Ex-wife of killer landlord and alleged hoarder buys Al Hirschfeld UES mansion for $8M


Al Hirschfeld will no longer be the most colorful owner of 122 East 95th Street.

The cheerful pink townhouse, which was formerly owned by Hirschfeld and features a strip of wallpaper with one of his works, sold back in January for $8.25 million. And now we know the buyer, Phyllis Battista, thanks to public records.

Battista is the ex-wife of Ben Odierno, the landlord who made headlines back in 2005 when he killed his second wife, Christine. Odierno was acquitted of murder charges in 2007 on a self-defense plea. He argued that he did not mean to kill Christine, but that she exhibited unstable behavior and attacked him first with a boning knife in the kitchen of their Upper East Side townhouse. In response, he fatally stabbed her twice with a six inch kitchen knife.

But before Odierno was married to Christine, he and Battista lived in 312 East 86th Street, which they bought together in 1966. Battista has lived in the house ever since, and has attracted anger from neighbors for her alleged hoarding and neglect of the building. Since 2001, the DOB has fielded 20 complaints from neighbors about the property.  The complaints include a blocked entrance, which Battista covered with wood, and a hole in her backyard, which the neighboring Japanese restaurant, Tokubei 86, claims let water into their basement whenever it rained.

In 2011, MTA engineers working on the Second Avenue subway obtained a court order to make sure the building was structurally sound. When they arrived, Battista was not there (her neighbors speculate she may sleep in a shelter, according to DNAifno), but the home was so packed with stuff that they were unable to conduct their inspection. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” one of the officers told DNA Info after leaving the building.

312 East 86th Street (credit: Google Maps)

According to city records, Battista has just sold her rather derelict home for $8.865 million to an unnamed buyer who also purchased the neighboring homes at 310 East 86th Street (for $12.5 million) and 314 East 86th Street (which they purchased in 2014 for $6.26 million).

Battista did not respond to our request for comment, but her sister, Helen Battista, did tell LLNYC that she had no knowledge that her sister purchased Hirschfeld’s house. Though she is in contact with her sister, she says that she does not visit her on the Upper East Side, that her sister is immensely private and that she “never tells me anything.”

  • School bus on fire

    Hopefully the rat problem will subside on 86th now that she’s gone.