Much of Manhattan’s real estate has a past. With news today that the 62nd Street site of a deadly gas explosion has caught the interest of potential buyers, it seems people are comfortable ignoring an address’s unsettling history.
Last month, Dr. Nicholas Bartha destroyed his $4 million Upper East Side townhouse rather than split the proceeds of its sale with his ex-wife. He eventually died of the injuries he suffered in the explosion. The incident was widely covered, a breaking news story on the New York morning broadcasts the day it happened.
Location, location, location. Now there’s an opening in a prime section of the city, and the phones at the offices of Brown Harris Stevens are ringing with inquiries about the property.
A native New Yorker, I know how hard it is to find a suitable place to live. I struggled through the search for my current apartment, which is a gem. After moving in this past January, I had suspicions that the previous tenant died in it. A couple of months ago, some people I’d never met knocked on my door and asked for the “older gentleman” who “lived” there. “Are you sure he’s not there?” I remember them asking, confused looks on their faces. “A man with a little dog?” To them, it was like he fell off the earth… literally. I still live there and his mail still comes to me, as though he never changed his address with the postal service. I try not to give it too much thought since I have no real proof that anything out of the ordinary happened (I haven’t sought any either).
There’s no question of what happened in Dr. Bartha’s situation. Whoever ends up in that space will, no doubt, have to answer the same question with each new visitor: “Is this the spot where…?” At $8 million, the space isn’t cheap, but the potential to build fresh is a draw according to a Brown Stevens agent. With that perk, the lucky buyer should be able to block out the lot’s troubling tale.