LENOX HILL, MANHATTAN — Fire struck the apartment of Ezra Merkin, former associate to Brooklyn money crook Bernie Madoff, in the luxury co-op building at 740 Park Avenue late Wednesday afternoon. The building is an Art Deco masterpiece and home to some of the richest and most powerful people in the world.
Two firefighters were injured fighting the blaze, which started because combustibles were too close to the heating part of Merkin's sauna, according to FDNY.
A source with knowledge of the fire's impact told Patch the 6th floor unit where the fire occurred belongs to Merkin. The source said all residents were evacuated, and Merkin's apartment is severely damaged.
The fire, the source said, affected a wing of the building that houses the apartments of billionaire David Koch, Blackstone CEO Stephen A Schwarzman, hedge fund manager Israel Englander, the daughter of investor Ira Rennert and fashion designer Vera Wang.
Most affected perhaps, the source said, might be hedge fund manager David Ganek, whose current apartment, unit 6A/7A, is listed for $32 million and is on the same floor as Merkin. Ganek's apartment was the childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The fire also occurred in the same wing where, in 2014, a major bidding war occurred, which led to the $70 million purchase of a second unit by Englander, who coveted the apartment for his grandkids to use when they visited.
A Fire Department of New York (FDNY) spokesman told Patch that the sixth-floor, multiple-dwelling fire was under control and that two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The building was the subject of the 2006 book "740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building." Michael Gross, the book's author, continues to blog about the building here.
In the book, Gross says that residents have to show at least $100 million in liquid assets to even be considered for an apartment.
"What it represents is the ultimate in New York luxury residences of the old school," Gross told Patch on Wednesday.
"Nowadays you’ve got these condo towers, mostly ugly and undistinguished ... 740 remains the ultimate gold coast residence. You can do as well, but you can’t do better."
The real estate website StreetEasy says four units are currently for sale, with a two-bedroom apartment going for $4 million and Ganek's 12-bedroom duplex listed for $32.5 million.
Applicants who have sought to purchase units in the building but have been refused include Barbra Streisand, Neil Sedaka and Russian billionaire Leo Blavatnik.
Patch did a quick scan of GoFundMe and could not find any campaigns that had been set up yet for residents of the building affected by the fire.