The Real Deal New York

The Closing with Barbara Fox

June 01, 2012
By Lauren Elkies


Barbara Fox (photo by Marc Scrivo)

Barbara Fox founded Fox Residential Group in 1989. The boutique brokerage, which now has around 50 agents, handles high-end real estate in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Fox — who in the past has sold homes to celebrities like late legendary newsman Walter Cronkite and actor Robert Redford — recently represented the buyer in the sale of Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez’s Upper West Side apartment. Before starting her own firm, she created a 60-broker residential division of the now-defunct Cross & Brown Residential Company. She is also on the Real Estate Board of New York’s Residential Board of Directors.

What is your full name?
Barbara Susan Fox.

What’s your date of birth?
Jan. 17. Nobody needs to know [the year]. My mother-in-law, [who’s] 104, says that “age is a number, and hers is unlisted.”

Where did you grow up?
Rocky Mount, N.C. — it’s a small Southern town of 6,000 people. The town consisted of a lot of tobacco farmers. My family was in the furniture business. It was a fantastic place to grow up. [But] I did terribly in school, and I never knew why. The reason, I later found out, was I had attention deficit [disorder], which I still have but have learned to live with it.

Do you take medication for it?
No. I figure I’ve lived this long without medication, so I don’t need it.

Where do you live now?
180 East 79th Street.

Do you have any other homes?
We have a weekend house in Easton, Conn. I fenced in six acres, so it’s a dog heaven.

Why did you go into real estate?
I really wanted to do something where no one could control how much money I could make. [And] I had real estate in my blood. When my father sold his business he became a real estate investor. He bought properties in our town and rented them out.

How long have you been married to your husband [James Freund]?
Twenty-seven years. He’s a retired partner at Skadden, Arps.

Were you ever married before?
Yes. [It was] a practice marriage. I got married between junior and senior year of college. He was at M.I.T. graduate school [so] I transferred from Centenary College in New Jersey and I finished college at Boston University. We met when I was a senior in high school. He was a nice man, we were just too young.

How did you end up in New York?
When I separated from my [first] husband, my sister lived here. I had always wanted to live in New York. My mom had lived here when she was younger. We used to come here all the time on vacation. We came to see the Beatles the first time they were in New York.

Where was your first New York City apartment?
500 East 85th Street. My rent was $300 a month.

Do you have kids?
No kids. I have four dogs and two cats. They’re my kids. I have two step-children in their 40s. At the point where I was deciding whether I should have a child, my mother — God bless her, this is a terrible thing — said, “If I had to do it over, I probably wouldn’t have kids.” I said, “Thanks a lot.” She was a career woman, too, and it was very hard to juggle things.

Your first real estate job was working for Alice Mason. What was that like?
I only worked there for a few months. But Alice was a wonderful teacher.

Did you ever attend her famous dinner parties?
She never invited the competition, and by the time she started having those I was at another firm, Whitbread-Nolan [which was bought by Douglas Elliman].

What was your first celebrity client sale?
Ralph Lauren. I called his office and his secretary said he was busy. I said I read in an article that his wife [Ricky] was expecting their third child and I had a couple of apartments for him to look at. He got on the phone. A couple of years later, I sold them an apartment on the Upper East Side. From Ralph and Ricky I got a bunch of referrals. I think Ricky referred Robert Redford.

How much business has your firm done since it launched?
I don’t think that’s anyone’s business. I’m not out there bragging about what I do or don’t do. I’m not a blowhard.

Have you been approached about being on “Selling New York” or “Million Dollar Listing New York”?
Michele Kleier [president and chairman of Gumley Haft Kleier and a close friend] got me on “Selling New York.” I did a segment with her. … I wouldn’t do “Million Dollar Listing.” Did you see it? It’s embarrassing. I mean, the whole thing with [Ryan Serhant] shaving the arms. I even think “Selling New York” is embarrassing.

What are your hobbies?
I love to ski. I love tennis. I do stone sculpting.

What attracted you to stone sculpting?
Frustration, because you beat the crap out of the rock. It gets out so much of your inner angst. It’s very, very cathartic.

You’re the founder of WOOF NYC Dog Rescue. Why are you so passionate about animal rescue?
Humans can speak for their needs. Dogs can’t. Cats can’t. I really feel what’s happening in the shelter system in New York right now is so sad and so pathetic, [like] how many dogs are put down who are totally adoptable. Since January, I’ve taken 10 dogs and cats out and placed them with families or with fosters.

What kinds of dogs do you personally own?
They’re all mixes, except for one who’s a bichon [frise]. I did a DNA test on all of them to see what they were a mix of.

Your vet bill must be insane.
I probably spend $200 a month on insurance for the dogs. And I spend almost $400 to bathe them every other week.

What’s your greatest fear?
If something happened to my husband and me, I really worry I wouldn’t be able to keep my animals together. I made a provision for that in my will, that they have to stay together.

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