The inside scoop on New York real estate

From Robert De Niro selling his Greenwich Village townhouse to newlyweds Ryan Reyndols and Blake Lively purchasing the perfect Bedford, NY home, we're in the know on these note worthy deals.

Raging Bull Market?

Townhouses in Greenwich Village have never been more in demand—except, perhaps, when they’re a wreck. Famed actor and Tribeca booster Robert De Niro finally sold his St. Lukes Place townhouse for $9.5 million this summer, after it languished for a year on the market. That’s about one-third less than the $14 million the Raging Bull star had wanted for the home he owned for 30 years, a 22.5-foot-wide redbrick residence that requires a full renovation. The broker was his son, star downtown agent Raphael De Niro, of Prudential Douglas Elliman.  

When a house is triple-mint, however, unheard-of prices are possible for well-located village brownstones. Take the gut-renovated 23-foot-wide townhouse at 92 Charles Street, one of the prettiest blocks in the West Village. Serial trophy-property buyer and nightlife investor Michael Hirtenstein paid $13.6 million for the five-bedroom home, closing on the recession special in January 2010. Just two years later, he sold the house again to an unknown buyer for $19 million, a record price per square foot for a downtown single-family home, according to local brokers.

Now developer William Rainero is testing the limits of the downtown townhouse market by asking a whopping $31.5 million for the Washington Place house he grew up in and has since renovated in an open contemporary style with the interior designer Clodagh. The seven-floor home has a double-height living room featuring an entire wall of glass and includes five bedrooms, a roof garden, a rear zen garden, a billiard room, a sauna, a hot tub, and a terrace off the master bedroom with a city view. Lisa Simonsen of Prudential Douglas Elliman has the listing.

More top-tier townhouses are making real-estate market news. Two men recently paid $11.2 million for the East 10th Street townhouse that formerly housed the Pen & Brush Club and have plans to renovate it, adding a swimming pool, and then flip it to a wealthy buyer. And the West 12th Street townhouse once owned by late magazine publisher and Fabergé egg collector Malcolm Forbes will be renovated by buyer Icon Realty Management and then relisted. Despite its pedigree, the townhouse had been languishing on the market, perhaps due to construction down the street on the site of the former St. Vincent’s hospital. Once asking more than $15 million, the 25-foot-wide brick home, which includes its own private garage, sold to Icon for less than half that price, $7.25 million, earlier this year.  —Christina Lewis Halpern

De niro: Globe-photos; townhouse: jennifer cole




Prices have always been stratospheric for people who want to own a piece of the Manhattan skyline, and now the same goes for luxury renters, too. Because even well-heeled Gothamites are skittish about buying in a still-tenuous economy, demand far exceeds supply when it comes to deluxe rentals—so much so that bidding wars have ensued over many high-end apartments, “with people paying above the asking rent,” says Mark Menendez, executive vice president and director of rentals for Prudential Douglas Elliman. “We’re now seeing outrageous rents in that sector.” Seeking to capitalize on the market, developers are adding condo-style amenities to rental buildings and units, from pet grooming and concierge services to full-fledged spas staffed with physical therapists and nutritionists. And if renting trends in the city are any indication, there’s a healthy appetite for these digs, despite their price tags: This year, Manhattan rents have crept up higher than ever, exceeding their pre-recession levels.  

For the second quarter of 2012, the average rental price for a Manhattan apartment rose 9 percent, to $3,778, from the same period a year ago. Luxury rentals, representing the top 10 percent of all Manhattan rentals, rose even higher, to $9,469 from the second-quarter 2011 figure of $8,476, an 11.7 percent increase.

To attract the crème de la crème, one of the toniest new rental buildings on the market, Liberty Luxe, is positively brimming with condominium-style finishes and amenities. No surprise there, as developers Milstein Properties had initially conceived of the Battery Park City high-rise, along with its sister tower, Liberty Green, as condos, but later switched gears. With one-bedrooms ranging between $4,750 and $5,000 a month, the 32-story tower offers fringe benefits like a 24/7 concierge that can arrange for everything from valet service to dry cleaning, a state-of-the-art fitness center staffed with trainers, a culinary center and test kitchen equipped for classes and foodie activities, and a 156-seat theater for lectures and recitals. Apartments at Liberty Luxe boast details that are equal parts upscale and eco-friendly: bamboo floors, energy-efficient windows, and marble-studded kitchens kitted out with top-of-the-line stainless-steel appliances.

