When the $80-million listing for the 55-acre North Haven
property owned by Miami area resident Robert W. Rust disappeared from the
Prudential Douglas Elliman Web site, it raised the question of whether this big
catch had been sold.
The property made headlines last January when it went on the market for the
then-highest price ever asked for a residential property in New York State. At
the time, listing agent Dolly Lenz of Prudential Douglas told Newsday that
Billy Joel and an unidentified yachtsman were among the parties interested in
the property. But a year later it remains unsold despite advertising from Lenz'
Hamptons-based colleague, broker Ray Smith.
Rust said he took it off the market after the listing expired with
Prudential at the end of September, but Lenz says she's still the "exclusive
Some weeks ago, Rust said, he asked his lawyer to send a letter to
Prudential reminding the company that it no longer represents his property.
"The only reason I asked for some type of letter to be sent was because Ray
Smith was continuing to advertise it after the period of contract ran out,"
said Rust, 79, a former assistant U.S. attorney decorated for helping save the
life of President John F. Kennedy almost three years before he was assassinated.
Asked Wednesday about the status of the listing, Lenz said, "I have
received no such letter. ... I'm the exclusive agent." Lenz acknowledged the
property is no longer listed on the company's Web site but said she is "in
negotiations" with a potential buyer.
Technically, it was Smith who got the letter, Rust said. The contract
states that Prudential will have several months after the listing expires to
earn a commission if a client who had seen the property decides to make a deal,
the owner said. Rust said he wasn't sure if that period also had expired.
Late last year, Rust expressed disappointment to Newsday that Prudential
hadn't done much to get word out about his property. "They began to advertise
it June, July and August, but for the first six months of the contract they
didn't do anything," he said Wednesday.
He had been thinking of finding another agency, and now that the listing is
off Prudential's Web site, Rust said "everybody" in real estate is calling him
frequently to snag his business.
But the compound won't be on the market anytime soon. He's been renovating
the buildings there, with most of the work done on two smaller houses set on
hills with views of Shelter Island.
"The reason it's not on the market right now is I really would like to
personally see the progress on the two houses," said the retiree, who usually
comes up for the summer. "A complete renovation on the two houses that may have
been anywhere from 60 to 100 years old. ... I've been laying out money as I
go. It has to be done."
Work also has been done on a barn and a garage.
Recently, workers removed at least five oil tanks made of steel - which can
rust and leak oil to contaminate groundwater used for drinking - and replaced
them with fiberglass tanks.
"It's the right thing to do," said Rust, who once lived in Baldwin.
Last year, he had wondered if the required updating on his property was
scaring off buyers, despite the natural beauty, a cove deep enough for boats
and the privacy.
Said Rust, "I think properties are more sellable when everything's