Big Ticket | Madonna’s Apartment for $16 Million

The Harperley Hall duplex created by Madonna Ciccone way back in a former century, when she and Sean Penn were a hot item and she was very much a Material Girl on the rise in the matter of shrewd real estate acquisitions, sold for $16 million in the most expensive sale of the week, according to city records.

The 6,000-square-foot combined space, No. 5/6A, at 41 Central Park West and 1 West 64th Street — the side entrance has the special Madonna-approved guardhouse — was first listed for $23.5 million. But it did not attract a cash-flush suitor until a recent reduction to $19.95 million. Monthly maintenance is $11,774.

Back when it was first listed, Madonna and her current entourage were already comfortably ensconced in an enormous (12,000 square feet) Upper East Side town house — with a Garbo-esque private garage, as opposed to Harperley Hall’s semiprivate one — for which she paid $32.5 million in 2009.

Harperley Hall, an Arts and Crafts-style building on the northwest corner of 64th Street and Central Park West, was designed by Henry W. Wilkinson and completed in 1911; Juliet balconies festoon its windows, and French doors are among its many decorative quirks. The Madonna duplex, which was created after a skirmish with the co-op board, has 10-foot ceilings and 110 feet of park frontage, along with six bedrooms in four bedroom wings, eight bathrooms and five wood-burning fireplaces. The eat-in kitchen has marble slab counters, and the master bathroom, where the mode is vintage, has twin pedestal sinks, a claw-foot soaking tub and a marble shower.

After the combination of the fifth- and sixth-floor units was approved (a lawsuit figured into the negotiation), Madonna commissioned her younger brother, Christopher G. Ciccone, to impart a peaceful but elegant karma to the décor before the apartment was featured in Architectural Digest. But the duplex was apparently not peaceful enough for some of the neighbors, who complained about overly loud parties with music and dancing, not to mention the paparazzi perpetually attached to the Madonna bandwagon.

The new owners of the duplex, the hedge fund wizard Deepak Narula and his wife, Anju Murari-Narula, are guaranteed to be less obstreperous. Mr. Narula, the founder of the $1.4 billion Metacapital Management fund, was anointed a “Hedge Fund God” last fall in a Business Insider posting after Bloomberg News reported that his market machinations had yielded the company a 34 percent increase in assets; he is doubtless too busy making money to make waves on the home front. But Harperley Hall shareholders should be aware that Madonna still has a toehold in the building: the separate seventh-floor unit she snapped up in 2008 for $7.35 million was not included in this transaction.

Adam Modlin of the Modlin Group and Arabella Greene Buckworth of Brown Harris Stevens shared the exclusive listing and also represented the buyer.

Big Ticket includes closed sales from the previous week, ending Wednesday.

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Struggles Behind Him, a Poet of El Barrio Embraces Life

Inside a cluttered living room six stories above East 111th Street in El Barrio, the sounds of construction crews and laughing children gave way to the strains of “Nessun Dorma,” the Unknown Prince’s aria from Puccini’s “Turandot.” Jesus Melendez sat at his computer, transfixed, his folded hands touching his lips.

Side Street

David Gonzalez reports from corners of the city in words and pictures.

“Vanish, o night!” a tenor sang in Italian on a YouTube video. “Set, stars! Set, stars!

“At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!”

The recording ended.

“‘None Shall Sleep,’ that is the best damn aria,” he said, shaking his head. “If you want to cry, play that. You’ll cry even if you don’t know the words. But I do.”

He has lived them. Earlier this year, he could not sleep because of a financial crisis that left him three months behind on his rent and facing the possibility of losing the same apartment where he had lived as a child. Though famed as Papoleto, a founder of the Nuyorican poetry movement, he might as well have been as unknown as Puccini’s prince, since teaching jobs and paid recitals were scarce.

Days after a story on his plight was published, Papoleto’s life changed. A famed photographer paid his back rent. A New Jersey poet raised $3,255 from fellow poets and writers. He was invited to speak at colleges, and Pregones Theater in the Bronx announced a collaboration. An admirer even set up a poetry hot line: 630-4ARHYME.

Best of all, he landed two jobs doing poetry workshops.

Instead of hiding in his apartment, he embraces life on the streets of El Barrio. In the last week alone, he went from finishing an anthology of his students’ poems and attending the wake of Ibrahim Gonzalez, a gifted musician and dear friend, to marching in the Puerto Rican Day Parade. (And befitting poetic royalty, he was ferried in a pedicab.)

He watches, he listens. He does what poets must – feed his mind and soul in the hope that he can write words that touch your heart.

