It may not seem like it at first, but New York City and Bellingham, Washington have quite a bit in common. Both places are near their respective coasts and both have fine museums. Both cities have rich parks, excellent Italian restaurants and even lots of the same streets, with names like Madison, Park, Wall & 9th. They both have prominent Villages. And the taxis are yellow. Neither city has experienced an actual zombie apocalypse…
Alright—they’re about as different as they can be, New York and Bellingham. The pace, scale, depth and real estate markets are totally different. I found out first-hand last week during a comprehensive 90-minute real estate immersion experiment adventure courtesy of some of the Lower Eastside’s finest.
Bond New York Properties‘ Bridget Schuy is a Realtor, just like me. She deals with members of the public, whom she calls clients, on ventures related to doors with locks on them. She walks upright on two legs just like me and even has a teenager at home.
But that’s about where the similarities end.
Bridget lives and works in the South Street Seaport neighborhood, in the shadow of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. She was born on the other side of that bridge, and though I know she’s been out of greater New York ( she lived in Germany for three years ) it’s not impossible that Bridget’s worldview is like that New Yorker’s Map of the Universe cartoon where all the neighborhoods in Manhattan are incredibly detailed, naming every deli & bar, and then once off the island the topography gradually gets more approximated: the Jersey Shore; Rocky Mountains; Southern California; China.
New Yorkers are ethnocentric and they can afford to be.
After all, there’s little to offer on Earth that can’t be found in New York City, other than maybe silence. And let’s face it—silence is a little over-rated…
Relative to the rest of Manhattan, Seaport was actually pretty quiet on the Sunday afternoon I spent with Bridget. That’s what a hundred-year storm will do for a neighborhood.
“The water was up to here,” she says, reaching above her head to rest a hand on the top of a temporary chainlink fence on Water Street. “Underwater Street, we called it,” she says, shaking her head.
Looking south from the picture windows of a 6th floor 1-bedroom condo at 117 Beekman Street ( offered for $995,000 ) I’m afforded an excellent view of the neighborhood and a useful hydrometeorological lesson staring straight down the East River toward the Atlantic Ocean, the direction from which billions of cubic yards of salt water came swelling on October 28. It’s easy to see, from this perspective, how the Seaport just got its butt kicked by Sandy. And though the rest of Manhattan seems to have been thoroughly dried out and its lipstick firmly reapplied ( good as new… ) the Seaport is a long way from being open for business. Many neighborhood improvement projects that had sprung up since the losses of September 11, 2001 have been erased, and entire blocks of what only 90 days ago was a bustling shopping & dining section of this brick historic district are fenced and dark. Poof.
But these buildings have seen worse. South Street Seaport features some of the oldest architecture in New York and includes the largest concentration of restored 19th-centuy commercial buildings in the city. These buildings have weathered some storms, literally. Sandy Shmandy– there will be others.
“This is like the 3rd oldest building in New York City,” Bridget says, pausing in front of a 3-story brick building that looks remarkably straight for its age. “Probably had a few facelifts,” I say. It is surrounded by a number of buildings that have not aged quite so hot. Several that are not being held up by something more modern are noticeably rhombussy. One of them is 265 Water Street, the location of our next open house.
Next week—Madonna’s 740 Park Avenue rejection