Saturday, December 1, 2012

Living in Tribeca...

It seems to me that over the last 5 years I did not spend a lot of time at home. In fact, looking into it, I spent about 80% of my time travelling. That KPI, I figured, stimulates me to make a point of spending more time at home. After all I live in Tribeca, one of the most featured neighborhoods in movies and books and destination to many tourists visiting New York.

Tribeca stands for TRIangle BElow CAnal street and is a historic neighborhood where, back in the days, most of those loft buildings served as giant refrigerators to store eggs and butter. Then, in the sixties, it went through its own dark ages. The building on the corner of West Broadway and Chambers, which today houses the Cosmopolitan Hotel, served as a halfway house and a place that convicted felons, who were done serving their time, used as a stepping stone to get back into society. Shootouts on West Broadway were as regular as were muggings and even murders.

In the late 70s and 80s the artists moved in, using all those lofty spaces for their studios and Tribeca became a hip spot that not a lot of people knew about. When I moved into the hood in 1997 it was still a deserted place to an onlooker, but it was a great community to the people who lived here. At night you would walk into the Odeon and there were familiar faces everywhere. The 500 feet from my apartment building to Morgans Market, the deli, took me about 30 minutes because I ran into at least 3 friends and neighbors. Everybody in the building would know everybody else who was living here and having my plants watered or the fish fed while I was traveling, did not require the hiring of a personal assistant.

Robert DeNiro had moved into the neighborhood and attracted a lot of his celebrity friends. Tribeca became a place where the hip and famous could live amongst us mere mortal fellow Tribecans without the fear of being stalked or asked for autographs. There was a time when almost the entire Sopranos crew would hang out every Wednesday night and 'Jimmy' Gandolfini would buy you a Jaeger shot while Michael Imperioli talked about how he is bummed out that he will eventually have to move to LA and leave his favorite place to live behind. Robert DeNiro's son ran a bar (more or less) and JFK junior was a regular sight at Bubby's talking to everybody there.

For a while there was a lot of activity on Reade Street. On Holidays or Sundays in July and August the fire department would open up the fire hydrants and that old cliche of children running down the street playing in the cooling water fountains became a reality - only this time it was the adults. On one occasion - right after a Soccer World Cup - we closed down the street, built a soccer field and had a two day tournament going on with an Oktoberfest on the side. Life was good in Tribeca. It was like a small village in the big city.

Then came 9/11. At first, the community became even tighter but in the long run this was a big change - of course! A lot of people moved out and then a lot of people moved in. Today I am sitting at the Cosmopolitan Cafe - as I am writing this - and look out onto a huge construction site (the Chambers Street Water project), people walking by at a rate of approximately 4 per second and there is a stroller invasion that looks for comparison.

There were many changes in Tribeca but the most obvious is the stroller invasion. Don't get me wrong: I love kids, but do I have to duck and dodge through foot traffic to not get rolled over and seriously injured by a horde of very aggresively pushing mothers? Brunch at Blaue Gans on Sunday becomes a kindergarden affair and where there was an adult playground (I am talking about restaurants or watering holes) on every corner 10 years ago, there are kiddy gyms, kids wellness centers, kids party houses and kids entertainment palazzos lined up - 5 in a row - right opposite the entrance to my building.

I am not bitter - no - I embrace the injection of youth and I know that things will always change in New York. But I do get a little nostalgic when I think about what great neighborhood this was - for me! and I realize what's great for me might not be so great for someone else.

Now that I am back here and enjoy being home again, I still love Tribeca. It still has that energy and feel that is hard to explain. But it is different; not better or worse. Just different. And we miss a few... unfortunately we lost some of the best; the ones who were a big part of making what Tribeca was all about. RIP Ralph Cummings and Angelo DiBari. You are being missed.

So today I will explore the new Tribeca. I will go to Whole Foods and buy groceries that will spoil in my fridge... because dinner at Ecco, Blaue Gans, Edwards or the Odeon is way too good to pass on the opportunity to go out to eat and meet people. I will walk around to see what's new, but rest assured, I will turn around before I get north of Canal Street. I will pass by Puffys and the Reade Street Pub because I need to make sure that I don't miss the Saturday afternoon action. And I will certainly run into a few friends and neighbors - maybe not into Kevin Spacey but maybe I see Steve Nash or that guy on 'Breaking Bad'.

Maybe it's not that different after all. In any case: it's good to be back!