Wednesday, May 27, 2009

UPDATE: 820 Fifth Avenue

A couple of short weeks ago, Your Mama gave a thorough run down on all the ridiculously rich residents of 820 Fifth Avenue, one of New York City's most exclusive apartment houses where the famously fussy and fearsome board has been known to reject purchase applications of big name and big money buyers like mono-monikered stitch bitch Valentino, bald billionaire Ron Perelman, casino tycoon Steve Wynn, oil heir Freddie Koch and pharmaceutical heiress Libbet Johnson who was reportedly cleared to purchase one apartment but nixed when she inquired about buying both the fourth and the fifth floors in order to create a monumentally massive duplex situation.

In our little discussion, Your Mama discussed the 4th floor spread currently owned by real estate magnate Ara Hovnanian and his abstract ar-teest wifey Rachel. According to New York City real estate tattler Max Abelson at the NY Observer, the Hovnanians recently and quietly floated their full floor apartment on the market with a heart stopping asking price of $36,000,000.

Shortly after Mister Abelson let the Hovnanian real estate cat out of the bag, Miss Beeswax whispered to Your Mama that the Hovnanians had already secured a contract to sell the apartment to an unknown buyer and all that remained to seal the deal was for the wannabe resident of 820 to pass muster with the iron-fisted board and more specifically with the 3rd floor resident, high society doyenne Jayne Wrightsman who is rumored to hold the keys of the Golden Kingdom at 820 even though she does not technically sit on the board.

This week, Mister Abelson came right out and identified the wannabe resident of 820 as 40-something year old real estate wunderkind Jeff Blau and his nutrition nut wifey Lisa. Mister Blau, the head honcho at the real estate juggernaut Related Companies, reportedly offered thirty one million smackers for the Hovnanian apartment but, according to one of Mister Abelson's seemingly very well placed sources, before Mister Blau could write that big check he received word from the board that "it would not be appropriate to go forward with the application." Oh, ouch. The market may be down but apparently the boards of New York's most difficult to access buildings are going to maintain a stiff upper lip and adhere to their stringent (and arcane) standards for gaining entry. It's a weird world ain't it children?

Before anyone throws a real estate pity party for Mister and Missus Blau remember that just last year the deep pocketed pair forked over $21,000,000 for Scott Bommer's full floor apartment at tony 1040 Fifth Avenue which is, of course, the same building Jackie-O called home for about a thousand years before her death.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you want a good view in to these people - what drives them. Just finished reading the new book Rogues Gallery - about the Trustees at the Met.
820 is a beautiful building, and a full floor overlooking the park is phenomenal - but the neighbors don't sound like a lot of fun. Being on the park on UWS is a lot more fun - although not an option for those stuck on the UES.

Anonymous said...

I thought Jackie lived at the Dakota on CPW until her death?

Anonymous said...

You must be kidding, Jackie on the west side? Nevah!

angeleyes said...

The first commenter expressed my sentiments exactly.. "the neighbors don't sound like a lot of fun". What person in their right mind cares what uber snobs think. I've lived in a few rather tony neighborhoods in my life, but they weren't divorced from reality. There must be some deeply rooted insecurity also being 'quietly floated' along with the real estate at 820 Fifth Avenue.

StPaulSnowman said...

You have to admit that such rejections tweak the pleasure zone a little. It is like the rich kid with the pushy parents who gets the rejection letter from Swarthmore even though the parents quietly float the idea that they might buy the college a building or something. It is so wonderful that snobbery, an idea, trumps money, a thing. I am loving it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with StPaul!
If you met these people, you'd probably understand why they were rejected. I wish that I could reject a couple of my neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Before any of the 820 Fith Avenue supporters of the board get too carried away with the idea, recall that an equally artificial and gall inducing philosophy recently held sway in the White House for eight years and you know how that turned out. How anyone can celebrate plumbing the depths of the less than noble side of human nature is beyond me.

StPaulSnowman said...

Anon 6:18.......If you were referring to my comment, I would only suggest that it is refreshing to see the irresistible force of enormous wealth foiled by the "gall inducing philosophy" of a "board of admissions". It is amusement at rather than celebration of the ignoble.

Anonymous said...

Snowman, I appreciate the point you're making, but the supposedly irrestible force of enormous wealth is on both sides of the equation at 820. I agree it is rather amusing in a pathetic kind of way.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why anyone would want to live in a building where a bunch of fossils and fuddy-duddy's have to deam you "good" enough to live there...fuck them...I'm sure there's tons o' fun to be neighbors with...

