2006_01_dukemansion.jpgThe big real estate news of the day is that the Duke Semans Mansion, across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and on the market for $50 million, was sold for $40 million (a 20% savings!), and but bigger human interest angle news is that the buyer is a Russian immigrant who used to drive a cab! Tamir Sapir has the most incredible American Dream story ever - or at least this week. From the NY Times:

After three years as a cabdriver, he opened an electronics store at 200 Fifth Avenue near Madison Square Park where he often sold products to visiting Russian diplomats. His relationship with one customer, a Soviet oil minister, he said, enabled him to begin selling fertilizer, and eventually, oil contracts, in Europe.

In the early 1990's, Mr. Sapir decided to invest in New York real estate, buying a building downtown, on John Street, for $2.2 million and selling it a year later for nearly three times that. Since then, he has bought several other buildings in Manhattan.

Including the building the MTA uses as its downtown headquarters! Sapir plans to use five of the seven floors in the mansion for gallery space - he has an extensive ivory collection and friends with Faberge eggs (makes sense, he is Russian, after all).

Here's the Brown Harris Stevens listing for 1009 Fifth Avenue, "simply the finest residence ever to come on the market in New York." And Lenny Kravitz was interested in the mansion, but maybe the Duke family was worried about his history of plumbing problems.