Meet The Neighbours

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Meet The Neighbours

Words by Mr John Brodie

5 February 2015

More so than in other cities, where you live in New York can define you.

New Yorkers follow real estate the way other cities’ residents follow a sports team. As a result, a ridiculous form of building snobbery flourishes: your address isn’t just the place where you live. It is the tribal marking by which others judge you – more defining than your job or your romantic status. Simply stating your neighbourhood (“I live in the Meatpacking District”) is never a sufficient answer for the territorial and vaguely nosy denizens of this town. A swift barrage of questions will undoubtedly follow: what street? Which corner? The lovely carriage house or the crap high-rise next to it?

Your response allows the inquisitor to know where he or she stands in the pecking order. And the snobbery isn’t one-size-fits-all: the Chelsea muscle boy wouldn’t swap his one bedroom with the Chinatown squat of some photographer’s assistant. The great leveller seems to be the West Village. No one would kick the West Village out of bed – particularly those brownstone- and tree-lined blocks where Carrie Bradshaw could magically afford to live on a freelance journalist’s salary. As a public service, we at MR PORTER felt it helpful to provide our readers with a field-spotter’s guide to the different archetypes of building dwellers they may encounter in their travels about the city.


Who knew that when this Moscow University alumnus was accepted as a doctoral candidate in applied mathematics at Columbia University, he could be tempted from a life of academia to design synthetic derivatives for Goldman Sachs? Twenty million dollars later, he is the head of his own hedge fund, and home is an 8,000sqft loft replete with a lap pool atop a 19th-century landmark building.

Once friendless and dateless, this denizen of the TRIangle BElow CAnal is a pillar of nouvelle society thanks to a personal trainer, a personal shopper, a wife who was a personal yoga instructor, and courtside seats alongside Jay-Z at the Brooklyn Nets. Those who once scorned him and his thick black glasses now covet an invite to his annual summer BBQ in East Hampton, and Warby Parker recently named a new style of frame after his Soviet-era eyewear.


Currently found living in a renovated Bushwick tenement, he rattles off the names of the neighbourhoods that he’s been priced out of with solemn intonation (the West Village, Alphabet City, Williamsburg, Boerum Hill, Red Hook…). He is a man of crafts. Over the years, he has made his own furniture, brewed his own oatmeal stout, raised tilapia in a sub-basement, dyed his own indigo, trimmed his own mutton chops and dabbled in beekeeping (sorry, apiary) until his swarm began attacking commuters exiting the Myrtle Avenue subway stop.

The day his reclaimed stretch of ghetto gets tagged with a cute acronym is his cue to head for wilder climes. The recent double-whammy of a Starbucks opening and a topless Ms Miley Cyrus sighting in his ’hood have got he and the guys in his jam band, The Grateful Bed-Stuyvesant, to start looking at multiple family dwellings in the Midwood section or over the border in Queens.


This born-and-bred Manhattanite can only reproduce in a handful of doorman buildings erected before WWII. He speaks in a patois that often leaves outsiders scratching their heads. “Tiff and I decided to take a walk on the wild side when we traded our Junior Four in a Candela for a Classic Seven in a Carpenter.” Translation: “We sold our tiny two-bedroom in an Art-Deco building by pre-eminent Jazz Age architect Mr Rosario Candela for a three-bedroom with a formal dining room, plus a maid’s room, in a building by the equally prestigious but slightly less flamboyant pre-war architect Mr JER Carpenter.” He also sometimes speaks only in numbers: “820” means 820 Fifth Avenue, one of the city’s most exclusive co-ops that was once home to the chairman of General Motors and the Greek shipping magnate Mr Stavros Niarchos.

He is blond, sporty and only cries at charity fundraisers for animals and landmarks. Now that his wife is retired from her high-pressure job, she puts her relentless “Mistress of the Universe” energy into getting their three children (Merrill, Pierce and Lynch) into the right kindergarten and making sure that the waterfront view from their summer home in Southampton is safe from “that awful oligarch who wants to erect his own personal Winter Palace on Mecox Bay”.


In this idyllic Brooklyn neighbourhood replete with brownstones and adjacent to Prospect Park, you may encounter a vanishing species. They bought their two-bedroom section of a building long before running into Ms Maggie Gyllenhaal at the local juice place was a reality. While the wife donned her “corporate warrior” suit before heading into Manhattan to sell digital advertising space, the husband’s volunteer schedule at the local food co-op conflicted with the “whole nine-to-five thing”. 

Instead, this stay-at-home dad leads a rich and fulfilling existence dropping the kids off at their progressive private school, sharing Korean bubble tea with his screenwriting partner, coaching soccer, taking the kids to their School of Rock guitar classes, getting yelled at over FaceTime by his embittered wife for “doing Jack shit”, and conspiring to get on Mr Paul Bettany and Ms Jennifer Connelly’s playdate list.


His grandparents moved into this white brick high-rise that he still calls home in the early 1960s and secured a monthly rent of $250 – a rent their grandson is still paying while the family of four with two workaholic parents next door shells out $5,000. Like Gollum, he was once young and vital. But the years of battling the same landlord in the housing court have aged him.

Terrified of returning to a padlocked front door, he has not taken a vacation or replenished his wardrobe since 1996. He only ventures out at night, which suits his “career” as the editor-in-chief, creative director, CEO and sole employee of the blog, Kulture Klub. His curly hair has gone grey and, despite lucrative offers to be relocated to a suburb, he refuses to leave his perch within walking distance of the Lincoln Center. Or, as he scrawled on the last offer slid under his door: “Did The Maccabees leave Masada? The only way I’m leaving is in a pine box.”


While he and his college roommates invented a new social network, longtime residents of Williamsburg, Brooklyn find him to be a menace to society. Barely 30 and flush with start-up cash, this resident of a new waterfront glass tower overlooking the East River lives life on a “redonkulous” scale.

When not on a 72-hour coding bender, he acts like the star in his own Mr Seth Rogen comedy. Having been banned from Twinkle (the children’s play space) for arriving at his investor’s daughter’s birthday party while tripping on Molly, he and his Tinder finger are constantly in motion as he starts his evenings at Reynard, the restaurant in the Wythe Hotel, proceeds to Brooklyn Bowl – where he likes to ask folks in the adjacent lane: “Is that the same ball that the doctor with Ebola used?” – and then finishes off the evening by throwing eggs at Ms Lena Dunham’s house.

Needless to say, his neighbours anxiously await news that his company will be acquired by Yahoo! and his presence will regrettably be required on the West Coast.

Illustrations by Mr Nick Hardcastle