These people go to remarkable lengths to snag their dream home. They hound real estate agents, besiege landlords, tack notes on doors, drive doormen crazy. They plant their names on waiting lists for hard-to-access buildings. They send beseeching letters to owners, promising to be model tenants. Even if they don’t spend the rest of their days in the home of their dreams — because even the happiest love affairs sometimes wind down or crash entirely — they rarely express regrets.
There’s a reason such obsessions flourish in New York. “In this city, we’re all walkers,” said Andrew Phillips, a Halstead broker who has received his share of “Call me the second the place becomes available” entreaties. “We pass the same building again and again, we walk down the same block, and we think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to live there?’ Being a New Yorker is being slightly voyeuristic. And as we take the same route over and over, our dreams start forming.”
|'Maiden' at Market Drayton A smart-looking narrowboat moored adjacent to a modern housing estate on the outskirts of Market Drayton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
For Helen Eisenbach, a writer, editor and longtime Upper West Sider, obsession took the form of an address in or near the East Village. “It’s this little pocket of New York that hasn’t disappeared or been homogenized,” Ms. Eisenbach said. “For decades I secretly dreamed of living there.” But a rent-stabilized studio in the West 90s kept her tethered uptown for more than 30 years. That her brother and her mother, now 90, also lived uptown exerted an additional pull.
The chain of events that dislodged Ms. Eisenbach began five years ago when her rent, by then destabilized, began escalating sharply. “I was on Streeteasy every day,” she said. “Sometimes I’d look forlornly at listings for places downtown, but I knew that was a dream that would never happen. I knew my family wanted me to be near them.”
Then her sister, Susan, a real estate buff who lives in London, arrived for a visit. “As always,” Ms. Eisenbach said, “the first question out of her mouth was, ‘Do you have any apartments for us to look at?’ I had three from Streeteasy that I’d saved out of sheer fantasy. We saw them the next day, and afterward Susan announced to the family that I’d be leaving the neighborhood.”
In December Ms. Eisenbach closed on an alcove studio on East 14th Street, just on the cusp of the East Village, for which she paid under $400,000. The place is so spacious she has room for a grand piano. “Plus even the elevator is gorgeous,” she said. “When do you like an elevator?”
She loves the tiny stores, the hole-in-the-wall restaurants and especially B and H Dairy, “where I practically live,” she said. She pays regular visits to her mother, though for Ms. Eisenbach, an avid walker, the journey takes an hour and a half, not 15 minutes.
“Still, I’m beside myself with joy and euphoria,” she said. “I can’t believe that this is my neighborhood and that I made myself at home so quickly. The past 30 years feel like a faded memory.”
Linda Gottlieb discovered her dream apartment when she went to a party in the early 1980s. The hostess was a rising media star named Arianna (soon to marry Michael Huffington), and the setting was her spectacular duplex in the century-old Studio Building on East 66th Street.
“It was one of the few apartments with a double-height living room, and the ceilings seemed to go up to the heavens,” said Ms. Gottlieb, the producer of the 1987 hit movie “Dirty Dancing.” “The rooms were lit by candlelight and filled with glamorous people. That party really embodied everything magical about New York.”
At the time Ms. Gottlieb was living in a West Side apartment furnished mostly with hand-me-downs. “But I kept seeing that vision in my mind,” she said. One day in 2000, having moved to a two-bedroom apartment on the East Side and increasingly flush thanks to the success of her movie, she asked her broker if she had any apartments in that building. “She had one,” Ms. Gottlieb said. “And when I walked in, there was the identical layout. My heart soared.”
She spent $4 million to buy the 3,500-square-foot space, which was on a higher floor than Ms. Huffington’s but identical in layout. She and her husband moved in right after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
For years the memory of the Huffington party filled these rooms. “When my son and his partner stood on the balcony for their commitment party, when I gave glamorous benefits for a hundred people, I saw shades of Arianna,” Ms. Gottlieb said. And as with the Huffington apartment, hers was boldly designed, slathered in what Ms. Gottlieb describes as Palio colors — reds, purples and turquoises — and furnished with artifacts from around the world.
For a decade, she loved the apartment without reservations. Yet once her children moved out, the 10 rooms seemed more burden than benefit. The spiral staircase was tricky to navigate. “We don’t use half the space,” Ms. Gottlieb said. “We’re ready to turn the page.” The apartment is being sold; the closing will be this month.
For Barrie Mandel, heaven arrived in 1989 by way of a mysterious newspaper ad. Ms. Mandel, a social worker turned real estate broker, was living with her doctor husband, Harvey Schneier, and their three young children in a loft they owned near City Hall. But she was dreaming about TriBeCa, specifically a row of restored Federal town houses on Harrison Street, nine red brick buildings that had escaped the wrecker’s ball when the area was designated for urban renewal.
“The ad was for a duplex in a three-bedroom town house in TriBeCa,” Ms. Mandel said. “I had no idea where it could be. Then a colleague reminded me that there were only nine town houses in TriBeCa, and they were all on Harrison Street. It was like moving your foot and finding a gold coin.”
She knocked on each door, inquiring about a duplex for rent. At No. 27A, she struck pay dirt; the man who answered said the apartment was in his building. “I told him I’d always wanted to live here,” Ms. Mandel said. “He took me upstairs, and that was it.”
