The Inside Scoop On New York Real Estate

In New York,where nothing is more valuable than having a little extra room to breathe, a few colosal listings have real estate insiders literally holding their breath. Ready to supersize it?

Uma With A View Actress Uma Thurman is in contract to buy a $10 million pad in the fabled River House. river house: anastassios mentis; keaton: s_bukley/

In New York, where nothing is more valuable than having a little extra room to breathe, a few colossal listings have real-estate insiders literally holding their breath. Ready to supersize it? A Manhattan McMansion could be yours, if you can swing the record $130 million price tag on a proposed 62,000-square-foot property that has just hit the market on Sutton Place.

The River House, the notoriously exclusive co-op chock-full of bluebloods and Social Registrants (its board famously refused to admit Diane Keaton and Gloria Vanderbilt, among other notables), is putting its River Club on the market, positioning it as a possible single-family home. The River House was unable to agree on terms for the club’s upcoming lease renewal, and now residents and other well-heeled members will no longer be able to enjoy the private facility’s two tennis courts, pool, and vast lawn overlooking the East River. Brokers John Burgur and Kyle Blackmon of Brown Harris Stevens enlisted interior designer Tony Ingrao to create renderings of what would certainly be New York City’s largest home, which would price out at a mere $2,100 a square foot (quite a deal, really, as that figure is less than many new luxury developments in the city). River House’s board won’t accept just any old buyer with deep pockets, of course, though the lucky winning bidder will be able to borrow a cup of sugar from some bona fide bold-faced names, including Henry Kissinger, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, and, soon, Uma Thurman, who is in contract to buy novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford’s storied 13-room apartment at a paperback discount: Listed at just under $19 million three years ago, the sprawling home is said to have sold to Thurman for a cool $10 million.

Moscow Near The Hudson? Along with his girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has been ubiquitous on the New York social scene, with plans to take over the Berwind mansion on Fifth Avenue and convert it into a private residence, after spending approximately $100 million to buy all the units in the building.

Meanwhile, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is assembling a dazzling urban dacha of his own, having just purchased the late Howard Ronson’s apartments at the Berwind mansion at 828 Fifth Avenue, a 30-by-110-foot spread on the corner of East 64th Street, one of the most desirable perches in Manhattan. His ultimate goal: buying up all the remaining units in the building and creating a 20,000-square-foot private residence for himself, longtime girlfriend and art-world socialite Dasha Zhukova, and their two New York–born children.

Coal magnate Edward Berwind commissioned little-known architect Nathan Clark Mellen to build the opulent 1896 mansion, which has 17-foot-high Louis XV–style ceilings and in later years was carved into separate residential units; Ronson had owned nearly all the apartments, which were listed at $72 million upon his death. Abramovich has apparently inked a deal in the $10 to $15 million range for one of the two remaining units, reportedly owned by fashion designer Adolfo; real-estate insiders say that the owner of the last apartment is holding out for about $20 million.

But Abramovich needn’t rush things, as he can always chill out at his villa on St. Barth or on his $400 million yacht, Eclipse, while he sews up the entire building. “For anyone who has ever been enamored of the way the robber barons lived—myself included—there’s no better place to call home than the Berwind mansion,” says interior designer Darren Henault, a current resident who rents an apartment in the building with his partner, Michael Bassett, and their twin daughters. “The pleasures are obvious. The size and scale of the rooms, the gorgeous ornament and detail—it’s grand with a capital G.”

To those gazillionaires who feel like the Berwind might be the one that got away, don’t fret: We hear there’s another mammoth single-family residence rising in the thick of the concrete jungle. After it was decided that the Whitney Museum of American Art would be decamping from its Marcel Breuer–designed Madison Avenue digs to a new Renzo Piano–designed building in the Meatpacking District sometime in 2015, the adjacent East 74th Street townhouses the museum had purchased earlier for its now tabled expansion efforts were sold to a real estate developer, who has been quietly gutting them while maintaining their landmarked façades. With top-notch firm Beyer Blinder Belle doing the conversion and designer Alexandra Champalimaud overseeing the interiors, up to ten units will ultimately be put on the market, though a source reports that the whole lot can be made available as one hulking 16,000-square-foot home, in case buyers want to create a museum piece of their own. No word yet on pricing for either individual units or the whole shebang. —Rebecca Morse

Civic boosters don’t want you to  know this, but tony Westchester isn’t quite so polished in some pockets. Now hardy homesteaders are beginning to discover the county’s wrong-side-of-the-tracks towns, just as pioneering New Yorkers have found their way into neighborhoods once considered sketchy, like Red Hook and Bushwick.