“I don’t mind struggle,” said Papoleto, who just turned 63.  “I don’t believe in easy-breezy. Your blood has to boil sometimes. But when you get older, you want security.”

He is especially grateful to Carmen Bardeguez-Brown, the principal of the School for Excellence in the Bronx, located inside the landmark building that was originally Morris High School. Because of her, he got an eight-week residency that will continue in the fall.

“The kids love him; we love him,” said Ms. Bardeguez-Brown. “He changes the culture of the school. He brings so much history and passion as an icon of Latino culture. You can’t quantify that. He’s just amazing.”

He is a little amazed too – he attended the old Morris. It’s where he came of age, became a poet and published his first book – in the school’s basement print shop. He speaks excitedly about his workshop and how he guided students through the process of figuring out their thoughts, writing them as narratives and then fashioning them into poems. He teaches them craft, an alien discipline in the era of spoken-word celebrity.

“Kids have trouble just sitting down and writing,” he said. “Some people say when they go to prison and have solitude, they can learn to write. People don’t need to go to prison to learn to write! They need to go to college.”

With the afternoon sun warm and bright, he needed to get out. He walked south along Second Avenue, peering into store windows, pointing out new buildings and old hangouts.  He dropped in on a bookstore and headed for the poetry section. They had Neruda, but not his recent anthology, “Hey Yo! Yo Soy!” He left, grumbling.

“I walk in,” he muttered, “and they look at me like I had on a ski mask.”

He headed north, past new high-rises and chic pubs that have attracted newcomers to the old – and vanishing – Barrio.

“We have cultural interlopers here,” he said. “Capitalists who benefit from the cultural identity of a community whose leadership they never knew. They come here to exploit and logo-ize ‘El Barrio This’ and ‘El Barrio That.’ But they’ve built their whole thing on a poltergeist, on the backs and graves of a diaspora.  And with a poltergeist, you know what’s going to happen!”

His mood eased as he encountered some friends. By dinnertime, he was settled into a spot by the window of Camaradas, where he jotted down thoughts and chatted with strangers. Not a bad day for a poet. As he walked home, he stopped under a tree and listened to a bright, chirping aria.

“The birds are coming home,” he said. “That’s their conversation about the day. They’re reporting to God.”

He smiled and kept walking. The sun was setting, but his mood would not. It was dusk, and he had won.

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A Dog Walker to Make You Feel Almost Like You Are There

At 7:03 p.m. on May 25, my dog went to the bathroom in front of the Chinese massage place up the block from my house in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

I was not there, but I know this is true because a “poop alert” popped up on my laptop, 22 miles away at a friend’s house. A poop alert is a little white-on-brown icon of a squatting dog with, yes, a small pile beneath its tail, superimposed on a map of the walk fed by GPS data from the walker’s phone and updated every few seconds.

In addition, I received a text message on my phone. “Barnaby has just pooped.”

I cannot say that I was relieved, exactly – certainly not the way Barnaby was – but the people behind the high-tech dog-walking company Swifto, progenitors of the poop alert, say that many of their customers take great comfort in exactly this sort of information.

“A very common problem that a lot of dog owners have is that they don’t know that their dog walker has actually walked their dog,” said Mohammed Ullah, Swifto’s 23-year-old chief executive. The alert, he said, “lets the owner know exactly where, for instance, the dog has actually used the bathroom.” I pictured the middle-age woman from the massage place who sometimes smokes out in front of the building, averting her gaze as Barnaby completed his business.

File it under Things It Never Occurred to You to Worry About if you like. But in a 2003 New York magazine article about misbehaving dog walkers, a stockbroker named Joanne told how, made suspicious by her cocker spaniel’s desperate need for relief when Joanne arrived home from work, she draped the dog’s leash just so on the banister before leaving for work to see if it got moved. It didn’t. (Her neighbors who used the same walker, she said, set up a nanny cam and caught him entering the apartment, grabbing his money, and walking out without touching their dog.)

For the helicopter dog parent, Swifto offers any number of assurances.

Do you worry that your dog runner is not actually running your husky? Swifto’s mapping system lets you calculate the dog’s average speed down to fractions of a mile an hour.

Does your walker walk several dogs at the same time? Sure, dogs are pack animals, but pack walkers sometimes leave their charges tied in front of a building while they go in to make a pickup, leaving the dogs vulnerable to theft or injury. Swifto’s walkers give your dog undivided attention.

And should you seek pretty much unfakeable proof that your dog is being walked, Swifto walkers send photos of your dog out on the street – though there are other dog walkers who do that.

