A 30-year battle over an Upper East Side apartment between the widow of fashion icon Oleg Cassini and famed interior designer Thomas Britt has finally ended.
Britt had been living in a 3,000-square-foot triplex at 15 E. 63rd St. for more than a decade when, in 1984, Cassini’s widow, Marianne Nestor, and her sister, Peggy Nestor, bought the entire building, a five-story, prewar limestone mansion with sweeping marble staircases. It’s currently worth $6 million.
The sisters began trying to bounce Britt from his rent-stabilized pad, once featured in Architectural Digest, in 1988, arguing that they planned to use the entire building as a primary residence.
“This is an Upper East Side story. It’s fashion vs. design,” said Britt’s lawyer, Todd Lamb. “There is a certain intrigue when you have two high-profile people slugging it out.”
Lamb said Britt paid “roughly” $700 a month in rent when he moved into the building in 1971, at a time when there were about eight other tenants.
Britt, the last “holdout,” was paying $3,025 monthly rent last year. The market rate was $15,000.
“Every single time his lease came up for renewal, the Nestors would give him a notice that they would not renew the lease because they claimed they intended to occupy the apartment as their own residence,” Lamb said.
Marianne Nestor married Cassini, fashion designer to the stars in the ’60 and ’70s, in 1971. She remained his wife until his death in 2006 at age 92.
The Oleg Cassini Design Studio is in the atrium of the building.
Marianne and Peggy Nestor’s names are both on the deed of the Upper East Side town house, but Peggy Nestor claimed to be “the driving force” in the court drama.
“Marianne didn’t want anything to do with this,” Peggy told The Post. “She came along for the ride.”
After three decades of legal wrangling, Britt finally threw in the towel, with the two sides settling the case in Housing Court in January, according to attorneys for both parties.
But that’s about all they agreed on.
The Nestors’ attorneys, Meryl Wenig and Jeffrey Saltiel, maintain that Britt “folded” in the case after they presented evidence that he lived primarily in the Hamptons.
Not so, said Lamb.
“We still don’t believe the Nestors could have proved their case,” the lawyer explained. “Mr. Britt said it was time to move on. It was his decision.”
When one of Britt’s assistants handed over the keys in the building lobby on Feb. 28, the Nestor sisters did not hide their glee.
“We left the building, and we could hear the cheers through the door,” Lamb sniffed. “I thought it was tacky.”