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The $7.9M Townhouse and the Mystery of the Armless Man

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Two days ago, a townhouse on the Upper East Side, 171 East 73rd Street, was listed for $7,900,000. It was not altogether unlike any other listing of its type—4,740 square feet, 6 beds, 5.5 baths, updated kitchen. The extended ground floor with a glass-ceilinged living room was quirky, but in such a way that elements of townhouses are often quirky, and so it was, in a sense, not quirky at all. The house had sold in February for $6,375,000 and its re-listing was prompt, perhaps unusually so. But this in itself did not suggest anything mysterious. Houses and apartments are forever being listed, un-listed, re-listed, flipped, dumped. It was impossible, at this point, to read too far into the listing. It was only what came next that called everything into question.

We took a quick Google Maps tour of the street, not looking for anything out of the ordinary, simply to check out the townhouse's exterior. The facade itself was normal enough, the lower portion made of dark bricks and the upper portion of lighter ones, possibly painted. But something to the left of the building caught our eye. It was a man, standing. But he was not simply standing, as a man stands to light a cigarette or wait for a friend or look at the Google Van driving by. He was standing with purpose. He was guarding. We zoomed in closer.

Where are that dude's arms??? The prompt re-listing of 171 was starting to make sense. Who wants to live in a house where the neighboring building is guarded by an armless man? Some digging revealed the following information: The building being guarded by the armless man was 167 East 73rd Street, which sold in 2006 to The Vilcek Foundation Inc. That Foundation, according to their website, "aims to raise public awareness of the contributions of immigrants to the sciences, arts, and culture in the United States" and "was inspired by the [Vilcek] couple's respective careers in biomedical science and art history." Biomedical science, as we all know, is the science of performing experiments on humans like removing their arms or something. Suddenly, everything was becoming cle—

Oh, wait, maybe his arms are just crossed behind his back.
· Listing: 171 East 73rd Street [Corcoran]