By Umar Cheema
NEW YORK: The apartment of Benazir Bhutto in Manhattan, the city’s most expensive area, has a dark and mysterious history. For a visitor, it is a beautifully furnished penthouse, with panoramic views of the East River. But it has often been unkind to its buyers.
The story goes that whoever has tried to buy it has died, either before the purchase or afterwards. One potential buyer dropped the idea of buying the apartment at the close of the deal, only because he felt afraid he would meet a tragic end, the apartment’s ex-owner Seema Boesky has said.
Two persons decided to finally buy it, one after the other. The first died before buying the property and the other – Benazir Bhutto – was killed a year after buying the penthouse, Seema Boesky said.
Belair Apartments, a 42-storey building that houses the Bhutto-Zardari penthouse,is located on 524-E, 72nd street between York Avenue and the FDR drive. In October 2006, a plane carrying a famous baseball player, Cory Liddle, crashed into this building, leaving Liddle and his co-pilot dead.
“My first buyer dropped dead at the closing,” Seema writes in the April issue of The Wag magazine. The second, with contract in hand, bolted down 47 flight of stairs, never to be heard from again, she further writes in her article titled: “The Cursed Apartment.”
Mentioning the final buyer of the apartment, who had bought it last year, she writes that one year later, newspaper headlines proved those who feel there is a curse on the apartment were right. “The sale has left me feeling sad ever since. My buyer? Benazir Bhutto!”
She said even her real estate broker was forced to believe that the apartment’s “karma” (luck) was questionable. Recalling her deal with Benazir Bhutto the final buyer, she said she was sick of meeting potential buyers but her real estate broker said that this time the client was some important person who preferred anonymity.
Before Ms Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari went to visit the apartment. “The husband came alone for the early meetings. He was charming, attractive, in his 50s, and extremely chatty while his crew took measurements and photos,” she writes drawing a sketch of Zardari, the PPP’s co-chairperson.
He mentioned this was their first home in New York, and that his wife was a workaholic who travelled constantly, Seema writes recalling her conversation with Zardari who was by that time living in New York’s Manhattan area, first in a hotel and later shifting to the apartment of a friend, Mona Shah.
“He (Zardari) was curious about the neighbourhood, and asked for my recommendations of places to go, and what to do and see,” she further narrates. When my broker summoned me for a fourth meeting with Zardari, I refused, Seema said. “No more trips to Manhattan until they make an offer,” I said, digging in my heels.
“Oh, this time it’s to meet the wife,” said my broker. “She (Benazir Bhutto) makes the decision and she wants to explore the possibility of purchasing some furnishings,” the real estate broker told Seema.
Seema writes that minutes after she arrived in Manhattan from Westchester, a New York’s county and home area of Seema, “a stunning woman with an engaging smile rang my doorbell.”
She (Benazir Bhutto) took a full tour, including closets, and was very complimentary. “I love what you’ve done here. Your colour sense and style sensibility is much like mine,” Ms Bhutto said approvingly.
“She spoke of the vibrancy of New York City and how she enjoyed visiting. She took an interest in my family photos too, and, seeing pictures of my children, she commented that hers were in schools elsewhere so would not be living in the apartment,” Seema further writes about Ms Bhutto’s visit to the apartment.
“The ‘feng shui’ is not right here and is very important to me, so I will be changing the location of the entry doors,” Benazir Bhutto said. Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese practice of arranging objects to achieve harmony with one’s environment and is also used for choosing a place to live, for plotting a burial site and other things. I wondered, Seema writes, could feng shui account for my apartment’s bad luck? Ms Bhutto made a list of items she wanted, mostly 18th century antiques, and asked for prices.
“We rode down the elevator together, and before bidding me farewell, she mentioned it was nice meeting me and felt we shared similar family values,” writes Seema, the ex-wife of Ivan Boesky, the notorious Wall Street figure who became a household name in the US in the 1980s after paying $100 million to settle insider-trading charges and serving two years in prison.
“Driving home, I thought how much I liked her and hoped this couple would ultimately make the purchase. A few days later, they made an acceptable offer,” she writes. “I remember thinking (after the deal was successfully finalised) how silly my broker was for believing my apartment was jinxed,” she recalls.
Courtesy: The News, 25/4/2008