Archive for July 28, 2013

The Nearby Pied-à-Terre

July 28, 2013 Leave a comment
Sant Ambroeus, West Village

Sant Ambroeus, West Village

One consequence of my bad blogging month (or will it turn out to be a longer stretch of bad blogging?) is that I didn’t get around to commenting three weeks ago on the astonishing NYT article about the discovery by upper east siders of lower Manhattan real estate. What’s astonishing is that we’re not talking about people moving from the upper east side to lower Manhattan. We’re talking about people buying second (or third or fourth or whatever) homes there. Yes, a coop just four or five miles away from their principal residence.

There are so many rich quotes. Let’s start with this one, which opens the article:

Many uptown adherents now [embrace] downtown neighborhoods that would once have been considered unthinkable.

“Downtown is livelier — we feel as though we have been in Milan for the weekend,” said Brooke Garber Neidich, a chairwoman of the Whitney Museum, a founder and chairwoman of the Child Mind Institute and a trustee of Lincoln Center Theater.

Ms. Neidich, who owns the Chicago-based jeweler Sidney Garber, has spent much of her married life living on exclusive East End Avenue. But a few years ago, she stunned her well-heeled friends by buying a pied-à-terre on West 12th Street in the Village. “When we come home at 10:30 in the evening,” she said, “we can sit outside at Sant Ambroeus and the streets are crowded and it’s not even a Saturday.”

It’s perhaps worth noting that one doesn’t need to go down to the Village to eat at Sant Ambroeus. A Sant Ambroeus sibling is conveniently located in the heart of the upper east side, on Madison between 77th and 78th. I’ve written about it several times, most recently here.

Some have gone beyond the pied-à-terre stage and made the move.

“I think there is a big romance about living downtown,” [developer] Mr. Senbahar said. “It is much more diverse, it isn’t all fund managers, but artists, literary people, then some Wall Street sprinkled in.” For those fortunate 1-percenters, “you can live in a building downtown now that has Upper East Side amenities, and still put on your flats, walk into small shops and live that easygoing lifestyle.”

Linda Lambert agrees. “You can go out to dinner and you don’t have to be dressed,” she said; “you don’t have to wear jewelry.” Ms. Lambert lives with her husband … in a loft on Laight Street in TriBeCa. The couple had lived in a town house on 82nd Street between Park and Madison Avenues for decades before moving into the loft …

For Suzanne Cochran and her husband, Robert, … it was a downtown soiree some years ago that persuaded them to buy a pied-à-terre in TriBeCa. “We were at a friend’s party,” Ms. Cochran recalled. “She is a very downtown girl, and it was all my favorite kind of people: artists — cool, hip people. And we were the only ones who lived on the Upper East Side.” At the time they were living on 84th Street and Park Avenue.

The couple … soon bought a 5,500-square-foot loft and began alternating on the weekends between the loft and their home on Long Island. Last year, they sold their uptown home to move downtown full time.

As the article draws to a close, we are warned that this all may pass.

But while it is fast becoming the latest fad for uptowners to dip a toe into downtown, the trend is still largely untested. “I am not sure that once they get down there, they are all going to love it,” Ms. Kleier said. “They may find themselves constantly going uptown to get their nails and hair done. It could be that the excitement wears off.”

I’m glad the NYT is on this.

Now a small confession. Here in Seattle, I’ve imagined life with a downtown pied-à-terre. Not that I seriously think we have need of a place to stay after the symphony, rather than making the four-mile drive home, though the parking space that would come with our condo sure would be handy.

The point is, when I get to thinking what would happen if Jessica were to vacate her Belltown condo just blocks from the symphony and art museum and surrounded by many fine restaurants, that’s when I imagine life with our very own pied-à-terre. Until last month, those imaginings would end the moment I remembered our dear sweet Emma, who wouldn’t enjoy spending the night without us. Now that she’s gone, why adopt a new cat when we can have a condo?

Am I right?

