If you stacked $1 bills from the sidewalk to the 52nd floor of Trump's ritzy rehabber special in Manhattan, you might have enough for the rent. But the view's grand, 100 times over.

LIVING HIGH

January 15, 1998|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NEW YORK -- The microwave needs to be bigger, the walls need paint and the Sheetrock needs caulking. All those windows make the living room heat up like a sauna. And the elevator beeps so loud that when you reach the 52nd floor, it's even money you'll have a headache -- even before you see the monthly rent.

"Yes, $100,000 is a lot of money, and, of course, this apartment is the best of the best," says real estate broker Dolly Lenz. "But it isn't perfect."

Nevertheless, No. 52-A at the Trump International Hotel and Tower is plenty nice enough to be the first apartment in Manhattan to command a monthly rent of six figures. When the listing went up last week, the price was so high it boggled the minds of even New Yorkers, who have grown accustomed to living in an inflated real estate market where $1,200 a month buys a Manhattan studio that would be too small for a closet in Baltimore.

"I don't understand," says Yakobzol Lyudmil, a Russian-born hospital worker who has lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn for the last seven years. "I guess whoever rents it is going to need a roommate to pick up some of the cost. Right?"

"People pay a lot of money for apartments, but that is just too much," said Badou Khan, a 29-year-old West African immigrant who spends $768 a month for a bug-infested, 400-square-foot, one-bedroom pad on Roosevelt Island, which sits between Manhattan and Queens in the middle of the East River. "And who needs all that space? I saw a diagram of the place in the paper. You could fit three of my apartment just in the kitchen!"

But a small sliver of this city -- its super-rich and a few of its real estate brokers -- consider the apartment a steal. How else to explain the two security guys (both ex-Bureau) who wear blue suits and Secret Service-style earpieces and guard the door?

Inside, there are five bedrooms, eight bathrooms, 10 walk-in closets and 20-foot ceilings. The floor in the entrance hall and the counter tops in the kitchen are pinkish Breccia marble. The windows -- all heavily tinted to ensure privacy -- extend from floor to ceiling; the blinds lower electronically. The bathrooms have steam showers, and the bath off the master bedroom is a Jacuzzi.

The grandest feature of the never-occupied apartment is its 1,300-square-foot living room, which has glass on all three walls and offers a clear view from LaGuardia Airport in the east to the Statue of Liberty in the south to the rolling hills of New Jersey in the west. It is a beautiful panorama with one utilitarian benefit: The A&E cable channel sign, clearly visible above 1775 Broadway, flashes the time and forecast every five seconds.

"So we do have one free thing," says Lenz. "Free weather."

Five years ago, the building capped by 52-A, at One Central Park West on the north end of Columbus Circle, was an office tower. But its ownership suffered financially, and Donald Trump and two partners took over the landmark. Renovations were completed last spring; the first 24 floors are hotel rooms; the top 28 floors consist of approximately 150 condominiums.

The building is in every way a reflection of Trump, the real estate developer cum showman. Trump himself ensured that the tower had an underground entrance for celebrity friends of his who want to avoid paparazzi. And he has covered every bare surface in the lobby with issues of Trump Style, his own personal magazine. Copies are complimentary for residents, who can enjoy feature stories on the renovations of One Central Park West, the debut of Trump's new Atlantic City casino and Trump's revitalization of the Miss Universe Pageant.

One piece is written by the Donald himself. In "Talking With Trump -- Thoughts on Tiger Woods," Trump recalls how impressed he was that Woods kept an appointment with him after winning the Masters but didn't accept President Clinton's invitation that same week to attend an event honoring Jackie Robinson in New York.

Trump had planned to live in the building -- in Apartment 52-A, in fact. "He personally supervised the construction," says Lenz. "It was amazing to watch him come in all the time and talk to the workers. 'This is wrong,' he would say, and 'I don't like this' and 'Re-lay the floors.' " But when he and Marla Maples Trump decided to divorce last year, they decided not to move in.

Trump had considered selling the apartment, but changed his mind when real estate brokers told him about the surge of interest in big, expensive apartments. Approximately 70 units around Manhattan rented for more than $25,000 a month in 1997, nearly four times as many as in 1996, according to brokers. Trump was pleasantly surprised when, in a deal he clinched aboard Steve Forbes' yacht, a real estate developer named Martin Raynes agreed to pay Trump nearly $60,000 a month in rent to live next door, in 4,000-square-foot Apartment 52-B.

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