Has the recession softened up those snooty Gold Coast co-op boards? Are they perhaps more sensitive to the needs of neighbors who manage to hook a buyer willing to pony up mountains of money? If so, don't tell that to Jeff Blau. The 41-year-old president of megadeveloper the Related Companies was just turned down at 820 Fifth Avenue without even sitting for an interview. Blau, who paid $21 million for Jackie O.'s old spread at the less-prestigious 1040 Fifth Avenue last year, was looking to drop $31 million on home builder Ara Hovnanian's fourth-floor apartment at snooty No. 820 (where each floor is one apartment, with seven staff rooms each), what would have been the biggest deal of the year so far. Rarely do such high-profile denials make it to the public realm, but the Observer's Max Abelson has the scoop, and this one is particularly juicy: Mayor Bloomberg campaigned on Blau's behalf, and that was still not enough to crack the steely gaze of the building's 89-year-old empress.
That source said Mayor Michael Bloomberg placed a call to 89-year-old Jayne Wrightsman, the building's feared, persnickety gatekeeper, who lives one floor below the Hovnanian family. Did Mr. Bloomberg point out that Mr. Blau is the honoree at this November’s Real Estate Council Benefit at the Metropolitan Museum, where Ms. Wrightsman is an emeritus trustee? Did he mention that the fund-raising event’s best tables cost $50,000?
Whatever the richest man in New York said, it didn’t work. The conversation with Ms. Wrightsman, who is widely considered to be the co-op’s chieftain even though she’s not technically on its board, did not reverse Mr. Blau’s fate. “Nothing changed after the call,” the source said.
Added the mayor's spokesperson, "From time to time, the mayor does write letters or make calls on people's behalf." Yeah, but if he can't even charm a senior citizen who's technically not even on the co-op board, what good is he? The reasons for Blau's rejection, like most co-op board decisions, remains a mystery. Maybe Wrightsman thinks real estate developers are a bit déclassé in this environment?