The Daily Dirt: Who holds the keys to Jeffrey Epstein’s estate?

TRD New York /
Aug.August 23, 2019 12:00 PM
From left: Paul Manafort with Trump Tower, Jeffrey Epstein, and Bernie Madoff with 133 East 64th Street (Credit: Getty Images, CityRealty, and Wikipedia)

From left: Paul Manafort with Trump Tower, Jeffrey Epstein, and Bernie Madoff with 133 East 64th Street (Credit: Getty Images, CityRealty, and Wikipedia)

Nice work if you can get it…I guess? Selling properties seized from alleged criminals is apparently a fairly competitive business. 

Since Jeffrey Epstein’s death, the fate of his Upper East Side mansion has been up in the air. Though the criminal case against him will no longer proceed, the government could still pursue a civil forfeiture case against any one of his U.S. properties. The proceeds from the sales would then go to victims. 

If the UES townhouse is ultimately put up for sale, it will be Colliers International that chooses the lucky(?) broker who markets the property, Sylvia Varnham O’Regan reports. Since 2018, through a contract with the United States Marshals Service, the firm has been the arbiter of which brokers are equipped to sell forfeited properties.

“We want someone who has made a name for themselves selling that type of product,” said Dan Feldman, director of Collier’s government services department. “We get a lot of people coming up to us and saying, ‘I’d love to list a $10 million property for you,’ and we’ll say, ‘Great, what have you done?’ And then they’ll send their experience and they’ve sold $200,000 houses.”

Colliers, for example, selected Kenneth Laino of the Manhattan Network, to market a Soho loft and Trump Tower unit once owned by Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chair, who is now serving a seven-year prison sentence. The listings for properties seized by the government appear on a relatively nondescript website called Real Look. The listings do not, unsurprisingly, specify why the properties were forfeited. 

Which leads to the question probably on a lot of people’s minds: How do you sell a property that was owned by Epstein? He was accused of abusing underage girls at the townhouse, and  investigators seized child pornography from the home. Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber said whoever handles the sale would have to “de-Epstein it” (apparently there were prosthetic breasts in the master bathroom, along with a lot of other questionable decor throughout the mansion). 

“People want to fit the interior into the story of depravity,” Jed Garfield, managing partner of Leslie J. Garfield. “But if Epstein didn’t live there, you wouldn’t say, ‘Wow this is some pedophile’s house.’”

But, there’s also always the option of gut renovation…or demolition. 

It’s a familiar headline and every New Yorker’s worst nightmare.

A 30-year-old man was crushed to death by an elevator in his Kips Bay apartment building on Thursday morning. It’s not yet clear what happened, exactly, as authorities are still investigating the incident. 

Several reports have recounted anecdotes about trouble with the luxury apartment building’s elevators. The victim’s father told the New York Times that his son had also complained about the devices. One of the building’s elevators was inspected in May, at which time the city’s Department of Buildings shut it down due to a door zone restrictor — a device that prevents elevator doors from opening between floors — that had been “tampered with” and was “rendered inoperable,” according to agency records. The cease use order was lifted June 3. A DOB official told TRD that the elevator involved in Thursday’s incident wasn’t the same elevator that had issues in May.

Over the past few years, there have been some major changes to elevator oversight and safety in the city. By 2020, all elevators must be equipped with door-lock monitors, which prevent the elevator from moving when the door is open. This will require some landlords to replace their entire elevator systems. The legislation that required that was in response to a 2011 fatality, in which a woman was crushed to death at 285 Madison Avenue. In that case, elevator mechanics failed to reactivate the door-lock monitors. Two months ago, the state Assembly approved legislation that requires elevator mechanics to be licensed, but it has not yet been signed by the governor. 

What we’re thinking about next:

Will other landlords attempt to escape their lease with WeWork ahead of the unicorn’s IPO? Send a note to [email protected]

Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded on Thursday was for a condo unit 121 East 23rd Street in the Flatiron District, at $8 million.
Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was for an apartment building at 2785 Broadway on the Upper West Side, $22.6 million.

The largest new building filing of the day was for a 19,740-square-foot residential building at 191 Veronica Place in Flatbush. Abraham Posner filed the permit application. 

The priciest residential listing to hit the market on Thursday was for a resale condo at 250 West Street in Tribeca, at $7.5 million. Compass’ Daniel Chun has the listing. — Research by Mary Diduch

A thing we’ve learned…

When it comes to tariffs on Chinese goods, we’ve been pretty focused on construction materials. But it turns out other items that will face a 10 percent levy include artificial flowers, balls for ballpoint pens, tracksuits, babies’ sweaters, antiques that are more than 100 years old, communion wafers(!), as well as machinery for making felt hats and brewery equipment. Thank you to Georgia Kromrei, who pointed out that the list of items impacted by the tariffs is very detailed.

Top stories from our other markets:

Signs may be pointing to a potential recession, but low mortgage rates have boosted homebuilding shares, which are nearing their highest levels of the year. A composite of homebuilding stocks — known as the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF — is up 29 percent in 2019, far surpassing the S&P 500’s 17 percent gain. The rise in homebuilder stock prices is largely due to the fall of mortgage rates, which have dropped to their lowest levels since late 2016.

The good news is the Chicago-area just had its best month for home sales on a year-over-year basis. The bad news? Sales were up only 0.2 percent and actually down from the month before. July saw 11,697 home sales in the nine-county metro area, an increase of 25 homes from the same month last year. Still, it marked the first month in 2019 that sales had not decreased year over year.

In case anyone missed the memos that Los Angeles County desperately needs more housing, here’s a reminder. The number of new apartment units that went online in L.A. County doubled year over year, according to Marcus & Millichap’s multifamily report. But even that wasn’t enough to meet demand. Approximately 10,680 apartment units were added in that 12-month period, doubling the 5,300 units that were added the prior year. Of those recently completed rentals, 60 percent were in Greater Downtown Los Angeles.

A Miami-Dade judge ruled the developers of Regalia, a luxury condo tower in Sunny Isles Beach, must turn over 100 percent interest in the companies that own the remaining two — and most expensive — unsold units. The ruling is a blow to the developers who failed to sell the top-priced penthouse and beach house, each currently listed at more than $15 million, amid a stagnant luxury condo market. Such units typically provide the highest profit to the developer.  — Compiled by Alexi Friedman

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