Not to be outmatched, AKA Sutton Place one-bedrooms rent for nearly twice as much: $9,350 a month. The Upper East Side luxury short-term rental property aims to offer the intimacy of a boutique hotel with fully furnished apartments and gourmet kitchens. Billing itself as a “luxury-serviced residence,” AKA Sutton Place recently renovated its a.lounge, which boasts an espresso bar and café, a sitting area with a fireplace, a media center, and a private indoor garden designed by the firm Meyer Davis Studio, of Locanda Verde and Boqueria restaurant fame. The building caters to those looking for tony temporary digs due to life-altering circumstances such as renovation, relocation, or even divorce.


Hotel-style living certainly has its charms. Just ask Prince Lorenzo Borghese, progeny of Italy’s Borghese family. While the Borgheses are mostly famous for their beauty empire, the prince is arguably better known as the star of the ninth season of ABC’s The Bachelor, so it makes sense that he lives in a high-end bachelor pad. But his isn’t just any ordinary man cave. Borghese’s apartment in the Sherry-Netherland hotel on Fifth Avenue perfectly suits his jet-set lifestyle, he says, since his line of upscale pet-grooming products, Royal Treatment, and Forsaken, a bath, body, and fragrance collection inspired by the HBO series True Blood, keep him away from home a third of the year. To Borghese, who lives in one of the Sherry-Netherland’s apartment units (a one-bedroom recently rented for $14,500 a month), the iconic hotel just steps from Central Park feels like home. “It’s not like transient living,” he says. “You get the benefits of a hotel, but it’s just like a regular apartment. I love how they do a full-service cleaning once a month and deliver clean sheets and towels every day! Plus the doorman, elevator person, and staff all feel like family”—important to Borghese since, yes, ladies, he’s still single, although according to some sources he has been regularly dating socialite Tinsley Mortimer. “Eventually when I get married and have a family and stop traveling so much, I’ll move on. But I haven’t gotten that far. I have to find somebody first!”  —Barbara Thau



The former home and studio of fashion photographer Antoine Verglas has been put on the market for $5.1 million.

Located at 169 Hudson Street in Tribeca’s historic Roebling Building, the 4,200-square-foot, full-floor loft is where Verglas shot countless (often risqué) photographs of supermodels like Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, and Naomi Campbell and pop divas including Rihanna and Alicia Keys. Featuring interior architecture that connotes industrial downtown cool, the three-bedroom condo boasts soaring ceilings, massive columns, and grand, oversize arched windows.

Verglas reportedly sold the place to two Londoners last year for $5.2 million, but they apparently decided the studio wasn’t to their liking and listed it last February for $5.45 million. That turned out to be too steep an ask, and in May, the price was dropped to $5.1 million. The Roebling Building, named for Brooklyn Bridge designer John A. Roebling, was also once the home of P. Diddy, back when he was Puff Daddy and J.Lo’s main squeeze.  —B. T.

Klum: Joe Seer/





Already the most glamorous of Westchester’s towns, Bedford has recently acquired two new celebrities: Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Although the area has always been a draw among bold-faced names of a certain age, it’s much less common for a young unmarried couple to put down roots in this quaint, low-key community. (Lively and Reynolds were also spotted house-hunting across state lines in even quieter New Canaan, where CEOs outrank celebrities by approximately a billion to one.) Current Bedford notables include Martha Stewart, who generated a tiny bit of ill will when she tried to trademark “Katonah,” the hamlet in which she lives, for branding one of her furniture collections; Ralph Lauren, who sells a $2,000 handbag called the Bedford; Glenn Close; Chevy Chase; and Paul Shaffer. Richard Gere and his wife, Carey Lowell, also live in town, where they run the much loved Bedford Post Inn, which includes eight luxury rooms, two restaurants, and a yoga studio. But the young Green Lantern stars are apparently not particularly welcome there, at least according to the tabloids, which reported that Reynolds accused another Bedford Post Inn patron of following him out of the restaurant as both were exiting simultaneously. Could Reynolds have a stalker in this storied, sleepy town? In July, the actor called the cops after a car he thought was tailing him pulled into the exact same shopping plaza that he did. The ensuing police report sparked rumors that Reynolds and Lively had married, since the complaint referred to his lissome blond companion as “his wife.” But the pair have not wed, as far as anyone knows.