First called Saw Pits in the 1600s for its thriving lumber trade, Port Chester is an oddity sandwiched between two of the most affluent Zip Codes in the country, Rye and Greenwich. It’s like Westchester’s answer to Staten Island—with Ed Sullivan as its sole celebrity homeboy. But savvy speculators point to its waterfront location on Long Island Sound, 43-minute commute to Grand Central, and sizzling restaurant scene, thanks in no small part to food titans Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, who opened the red-hot Tarry Lodge in 2008, gambling that Greenwich food snobs would muster the courage to cross state lines for some of the best food for miles. Batali and Bastianich’s venture has sparked something of a restaurant row, drawing even more buzz to the town, which boasts real estate deals aplenty. Much of the housing stock—humble capes and ranches—reflects Port Chester’s working-class roots, but some high-end gems can be had at prices that would only get you a broom closet in Greenwich. Case in point: The Castle, a Tudor-style turreted manse built in 1937, which clocks in at 3,731 square feet and features a cast-iron-and-terrazzo staircase and French doors with diamond-patterned glass. Asking price? A mere $799,000. Karen Hios with Coldwell Banker in Rye has the listing.

On Port Chester Harbor, in a private community with its own beach and mooring rights, a tidy mid-century modern is listed with Coldwell Banker’s Kevin O’Shea for $650,000. And for urban refugees who can’t quite handle the idea of mowing a lawn, there’s the Life Savers Building, the candy company’s former factory and headquarters, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Converted into condos and rechristened One Landmark Square, the wintergreen-and-white building once turned out 600 million rolls a year. (Old-timers say you could guess the flavor of the day based on the smells that wafted through the air.) The loft-style apartments, which include concierge service and use of the condo’s gym and rooftop pool, start below $200,000.

Park Yourself Here This 1916 home in Yonkers’s historic Park Hill is listed for $795,000 with Jane McAfee of Houlihan Lawrence, 914-262-8836.

Just a 28-minute train ride to Grand Central, Yonkers hasn’t been feeling the real-estate love in recent decades, primarily because it’s, well, Yonkers. But Westchester’s largest city has some sweet spots, such as the Park Hill enclave, sited on a 300-foot-high plateau with heart-stopping views over the Hudson River. In 1888 the American Real Estate Company advertised New York’s first commutable suburb’s “salubrious climate and cool nights,” though even Park Hill had lost its sheen until a wave of pioneers started rehabbing its grand homes in the 1980s, says Realtor Jane McAfee of Houlihan Lawrence, who moved into her circa-1903 Park Hill Victorian 32 years ago. Park Hill has been touted as Westchester’s “best-kept secret for years,” she says somewhat ruefully, drawing New Yorkers for its convenience, antique homes notched into the rocky hilltop, and neighborhood amenities including a pool, clay tennis courts, and vintage bowling lanes. McAfee is currently listing a four-story, circa-1916 house with sweeping vistas of the Palisades for $795,000.  

Less exclusive, but getting spiffed up at a rapid clip, are the vintage homes built along Yonkers’s “terraces,” the streets notched into the town’s vertiginous bluffs: A circa-1900 rehab-ready house with a wraparound covered porch, coffered wooden ceilings, four bedrooms, and two-and-a-half baths is listed for just $534,900. And the Yonkers waterfront is currently rebounding, with several new luxury condo and co-op buildings. “People previously wouldn’t go downtown unless they had to go to the DMV or catch a train,” McAfee says, but today the restored Beaux Arts train station—once a haven for prostitutes and drug dealers—even has a starring role as a location in Boardwalk Empire. Perhaps the best riverfront address is the circa-1900 Renaissance Revival Metro92 Building, which once garaged trolley cars and now offers live/work lofts with 20-foot ceilings, renting for $2,500 a month and up. The former power plant known as Scrimshaw House sells two-story, one-bedroom, one-bath condos for as little as $219,000.

