Charity case? Hedge funder makes tidy sum off townhouse sale to nonprofit

New-York Historical Society buys back townhouse it previously sold in 1997

TRD New York /
Jul.July 10, 2019 09:00 AM
15 West 76th Street and David Berkowitz (Credit: RiverPark Ventures)

15 West 76th Street and David Berkowitz (Credit: RiverPark Ventures)

History is repeating itself for the New-York Historical Society.

NYHS originally parted with the five-story townhouse at 15 West 76th Street in 1997. Now, more than two decades later, the nonprofit has bought the property back for $16.5 million from hedge funder David Berkowitz and his wife Nancy, property records show.

The couple also simultaneously granted NYHS a $12.5 million mortgage. Public records indicate that when the historical society previously owned the townhouse, mortgages were traded between wealthy families and corporations including the Royce Family Fund, the Joseph & Claire Flom Foundation, Lawrence A. Wien Foundation and Revlon in what appears to be a form of support for the nonprofit organization. The Berkowitzes declined to comment and NYHS was unavailable to comment on the specifics arrangement.

The 1997 sale price of the townhouse is not documented in public records, but the buyer was Michael Offen, a financier at Bear Stearns, who renovated and flipped the property within two years to the Berkowitzes for around $5.5 million.

Berkowitz, who was then at Gotham Partners and is now at Riverpark Capital Management, recalled in an interview with Bloomberg that he had to increase his offer and add a carefully tailored sweetener to get the deal done.

“I offered [Offen] to make a $100,000 contribution to a Jewish charity in his name if he sold the place to us, and I think that was what carried the day,” he told the outlet after the home hit the market in January.

The initial asking price for the 25-foot-wide, six-bedroom townhouse was $23 million. Sotheby’s International Realty’s Cathy Taub represented the couple. She declined to comment on the transaction.

NYHS operates the oldest museum in New York City, which was founded in 1804, and is located adjacent to the Upper West Side townhouse. The nonprofit’s president and CEO Louise Mirrer said the organization had not been looking to buy until the sale came to the attention of one of its trustees.

“We saw an opportunity,” she said, noting that the additional space next door to the museum will renovated into classrooms for educational programming, though plans to outfit the building for the organization’s needs are still underway.

She described the purchase as a “major investment” but it’s not the nonprofit’s largest capital expense by any means. As of June 2018, NYHS had nearly $170 million in assets and its fixed assets at cost at the time totalled about $94 million, according to public financial statements.

The sale closed on June 27, days before New York’s new taxes on residential property went into effect on July 1. Mirrer said that saving more than $450,000 (by The Real Deal’s calculations) in closing costs did not drive the purchase, instead it was “to move as quickly as possible to accommodate the needs that we have.”

“We’re very squeezed for space,” she said.


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
Clockwise from left: John D. Rockefeller, Izzy Englander, Steven Mnuchin, David Koch, Jacqueline Bouvier, and William Zeckendorf (Credit: Getty Images and StreetEasy)

For 15 years, David Koch lived at the world’s “richest building”

255 West 11th Street with Liv Tyler and 49 East 67th Street  with Thomas and Ann Unterberg (Credit: Getty Images and Google Maps)

Here’s what sold in NYC’s luxury home market last week

110 Central Park South and Aleksandra Melnichenko (Credit: Google Maps and Getty Images)

Who’s buying what? Here are our top luxe resi sales

Lee Radziwill and her home at 160 East 72nd Street (Credit: Getty Images, Brown Harris Stevens)

Longtime home of Lee Radziwill, sister to Jackie O., sells for $4M

Nicolai Ouroussoff and Cecily Brown with 125 East 10th Street (Credit: Columbia GSAPP via Flickr, Wikipedia, and StreetEasy)

No criticism here: Nicolai Ouroussoff, Cecily Brown buy E. Village house for $7.75M

993 Fifth Avenue and Gilbert Harrison (Credit: Google Maps and GLC)

Retail exec sells Fifth Avenue co-op to Chanel heir for $19M

Clockwise from left: 240 Riverside Boulevar with  Charles Zegar, 111 Murray Street, and 220 Central Park South (Credit: Google Maps, Getty Images, and CityRealty)

Here are some of the Big Apple’s recent luxury resi buys

Clockwise from left: 91 Leonard Street, 141 West 11th Street, 520 Park Avenue and 115 Central Park West (Credit: StreetEasy, Google Maps)

These are the latest, greatest residential sales in NYC

arrow_forward_ios