Venerable 740 Park Ave. has long been known for its embarrassment of riches. Currently, three of its fabled duplexes are on the market for sums ranging from $22.5 million to $32.5 million, and the record-setting 2014 sale of another duplex — for $71.3 million — still represents the second-highest price ever paid for a New York co-op.
But, lately, the building has been a public embarrassment.
Residents are still disturbed by a string of unsolved robberies that happened three years ago. In April, a two-alarm fire began in a sauna in the sixth- and seventh-floor duplex owned by J. Ezra Merkin, the fund-feeder to convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. Among those forced from their homes was New York’s richest man, David Koch.
And late last month the co-op was sheathed in scaffolding after chunks of its limestone façade fell to the street below.
If you have five residences and 15 watches,
the chances are you’ll think you misplaced it.
The 86-year-old building has had hard times before. It failed as a co-op in the Depression, and its apartment values didn’t recover for 40 years. But today’s trail of tears begins in 2011, when Occupy Wall Street protested outside 740’s bronze front doors, because of its owner roster. Koch. Merkin. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman. Former CIT Group boss John Thain. Hedge-funders Charles Stevenson, Israel Englander, David Ganek and Steven Mnuchin — now Donald Trump’s chief fund-raiser. Brand-name heirs Thomas Tisch and Ronald Lauder.
In May 2012, a series of staff convulsions began with the departure of 740’s longtime superintendent.
“That building had been mismanaged and ripped off for years,” says a former executive at the building’s management firm. (Robert Pincus, the building’s manager through Brown Harris Stevens, declined to be interviewed.) Two months later, a new super replaced 10 staffers — six were fired, four retired. Late last year, that super was also replaced: A staffer hints he fell afoul of George David, retired chairman of United Technologies, who became co-op board president last year. (David had no comment.)HT: Art Market Monitor's "740 Park Ave: The Secret Art Vault In Plain Sight"
The robberies began the next spring, but weren’t reported to police until after the six-week crime spree ended. Financier Ganek and his novelist wife, Danielle, were hit first, losing $100,000 worth of watches and jewelry; followed by hedge-funder Englander and wife Caryl, who lost a $7,500 gold watch; the elderly widow of financier Charles Dyson (an $82,000 diamond bracelet); and, finally, Merkin and wife Lauren (jewelry worth more than $50,000). The thieves were inept; a building source says Merkin, the Madoff crony, kept wads of cash in a closet that wasn’t touched. But at the time, a former manager and a resident called the thefts no-brainers, since few residents locked their doors.
“It seemed high-security until you got inside,” the resident said. “I was shown other apartments by the staff when people were away. If you have five residences and 15 watches, the chances are you’ll think you misplaced it. That’s the life [these tenants] lead. It made them easy targets.”
Still, “it’s the last place you’d expect a robbery,” a second, female tenant said. “The Kochs have 11 bodyguards. We assumed it was an inside job.”
The tenant added that 740 residents “have so much, they barely notice. They think nothing of leaving a diamond watch on a counter and forgetting it’s there for two weeks.”
But she credited the thieves with smarts for ignoring the museum-quality art on many 740 walls. “It’s too obvious if you take something big.”...MUCH MORE