Ossining has never topped buyers’ wish lists, undeniably because it’s home to the Sing Sing Correctional Facility. But while the prison is situated alongside the Hudson River, potential homeowners actually look in the other direction anyway, says Houlihan Lawrence Realtor Janet Brand, since Ossining, like Rome, is built on a series of hills with wonderful views. (Fun fact: Rocker Peter Frampton once lived on the highest perch in town, in a 15,000-square-foot house on 14 acres.) Currently included among Brand’s listings is a contemporary home with a dramatic foyer, a rustic stone wall and waterfall, a living room with a floor-to-ceiling hearth, four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, and an asking price of $649,000. —Diane di Costanzo

If New York is where people go to make their fortunes, then Westchester is where they often spend them. Consider Bed-Stuy native Earl Graves, who once sold Christmas cards door to door before going on to found the media company Black Enterprise and top Fortune’s list of the country’s most powerful African-American executives. An avid philanthropist, he recently unloaded his prized possession, a ten-bedroom mansion in Scarsdale, for a sweet $7.5 million.

Born into a poor farming family in New Hampshire, Horace Greeley left school at the age of 14 to work in a printing factory and eventually became the owner and publisher of The New York Tribune, in addition to coining the phrase “Go West, young man.” Greeley himself never headed farther than Chappaqua, with the intention of dabbling in farming. An early advocate of vegetarianism, he constructed a circa-1890 barn of concrete and stone that his daughter later converted into a five-bedroom house with a 30-by- 40-foot living room and soaring ceilings. It’s currently listed for $1.299 million.

Norman’s Conquest The late Norman Vincent Peale’s Pawling estate is listed for $2.9 million with Robert P. Morini of Houlihan Lawrence, 845-279-6800.

In Pawling, the $2.9 million estate of a Bowersville, Ohio, boy who once sold pots and pans to earn extra money for his family is now on the market. That boy grew up to be Norman Vincent Peale, the late minister, author (The Power of Positive Thinking), and publisher. (His Guideposts magazine once reached an audience of 4.5 million readers and still has a healthy circulation of 2 million.) Located on 65 acres, along with a carriage house, two caretaker cottages, and several barns, the circa-1830 Colonial features an indoor swimming pool, eight bedrooms, and six-and-a-half baths. The property is listed with Robert P. Morini of Houlihan Lawrence’s Brewster office. —D. C. 

With the New York and Westchester real estate markets going gangbusters, is Long Island’s Gold Coast now the metropolitan area’s best-kept secret? In the Jazz Age, the 20-odd-mile-stretch of Long Island’s North Shore was aptly named for its glamorous Art Deco piles and even more glamorous inhabitants. Over the years, a new breed of celebrity has quietly infiltrated the area’s rocky coastline, including residents such as Jennifer Lopez (Old Brookville), Billy Joel (Centre Island), LL Cool J (Manhasset), and Sean Hannity (Centre Island), while style makers including William Miller, proprietor of the bespoke stationery purveyor the Printery in Oyster Bay, are making it chic again. “The Gold Coast is a wonderful place to live,” Miller says. “I grew up in Laurel Hollow, on what had been part of Laurelton, the Louis Comfort Tiffany estate, and can attest to the area’s storied history and spectacular beauty. So much of the Gold Coast is still relatively pristine and crisscrossed with country roads that link charming little villages together. Take a wrong turn and you might stumble on almost any kind of architecture, from a historic 1660 home to an elegant Delano & Aldrich mansion to a modern stalwart by Edward Durrell Stone.”

Locust Valley–based designer Meg Braff concurs. “I moved my office here from New York City three years ago to enjoy the scenic setting and the vast range of shops, restaurants, and beautiful architecture,” she says. “It’s even becoming a destination for antiques hunters and design aficionados from around the Tri-state area.”