Swifto’s walkers do not send pictures of the actual evidence of your dog’s effort, though Meredith, the pleasant young woman who walked Barnaby, offered: “When a dog has been sick, I have sent pictures of vomit. The owner found it very helpful.”

Swifto’s prices, while steep for a one-off walk ($35) are in line with the market if you sign up for regular service — $20 per half-hour walk. (My employer paid for Barnaby’s one-time test drive with Swifto.)

Swifto’s goal since its start last year, Mr. Ullah said, is to dominate an industry that has been almost exclusively the province of small operators.

“Most dog walkers in New York City can’t go past about 50 clients,” he said. “It overwhelms their scheduling.” Swifto’s technology, he said, “allows us to automate the entire process of pairing up dogs with walkers.” The company, with offices in Midtown, provides dog-walking in all of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

After moving his bowels, Barnaby (accompanied by Meredith) hung a right at the next corner, another right three blocks down, another right, a left and a right.

Then, according to the map, he went home.

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A Diet Program for Dads

Dear Diary:

1. Give wife morning off and take 2-year-old son to the park. Watch him tangle with a 5-year-old on the jungle gym.

2. Get up off bench and separate kids.

3. Listen to other dad tell his son: don’t play with that kid (your son) because that kid’s a wimp.

4. Feel indignant. Wonder if son overheard exchange and if he’s old enough to know what wimp means.

5. Mumble vaguely threatening words to other dad and watch in horror as he heads toward you. Hold your ground as the dad gets in your face, motions to your stomach and utters, “Nice paunch.”

6. Look down at your paunch. Feel blindsided.

7. Go home and call everyone from your father to your tennis partner to complain about other dad.

8. Agree with college friend who tells you it’s insane that you’re now on a diet because of some cretin at the park.

9. Stay on diet.

10. Feel good about your new body. Go to park with your son. Sit on bench. Worry about your thinning hair.


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City Schedules Debates for Mayoral Candidates

The New York City Campaign Finance Board on Thursday announced the dates and sponsors of this year’s official mayoral debates.

The first Democratic primary debate will take place at Town Hall, on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. and will be open to all candidates who have raised and spent $50,000 and have the support of at least 2 percent of registered voters according to either the Marist or the Quinnipiac poll.

The second debate will be at WNBC-TV studios on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. and will be limited to “leading contenders,” defined as candidates who either have raised $1,285,200 or have raised and spent $250,000 and have at least 7 percent support in either of the polls.

The Republican primary debates will take place at the City University of New York Graduate Center on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. and at WNBC-TV studios on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 11:30 a.m. The criteria for participation will be the same as for the Democratic debates.

The primary election is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Because the field of candidates is bigger this year than in recent elections, the board lowered the threshold for participating in the first primary debate. In 2009, candidates had to have at least a 5 percent standing in the polls to take part.

If there is a runoff vote in the Democratic primary, a debate between the candidates will be at the CUNY Graduate Center on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m.

The first general election debate will be at the CUNY Graduate Center on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m., open to all candidates who have raised and spent $50,000 and have 5 percent support in the Marist or Quinnipiac poll. The second debate will take place at the Saturday Night Live Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. and will be limited to those who either have raised $1,285,200 or have raised and spent $500,000 and have 15 percent support in the polls. The general election will be on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

The debates are overseen by the Campaign Finance Board, and all candidates who participate in the city’s public financing program and who meet the thresholds are required to participate.

Perhaps given the wide-open race, there was more interest than in previous years from organizations in sponsoring debates, and the board selected an unusually large and diverse group of sponsors, who pay to be hosts.

The 15 groups include not only major media organizations but also groups like the Citizens Committee for New York City, which finances neighborhood improvement projects in low-income areas; the Hispanic Federation, an association of Hispanic community service agencies; Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group that promotes cycling, walking, and public transportation; and the blog Gothamist.

“The goal of how we chose our sponsors is really to get the broadest range of audience members, the broadest range of issues, and have the best possible debates for all New Yorkers,” Amy Loprest, the campaign finance board’s executive director, said in a news conference on the steps of City Hall, where she was joined by representatives of the sponsors.

Asked how significant these debates were after the dozens of mayoral forums sponsored by various groups around the city, Ms. Loprest said the board’s debates would be different because candidates who participate in the public financing system must attend and because the sponsors were nonpartisan.

The debates will all be broadcast live, including on Spanish-language television stations, and will also be streamed live on each sponsor group’s Web site and on the campaign finance board’s Web site.

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