New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Following the stringent conditions that the River House co-op board placed on the sale of Arlene Farkas' 14-room apartment, which wound up scotching a $7.8 million sale to the French government, the place will be sold at a public foreclosure auction today, reports the New York Daily News. Farkas, who owes $6 million in mortgage payments has lived at the old-money co-op in Turtle Bay since 1969 and, for the larger part of 24 years, was negotiating the legal waters of divorce and share-ownership. This followed her discovery that husband Bruce R. Farkas, an heir to the Alexander's department-store fortune, was simultaneously married to another woman for many years. Which is a whole story in itself.

No less an eminence than France's U.N. Ambassador has been stymied by the co-op board of River House, the famously ... particular, shall we say, apartment house in Manhattan's Turtle Bay neighborhood. Josh Barbanel reports in The Wall Street Journal that after the government of France agreed in May to buy a 14-room co-op for the dignitary's domicile, the board bowed to the campaign of socialite Elizabeth R. Kabler, who lives across the hall and sent fellow shareholders a letter objecting to the prospect of noisy parties, armed guards and, yep, diplomatic immunity. The board actually approved the sale, but with restrictions. The French government agreed — except for one that scotched the deal. So if you have $8.2 million on hand and don't expect a lot of guests, the place could be yours!

An immense, 14-room duplex apartment in the River House co-op in Manhattan's Turtle Bay neighborhood has finally gone into contract after nearly 25 years of uncertainty, The Wall Street Journal reports. The 5,000-square-foot apartment was first caught int the middle of the 18-year divorce proceedings between Arlene Farkas, the current seller, and her ex-husband Bruce Farkas, heir to the now-defunct Alexander's department-store chain. For a half-dozen years after that, the apartment was listed unsuccessfully from a high of $15 million to the $7.8 million that brokers told the Journal was the recent sale price.

The sale is emblematic of a change in River House's market history, which despite a purchase in November by the actress Uma Thurman has been lackluster in recent years, for reasons including the co-op board's reputation for being difficult. That may be changing: Last year, the board briefly put the 1931 building's private River Club space on the market as a private residence, but instead reached a deal with the club under which residents are automatically invited to join. (Subscription required, or you can read an abstract, with several photos, at

Condominium associations, unlike cooperatives, can't turn down a prospective purchaser except in one way — by exercising its "right of first refusal" and buying the apartment instead. It doesn't happen often, since condo boards usually have just a short amount of time to come up with the cash or let the sale go through. And if the association doesn't have enough money on hand and can't get a conventional loan in time, what's a board to do?

To quote Mel Gibson in The Road Warrior: "You come to me."

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a mother and daughter living together is a "lifestyle" a condo-board president doesn't like? So says a lawsuit by the wealthy former mistress of Baron de Rothschild and their love child. Meanwhile, a condo board in South Harlem joins the ranks of those objecting to a restaurant for noise and other issues. Read a reporter's firsthand account of being trapped inside The Strand fire, an analysis of increasing "disability dog" litigation, and tricks 'n' tips for acing weird co-op boards' admission interviews. Plus: People who live glass buildings shouldn't throw stones at studies about overheated glass buildings.

The engineer's 10-year plan for 240 East 46th Street called for virtually a total makeover — renovating the lobby and replacing the roof, boiler, both elevators, water tank and all hallway carpeting and wallpaper. The cost would come to about $1.7 million. Now the big question: How would the condominium association pay for it?

Hank Haynes bought an apartment at 240 East 46th Street in 1990, four years after the building was converted from a rental to a condominium. It didn't take him long to realize he'd bought into a world of woe. Phone calls were not returned, problems were left to fester and rancor was the rule of the day.

"When I moved in, there was a tremendous amount of animosity between the sponsor and the people who had bought apartments," recalls Haynes, 67. "People were unhappy with the management company, which was owned by the sponsor." To further increase the discontent of the unit-owners: The property manager and the accountant also worked for the sponsor. Times were tough at the 100-unit building.

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