Residential rejections of the rich and famous

Colleen Kane

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We think few doors are closed to the rich and famous. But for celebrities aspiring to buy co-op apartments in New York City, that isn’t necessarily true.

Buying a co-op — or cooperative apartment — differs from buying a regular apartment or condo. In a co-op, the buyer’s bid is subject to approval from the building’s board of directors. Each candidate is bidding to become a shareholder, buying a membership in a cooperative. Consequently, new members are rigorously screened.

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Carol Levy, a broker specializing in high-end co-ops and condos for Carol E. Levy Real Estate in New York City, compiled a list of reasons for co-op board rejections. It includes common criteria co-op boards consider such as financial status, job history and bad credit. But there are more opaque factors such as lifestyle, which Levy said, includes a “paparazzi-prone rock star” and disruptive lifestyle. Even a poor interview (or “pet interview,” a meeting with a potential neighbors’ animal, required by some boards) can ruin a potential buyer’s chances.

Even a prime minister hasn't been immune to a co-op board's scrutiny. Why are they rejected? While gossip-column speculation inevitably follows such rejection news, co-op boards don’t specify their reasons, lest they be sued.

Mariah Carey, top photo

When Barbra Streisand’s triplex penthouse at The Ardsley on Central Park West went up for sale in 1999, fellow diva Carey put in a bid to buy it for $8 million. The co-op board sang a different tune. Carey instead bought a new condo downtown, according to the Observer.

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Barbra Streisand

That brings us to Babs herself.  In the entertainment business a lot longer than Mariah Carey, she has a longer list of co-op board rebuffs. The co-op at 740 Park Avenue (pictured), built by Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ grandfather James T. Lee, and the future Mrs. JFK's onetime home, denied Streisand residence, according to the Observer . She’s in good company: Elizabeth Taylor was also rejected, along with Neil Sedaka and Barbara Walters.

According to an article in New York magazine a year after a pair of 1969 co-op rejections, Streisand was rejected by 1021 Park Avenue due to being “a flamboyant type,” and rejected by 1107 Fifth Avenue because she was likely to set up a recording studio.

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Rush Limbaugh

Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was one of several bidders turned down to buy an apartment at 322 East 57th Street owned by Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford, according to an article in New York magazine. Also denied were entertainment lawyer Allen Grubman and David Feld, founder of Today’s Man.

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She’s one of the most powerful women in music, but the San Remo turned down her co-op application, despite having housed other glamorous and sometimes controversial entertainers such as Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Hedy Lamarr.

Madonna was also rejected from the Dakota building, where John Lennon and other show-business names have lived.

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Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani

[Editor's note, Nov. 14, 2012: An earlier version of this story contained a photo of the wrong man. This photo is of Qatar's prime minister, Sheik Hamad. Yahoo! Homes thanks one of our Facebook commenters for calling our attention to the error.]

Earlier this year, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, the prime minister of Qatar, who is also the owner of Harrods, was turned down in an attempt to buy two apartments on Fifth Avenue belonging to the reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, who died last year, according to the New York Post. According to, Sheik Hamad would be a challenging tenant as he has diplomatic immunity and enforcing payment if he had any financial troubles would be challenging.

He was later reported as a possible buyer of a nearly $100 million duplex penthouse at One57, the luxury apartment building and site of the crane left dangling by Superstorm Sandy, and he eventually settled for a $47 million townhouse on the Upper East Side.

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