Beat poet Ginsberg’s EV rental hits the market

By Candace Taylor | September 14, 2010 01:00PM

Other new listings: the longtime home of Hirschl & Adler Galleries at 21 East 70th Street and an eighth-floor apartment at exclusive condominium 988 Fifth Avenue

From left: Allen Ginsberg’s rental at 437 East 12th Street (photo courtesy of the Allen Ginsberg Estate), Hirschl & Adler Galleries’ home at 21 East 70th Street and 988 Fifth Avenue

It’s not too late to rent the East Village apartment where the late beat poet Allen Ginsberg once slept.

An apartment once occupied by the “Howl” author, at 437 East 12th Street, is hitting the market next week, asking $1,875 per month, according to the listing broker, City Connection Realty’s Dmitry Daniel Kramp.

Ginsberg lived at the property, nicknamed “The Poet’s Building,” from 1975 until shortly before his death in 1997, according to Peter Hale of the Allen Ginsberg Estate. He occupied three rent-controlled apartments in the building, located between First Avenue and Avenue A. Two of them, units #22 and #23, were combined into one large space that served as Ginsberg’s living quarters and office, Hale said. Meanwhile, #24 was occupied by Ginsberg’s lifelong partner, Peter Orlovsky, and other guests.

Units #22 and #23 have now been renovated and separated into individual one-bedroom apartments, Kramp said. In late August, #22 — the one-time site of Ginsberg’s kitchen and office — hit the market with an asking price of $1,750 per month. It was quickly rented, Kramp said, after he was inundated with inquiries from Ginsberg fans. He expects a similar response to #23 next week, which housed Ginsberg’s bedroom and living room.

“All the history behind it creates a lot of exposure,” Kramp said.

Hale, who pens the Allen Ginsberg Project blog on behalf of the estate, was a friend of Ginsberg’s and a guest at 437 East 12th Street for months at a time, starting in the 1980s. Ginsberg’s office is now the bedroom of unit #22, he said.

“When he had his office there, it was a circus, a madhouse,” Hale said. “He had three different assistants and a secretary and guests were staying often…There was always somebody coming in from God knows where: friends, translators, other poets, other writers.”

Ginsberg, a compatriot of Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, became famous with the 1956 publication of the book “Howl and Other Poems.” His fame grew to international proportions a year later, with the highly publicized “Howl” obscenity trial in San Francisco. His apartment at 437 East 12th Street became a gathering place for Burroughs and others, Hale recalled. In fact, Ginsberg originally chose the building, Hale explained, because a number of other poets lived there, including Larry Fagin and John Godfrey.

When Ginsberg moved in, of course, the neighborhood was not the gentrified, nightlife hotspot it is today.

The building at 437 East 12th Street

“The neighborhood was so bad in the late 1970s, no one wanted to live there,” Hale said, noting that at one point in the 1970s, Ginsberg’s entire building was for sale for only around $80,000.

“Allen tried to rally everybody together in the building to pitch in and buy it,” he said.

The effort wasn’t successful, but along the way Ginsberg did end up with three rent-controlled apartments, for which he paid less than $600 a month in total, Hale said.

Of course, the poet — who, like other Beats, rejected materialism — wasn’t living in the lap of luxury. The apartments sometimes had no hot water, Hale said. The washing machine was in the kitchen and wouldn’t work unless it was jimmied with a strategically positioned chopstick. “He’d have to bring a hose over from the sink for water,” Hale said. “It was very East Village Bohemian.”

When Ginsberg left the building in 1996, shortly before his death from liver cancer, he gave up apartment #24, but Orlovsky retained the rights to apartments #22 and #23. After Orlovsky died in May of this year, Hale said, the two apartments were gut renovated.

At 560 square feet, #23 is larger than #22, Kramp said. The renovation is almost complete and should be finished by the beginning of next week, he said.

When asked how he feels about the gutting of Ginsberg’s former home, Hale said: “It’s sad, but it’s a New York reality.”

**

A 22-foot limestone townhouse at 21 East 70th Street — the longtime home of Hirschl & Adler Galleries — is for sale.

The landmarked mansion hit the market this past Sunday with Jed Garfield, the managing partner of boutique brokerage Leslie J. Garfield & Co., for $22.5 million.

Hirschl & Adler has occupied the building for “a happy 33 years,” said Elizabeth Feld, the gallery’s director of American Decorative Art, but the company is moving this fall to a larger space at 730 Fifth Avenue.

Inside the townhouse at 21 East 70th Street

The building is owned by a trust, Garfield said, and the owners prefer to sell it rather than find a new tenant.

“It’s an amazing property,” he said, noting that the limestone building is rare in a neighborhood of brownstones.

Constructed as a single-family home around 1920 by wealthy New Yorker Gustav Pagenstecher, the home is on the same block as the Frick Museum. The art gallery Knoedler & Company occupied the building around 1970, Garfield said. When Knoedler moved next door a few years later, Hirschl & Adler leased the building.

“It’s a wonderful building,” said Feld, whose father, Stuart, is the president of Hirschl & Adler.

The house is zoned for commercial use, so it could be used as “an amazing private office for someone,” Garfield said, or “a great family house.” Almost any owner will need to renovate the 10,000-square-foot space, however, he said.

**

The Corcoran Group brokers Leighton Candler, Noble Black and Deborah Kern have listed an eighth-floor apartment at exclusive condominium 988 Fifth Avenue for $22 million.

According to city documents, the full-floor apartment is owned by prominent attorney Richard Schiffrin, who purchased it with his wife Barbara for $10.95 million in 2005.

The condo at 988 Fifth Avenue

The founding partner of Philadelphia law firm Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, Schiffrin is known as a specialist in class action suits. In a class action complaint against Tyco International Limited, he helped win a record $3.2 billion settlement, including $2.975 billion payment from Tyco that was the single largest securities class action recovery from a single corporate defendant in history, according to the website of Grant & Eisenhofer, where Schiffrin is now of counsel. Schiffrin also represented millions of Sears credit cardholders, whose interest rates were improperly raised, resulting in a $156 million settlement.

Both Corcoran and Schiffrin declined to comment on the apartment.

According to the listing, the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home “overlooks the Metropolitan Museum and neighboring brownstones,” was recently renovated and has two working fireplaces. Designed in Italian-Renaissance-palazzo-style by J. E. R. Carpenter, 988 Fifth Avenue — located at the corner of 80th Street — was built in 1925.