Townhouse eyed by Gadhafi to return to rental market for $30,000 a month

Rubicon's Haber previously denied dictator townhouse rental owned by Blue Note prez

TRD New York /
Apr.April 09, 2012 06:30 PM

Three connecting floors of a townhouse property at 5 East 78th Street once eyed by slain Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi as a short-term rental are back on the market asking $30,000 a month, according to Rubicon Property CEO Jason Haber, who notoriously turned down the Libyan dictator’s offer for the property in 2009. The 3,700-square-foot section of the Gilded Age Barclay Mansion, will hit the market later tonight, Haber said.

The $30,000 monthly asking rent is $2,000 more than it was asking in 2009, when an art collector leased the property. The current tenant will remain in place till the end of May. While Haber declined to comment on the ownership of the listing, public records show that Steven Bensusan of the legendary Blue Note Jazz Bar and High Line Ballroom, has owned the six-story townhouse since 2009. He purchased it for $15 million.

“It was a much different climate than today,” Haber said, admitting the property was rented for less than the asking rate in 2009. “This time, we can get $30,000 or close to it.”

Haber championed the intricate original details of the mansion’s interiors. The home, designed by C.P.H. Gilbert, an architect renowned for designing fashionable Beaux-Arts townhouses in the early 1900s, features high ceilings and grand scale rooms with nine fireplaces. It has three bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms as well as maids’ quarters.

“It’s like walking into a French chalet,” Haber enthused. “You just don’t see this kind of work in New York. There are a lot of original details that are in really good condition.”

In 2009, when Haber, then a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, was faced with a pushy Gadhafi entourage, he famously said the dictator could have the property for free if he would send Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a Libyan-born man convicted in 2001 of planting the bomb that exploded on a Pan Am flight, back to face trial in Scotland. Gadhafi ended up in New Jersey, Haber said, “at a camp ground or something.”

Haber’s Gadhafi rejection was a move that has shaped his career to date, he said, calling it “so important to [his] own career and evolution in the industry.” The event provoked huge media attention and ultimately inspired the broker to start his own firm, Rubicon Property, which mixes real estate with “social entrepreneurship.” For example, part of the brokerage’s core business model is bringing safe drinking water to developing nations. Haber has also been invited to the Oslo Freedom Forum, a conference about human rights first held each May in Norway.

While Haber doesn’t foresee the same drama arising this time around, he said he has an open mind: “Who knows who will want it this time?” he joked.

Bensusan was not immediately available for comment.

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