The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has been in the headlines a lot lately, thanks in large part to their fervent opposition to both the Mayor's rezoning plan, and NYU's recently-approved mega-expansion in the Village. And while their longtime executive director Andrew Berman is himself a Hell's Kitchen resident (and Bronx native), he tells us, "As a lifelong New Yorker, or just as someone who cares about great neighborhoods, special urban places, and the history of progressive social and cultural movements, the Village has always meant a tremendous amount to me."
In between the GVSHP's current efforts to extend landmark and zoning protections to parts of the South and East Village, we caught up with Berman about tourist fatigue, the crucial role of the bodega, California envy, and more:
1. What neighborhood do you live in?
2. Is this your dream neighborhood or is there someplace else in NYC you’d prefer to settle in?
I love Hell’s Kitchen, and have lived there my entire adult life. But if I had the chance there are many other New York City neighborhoods where I would also love to live – Tribeca, the Village, Washington Heights and Inwood, Astoria, Prospect Park South, Forest Hill’s Gardens, the Flatiron, the Lower East Side, Harlem, Bay Ridge, Crown Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Greenpoint—there’s just not enough time to live everywhere in New York I’d like to.
3. Do you own or rent?
I now own, though I rented my entire life until relatively recently.
4. How’d you find it?
It was directly across the street from the apartment I had been living in for over 20 years, and my partner found the listing for it.
5. What’s the one thing you love the most about it?
Huge windows and a roof deck with incredible views.
6. If there’s one thing you could change about your apartment, what would it be?
More modern updated fixtures and furnishings, and less street noise.
7. In three words, describe the first apartment you've ever lived in.
Where I was born? Faded art deco.
8. Do you prefer old New York, or the 2015 version?
Old, though I don’t overly romanticize the past, and it’s not entirely black and white for me. I grew up in the Bronx in the 70’s and 80’s, and there is a lot about that time and place that I miss, but a lot which I’m glad has changed. I miss the edge and creativity New York had which feels lacking in many ways in present-day New York, and I wouldn’t mind getting rid of the flood of tourists we have today. But New York is now also a much more diverse and inclusive place in many ways, and the improvements in terms of crime and public safety are welcome. Amazingly, I have never been mugged or robbed, but I don’t mind that I fear that or worse happening a lot less than I used to.
9. Tell us about your favorite apartment you’ve ever had.
My first apartment which was my own—a rent stabilized walk up in Hell’s Kitchen I moved into in 1991. It was tiny and cramped and the floors sloped and you could see into and hear conversations from other people’s apartments via the air shaft and vice-versa. But it was mine, and the building was full of colorful characters that could have easily populated a great novel, or at least a very weird sitcom.
10. And the worst?
11. Name one NYC service you couldn’t live without.
Twenty-four hour groceries and bodegas everywhere. I’m an insomniac, so I make very good use of them. I can’t imagine living in a city where you can’t go to the corner and get anything you need from the store at any hour of the day.
12. What's your favorite spot in the city?
Probably Central Park. I can’t believe I'm lucky enough to live walking distance from this eighth wonder of the modern world.
13. Which would you rather: Brooklyn brownstone or a penthouse in a shiny, new condo?
Believe it or not, this is tough for me. Of course, I love a good Brooklyn brownstone (or one in any borough). But I currently live in a walk up, and it’s not my favorite thing. On the other hand, I do love a good view. Though I grew up in pretty drab Mitchell-Lama housing, I was spoiled with an incredible view of New York City, which I miss. It’s hard to imagine a shiny new penthouse condo that would feel like home, though.
14. If you could live elsewhere, where would it be?
London and Amsterdam both have great appeal to me. So does California — for the weather and natural beauty, and I love San Francisco, and parts of L.A. and San Diego.
15. Any advice for a recent New York transplant?
It’s a huge city with so many different kinds of people and places. Don’t just spend all your time in one slice of it and assume that’s all there is. Explore, be open, learn, embrace it.