump Tower offices. Almost six years ago, Levy got the idea of bringing New York real estate to the Web after working on AT&T’s interactive TV venture. “He was the first person who came to pitch us on the Internet,” recalls Corcoran chief marketing officer Anita Perrone. Brokers tried it out, and he started NYRealty.com – “basically a souped-up listings site,” he says – in 1994. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs backed him in a plan that would make him an online broker – and put him in competition with his brick-and-mortar listings sources. That scared Douglas Elliman, which announced last month that it was teaming up with Corcoran to launch a Net-based Multiple Listings Service (upsetting Brown Harris Stevens, which rallied dozens of other brokerages to get together and start their own MLS). Levy says “there are tremendous benefits” for brokers to work with him, but they seem unconvinced. Most aren’t giving Levy their listings. “Why would we outsource an MLS when we have the inventory?” asks Perrone. But Levy says he’s launching September 11 anyway, with listings that are “public information.” At least one large broker in town plans to block him from taking listings from its site – “legally if we have to.”

Mort’s $9 Million Nursery
Daily News publisher Zuckerman buys a townhouse near his home.

Brokers say that daily news publisher Mortimer Zuckerman didn’t want to be too far from his young daughter, Abigail, after he and his wife, Marla Prather, separated this summer. So he’s doing what any sensitive, concerned billionaire would do: buying a $9.4 million townhouse for his wife just a toddle away from his triplex on Fifth Avenue in the seventies. (The deal hasn’t closed yet.) The new place was previously owned by Pia Zadora, who renovated with architect Peter Marino (adding a $1 million black marble staircase) but sold it in 1995 without moving in. It’s within walking distance of the Whitney Museum of American Art, where Prather works as the curator of postwar art. She met Zuckerman in the spring of 1996 at a dinner at the Smithsonian, where she then worked, and he wooed her with flowers and funny cards. They were married by that fall, and Prather moved north last October to take her Whitney job. The seller was ex-J.P. Morgan vice-chairman Roberto Mendoza, who moved to London to be managing director of the Goldman Sachs office there. Zuckerman’s office had no comment.

Big Deals

Financial District
25 Ann Street
Two-bedroom, two-bath, 2,300-square-foot condominium loft. Asking: $998,000. Selling: $988,000. Time on market: three and a half weeks.

Edgar Allan Poe is said to have worked for the New York Mirror when the paper’s headquarters were on this site, though its offices burned down around 1900. So in an effort to lure loft buyers east from TriBeCa, the converters, Milas LLC, have renamed the successor building “Edgar House.” Even without casks of Amontillado behind the walls (there are Viking stoves in the kitchens, however), the gambit seems to have worked: Halstead’s Joyce Spiegel, who sold this apartment, notes that everything except the penthouse has been taken. The 1923 structure that replaced the Mirror offices was built for sporting-goods-maker A.G. Spalding (creator of the Spaldeen, the only correct item with which to play stickball), so any annoying heartbeats under the floorboards are the resident’s own damn fault.

Upper East Side
8 East 80th Street
10,600-square-foot townhouse. Asking: $9.9 million. Selling: $10 million. Time on market: five years.

Blame the contractor for the half-decade delay in selling this immaculate townhouse: Its owners were renovating their new home, and every time they got an offer, it wasn’t ready. (They’d bump up the price each time to fend off potential buyers.) This time, they were ready, though, and a couple who’d sold their tech company and were relocating from the West Coast thought they had a deal with an offer of $9.5 million. Then someone swept in and offered more. Douglas Elliman broker Marilyn Presser, who had both sides of the original deal, intervened, calling the owners to ask, “What would it take? Everyone has a price – name a price.” The owner said $10 million; she called the couple, who slept on it and then paid up.

Will cyber pioneer get run out of town?