not lofty enough in Manhattan, smiling at Manhattan from DUMBO

poignant search profiled in NY Times
“Poignant” must be in the eyes of the beholder … as in whose buttons are being pushed. Today’s Joyce Cohen The Hunt feature in the NY Times pushed my buttons, very well.

Starting a New Life in Brooklyn outlines the search that a 72 year old artist started as her husband of nearly 50 years was dying, when she realized she could not bear to live in their 2 Fifth Avenue home of 20 years after his death. She

wished to find, for $2 million to $3 million, a big, bright, high-ceilinged place that could include an art studio for Ms. Alper’s painting and sculpture [and she] began hunting in SoHo and TriBeCa, two neighborhoods that Ms. Alper liked.

Sounds like a do-able proposition, doesn’t it?

light and views surprisingly hard to find in SoHo or TriBeCa lofts
It is ironic – but not surprising — that this artist was not able to find enough light and space in the original artist loft neighborhood (SoHo) or its younger sibling (Tribeca).

“lofts” that are too much “apartment”
She rejected 53 Murray as “too apaprtmentlike” despite its provenance as a former lamp business. She was most likely looking at the penthouse unit here (#6), a 1,719 sq ft duplex with 2 terraces that closed in August at $2.35mm. Ceilings are 20 feet in the front and must be 10 feet where the upstairs master bedroom and main floor 2 other bedrooms are. The 25 foot wide space is not so Long-and-Narrow, but there may not be much wall space for hanging art and using one of the bedrooms as a studio would not work for someone looking for a studio with high ceilings. Kind of a typical Long-and-Narrow layout, nonetheless.

Similarly, 124 Hudson was “too apaprtmentlike”, not surprising for a “loft-like” building built in 2001 on a Tribeca parking lot. She probably looked at #4B, which was offered at $2.65mm for “2,110 sq ft” that is arrayed in exactly the same footprint that would be at home on the Upper East or Upper West Sides, but for the open kitchen (a “problem” easily fixed). (It closed in April juts under $2.5mm.) ‘Only’ 10 foot ceilings here, and not a lot of light from the 4th floor, looking west across Hudson Street, with ‘only’ 25 feet of windows in the public space (living room).

typical = boring
As her agent said Anything that had the typical apartment, she found boring”. She also crossed off several unidentified downtown luxury buildings. “We were excited, but they looked like they were for people who wanted apartments, and I wanted more of an open space,” Ms. Alper said. “They were very elegant, and I realized I didn’t want such elegance. But I didn’t want raw space because I wasn’t going to have my husband to design it for me.”

Mick Jagger is smiling (pausing at “seemed right”)
Remember Jagger’s Law of Imperfect Lofts / life is compromise (sigh)?

A $2.5 million duplex at 80 Warren Street, a co-op building once occupied by dairy wholesalers and then by employment agencies, had everything Ms. Alper wanted. She would put her art studio on the top floor. “I liked it so much, and it just seemed right,” she said.
But a relative who is an architect said they would need to remove a wall so the studio could overlook the terrace. Besides, surrounding neighbors could look right at her when she was outside. That gave her pause.

That listing is not on the web any longer, but it was a duplex with “1,750 sq ft” and those two terraces (“1,450 sq ft”) into which the pesky neighbors could look.

over the river we go
So she crossed over the river, after seeing pictures of the Manhattan views from DUMBO. But the real loft building at 70 Washington Street did not work for her either, as the light was not very good there (interior rooms without windows).

She ended up on the 32nd floor of the J Condo, a new 33-story tower next to the ManhattanBridge (she’s on the other side, facing Manhattan, of course). She found that looking at the city, you feel you are in the city more than when you are in the city.” She even finds the BQE traffic 300 feet below her to be “cute”.

peace upon you, Ms. Alper!
As I said, this story pushes a lot of my buttons – not least the Manhattan loft angle.

May all of her surprises be pleasant. She’s paid some dues, no?

“It is really fun. It is a different Brooklyn than I remember. The neighborhood is full of surprises. That’s what I think my life should be. Lots of surprises.”

© Sandy Mattingly 2008

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