Saturday, September 29, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I once read somewhere that if you live in New York City, it has to be in an interesting building. And mine definitely fits the bill, in more ways than one.

I remember vividly talking through my requirements with the real estate brokers back in January. Watching Sex & The City had set my expectations too high. I was looking for a one bedroom apartment in a brownstone walk-up, ideally in the West Village but definitely below 14th Street... oh, and for $2,500 per month of course.
I essentially wanted to live in Carrie's apartment, perhaps hoping I would live the same life - without a closet full of size zero clothes and designer shoes in my case however!

When I came over for my relocation trip - 3 days in which I had to find a flat with the help of the brokers - I was surprised that the estate agent wasn't taking me to see brownstones, let alone in the West Village. All he had in my price range were portered buildings (with a concierge) in West Midtown (well, that's what he called it, the non-marketing friendly name being "Hell's Kitchen") and the Upper West Side. $2,500 barely gets you a small studio in trendy downtown.

But when I first visited the flat I eventually chose, I knew it was the one. Granted, it was the largest one I saw and had actual sunlight - 2 of the rarest things to find in the city - so the choice was an obvious one. The large walk-in closet that would comfortably house my shoe collection was another very persuasive factor.

I wasn't sure about the building itself at first, the hallways reminding me of the ones in "The Shining" - to this day, I still expect the evil twin girls to appear around the corner on their bicycles!
But I could feel the history and former grandeur of the place. It was built in 1902 and was formerly know as the Bretton Hall Hotel and still retains an impressive Beaux Arts facade.
Much to my sadness however, management seems intent on eliminating original features. I had to witness how they covered up the ornate cornices in the lobby and tiled over a beautiful mosaic floor during a recent refurbishment project.
Some original features I wish they had changed are still there though - I swear my cast iron radiators date from the turn of the century (they certainly sound like they do) and the plumbing is temperamental at times to say the least.

I love having concierges, as it's not only very practical (they take delivery of your laundry and collect your mail) but also very safe as you have to be buzzed in to get inside the building. They knew my name within 2 days of me moving in (impressive considering there are 461 flats in the building) and we always exchange pleasantries as I walk in and out.

But perhaps what I love the most about my building is the fact is that it contains some rent-stabilized flats which really contribute to the rainbow selection of inhabitants in the building.
I have seen every race and every type of people - the dope smoking students on the 3rd floor (you know as soon as the lift doors open on that floor), the frail looking elderly folks who look like they should really be looked after in a retirement home by now, the urbanites carrying small dogs in big designer handbags, the 2.4 children families along with the 8.2 children families, the sharply suited business men anxiously typing on their blackberries, the musicians cramming their instruments in the lift, the single girls toting yoga mats and perfect make-up, the weary taxi drivers on their way home from a night shift ...

I still harbour hopes of living downtown - the spiritual home of my social life - or so I tell myself every weekend as I take the unpredictable subway down to Prince Street ... but the fact is that this building feels like home and so does the relative tranquility of the Upper West Side.

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