The Victorian-era German Renaissance co-op apartment building at 72nd Street and Central Park West is best known as the home shared by John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1972 to 1980 and the site of Lennon’s murder. Ono still lives there, as do many other celebrities, but as the following slides will show, being famous is no guarantee of residency at the Dakota, and neither is simply having ample savings.
The gabled and turreted Dakota is a square structure with a porte cochère leading to a central courtyard that served as a turnaround for carriages. While the outside looks fairly tame, inside, no two of the luxuriously appointed apartments are alike, as many were tailored to the specifications and whims of their first occupants.
Even when the Dakota opened in 1884, it was already impossible to rent an apartment, according to the book “Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address” (Syracuse University Press). A 2,500-word article praising the new building in The New York Times generated a flood of aspiring residents, but by then all 65 original apartments were occupied.
The following slides showcase several apartments, including one that turned away a celebrity couple as buyers. The broker for that property, “Queen of Real Estate” Dolly Lenz, shows the space in the “Secret Lives of the Super Rich: Mega-Homes.” Also in the slideshow are details of the Dakota’s most expensive apartment ever to sell, the most expensive storage space ever to sell, and a photo illustrating just how difficult it is to get permission to call the Dakota home.
By Colleen KanePosted 2 August 2012
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The Dakota set the standard for luxury apartments today. Among the ways it’s designed for gracious living:
- Ceilings of hand-carved oak and flooring inlaid with marble, mahogany, oak and cherry—and in the case of one apartment—floors inlaid with sterling sliver. (That apartment was for Edward Clark, who founded the Singer sewing machine company and commissioned the building.)
- In-house power plant with boilers powerful enough to heat the blocks from the north side of 70th Street to south side of 74th Street between 8th and Columbus avenues—it served as “a miniature Consolidated Edison,” for a number of years, according to “Life at the Dakota.”
- A lower-level dining hall that could deliver food on dumbwaiters to the apartment kitchens.
- Each brick flooring layer sandwiches mud from the landscaping of then-new Central Park to serve dual functions of soundproofing and fireproofing. Architect Henry Hardenburgh wanted to avoid fire escapes.
- External walls are 2- to 3.5-feet thick on first floor, narrowing as the building's floors go higher. The thick walls also helped regulate temperature in pre-air conditioning times.
- Each carved marble fireplace mantel is unique.
- Residents are forbiddento throw away any original doors or fireplace mantels that they remove, and a storage area is provided for these items.
Despite the building’s quality construction and materials, and its beautiful detailing, the initial rent wasn’t prohibitively pricey. So for many years it was an affordable place for tenants in the arts. Rents remained reasonable well into the 20th century, and after World War II, the Dakota became rent controlled. Even then, says “Life at the Dakota,” rents could be negotiated down. Not surprisingly, the Dakota had zero vacancies from 1884 to 1929.
The arts bent among residents began early, with the Steinways of piano-making fame among the first residents, as well as other names less recognizable in modern times, who in turn brought in guests like Tchaikovsky and author Stephen Crane.
Boris Karloff was the first well-known actor to move into the building, in the 1930s. After him came Lillian Gish, Judy Garland (pictured, bottom left), Lauren Bacall and Jack Palance. Musician residents included John and Yoko (pictured, top left), Leonard Bernstein (pictured, top right), Bono, Paul Simon and Rosemary Clooney. Roberta Flack (pictured, bottom right) is Ono’s neighbor on the seventh floor. Media personalities who have lived there include Connie Chung and Maury Povitch, and Rex Reed. Other residents have included writer Harlan Coben and sports figures such as Joe Namath and John Madden.
Lenz recently brokered the sale of this three-bedroom apartment—but not for Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, who wanted it but were not approved by the co-op board.
“It's a co-op, and they're a club. And it's an exclusive club, so it’s only by invitation. But that is also what makes it so fabulous, because you can't get in here,” Lenz said.
The apartment features a library/family room, three full baths, a windowed kitchen, and it was listed at $5.65 million — “a bargain by Dakota standards,” Lenz said.
The sellers are also including the remaining furniture and fixtures for another $500,000.
“I was showing an apartment today where the chandelier in the living room cost over $2 million,” said Lenz. “So $500,000 for all those gorgeous light fixtures, the furniture that remains … I think it's a definite bargain.”
Pictured at left is the board package submitted by the Dakota’s most recent applicants. It includes years of tax documents and financial statements and requires the couple to pay thousands of dollars to submit themselves to investigation and a thorough background check. Completing this process is no guarantee of acceptance.
Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith (pictured, top left) are part of a line of celebrities denied approval to live in the Dakota. Others include Cher (pictued, bottom left), Billy Joel (pictured, bottom right), Madonna, Carly Simon, Alex Rodriguez (pictured, top right), and recent additions Judd Apatow and Tea Leoni.
When documentary filmmaking legend Albert Maysles was selling his apartment after 35 years in 2005, he commented in The New York Timeson the building’s changing demographic.
"What's so shocking is that the building is losing its touch with interesting people," he said. "More and more, they're moving away from creative people and going toward people who just have the money."
There’s even been a discrimination lawsuitover co-op board rejections.
John Madden’s two-bedroom apartment, pictured here, is one of at least two apartments that went from celebrity to celebrity. Madden purchased this apartment for $625,000 from the late Gilda Radner, who purchased it in 1979 for $150,000. It is on the marketfor $3.9 million, reduced from a 2011 asking price of $4.9 million.
When they first arrived at the Dakota, John and Yoko sublet their apartment from actor Robert Ryan (“The Dirty Dozen,” ”The Wild Bunch”). And long before Ryan, in that same apartment, one of the first tenants is rumored to have buried $30,000 under the parquet floors of the master bedroom, according to “Life at the Dakota.” Why hasn’t anyone investigated? According to the book, it wouldn’t be worth the cost of tearing up the flooring to find out.
The most expensive Dakota sale ever was the second-floor apartment where Leonard Bernstein lived.
The first asking price was $25.5 million, but it sold for $21 million, and Lenz’s real estate commission on this sale was over $1 million. Apartment 23 has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a great room with wood fireplace and park views, library, formal dining room, a windowed kitchen with breakfast room and both original and restored window details.
The Dakota boasts another jaw-dropping sale in recent years (2008). It’s a cellar storage room with four walls, electricity, a half-bath, and a small window—and a price tag of $801,000. After a bidding war, it soldto John M. Angelo, a hedge fund manager, CEO, and member of the board at Sotheby’s, who has combined several co-op units into one residence elsewhere in the Dakota.
Although so many are excluded from living at the Dakota, for some members of the co-op, their hard-won spaces only serve as an occasional or secondary residence. For example, dancer Rudolf Nureyev's enormous apartment was just one of his many homes around the globe.
In 1995, two years after Nureyev died of AIDS at age 54, the contents of his Dakota apartment went up for auction with Christie’s. The collection of 500 lots included costumes, memorabilia, paintings, furnishings, an antique bathtub and the harpsichord pictured here.
The auction raised$7.9 million.
Big money. Big deals. CNBC’s exclusive access to the “Secret Lives of the Super Rich: Mega-Homes” premieres Monday, Aug. 6 8p EDT.
Secret Lives of the Super Rich: Mega-Homes