The apartment inside 66 Leonard Street
Until recently, Nouriel Roubini’s Tribeca duplex was decorated with glass globes suspended from the 22-foot ceilings.
“It had all these interesting bubbles hanging from the ceiling,” said Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Sonia Stock, who recently put the apartment on the market.
“Glass bubbles, which is interesting, because you know, he burst the bubble, didn’t he?” she joked, referring to Roubini’s well-known status as one of the few economists to predict the current global economic crisis. His foresight earned him the nickname “Dr. Doom”, a moniker that belies the economist’s reported party-loving ways.
Roubini, a professor of economics at New York University and owner of the research firm Roubini Global Economics, has recently predicted more trouble for the housing market and warned of a “double-dip” recession.
So the real estate world was somewhat surprised when he paid $5.55 million (including transfer taxes) for an East Village triplex penthouse in December, with many interpreting it as a sign that Roubini had at last turned bullish on New York real estate.
A view of the suspended glass bubbles from the apartment’s mezzanine level
Not so fast. There’s still the matter of the economist’s bubble-festooned Tribeca duplex at 66 Leonard Street, which has become famous over the years for Roubini’s parties and walls sculpted with images of vaginas (reportedly created by artist Analia Segal, a Guggenheim fellow.) “My home is also partially a cultural salon where I host book parties, debate and election night events, independent film screenings, live music nights, theater/performance acts, fashion shows, dinner parties and even plain old-fashioned dance parties,” Roubini told the blog Gawker in 2008.
Roubini purchased unit #2/3 B in the Leonard Street condo conversion — a landmarked Beaux-Arts building — in 2002 for $860,000, according to city records.
He put the 1,300-square-foot one-bedroom loft on the market for both sale and rent in October, right around the time he likely went into contract on his new East Village pad. At first, it was listed for sale at $1.89 million or $9,000 per month to rent, according to Streeteasy.com. But potential buyers evidently were heeding Roubini’s dour premonitions about the economy, because the price dropped to $1.79 million before being taken off the market. It is now available only for rent at $7,600, Stock said.
Market-wise, “now is the time to rent,” said Stock, who is also listing a two-bedroom in the building for $15,000 per month. In addition, the apartment is somewhat unusual because it’s so large, but has only one bedroom, which is on the second floor.
Some of the more unusual features have recently disappeared, however. Roubini took the glass bubbles with him to his new apartment, she said. The plaster vaginas have been removed from the wall, which was repainted.
Quirky features are all well and good, except when it comes to selling real estate, Stock said.
“You want to appeal to a very broad spectrum,” she said. “There’s a certain normalcy that needs to be found within an apartment.”
The stairwell inside the apartment at 66 Leonard Street
Stock speaks from experience. Oddly enough, she has another rental listing on the market where the most recent tenants — a pair of artists — also decorated with images of the human anatomy, this time of the male variety.
When Stock walked into the $4,700-per-month Chambers Street apartment for the first time with a client in tow, “We were shocked,” she recalled. “They had these huge male genitalia everywhere — clay forms, pictures. From every [angle], there was a penis looking at you.”
Some of the statuettes were nearly four feet tall, she said. The client, a woman, took one look and walked out, saying it wasn’t for her. Stock called the owner and said she wouldn’t be showing the place again until the tenant moved out. Home-seekers may be able to ignore clutter or unsightly furniture when evaluating a potential apartment, she said, but that only goes so far.
“There are some things that you cannot overlook,” she said.