Michael Gross, real estate historian/ gossip monger extraordinaire, sat down with The Real Deal last month to talk about his latest book: “House of Outrageous Fortune: Fifteen Central Park West, the World’s Most Powerful Address.” The 372-page tome is due out this month.
The New York Times best-selling author has also published books on the so-called “Platinum Triangle” of Bel Air, Holmby Hills and Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, mostly famously, the exclusive co-op 740 Park Avenue.
His latest book on 15 Central Park West — the lavish Zeckendorf brothers condo tower designed by Robert A.M. Stern — offers an inside look at the influential roster of owners at the building, from hedge fund mangers to TV personalities to sports icons.
TRD: So what’s the difference between 15 CPW and 740 Park?
Michael Gross: 15 CPW is very different than what Tom Wolfe called “the good buildings.” It redefines “good building.” It is a condo, not pre-war, on the West Side. And, of course, the other difference is how much [the units] sell for.
TRD: And why do you think they sell for so much?
Gross: The appeal is to own the ultimate trophy. In particular, it combines many of the attributes of the old world co-op, like gracious layouts, masonry buildings, an old-school sensibility, with, as the ads used to say, “all mod cons.” Six years after people started taking possession, it is still the building.
TRD: And you don’t think its cache will fade, as other once-premiere buildings have?
Gross: I don’t believe so. The old real estate adage is “location, location, location,” but 15 CPW, while it didn’t create this location — Trump and the Time Warner Center did — 15 CPW sealed the deal. It dragged the center of gravity of Manhattan to the west.
TRD: You assert in the book that New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez came home with “two hookers.” Do you worry about getting sued?
Gross: No. It was reported. I got that from multiple sources. Things that you aren’t sure about don’t make it to print.
TRD: And what about Laura Blankfein, the wife of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein?
Gross: Mrs. Blankfein caused some real problems with the developers of the building. I don’t want to give it away, because it comes at the end of the book, but the relationship with Goldman Sachs, which was one of the building’s backers, along with Eyal Ofer … there were issues between the bank and the Zeckendorfs all along, and they culminated in a fascinating fight with Mrs. Blankfein.
TRD: So who is the most intriguing resident of 15 CPW?
Gross: Someone, I can’t remember who, said the most interesting thing is to go to the restaurant, because it’s the celebrities who are impressed when [former Citigroup chairman] Sandy Weill is sitting with Warren Buffet. I am far more interested in the people who run the world than I am in the people who distract the world from the people who run it.
(Interview edited for content and clarity.)