After being appointed global head of fixed income sales at Morgan Stanley, Stefano Corsi relocated to New York in 2003. The job required him to move from London with his wife Monica, a clinical psychologist, and their two young children.
“We’d been living in London in a Grade II house [historic home] with a lot of floors and a lot of space, and so we were looking for a similar place—discreet and neighborly,” Corsi says.
A 3,670-square-foot, floor-through apartment on the 14th floor of 988 Fifth Avenue, where East 80th Street meets Central Park, fit the bill. The 1925 building, designed by the luxury high-rise architect J.E.R. Carpenter, is a rare Fifth Avenue condominium—co-ops are far more plentiful—and is said to be the last place Grace Kelly lived before marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco.
The couple paid about $9 million for the four-bedroom unit and immediately embarked on a roughly $2.5 million, year-and-a-half-long renovation, where “the only thing that was left standing were the outer walls,” Corsi says.
At the time, Corsi’s job was all-consuming. He’d been with the firm since 1987 and, until he retired in 2007 (“a short run,” he says drily), he wasn’t able to spend much time in the apartment. “I think my family and kids enjoyed it more than I did.”
But upon his retirement—Corsi describes himself as a “private investor”—he was delighted to discover that the house is as lovely during the day as it is at night. “The house has 360-degree views,” he says. “So the sunsets are just as incredible as the dawn.”
After about 15 years in the apartment, Corsi has decided to sell, listing it for $28.5 million with Compass agents Dan Kessler and Byron Anderson.
His children are out of the house, and his life is increasingly anchored across the Atlantic. “We spend a lot of time in Spain, Italy, and Switzerland,” he explains. “Life is gently gravitating, if you will, towards Europe.”
Entertaining 100 People
By gutting the apartment, Corsi was able to dictate a layout that fit his and his family’s needs for large public spaces and more intimate private areas. He hired architect Alexander Antonelli to realize the project. “We knew what we wanted,” Corsi says. “I guess the term would be an updated, classic style. There are a lot of modern features, but the feel—and the finishes—are very classic.”
The apartment overlooks Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “We opened them up a little bit, and we didn’t put drapes on them, so you can have uninterrupted views,” Corsi says. “That was the first goal: to let Central Park into the house.”
The formal entertaining rooms—the dining room, the reception hall, and the living room—look right onto the park. “The idea was to create an open flow of public rooms, supported by a modern kitchen and breakfast room,” where the family would eat in less formal settings.
When they entertained, for work or social purposes, the house could “easily fit 100 people,” Corsi says. “We fit that many a few times. It was really all about having a formal space with a lot of open territory.”
(“But listen to me,” Corsi adds in an aside, “I’m talking like I did everything, but it was really my wife Monica. She was the genius, and she did all the work.”)
There’s also a small library, where Corsi says he spends most of his time, most often accompanied by the family’s teacup poodle. “We retire there to ponder life.”
Corsi acknowledges that this isn’t a boom time for super high-end Manhattan real estate.
“Look, I’m a finance person by training, and in my day-to-day,” he says. “I’m aware of the market.”
But, he says, the best properties will always find a buyer. “There are pockets of interest, even in soft markets. There are some assets, properties, experiences that stand out.”
His apartment, he says, is in one of just two prewar condominiums on Fifth Avenue. “Not 20—two. I’m used to understanding rarity, and this is a truly unique place.”