House To Worship? This 1931 church is on the market for $899,000, listed with Paul Mateyunas of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s, 516-759-4800. lopez: s_bukley/

Looking for something close to Manhattan, a thousand times more bucolic, and possibly even a bargain to boot? Consider an estate by renowned early-20th-century architects William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich. The architects of choice for the “club set” of the era, they specialized in classic Georgian-influenced architecture and produced many elegant manor homes on the Gold Coast during the early 1900s, some of which are on the market for less than a maid’s room at 15 Central Park West. In Oyster Bay, a 21-room Delano & Aldrich mansion with 10 bedrooms and a ballroom can be yours for only $3.688 million, and in nearby Laurel Hollow, a restored 9,600-square-foot Delano & Aldrich manor house is currently on the market for $3.395 million (christened White Eagle, it boasts a rose garden, saltwater pool, and water views). In Glen Cove, a 1931 Delano & Aldrich church ripe for conversion into a single-family home is just waiting for a buyer with divine inspiration. Featuring an original barrel-vaulted ceiling and intact Palladian windows, it is being sold by the church that has occupied it since it was built, with an asking price of $899,000. “It’s one of the first Delano structures of its kind to come up for sale on the North Shore, and also one of the rare Delano buildings priced under $1 million,” says listing broker Paul Mateyunas of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Locust Valley. “Plus, it has national architectural recognition and a great residential location—unlike most churches, which are typically built in trafficked downtown business districts for easy access. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Amen to that! —R. M.

We first reported on Wooldon Manor on Gin Lane in September, and now that the $48 million oceanfront estate is in contract, it’s on track to set the record sales price for 2013. Unless, of course, owners Vince and Louise Camuto quickly unload their other Hamptons estate, the 50-room, 11-bedroom Villa Maria in Water Mill, which they’ve just listed with John McHugh and Pat Petrillo of Sotheby’s for $49.5 million. The fashion-world couple lent their golden touch to the 22,000-square-foot 1920s mansion on Mecox Bay, transforming the former Dominican Sisters convent into a modern showpiece with a pool, cabaña, tennis court, guesthouse, and dock on 7.6 acres.

Something About Maria Vince and Louise Camuto, fresh from selling Wooldon Manor for $48 million in September, have just listed Villa Maria in Water Mill for $49.5 million with John McHugh and Pat Petrillo of Sotheby’s, 631-283-0600.

When the Dominicans sold Villa Maria, they also sold an adjoining property containing the iconic windmill on Water Mill’s village green. Contingent with the sale to the village was a covenant that gives the nuns the rights to buy the land back for $1 if Water Mill residents misuse the location in a disreputable way. As this covenant transfers with the sale of Villa Maria, potential new owners might want to ponder what’s considered “disreputable” in the Hamptons nowadays.

Meanwhile, Town Line Road, which divides the towns of East Hampton and Southampton, seems to be raising the bar on the region’s real estate balance sheets. In just five months, Corcoran’s Gary DePersia sold “three major structures on Town Line for $45 million—there’s no other street I can think of like that.” One of the three is a $13.95 million renovated 1840s barn, overseen by architect Michael Behringer in association with the Sagaponack Village Historical Board; the other two are Val Florio–designed, Lifton Green–built, new-construction homes on Wainscott property purchased from the Topping family just six houses from the beach, listed at $14.9 and $16.95 million. (Wainscott, on the East Hampton side, has less restrictive building codes than Southampton’s Sagaponack, DePersia points out, so new-construction homes tend to go up and move faster.)

Go To Town! Within walking distance of East Hampton Village, this contemporary home features a 2,000-bottle wine cellar. It’s listed for $2.4 million with Rebekah Baker of Sotheby’s, 631-907-8468.

Across the East End, many properties that have languished on the market are suddenly being snapped up, brokers have noted. “People have seen a lot of inventory disappear quickly, or they might have lost a house or two during the negotiation process,” says Rebekah Baker of Sotheby’s. “So now buyers are ready to take action. For a while it would take months to get a client to say yes, but now people are often saying yes on the first or second showing.”

Waterfront properties and houses near the beach are always in demand, but a significant portion of today’s buyers are seeking village locations. “Clients are increasingly interested in having a second home in a village, where they can get off the Jitney, walk to their house, and not even need a car,” Baker says. “They want to relax on the weekend and walk into town for dinner.” Baker currently represents a classic modernist home in East Hampton Village with a 2001 addition by architect Stephen Alton. “It’s private and quiet, doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, and has a nice pool and a 2,000-bottle wine cellar”—though presumably the wine doesn’t come with the sale. All you need is a toothbrush and your own Château Lafite.