Anonymous said...

Can we stop with all the tedious tut-tutting about the rumored turn-down of the Blau's at 820? People, it is not just about the money there. Mrs. Wrightsman is a woman who dedicates a big chunk of her life and donates a big chunk of her money to high culture: art and classical music. She wants people with similar interests. Yes, a big snob, to be sure, when it comes to those things as well as any number of other things. She doesn't want to have these people, the Blau's, living above her for some reason. If you had the option, you can probably think of a few neighbors who you would veto as well for some reason You have to remember, 820, like every cooperative building, is not a public facility. It is private, just like a private club that you would never think of just waltzing into because you feel like it. Just like with any private club, you may have the money to join, but if they do not want you, the money is meaningless.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Wrightman is a stupid idiot.

Anonymous said...

I bet Anon 12:06 got a rejection letter!

Anonymous said...

Let's be realistic about why co-ops exist. It is a sanctioned way to keep people out of your building, and your neighborhood. Have you ever counted how many African Americans you see on Fifth or Park. Very very few. In most of the "good buildings" there are still limits on the number of Jewish apartments - so that buildings aren't thought of as being Jewish buidings.

Rejection is usually not about money or character, but on religious, political, sexual orientation reasons.

NYer said...

I agree with you up there...Co-op boards (legally) discriminate for reasons that include race, religion and sexual orientation. And you're right, "good" buildings have unwritten quotas for the number of apts. that can be sold to Jews or etc. Of course no board member of a "good" building will ever admit it out loud, but everyone knows that's the case.

It's widely known that 730 Park was built as an alternative for Jewish people who were not always welcome at 740 Park. The places at 730 are just as large and well appointed as 740, but it's known by everyone as a "Jewish" building. Of course, not everyone in the bldg. is Jewish.

There are other reasons a board might reject someone that include financial instability, social position, perhaps there is some bad business blood between buyer on another resident (or friend of the resident), sometimes it's because the real estate agent didn't know how to present to the board properly, sometimes it can be that the buyer just didn't make a good impression on the board, or, and this happens too, for reputation..."good" buildings do not want residents that have bad public reputations.

I'm not defending boards, I'm just saying there are a hundred reasons a board will reject a buyer and finances are generally not the only or even the primary reason.

Anonymous said...

Oh to be on the board of one of these majestic old co-op's and the dirt that must flow and ebb like the tide...Hey if I had my way I woud rid my street of a few of my neighbors. Funny though, I bet the folks in these buildings NEVER even see each other yet the thought of having them a few floors away keeps them at bay....

Anonymous said...

It's natural to stumble across a neighbor or two you could live without after getting to know them, but there's a marked distinction between that and arbitrarily employing what amounts to routine discrimination based entirely on egotistical selfishness. Altruistic contributions to society don't mitigate that. It follows that those who have more, can and should do more.

Tom Thumb said...

It doesn't matter how philanthropic a person may be or how many paintings the give to the Met or how many employees their company employs, discrimination is discrimination.

So while co-op boards are legally allowed to reject any applicant for any reason, let's not try to pretend what they're doing is not anything but overt discrimination.

The only people who defend this kind of discrimination are people who are frightened and insulated from the wider world.

I'd love for my neighbors to keep up their yard better, shut their fucking kids up and park a nicer car in their driveway so I don't have to look at that rusted up Toyota every time I come and go. But I can't and I wouldn't even if I could because as soon as you start telling other people what they can and can't do, you open yourself up to be told what you can and can't do too.

Anonymous said...

See, that's why I would rather just live in Beverly Park than live with a bunch of old, ugly, racist luddites in a stuffy old building.

Sandpiper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Why would Jewish or other minorities not be allowed? I can't believe I'm reading this nonsense. Disgusting.

Oh well, these people are all old and will die soon so who cares?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I know of a black person living in one of those ultra exclusive co-op buildings on 5th.

I can't remember which address it was.

Anonymous said...

