Tag Archives: New York Architecture

Faces of New York Copyright 2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Weeks 21-22, the Keys to the Castle, er, Garden

Revisiting one of my favorite little spots in my neighborhood in this edition of Faces of New York. Today we have the white terra-cotta façade of 36 Gramercy Park East adjacent the dark, shaded sandstone of number 34. Both buildings are residential blocks, and are, according to Wikipedia, among the first apartment buildings in the city. They have both played home to the rich and famous, most recently Jimmy Fallon in number 34. Such greats as James Cagney and Gregory Peck also lived in number 34, and to go along with the circus that is New York, Alfred Ringling (one of 7 Ringling Brothers) used to reside in number 36 (where they have chambers in lieu of bedrooms).

Number 34 is supposedly the oldest cooperative condominium building in the city. If you aren’t from New York and are from a part of the country with sane and affordable property norms, you’ve heard of a co-op. A farmer’s co-op. A cooperative grocery store. This is not the same thing as a New York co-op. In New York and a few other places, a co-op is a residential building made up of condominiums, flats, apartments, etc., where there is a co-op board. Sound familiar? Think of the most restrictive, nit-picky and asinine neighborhood association or condo board and you’ll get close to some of the co-op horror stories out there. As the saying goes, you can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends. Or your neighbors, if you live in a co-op.

Rather, they get to pick you.

Then your neighbors can approve your purchase… and your paint colors, and any renovation that may affect the other units’ listing prices. So, Mrs. Smith, let’s say, has a lot of pull on the board, and she’s not a fan of brown. Mrs. Smith gets to naysay a young couple’s modern, classy paint scheme because, well, too much brown. So sorry.

Where in other cities, renters look for apartments on Craigslist and condos are a dime a dozen, New Yorkers will often lay out thousands for a broker just to rent a place, or go through a co-op board for the privilege of paying millions of dollars to buy the (tiny, tiny) home of their dreams. At 34 or 36 Gramercy Park East, you may have paid millions for your pad, but at least the views are nice. And you do get a much-sought-after key to Gramercy Park.

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Week 15: Gargle Goyles on Irving Place

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy PhotographyWelcome to the sunny, steamy, sultry second week of July on Faces of New York. It’s a great time of year to be an occasional photoshop creative type because that usually means both getting outside and returning to air conditioning. Computers, like their users, work best in climate controlled environments. This week, I took a short jog down to Irving Place just south of Grammercy Park in Manhattan. It’s a funny little street that gets blissfully little attention, and is one of the only truly local roads on the island because it only runs for 5 blocks north-south. It starts at Grammercy Park, and has the dubious honor of ending adjacent the former meeting site of Tammany Hall. The old tigers have gone north with the property values, their original headquarters is replaced, and it’s quite the sweet spot today.

My charge this week is 81 Irving Place, an Italianate co-op building constructed in 1929 based on designs by prolific Manhattan architect George Pelham, home today to 102 apartments and a dentist’s office. This building has been on my radar since the inception of this project because it is really close to my favorite coffee shop in New York, 71 Irving Place. It’s my favorite mostly because it is on a quiet street and has outdoor seating that is, unfortunately and this time of year especially, almost always full. So in a way, it’s my favorite coffee house that I can never get in to. Sort of like a general message from the City to her denizens: “Hello! Welcome! I have many nice things for all to enjoy! The food is amazing! The coffee just finished roasting! Now, please wait in this line…” New Yorkers, I should add, and though we do it often, don’t wait well in lines.

I hope you enjoy the gargoyles, plaques, friezes and sundry statuary that dot this fine old residential building as much as I have, in passing, for the past year. And if your teeth are feeling fuzzy, brush please, and then stop on by the dentist while you wait for your coffee. And while you wait in that line, walk around the corner and you might just hear the door-lintil dragon screaming “Atreeeyuuuu!”