The One That Got Away

A wonderful post, Dwellology, written by a New York realtor, caught my eye yesterday.  Written from the heart, it exposed pangs in mine as I remembered, whilst trying so hard to forget, the apartments we moved in and out of in the search to settle.  When once upon a not so long time ago I assumed our forever time would be spent in the happy ever after renovations of the house which had become home in London.

HL Bise writes

” At times, when I accompany a buyer or even a renter to view a property, for the first time, I become witness to their instant, vocal-certainty that, “This is the One,” as they open the unit’s door.”

As settled as we are in our latest apartment, I do not recall feelings of instant love upon meeting the walls that were eventually to become home.  Climbing the stairs, all the way to the top of the 5th floor, did not help. Something about the spaciousness, the light and the view however nudged me into a grudging acceptance.  I was not in love, not with this apartment.  I had been jilted, the recent memory of which still hurt whenever I thought about the one that got away.

The one that got away took my breath away upon that first view.  Located on West 54th St, the area was more than a little different to what we had become used to in another, quieter part of town, the burbs of the upper east side. This apartment was on the 11th floor, in a building with a doorman and an elevator, both longed for luxuries on the search list.  So it was in a busy part of town, and instead of a garden with a picket fence, we had the Stage Door Deli conveniently below us on street level.  The Carnegie Hall was around a corner or two, as was the studio for the recording of the David Letterman Show should we ever wish to have popped in. As for the many theatres, well, take your pick.  They were all there.  The crown jewel, Central Park, was a simple few blocks north. We were moving in!

The apartment was what is known in New York real estate terms as a Sponsor Unit    –

“Sponsor units have NO BOARD APPROVAL! When an individual or company converts a rental building to a co-op or condo, the first transfer of an apartment, or “sponsor unit” does not require board approval. Sponsor Unit: Apartments that are held as an investment by the sponsor, the original developer who built the building or converted the building to a co-op. Sponsor apartments are usually exempt from board approval.

Which, in this case, translated as the original developer having bought the building with long-term tenants in residence where they remain until death takes them out the door. Some sponsors do not spend time and money in maintaining such apartments. They are left, with the tenants, to become organic. Healthy profits are always made on eventual sale of the apartments.

This apartment had been home for fifty years to one lady, fifty years ago when Manhattan’s streets moved from the black and white suits, hats and gloves of Mad Men to the streets of Joe Buck and other midnight cowboys on the scrounge for opportunity, no matter how seedy. She would have seen them all come and all go.  The twin towers up, the twin towers down.

Do come in!

I like to think she might have been a former showgirl, a star of some sort, or maybe a canny business woman living a life of independence in the middle of it all.  The sorry state of the apartment, however, suggested it might have been home to an aging and further demented Baby Jane made famous by Bette Davis.  Cracked walls, peeling paint, tobacco stains climbing the walls, original kitchen and bathroom, original wiring but magnificent bones and details.

This apartment, languishing for an eternity in a sinking market, was waiting for me to lavish upon it some loving care and attention without lavishing too much in the way of dollars.  I can paint, I can tile, I can do almost anything! And never more so than when I really want to!  I had the paint colours picked and I wanted as little clutter in there as possible.  The details, the decorative mouldings, spoke loudly enough.

Come into my parlour!

Home, at last, with room for when the family was together.  We negotiated and settled on a price, taking our time because, well, we had the time, it had been on the market for so long!  Plus we had our own small apartment to sell, in a sinking market . . .

A young German woman swooped in and bought it.  I cried. Which is, of course, very silly of me and hardly the end of the world but this apartment had spoken to me as being the one.

Cracks and Stains


We have moved on and up the stairs to the 5th floor, back in the burbs of the far east side where we enjoy the peace and the solitude of a light-filled view, the East River flowing by.  Within these walls we have made our home with room enough for us to be the family we have always been, with hopes that this should continue whilst remembering that our hearts are the biggest rooms we have to offer those we love.

As for West 54th St?  Thanks for the memory!


What is a Sponsor Unit?