"Compulsively readable."Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times
"Jaw-dropping apartment porn."Fortune
"[A] great read... gossipy... revealing."People
"As rich as his subjects."Forbes FYI
"The Lolita of shelter porn."New York Observer
"Life after folly-filled life flashes forward like Park Avenue canopies viewed from a speeding town car."New York Times
"The is social history at its finest."Dominick Dunne
"Finally! A look inside the golden tabernacle of high society."Kitty Kelley
For 75 years, it’s been one of the most lusted-after addresses in the world. Even today, it is steeped in money, the kind most of us can only imagine. Until now. The story of 740 Park Avenue sweeps across the twentieth century to today, and Michael Gross tells it in glorious, intimate and unprecedented detail. From the financial shenanigans that preceded the laying of the cornerstone, to the dazzlingly and sometimes decadently rich people who hid and hide behind its walls, this is a sweeping social and economic epic, starring our wealthiest and most powerful old-money families — Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Bouvier, Chrysler, and Houghton — Greed Decade symbols Ronald Perelman, Henry Kravis, and Saul Steinberg, and the names in today’s scary financial headlines: David Koch, John Thain, Ezra Merkin and Steve Schwarzman.
Looking for a holiday present? Focus is “smart, well researched and written with an insider’s eye… engaging and on point….canny,” (Kim France, New York Times Book Review), “delicious, sweeping, thoughtful” (The Daily Beast), “thoroughly absorbing…enthralling and riveting,” (Tim Gunn), “amazing… big, intelligent, exhaustively researched, lovingly written,” (Liz Smith, Chicago Tribune), “deep-diving …groundbreaking,” (DuJour), “sizzling…relentless,” (Hamptons Magazine), “juicy. . . fascinating,” (Booklist), “often-shocking” (Daily News), “simply unrivaled…a sensation….” (craveonline), “astonishing and unprecedented,” (The Daily Mail), “exciting…a must,” (Musée), and “important,” (National Post).
After an annus horribilus full of troubles, is 740 Park, subject of my 2005 book, once again New York’s Tower of Power? Consider this: Though his primary residence is California, Secretary of the Treasure-designate Steven Mnuchin remains the owner of a duplex there. And ten floors above him in a triplex penthouse lives the cooperative’s president, George David, former chairman and CEO of defense contractor United Technologies, which owns Carrier, the air-conditioning giant that yesterday agreed to keep jobs in the United States. Might the neighbors have facilitated that deal in a little chat in the elevator or the basement gym?
In his column today, Richard Johnson of the New York Post reports on the revelation in Focus that twice-married Richard Avedon, a major character in the book, was secretly bisexual. It’s but one of dozens of secrets spilled in the story of fashion photography’s glory years. What’s next? Stay tuned for more…
I revisit 740 Park, the subject of my 2005 book, in “Fire, Floods, Theft: The Plagues of 740″, in today’s New York Post. All the story is missing is locusts. See if you can ID the frog in the lily pond. UPDATE: Mail Online picked up the story too.
After a devastating fire a few weeks ago, the world’s richest apartment building, 740 Park, is now being cloaked in 184 linear feet of sidewalk shed. Why? A source with detailed knowledge of the 1929 building’s woes says that after chunks of limestone fell from its facade last July, causing the FDNY to rush there, it was determined that some of the metal brackets that hold the massive stone blocks in place “are rusting, and as it rusts, it swells and pops the limestone, causing pieces to fall.” The source adds, “They have to do probes on the limestone [and] might have to re-clad the building at a cost of $100 million.” That would likely trigger an assessment of about $3 million per apartment. Lucky thing the “poor” residents of 740 (many of whom, including David and Julia Koch, are currently said to be living at The Mark Hotel nearby while remediating fire damage) can afford it. Before the frogs and locusts arrive, cue the world’s smallest violins for a chorus of rich people’s problems.