Fancy joining the Lively-Reynolds neighborhood? Just up the road from the couple’s $2.3 million Colonial is Northshire, an English country manor on 36 acres, built in 1934 (Depression? What Depression?) by society architect Mott Schmidt for Richard W. Woolworth, an heir to the five-and-dime fortune. Schmidt is perhaps best known for the home he designed for heiress Alice Astor—a circa-1926 Hudson Valley estate that was converted into a home for unwed mothers and then a drug rehab center before being restored by designer Robert Couturier. Northshire offers 9,000 square feet of renovated interiors as well as a pool, tennis courts, a barn, a stable, and paddocks and is listed for $18.5 million with Linda Gracie of Houlihan Lawrence. And then there’s the circa-1930s house on land once owned by Diamond Jim Brady, the rags-to-riches Irish immigrant/bellboy who went on to become a Gilded Age philanthropist with a net worth of $12 million. Brady dated actress Lillian Russell, had a thing for precious gems, and generally lived large, which explains why he snapped up 500 acres of prime Bedford real estate. The 5,000-square-foot home includes five bedrooms, six bathrooms, and one half bathroom on the seven remaining acres, which feature gorgeous gardens, a pool, and a Japanese-tea-house-style pool house with a kitchen and Viking appliances. Fun fact: Parts of the original film version of Sabrina, starring Audrey Hepburn, were filmed on the property. And it’s within walking distance of the Mount Kisco train station, says broker Muffin Dowdle of Ginnel Real Estate—but why walk when, like Sabrina, you can simply get your chauffeur to drive you?

Finally, here’s the ultimate Bedford listing if you’re a tennis enthusiast: 888 Old Bedford Road, a 72-acre compound with two tennis facilities, built by the current owner 10 years ago. The outdoor court is an especially pretty sunken court, flanked by gardens and a tennis cabana, while the property’s indoor court boasts lounge seating, a kitchen, a bath, and a changing room. The property also includes outdoor and indoor pools, and the 17-room main house, designed by Ralph Mackin, features a library, media room, home gym, and a sunroom. The $19,888,000 listing price intentionally echoes the 888 street address; Patty Carpenter of Renwick Sotheby’s International Realty has the listing. —Diane di Costanzo



Although neither massive in size nor jaw-dropping in price, some notable properties changed hands over the summer. Puzzling is probably the best way to describe the home that actor Willem Dafoe sold for $550,000, down from his initial asking price of $850,000. Nicknamed the Rubber House, this Ulster County retreat has an exterior of black neoprene for reasons known only to the original owner, a choreographer named Eugene Loring, who had the place built in 1981. The two-bedroom, 1,949-square-foot structure has retained its high-tech ’80s groove, with teal walls and exposed pipes; there’s also a mirror-walled dance studio and a tower, which now houses a home office. In the Putnam County town of Pawling, legendary real estate maven Barbara Corcoran, who sold her brokerage firm for a reported $70 million, has accepted an offer on her converted schoolhouse on 1.4 acres. The New York Post reports that Corcoran—who is now a host of ABC’s Shark Tank—owns four additional homes and managed to visit this one just three days in the last seven years, although at one time she hosted elaborate parties on the property, with elephants, camels, hot-air balloons, and even a motorcycle gang. Corcoran certainly hasn’t lost her selling skills: She got the full-ask offer—$545,000—less than one hour into her first open house. And it must be architect Mott Schmidt’s time in the sun: In 1956 he built a grand Georgian home called Edgewood on 22 acres in Purchase; at press time, the $8.5 million property was headed toward a signed contract. Edgewood was listed with Susy Glasgall and H. James Norman, both of Houlihan Lawrence in Rye. —D. C.

Dafoe: Adriano Castelli/



Gold coast castle

Château D’Éspoir, an 18-room estate that stands on the rolling terrain of the 550-acre Muttontown Preserve, is on the market for $10.8 million. The new construction was designed to evoke a turn-of-the-century French Norman–style château and was a labor of love for the current sellers, a couple with four kids.

The family had long searched for a home that could accommodate them and their live-in help, but when they came up short, they turned to a local builder to conjure up the castle of their dreams. The result: a sequestered mansion on four acres in the village of Muttontown, which borders Brookville and Upper Brookville.

“This area, where the landed gentry once built large private estates, is just a 30-mile drive to Manhattan,” says Lydia Morrongiello of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, which is brokering the sale. Modern-day Muttontown is considered one of the North Shore’s most fashionable addresses, dotted with country clubs, yacht clubs, and golf courses, but the village has maintained its rural flavor. Winding tree-lined lanes and vast swaths of land—including the Muttontown Preserve—help the region retain its country charm.

The house is tricked out with French architectural details, like the ribbons and floral relief on the arches and doorways, as well as wrought-iron accents throughout both the interior and exterior. Among the state-of-the-art amenities are a dance floor, game room, home theater, and gym.

“There is definitely a market for homes of this size, style, quality, and location,” Morrongiello says, adding that the château has already attracted the attention of foreign buyers seeking new construction offering the best of both worlds: “Privacy and seclusion, and a location near major highways, airports, and New York City.”  —B. T.