Categories: Life

Cashing In

July 28, 2013 Leave a comment


I haven’t carried coins in years. If I get change while I’m out, I just drop it on the kitchen counter. And it’s a rare day that I get change anyway, since it’s rare that I spend cash for anything.

Years ago, Gail got an array of containers in which to put our coins. One was reserved for quarters from the State Quarters series that began in 1999, with Gail determined to collect them all. Another took all other non-penny change. And a big cookie tin took the pennies, or whatever else I threw in out of inattention.

If you let enough years go by, you’re talking real money, money that’s doing us no good. Once, probably twenty years ago, Gail rolled some coins and brought them to the bank, a painful chore. But now there’s Coinstar, the maker of machines that let you pour all your coins in and get money back.

When Coinstar’s machines first showed up in local supermarkets, I was suspicious. At the time, I believe, you got 93 cents back on the dollar. Why pay a 7% fee? The answer, of course, was that 93 cents is better than 0 cents, and 0 cents is effectively what we had as long as we let the coins sit in the house. Four years ago, Gail convinced me that the system had changed and you could now get full value back, at least if you poured in the coins and chose to get a credit with one of a long list of companies. We went to a nearby QFC and poured away. All those quarters Gail didn’t need for her state collection went in, and a lot more, $278 worth, which we then converted into a gift certificate at Amazon.

It took another four years to return, which we did two weeks ago. Our kitchen remodel forced our hands, with coin containers arrayed around the living room for weeks. I believe we had more coins this time, but not as much value, due to the predominance of pennies.

Thanks to Coinstar, we have a complete accounting. Here are the numbers:

Pennies 2072
Nickels 133
Dimes 224
Quarters 292

Value: $122.77

Not that big a haul this time. But real money nonetheless, money I applied immediately to discount the price of the camera I had on order from Amazon since early June.

And no wonder carrying all those coins in from the car, a good 150 yards away, was getting to my wrists. Let’s see. A penny weighs 2.5 grams. (Mint webpage on coin specs here.) A couple thousand of those: 5000 grams. 5000 grams: just over 11 pounds.

Well, that doesn’t sound so much, does it? The whole load couldn’t have been more than 20 pounds. But that tin was flexing and wobbling.

No matter. The coins are out of the house. My new camera is in the house. And the US Mint has 2721 coins back in circulation. Good deal for everyone.

Categories: Money

The Washington Thing

July 28, 2013 Leave a comment

There’s a big cover story on Caroline Kennedy today in the weekly fluff section of the Sunday NYT, with flattering accompanying photo. When I awoke yesterday morning, it was featured online and I couldn’t resist reading it. Not that I’m a big Kennedy family fan, or a fan of the proliferation of family dynasties in American politics—I’ll sit out the Chelsea Clinton-Jenna Bush 2032 presidential race, thanks—but for anyone around back in the day, it’s difficult to resist reading about Caroline.

Which makes the closing of the article that much more distasteful, as theater and film great Mike Nichols gives us a lesson in “the Washington thing.”

Mr. Nichols described going over to Ms. Kennedy’s apartment last November to watch the election returns come in. “I walked in, and she said, ‘Oh, go find Rupert, he’s in the library. It’s quiet in there.’ ”

She was referring, of course, to Rupert Murdoch, head of the News Corporation.

“It’s the Washington thing: who you work for, what your beliefs are entirely beside the point,” he said of Ms. Kennedy’s attitude. “Everybody is with everybody.”

And that’s part of what he thinks will serve Mrs. Kennedy well in her position in Japan, where she would likely do everything from entertaining at the embassy to meeting with foreign dignitaries and politicians with a variety of ideological persuasions. “If anybody knows those rules,” Mr. Nichols said, “it’s her.”

Ah, yes, beliefs are entirely beside the point. No bad blood between the rich and famous. Fast friends all. Not that Caroline Kennedy hasn’t earned the right to be friends with whoever she pleases. But Rupert Murdoch? Geez.

Categories: Politics, Society