Five years later, the couple bought the house at 25 Harrison Street for $550,000, and they’ve been there ever since, charmed by such details as the five fireplaces, the oak floors and rear gardens that flow into one another. “It’s a house that makes you feel like you want to take off your coat and linger,” Ms. Mandel said. “It feels comforting, in good times and bad.”
She often sees curious strangers pausing outside her doorway, and sometimes she invites them in and shows them around.
In Greenwich Village, an enclave of exquisite homes that encourages strolling and peering into windows, it’s no wonder that real estate yearnings flourish in powerful fashion, as they did for the writer and filmmaker Delia Ephron.
For Ms. Ephron, raised in Los Angeles but a New Yorker at heart, the grail was not just the Village, where she had lived briefly in her 20s, but specifically the nine-block patch bounded by Ninth Street, 12th Street, Broadway and the Avenue of the Americas. The longing persisted during the years she lived in Los Angeles as an adult, rooted there by a husband, stepchildren and the demands of the movie business.
“Living in the Village was a little dream tucked away,” said Ms. Ephron, the author, most recently, of “The Lion Is In,” a novel. “I needed to be in L.A., so New York was on the back burner. You can’t get all your dreams at once.”
But by 1993 she, along with her husband, was back in the city, and by 2002 in the patch of the Village she coveted. Beguiled by slanted skylights that reminded her of old movies, she rented an apartment in a Ninth Street town house. Shortly thereafter, the trudging up and down stairs and the yearning for a doorman to accept packages having taken their toll, she bought an apartment in a doorman building not far away, this one without skylights, and she has been there ever since.
“I finally ended up living in the neighborhood I wanted and in the kind of building I wanted,” Ms. Ephron said. “Skylights were never part of my Village fantasy. I never liked living in houses.”
In the Village, people lust not only after particular corners but also individual buildings. Butterfield House, at 37 West 12th Street, one of the city’s stellar postwar apartment houses, is invariably high on the list. Its two wings are linked by a glass-walled passage that snakes through a landscaped courtyard, and large steel-framed bay windows punctuate its sinuous tawny brick facade. When completed in 1962, Butterfield House was described by The Real Estate Forum as “unique among all the city’s hundreds of new apartment structures.”
Adam Sheffer, 45, a partner in Cheim & Read art gallery, had obsessed about Butterfield House ever since moving to the Village in the late ’80s. Like his longtime partner, Richard Grossman, 50, an executive with Halstead, he is besotted with Modernism. “We both love Mies,” Mr. Sheffer said. “We take vacations to see rare Modernist buildings.”
Although the two didn’t start looking immediately, almost from the moment they met in 1994, they knew in their hearts that they would end up in Butterfield House. Last May, after years of checking out apartments there, they settled on a 2,000-square-foot space with an enclosed terrace and what Mr. Sheffer described as “extraordinary windows that accentuate the ceiling height.”
“The timing, the apartment, the seller — everything was right,” he said. “We knew it the moment we walked in. The place had an aura.” The couple went to contract five days later, and will move in after a yearlong renovation.
Their friends aren’t surprised, Mr. Sheffer said. “They say to us, ‘We always knew you’d both end up here.’ ”
Bob Bray, an interior designer, fell in love with an apartment the day he saw a beautiful window.
“I was living in the Dakota, and I was visiting a friend who lived in the Village,” Mr. Bray recalled. He happened to glance up at a building on East 10th Street near University Place that was being gutted and rebuilt. “Through the scaffolding,” he said, “I saw a window on the corner that was surrounded by a yard of palazzo balustrade.” Marching inside, he found the rental agent, coaxed him onto the street and pointed up. “I want that apartment,” he announced.
For nearly three decades, Mr. Bray lived in that space, a top-floor studio framed by three windows, two of them enormous. The limestone balustrade that entranced him nearly 30 years ago overlooks an iconic Village streetscape.
“It’s just a studio, but I never tired of the light or the air,” said Mr. Bray, who just turned 70 and retired six years ago after a half-century career. “I never had regrets.”
Now, however, he’s moving to Florida, to a co-op near Bal Harbour. “I’ve done it,” he said. “I’m going to Florida, and I’m going to buy a dog.”
The tug of a location can announce itself in mysterious fashion, as it did for Allison Chawla, a social-work student. Ms. Chawla, 35, had never felt any particular pull toward Brooklyn Heights. But when she and her husband began apartment-hunting in the neighborhood earlier this year, signs for Remsen Street caught her up short.
Ms. Chawla is a descendant of the Remsens, a family that dates back to Rem Jansen Vanderbeek, one of New York’s earliest Dutch settlers. Photographs of gravestones of Remsen ancestors hung in the house in New Jersey where Ms. Chawla grew up. She has lived in Los Angeles, on the Upper West Side and most recently in Dumbo. Yet having just bought an apartment on Henry Street makes her feel eerily close to her forebears.
“I’d forgotten about the significance of all those Remsen ancestors until I was walking around Brooklyn Heights and saw the street signs,” Ms. Chawla said. Nor had her forebears played a role in the couple’s decision to sink roots in the neighborhood; their goal had been proximity to good schools and convenient subways.
“I can’t honestly say that I’ve always wanted to live in Brooklyn Heights,” she said. “But just being in the area reawakened feelings; I felt more emotional than I thought I would, more connected. I imagine my ancestors walking around on these streets, and I wonder, ‘Do I look like any of them?’ ”
By CONSTANCE ROSENBLUM
Taken from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/realestate/dream-home-the-come-true-edition.html
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