So let's see, there are a number of coops in nyc that are heavily weighted with gay men. They happen to be in neighborhoods where the gays like to live. They happen to have Boards that are heavily weighted with gays. The Jews who developed 730 Park? Well you know what, they were German Jews, and they didn't like Jews of supposedly lower caste, as in Polish, etc, and they didn't want them in their apartment building. Read Steven Birmingham's People Like Us. Generally, people want to live with other people like them. Now out there beyond the arcane world of cooperative apartment living that does not mean that other people do not also have the right to live there as well IF they can get a seller to make them a buyer. As a seller of private property in this country, in reality you have the right to sell or not sell to whomever you want. Say, you have a great garden that you have spent years developing and you get wind of the fact that a certain potential buyer wants to dig it out and put a big macadam parking area in its place. "Uh, ya know what, we're having seconds thoughts about selling at this particular time. . ."

However, none of this has anything to do with what goes on in a coop, which as I stated above in another post is a PRIVATE corporation. And these people decide what are the other people like them. My best buddy is black, and he grew up in a white suburban neighborhood. His parents did not reject their heritage, but they also decided that the other people like them were not just people of the same skin color, but also people who were highly educated professionals who were attracted to a town with good schools. Would they have preferred that town was full of black folks? Sure, but unfortunately that wasn't the case forty-five years ago, and unfortunately it isn't the case today either.

As someone who has lived in a NYC co-op for many years, and count most of my more liberal New York friends as fellow co-op dwellers, I can tell you that ninety-nine percent of co-ops are ONLY about the money. (Like a bunch of my friends, today I would never get passed the Board of my building because of money.) The legal construct of the cooperative has left room for discrimination, BUT THE PRIMARY POINT OF A COOP IS TO MAKE THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE FEEL MORE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PLACE IN WHICH THEY LIVE. In co-ops, unlike condos, there are rules that state that you must actually live in your apartment, and in many the rule is it must be your primary residence. In most, you can only sublet for a year, with a year renewal, before you have to move back in or sell. If I had to generalize about my co-op on the Upper West Side, I would say it is Jewish, and it is straight. The women are often in education (assistent principal in a public school and that sort of thing.) Their husbands are making more money as smart men in a lucrative branch of the private sector (ie. banking). That said, I am gay and of a Christian background. My next door neighbor was living with another woman in a lesbian relationship for a number of years, until there was a lot of yelling and screaming, and then she was with a very sexy guy who she met walking her dog. Now they are married and have a little girl. That's the way it goes.

Back to 820 Fifth Ave. It almost certainly has nothing to do with the fact that they are Jewish. Jayne Wrightsman is not operating on that level. Trust me. There are Jews in the building already. And, by the way, the person who wrote the tale about 730 Park Ave. failed to mention that 740 is predominately Jewish at this time. . .

Horace said...

Helena Rubinstein was denied a triplex penthouse co-op at 635 Park Avenue because she was Jewish, so she simply bought the entire building! She then lived there for many decades until her death!

Anonymous said...

Correction! Steven Birmingham's book is "Our Crowd".

Anonymous said...

Well, the board might be powerfull, but I doubt it is all powerfull. Not all of the restrictions appear to have teeth to them. Like if you lease for more then a year, they may tell you to sell, but can they make you sell? I doubt so. I guess theoretically, they may deny entry to your leasee, however, with a valid lease contract, I am not sure the police will agree with the board. Also, I don't think the board approves any HELOCs or second mortgages on properties. So, what is keeping an owner from taking out a second mortgage for 100% of the value and then default? Surely, when the bank sell the foreclosed apatrment, the board will be very much interested in getting it simply sold and no longer having a foreclosure in the building. I am sure, some of those who bought in the last 5 years are near underwater on their mortgages, anyway. Just thoughts...

Anonymous said...

Every time you want to re-finance, you have to submit a new and complete financial package to the the board of your co-op.

Anonymous said...

"Every time you want to re-finance, you have to submit a new and complete financial package to the the board of your co-op."

And what if you don't? If the bank is willing to lend money without board's approval, I doubt the board can do anything.

PS I am so glad people in my condo association don't treat each other like toddlers in a sand box.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone could buy the property then allow it to be used for the next taping of "The Cougar".

Anonymous said...

Love this Blog. This posting is late, but I happened to be looking at old posts and this one caught my eye.
Funny about Mrs. Wrightsman holding the keys to 820. I think she has forgotten her early days as a perfume clerk. She was working the perfume counter when Mr. Wrightsman was shopping for perfume for his current wife and was smitten with the cute clerk behind the perfume counter. Wonder if the cute counter clerk would have been approved by the coop board in those days?
The American dream, obtain it then keep the "little people" or "those people" out.
Bravo to the Mrs. Wrightsmans of this world using married power to elevate themselves.