In this new feature, we check in with accomplished longtime New Yorkers and get them to talk about two things locals are obsessed about: real estate and neighborhoods.
Few people know their way around Brooklyn better than Oriana Leckert, who lovingly chronicles the borough's arts scene on Brooklyn Spaces, her longtime blog that she's recently turned into a book of the same name. On the heels of Brooklyn Spaces' publication—and ahead of its launch party this Saturday, May 30th at the Gowanus ballroom (get tickets here)—we caught up with Leckert about her Williamsburg apartment, her condo aversion, and the importance of finding your "like-minded crazies" in this city:
What neighborhood do you live in?
Williamsburg / East Williamsburg border
Is this your dream neighborhood or is there someplace else in NYC you’d prefer to settle in?
My dream neighborhood is Williamsburg or DUMBO in the late 1990s. At this moment, I'm pretty happy where I am.
Do you own or rent?
How’d you find it?
Just through a broker.
What’s the one thing you love the most about it?
It's a three-story standalone building and my partner and I live on the second floor, with three generations of an old-school New York Italian family above and below us. They're crazy and wonderful. We've been here almost six years, and while I wouldn't exactly say we've become part of the family, we're definitely more than just tenants.
If there’s one thing you could change about your apartment, what would it be?
I would cut off one of my toes for a backyard.
In three words, describe the first apartment you've ever lived in.
Absurdly tiny & overpriced.
Do you prefer old New York, or the 2015 version?
It's easy to be nostalgic about the past, but I would absolutely turn back the clock a bit to when things were wilder and a lot less hyper-gentrified.
Tell us about your favorite apartment you’ve ever had.
I'm in it. I'd be happy to never move again. It's got its wonky Brooklyn charm (slanted floors, hallway doors painted shut, ceiling tiles that randomly come loose and come crashing down, and the world's tiniest bathroom), but it's a great neighborhood adjacent to other great neighborhoods, close to the train, big enough, and within our budget. What more could I ask for?
And the worst?
I don't have any real apartment horror stories, but in college I spent a summer living with my boyfriend in a living room -- no privacy, sleeping on couches, ground-floor windows looking out onto an ocean of drunk kids -- plus one of our roommates was a semi-violent cocaine addict. So that was kind of rough.
Name one NYC service you couldn’t live without.
I bike as much as I can but I am so, so thankful for the NYC subway system. Sure there's constant delays and fare hikes, but we have one of, like, three 24-hour transit systems in the world. And you can go from the Bronx to Coney Island, which is something like 30 miles and would take two hours, for less than the price of a latte. That's unbelievable.
What's your favorite spot in the city?
I don't want to share it specifically, but there are a couple of fairly private spots still left on the North Brooklyn waterfront. I'm sure they won't be there much longer, given the stratospheric development in this neighborhood, but for now, sitting on a rock at the shore with the lapping waves and the whole sparkling Manhattan skyline spread out before me, with a blackout cupcake from Ovenly in my hand—that's my version of bliss.
Which would you rather: Brooklyn brownstone or a penthouse in a shiny, new condo?
I would never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever live in a shiny new condo.
If you could live elsewhere, where would it be?
I like Berlin an awful lot.
Any advice for a recent New York transplant?
Do all the weird and wonderful things you can. Have an open mind and keep trying until you find your particular gaggle of like-minded crazies. They're out there -- why else did you move here if not to find them?