For Grey Gardens fans who have ever wondered about the next generation, Bouvier Beale, Jr.—the nephew of Little Edie and executor of her estate—has listed his Amagansett house for $2.399 million, also with Rebekah Baker of Sotheby’s. With his wife, Eva Marie Beale, he published his aunt’s diaries, and additionally Eva is the founder of Grey Gardens Collections, a line of home furnishings, jewelry, and accessories. But no herds of cats are to be seen roaming their Amagansett home, a charming 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom cottage on .8 acres with a horse barn, heated pool, and pool house.

Beale Deal The Amagansett cottage of Bouvier Beale, Jr., is listed for just under $2.4 milliion with Sotheby’s Rebekah Baker, 631-907-8468.

As the saying goes, charity begins at home—quite literally, when it comes to the recent sale of a house in Water Mill, which netted nearly $1.45 million for Habitat for Humanity. The home’s late owner, Sarah Rubenstein, bequeathed the structure to the organization, and proceeds from the sale have funded the rebuilding of ten houses damaged by Hurricane Sandy on Staten Island. “My partner, Alyra Hoffman, and I were asked by Habitat to procure a sale quickly, since they had an urgent need for the money,” says co-broker Priscilla Garston of Douglas Elliman. “Fortunately they were able to use the funds to help as many victims of Hurricane Sandy as possible.” —Heather Buchanan

Snowbirds, rejoice: Palm Beach’s recently frigid real estate market is experiencing a major thaw. Properties on Billionaires’ Row, the famous stretch of mansions lining South Ocean Boulevard, have returned to pre-recession levels, commanding prices ranging between $10 and $70 million, and formerly sleepy shops on Worth Avenue are buzzing with activity again. According to the Palm Beach Board of Realtors, the average sales price of homes increased 33 percent from 2012 to 2013. In August, traditionally a slow month, the average sales price rose from $2,792,140 a year ago to $5,561,836 this year.

“The market has been particularly strong in 2013,” says Jim McCann of Corcoran, “resulting in a historically low inventory of homes and condominiums. It’s challenging to find properties across all price points.” Patricia Mahaney of Sotheby’s International Realty concurs. “Today there are only 14 single-family homes listed between $700,000 and $2 million,” she says. “Two years ago, I probably had 40 under $2 million.”

Whenever the market perks up, you can be sure to find bold-faced names making some bold moves. Shock jock Howard Stern sent shock waves through the real estate community when he discreetly purchased a $52 million oceanfront home on North County Road, just down the street from Rush Limbaugh’s $40 million manse. Recent jaw-dropping prices have ranged from the record-setting $12 million paid for a condo in the oceanfront Breakers Hotel to the $72 million listing of Celine Dion’s Jupiter Island mansion just up the Intracoastal.

What’s more, many potential homebuyers are more likely to have Proenza Schouler in their closets than Arnold Scaasi. “Young families with school-age children are moving here for a variety of reasons: lifestyle, climate, safety, and the advantage of no state income tax,” McCann says. And they are not looking for vintage mansions—they want new construction or homes updated to today’s hurricane and building standards. “A new-construction property on the north end of Palm Beach went into contract within five days for $5 million,” reports Mahaney, whose colleague Kim Raich of Sotheby’s is seeing interest in a newly built $9.975 million residence with pool, guesthouse, and staff quarters in Dunbar, just north of the Breakers. South of Palm Beach Island, a $45 million oceanfront Manalapan mansion represented by McCann is for sale next door to the estate where life coach Tony Robbins is presumably living the good life. “It’s the only newly built oceanfront property on the market,” McCann says. “And not only is it on the ocean, but it’s also on the Intracoastal.”

Sunshine Status Listed at just under $10 million, this elegant new-construction home is located in Palm Beach’s Dunbar neighborhood, just north of the Breakers; call Sotheby’s Kim Raich, 561-659-3555. Stern: s_bukley/

Fancy something more pastoral? Just 20 miles west of Palm Beach, Wellington hosts the 12-week-long FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, the world’s largest horse show, during the season. It’s also home to Bill Gates, Bruce Springsteen, and Lou Dobbs, whose daughters all compete, not to mention luxury stables that can fetch upwards of $20 million. —H. B.