Fake ‘Grace Kelly townhouse’ sells at NYC foreclosure auction

There’s one born every minute.

A massive, 35-foot-wide, 12,321-square-foot Upper East Side building that reportedly once housed stars including Grace Kelly and her husband, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, as well as singer Harry Belafonte, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and even George Soros, sold last Thursday in a foreclosure auction.

That’s a lot of house and a lot of history for a starting bid of just $15 million (the closing price has yet to be revealed).

But there’s just one problem: Despite nearly a decade of marketing efforts, news reports and broker braggadocio touting the home as “Grace Kelly’s townhouse” in order to drum up the price — there is no evidence that the princess of Monaco, nor any of her famous friends ever owned or even lived at 51-53 E. 73rd St.

That means some yet-to-be-identified buyer is having their “George Washington slept here” moment, while the auction house collects a fat fee.

Broker and Steel Dossier source Sergei Millian claims that rumors of celebrity occupants we started by Paul Ender.
Broker and Steel Dossier source Sergei Millian claims that rumors of celebrity occupants were started by Paul Ender.

The scam dates back to at least 2013, when the home’s then-broker Sergei Millian told the Daily News about the home’s celebrity pedigree. Millian, a former president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, is better known as “Person 1,” the alleged source for the anti-Trump Steele dossier, which heaped a hot load of scandal onto the 2016 presidential election.

While it is not uncommon for brokers to fabricate a home’s provenance, reached via social media, Millian told The Post that he simply repeated claims made by the owner, late real estate manager Paul Ender.

At the time, Ender was deep in debt and seeking some $48 million for the deteriorating townhouse (today it contains 13 unoccupied units and 5 offices).

Since purchasing the townhouse in 1973, Ender had treated the building like a piggybank, and by the end of 2016, the mortgage stood at $15.25 million, according to public records.

After Ender’s death in 2015, his wife Simone Ender and daughter Monique Ender Silberman defaulted on its mortgage, and quickly racked up liens, fines of $10,100 per day and expenses of around $28 million. A bankruptcy filing had stalled the sale for the last year.

“We were taken advantage because we are women, period,” Ender Silberman told The Post.

All the while, the mansion’s dubious celebrity lore went unchecked, and was at times actively promoted.

The real history of the home tells another story.

Harry Belafonte lived on the West Side of Manhattan and not on East 73rd Street.
Harry Belafonte lived on the West Side of Manhattan and not on East 73rd Street.
Getty Images

In 1889, developer and architect John G. Prague built the twin, four-story, townhouse-style apartment buildings, between Madison and Park avenues, with a total of 17 units. In 1947, city records show that the properties where combined into a single apartment complex.

At that time, a then 17-year-old Grace Kelly was just earning her diploma from the Stevens School in Philadelphia. After graduating, she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan, while living in the Barbizon Hotel for Women for the next three years.

In the early 1950s, Kelly moved to the white-brick Manhattan House at 200 East 66th Street, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. While performing on stage and screen, Kelly was notice by legendary director John Ford, whose studio gave her a seven-year contract in 1952, which allowed her to keep her Manhattan address. Now, a movie star (she appeared in her first Hitchcock picture “Dial M for Murder” in 1954), her next stop in the neighborhood was to an even more fashionable address at 988 Fifth Ave. In 1955, she traveled to Monaco and married the prince the following year — after which it’s hard to imagine that the royal couple slummed it in a one-bedroom apartment.

Rumors of other celeb occupants of the E. 73rd St. also add up to nuts.

Belafonte complained bitterly that no landlord on the Upper East Side would rent to him in the 1950s and he subsequently tricked the owners of 300 West End Ave. into selling him a home by using a company name.

51-53 east 73 St. is currently divided into 13 apartments and 5 offices.
51-53 east 73 St. is currently divided into 13 apartments and 5 offices.
Stefano Giovannini

As for Rockefeller, he lived right down the block in swank 5th Ave. digs. He would have passed the building frequently on the way to the Buckley School at nearby 113 E. 73 St., where his children were enrolled. He even stopped by the school, where he introduced Henry Kissinger before a speech, on the day he died in 1979 — in the arms of a mistress at his office on West 54th Street. But there is no evidence that he owned or rented one of the apartments at 51-53 E. 73rd St.

Likewise, Soros is more apt to stash lovers in modest Upper East Side apartments than to live in them. Asked if any of these boldfaced names might have rented love nests in the building, Ender Silberman shrugged: “Do you think whores sign leases? I don’t think so.”

The Princess Grace Foundation, the Rockefeller archivist and the Soros foundation did not return requests for comment.

But don’t feel too sorry for the sucker who bought this mansion’s phony bologna. The sale of the massive spread included 2,000 square feet of air rights, making it prime for a truly kingly conversion.

“As a mansion it really stands out, and it’s on the Gold Coast of Manhattan,” said one broker familiar with the property who asked to remain anonymous. “It is amazing how many people have that kind of money.”

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