Shortly after Katy Clark stepped down from her post as president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier this year, the New York Times reported that she’d taken with her a $1.9 million three-bedroom, two-bath prewar apartment overlooking Prospect Park, whose purchase BAM helped facilitate in the form of a nearly $968,000 housing bonus. As it turns out, Clark’s housing set-up was hardly unique. In New York, a city where even the bleakest of Upper West Side studios can cost upward of $750,000, dangling housing — in some cases, both rent- and tax-free — has been a long-standing practice, used to lure (and retain) everyone from private-school headmasters to the leader of the Bronx Zoo’s parent organization.
Property and tax records reveal that a number of organizations, from universities and private schools to cultural institutions, have purchased or been donated everything from a $4 million Cobble Hill townhouse to a towering Victorian Gothic home in the Bronx’s Fieldston neighborhood, which leaders can use during their tenure. (Clark’s case, in that she was able to keep the home after she left, is less common.) And while some organizations have started to offload these units in recent years to cut costs, as the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently did with its Fifth Avenue apartment that for decades housed museum executives, the practice of sweetening an offer with housing — and providing organization leaders a setting to schmooze with donors — is unlikely to disappear any time soon. “It’s just standard procedure to attract top-flight people,” says John Casey, a professor of nonprofit management at Baruch College.
Vincent Tompkins, headmaster of Saint Ann’s School, a Cobble Hill Townhouse
In 2010, to woo Vincent Tompkins, then the deputy provost of Brown University, to the headmaster position at Saint Ann’s School, the Brooklyn private school purchased this Cobble Hill townhouse for $3.8 million for the school leader and his family’s use.
Dominic Randolph, head of school at Riverdale Country School, a Victorian Gothic
The property, a two-and-a-half-story Victorian Gothic home with an adjoining tower that dates to the late 19th century, served as the site for the original Riverdale Country Day School. For decades, it has served as the home of the Bronx prep school’s headmaster.
P. David O’Halloran, headmaster of Saint David’s School, a four-bedroom on East 90th
Three years after P. David O’Halloran joined Saint David’s School on the Upper East Side as its headmaster, the New York Observer reported that the all-boys prep school purchased two adjacent fifth-floor condos in Philip Johnson’s Metropolitan — many of the condos reportedly contain three or four bedrooms — which were to be combined into a single unit for O’Halloran and his family’s use.
Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History; a floor-through apartment on East 79th
After Ellen Futter was hired as president of the American Museum of Natural History in 1993, the institution sold its $2.2 million apartment on West 79th Street that had housed her predecessor — at a $250,000 loss, according to the Times — and purchased a $5 million, floor-through unit in an East Side limestone building
Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA; a $6 million apartment in Midtown
In 2004, MoMA purchased a $6 million apartment in the Museum Tower on its campus for its director. The postwar building has a rooftop terrace, concierge services, and a fitness center.
The Met; a Fifth Avenue co-op
For decades, leaders of the museum could call a second-floor Fifth Avenue co-op owned by the museum home. But just a year after Daniel Weiss officially succeeded Thomas P. Campbell as CEO, the Met sold off its unit for $5.6 million amid financial belt-tightening.
Clive Gillinson, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, a four-bedroom in the Barbizon
In 2008, Carnegie Hall purchased a 3,335-square-foot, four-bedroom condo, complete with a custom-made aquarium, at Barbizon/63 for $8.4 million, for its executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson and his wife, Anya, to reside in and charm donors, the Observer reported. But due to the awkward timing of the luxury condo purchase coinciding with end of the Great Recession, Gillinson allegedly waited to move into the space. (A spokesperson says he eventually moved in in 2010.)
Cristián Samper, president of Wildlife Conservation Society (Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo), a sprawling East End Condo
As president and CEO of the organization that oversees the Bronx, Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens Zoo, as well as the New York Aquarium, Cristián Samper has resided in an apartment owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society in an Upper East Side Italian Renaissance Palazzo building designed by architect Costas Kondylis. All apartments in the building (which has a fitness center, a 24-hour doorman, and a playroom) have (at least) 9-foot ceilings. The Bronx Zoo’s director, Jim Breheny, has lived in company-owned housing on the zoo grounds.
Annika Rembe, consul general of Sweden in New York, a four-story neo-Federal mansion
Serving as the residence of the Consul General of Sweden, the 10,000-square-foot building has 100 feet of Park Avenue frontage. The center of the house has a long, half-elliptical stair hall, and all of its rooms — which are filled with furniture by Swedish designers like Josef Frank — have windows facing the avenue.
Roy Fox, caretaker of King Manor museum in Jamaica, Queens
In exchange for opening and closing the city-owned King Manor (and not collecting a salary), Fox has lived rent-free for more than 30 years in the 22,000-square-foot historic landmark, according to the New York Post.
Reverend Canon Carl F. Turner, rector of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, a studio in a CetraRuddy–designed condo
An 11th-floor six-bedroom, four-bath apartment in 550 Park Avenue served as the home for the rector until 2018, when the church purchased a 39th-floor unit at 135 West 52nd Street.
Donna Schaper, former senior minister of Judson Memorial Church, a Gramercy Park Townhouse
During her 26-year tenure as senior minister at Judson Memorial Church, the Reverend Donna Schaper, who retired this past May, lived in a four-story, two-unit Gramercy Park townhouse owned by the Church.
Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rectory of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
The three-and-half-story neo-Gothic rectory, designed by the cathedral’s architect, James Renwick Jr., has been home to members of the clergy since the 1880s. A recent renovation included updates to the priests’ residences and a new stainless-steel kitchen, to the delight of the church rector. “I’m a cook,” Monsignor Ritchie told Catholic New York, “but I would never cook anything in the old kitchen.”
Sebastian Fries, president and CEO of International House, an Apartment in a 1924 Italinite-style home
The president of International House and his family are provided an apartment in the international-focused dorm that houses over 700 postgraduates to promote its mission of “both serendipitous and intentional interaction among its residents,” according to a spokesperson.
Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, a 16,803-square-foot mansion
Completed in 1912 and designed by the architectural firm McKim, Mead and White — responsible for Beaux Arts icons like the Brooklyn Museum and the original Penn Station — the brick and limestone President’s House underwent a $23 million renovation that finished in 2005. (This required Bollinger to live in a number of temporary housing set-ups, which he “described as one of the most miserable times of his life,” according to the Times.)
Andrew Hamilton, president of NYU, a Greenwich Village penthouse duplex
Since beginning his tenure as NYU president in 2016, Andrew Hamilton has been living in a university-owned, 4,200-square-feet penthouse duplex overlooking Washington Square Park, with four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, and a rooftop terrace. Per the Times, the space underwent a renovation costing at least $1.1 million.
William J. Fritz, College of Staten Island president, a two-story Todt Hill House
Due to pandemic-spurred losses, CUNY is putting the presidential homes for the College of Staten Island and Medgar Evers College on the market. Clarion reported that the university is considering also selling the presidential residences for Baruch College, Lehman College, Queens College, and Brooklyn College.