Deal at site of UES explosion helps Manhattan set luxury contract record

154 single-family homes asking $4M+ have gone into contract in Manhattan this year, breaking 8-year-old record

34 East 62nd Street (Google Maps)
34 East 62nd Street (Google Maps)

A new chapter has begun at 34 East 62nd Street, marked by the setting of a new record for Manhattan’s luxury market.

The 9,200-square-foot home, built from the ground up after the previous structure was destroyed by a gas explosion in 2006, was one of four townhouses asking $4 million or more that went into contract last week.

The deals bring the number of single-family home contracts signed in Manhattan so far this year to 154, according to Olshan Realty, which tracks weekly luxury contracts activity in the borough. That surpasses the 2014 record of 153 contracts with three and half months still to go.

Including the townhouses, 27 luxury contracts were signed last week in Manhattan. Eighteen of the deals were for condos, 10 of which were sold by developers, and five were for co-op units.

Donna Olshan, the report’s author, said Labor Day week is often slow, but this year’s 27 contracts was a record haul. Previously, the busiest Labor Day week on record was in 2018, when 20 contracts were signed.

“Talk about a market that would usually stop,” said Olshan. “But it just didn’t. It wants to keep going.”

First listed in 2017, the home on East 62nd Street struggled to find a buyer at its initial asking price. The four-story townhouse that previously occupied the site was destroyed in 2006 when its then-owner, Dr. Nicholas Bartha, rigged a gas explosion that ultimately killed him, ending a divorce battle with his ex-wife over the building’s ownership.

The original building had a storied past. It was the clandestine meeting spot for a network of prominent New Yorkers gathering intelligence for President Franklin D. Roosevelt before and during World War II.

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The men who participated in the network, known as “the Room,” included Vincent Astor, publisher Nelson Doubleday, Chase National Bank president Winthrop Aldrich and Marshall Field III, heir to the Marshall Field’s department store fortune. Journalist and author Gay Talese is reportedly working on a book about the house.

After the gas explosion, Russian developer and socialite Janna Bullock bought the site for $8.3 million and was planning to build a new single-family home. But when Bullock’s plan stalled, a second developer, Woodbine Company, bought the site for $11.9 million in 2015. Woodbine listed the new six-story home for $32.5 million in 2017.

Last week, with its asking price down to $19.75 million, an American buyer represented by broker Adam Modlin entered into a contract to purchase the home, per the Olshan report.

“What sold it was Henry Jessup and Steve Marx delivering the highest quality construction and design,” Roger Erickson of Douglas Elliman, who represented Woodbine, told Olshan. “The build-out was like no one has ever seen.”

Architect Jessup and general contractor Marx finished the home in “white box condition,” leaving out the kitchen and bathrooms, according to the report.

The most expensive contract of the week, however, was for a penthouse at 601 Washington Street that was last asking nearly $32.3 million. The six-bedroom quadruplex spans 7,172 square feet with terraces spanning 1,619 square feet terrace and a private elevator. Compass’ Brett Miles and Kurt Rundhaug represented developer Charles Dunne’s firm, Shibumi Development.

The buyer was a Tribeca family, their broker Victoria Reichelt of the Corcoran Group told Olshan.

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