Oh, to be part of the crowd
(from Our Town Downtown 2/6/07)
By David Crohn
One way to find an apartment in the city is to pick your favorite neighborhood, then try and locate a fringe, that one shady part where some dismal government building or chronic system of potholes drives prices down and no self-respecting agent can describe as “prime.” Like anything else in New York, it takes determination and heaps of luck.
It worked for me, and as I write this I am tucked away in a one-bedroom a block away from the West Side Highway. (When I first moved in, pigeon poop blanketed the building’s front door.) My home is thoroughly nestled. And so am I, usually for better, but some times for worse—talk radio stays on all the time, and I go for walks along Hudson Street twice daily.
One day I had a friend over, and in between staccato bursts of encomium to my new apartment, she let slip a critique that has been stuck in my gums ever since.
Said my friend, “This place is great, but you have no street life.” She was right: on one side the windows face a courtyard, which is lovely but desolate; on the other is a silent street that barely registers a decibel, even on Saturday nights when stiletto-heeled revelers crowd the Meatpacking District a few blocks away.
The quiet is good for my profession, but in my next life I want to live on Chambers Street between Greenwich Street and Hudson Street (or, West Broadway, since this is where Hudson becomes West Broadway). There may be parts of Tribeca that seem older or groovier, but the impulse to be part of the crowd is embedded in even the most agoraphobic New Yorker.
Between the subway stop on one side and the Borough of Manhattan Community College campus across the street on the other, a steady stream of pedestrians fills the walkway between.
Sure, it’s loud. But so is the ocean.
As much as some folks like to bemoan the luxury-condo cottage industry that is gradually converting SoHo, the Bowery and Tribeca into a small world of “ultra-modern amenities,” people must be coming, cause they keep building them. Two new developments in this vein are in the works on this block, but compared to the anomalous monstrosities appearing in some neighborhoods, these fit just swell. One, the Artisan Lofts, is a retooling of a 1930s, 18-story office building for residential use. East of that and on the south end of the street is 146 Chambers, “where timeless elegance meets state-of-the-art design.” I have no idea what that means. But according to an artist’s rendering online, the new building, which is only starting to be built, looks like it will be, if not congruent with the Renaissance revival architecture nearby, then harmonious and accommodating. Both condos will sell for millions later this year.
There was nothing listed on this block at press time; expect to pay upwards of $3,000 to live here, in what is a little like Tribeca’s Midtown.
What Happened Here
Just last week, the New York Post reported that two employees at the McDonald’s near Greenwich Street are suing their manager for sexual harassment. In addition to ogling the teenagers and making lascivious comments, Jose Irizzary, along with his assistant manager, Joffrey Rodriguez, allegedly asked them to appear in the buff on a pal’s gay porn Web site. The boys’ lawyer called the burger joint “a feeding ground for these guys [the manager].” The suit claims the modeling gig would have paid $200. One block west, the BMCC campus was completed in 1980; stretching over five blocks, the campus is described by the “AIA Guide to New York City” as a “curiosity from that brief era when architects told us that megastructures would cure all urban ills.” That’s a rather haughty judgment which, thanks to the apologias lately being rained down on Bob Moses—a major force, if not the guiding spirit for making things big, and quickly—may some day be looked at as a curiosity from a brief era.
A quick look at this block’s commercial facilities will tell you there’s a college campus nearby, even if you’re blind to the kids with books walking by. There’s a bookstore—Manhattan Books—with a proud return policy advertised out front. And a Taco Bell, and a McDonald’s and a Subway. A mom-and-pop diner, hardware store and pizza place happily coexist along with the chain stores on this block. My favorite amenity though, if you can call it that, is one that’s definitely geared toward college students: an Army/Navy/Marines recruitment center. Inside, a single uniformed officer sipped coffee while a television set in the display window was awash with white noise.