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$80M estate off market for now

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

agent."

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Prudential reminding the company that it no longer represents his property.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

nice."

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