Today’s New York Times highlights one reason why Manhattan’s high-end condo market is collapsing, as Extell founder Gary Barnett admitted yesterday. James B. Stewart writes that investments in hedge funds, the financial high fliers that funded much of the condo boom, are dropping as dramatically as construction cranes. Stewart quotes Daniel Loeb, founder of the Third Point hedge fund and owner of one of the largest penthouses at uber-condo Fifteen Central Park West (shown with his wife Margaret Munzer Loeb on the front of one of their elaborate Christmas cards): “There is no doubt that we are in the first innings of a washout in hedge funds.” Loeb’s funds finished in the red in 2015, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha Magazine, which just published its annual list of top-performing hedgies. Among Gripepad’s favorites who made the list this year, 740 Park’s Israel “Izzy” Englander (who earned $1.15 billion) and Fifteen CPW’s Dan Och.
Gripepad has refrained from schadenfreude in response to the legal clouds hanging over Bill DeBlasio and anti-carriage-horse group NYCLASS’ co-founder Steve Nislick, but today’s Daily Beast confirms and adds detail to a scoop first published here in 2009 in “It’s Parkingtown, Jake,” revealing that Nislick’s advocacy against the historic Central Park attractions is likely more about real estate than animal welfare. Gripepad first mentioned this brouhaha in 2008, and has followed it ever since. “Clap Your Hands Say Neigh” followed a New York Post scoop on a NYCLASS proposal to replace the horses with amusement park rides. Then, in “Let’s Talk Horse Sense,” a 2011 column in Crain’s New York, Gripepad revealed NYCLASS’ motivation. Nislick and his supporters immediately launched a vicious e-mail campaign against this reporter and his editors. Better that than a subpoena!
“I think it’s the biggest apartment in New York,” says a real estate aficionado of some standing. “It was the apotheosis of the ’80s,” when Salomon Brothers head and one-time “King of Wall Street” John and Susan Gutfreund bought a duplex at 834 Fifth Avenue for the then-staggering sum of $7 million. Yesterday, in the wake her husband’s death in March, Mrs. Gutfreund listed the extravagant twenty-room, seven-bedroom apartment for an even more astonishing $120 million. That’s quite a leap from the $275,000 Carl J. Schmidlapp, a vice-president of of the Chase National Bank, paid in 1930 for what was then a twenty-four room home in the Rosario Candela-designed cooperative then under construction on the north corner of Fifth and Sixty-fourth Street. Schmidlapp had structural steel that had already been erected moved to make way for a grand staircase (pictured) connecting his two floors–and lived there until his death in 1960. His widow lived on in the apartment until 1967 and after her death, it was taken over by J. Watson and Josephine Blair, she a member of the esteemed Cutting family, and he a J.P. Morgan banker, who hired Jansen to decorate. Though the building was best known as the home of Rockefellers, it also contained the duplex once owned by Jessie Woolworth Donahue and later New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, that sold last year for $77.5 million to the Ukranian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik. Once famously spurned by the notoriously picky board at 740 Park Avenue, Blavatnik got his revenge when he scored not only an 834 duplex, but the record for highest price ever paid for a New York coop apartment. The Gutfreunds got their even bigger and better home in 1986 “after Susan was adopted as the protege of Jayne Wrightsman,” the city’s social empress, says the aficionado, and Wrightsman insisted the Gutfreunds move from River House to Fifth Avenue, took them to 834 and introduced them to decorator Henri Samuel, who re-did the decor, “the best there was,” the source continues, “really sophisticated. It stood for something.” What will it stand for now? That depends on who is willing to pay the price to claim ownership of one of, if not the, best residences in the city–and whether 834′s board will accept them.
What do you do when your upstairs neighbor drives you from your home? David Koch, the wealthiest resident of 740 Park Avenue, forced out of the building by water damage following a fire in the apartment above his, belonging to J. Ezra Merkin of Bernie Madoff fame, has checked into a hotel and is checking out new cribs in his costly ‘hood, according to Richard Johnson of the New York Post and PageSix.com. Johnson adds delectable new tid-bits to the story that’s been playing out here on Gripepad over the last few weeks.