NY Post goes into the way back machine: Flower District in 1979
fur on the walls, gardenias in the air
Wonderful piece in today’s New York Post real estate section about an artist / mystery writer and wife who moved into a Flower District loft in 1979 that had last been a furrier’s vault. The raw space then featured no heat or hot water and 2 “industrial” toilets. And “4 inches of fur stuck to the walls and the ceilings”, which they removed with an industrial vacuum cleaner, standing high up on a ladder to reach the 11’6” ceilings. Where Art Thou / Jonathan Santlofer lives, writes and paints inside 2,000-square-foot flower district loft is nicely written by Micki Siegel.
the dark ages for Manhattan lofts
At the same time that people were doing the same thing to former industrial spaces in Tribeca, these folks were pioneering and homesteading in (what was then a thriving) Flower District in the high 20s, on and west of Sixth Avenue. The article says that they bought the space before the building became a coop and moved in without bathrooms, doing much of the renovation work themselves, using friends for the balance.
“We made it livable within six months,” Joy says. “We had to — we needed to live there.”
It is nice to hear pioneers who don’t want to turn back the clock, before there were (other) gentrifiers ‘ruining’ the neighborhood. They have a sense that, just as they were part of organic change in 1979, the hotels built recently nearby are part of that same (never-ending) process in Manhattan.
“I made a deal with him that if I came home at night alone, I’d take a cab right to the door,” Joy says. “Nothing was open then. There were no stores, no lights — there was nothing. I didn’t want to walk down the street by myself.
“Now it’s always jammed with people. There are tons of little restaurants, hotels and more. We both love it here. It’s become a great location.”
The 20-unit loft building about 3 blocks away from these folks that I moved into in 1993 converted to coop around the same time as this artist’s building converted. There were still 8 original shareholders in that building well into the new century, with 4 still there, so I know well people who lived through similar experiences as this couple, at least as far as safety concerns if not accumulated fur. Into the mid-1990s, my block was still very quiet at night, with but 3 residential buildings and almost no pedestrian traffic.
some mysteries can be solved
Anyone familiar with the area would know that these folks live west of 6th Avenue on either 27th, 28th or 29th Streets, with West 28 Street being the most likely candidate. Since I found the address on a public list relating to the guy’s art that the guy permitted to be published, I know which loft in the Groff Studios they bought, and still use as their residence, his studio and her writing office, and I don’t feel I am invading their privacy in linking to the building. And I know that this floor plan for the loft 2 floors above has the same Long-and-Narrow footprint, including east side windows
Chances are, their loft is arranged similarly, with his studio in front where the best light is
(they have one or two fewer walls than that floor plant with “two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office for Joy, Santlofer’s studio [22 feet wide and 34 feet long], a living room and dining area and a large, open kitchen with a washer/dryer”).
Chances are, their loft is in not as good condition as that one 2 floors up, whicc had been marketed in 2009 as “[b]rand new, totally gut renovated, tastefully designed and thoughtfully customized” (Siegel tells no stories about later renovation or updates), so theirs is probably worth significantly less than the $1,828,000 that one sold for in 13 months ago.
does everyone lie about size?
If anyone has accused real estate agents in Manhattan of understating the size of lofts or apartments, I have not seen any reports of that scandal. So it is ironic that the loft footprint that the mystery writer / artist describes as “2,000 sq ft” has been marketed as either “1,900 sq ft” or “1,800 sq ft”.
Many thanks to Micki Siegel and to this pioneering couple for a lovely trip down memory lane. Next time, however, I wish they would take more pictures.
Sandy Mattingly 2021