American Ballet Theatre's Stella Abrera thinks her Hell's Kitchen building's garden is on point, and misses 'old' NYC

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | December 17, 2015 - 8:59AM

Stella Abrera made ballet history earlier this year by becoming the first Filipina-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. She's currently performing as Clara in ABT's production of The Nutcracker in California, where she hails from originally, though she now lives in Manhattan. We caught up with her to find out more about her life in this city she now calls home.

1. What neighborhood do you live in?

Technically Clinton, but I like to say Hell's Kitchen because it sounds more badass, and it's in the vicinity. 

2. Is this your dream neighborhood or is there someplace else in NYC you’d prefer to settle in? 
I'd love to live in a quiet pocket of the West Village. 

3. Do you own or rent?

4. How’d you find it?
My parents and I rented an apartment in the building for a month while I was 16 and training with a world-renowned ballet teacher, David Howard. A year later, I began my career at ABT, and that building was where I began apartment-hunting. I've lived there ever since.  

5. What’s the one thing you love the most about it?
There's a fabulous English garden that is beautifully maintained—the flowers and shrubbery are constantly changing with the seasons. It's perfect for enjoying coffee and the newspaper on a Sunday afternoon or happy hour after a long day in the studio or theater. 

6. If there’s one thing you could change about your apartment, what would it be?
I would love to face the garden instead of the street—NYC noise is irritating. 

7. In three words, describe the first apartment you've ever lived in.

Dark, cozy sanctuary. 

8. Do you prefer old NYC or this NYC?
I liked the character of old New York with its mom 'n pop establishments and some of its seediness. I feel that NYC now is turning into a generic mall, though I'm grateful that it's safer than it used to be. 

9. Tell us about your favorite apartment you’ve ever had.
Well, I'm still in the only apartment I've ever had. It's a 560-square-foot junior one-bedroom. The bathroom and kitchen have been renovated beautifully, to my specifications. There is original detailing and a feeling of sturdiness that you only find in a prewar building. 

10. And the worst?
I did spend my first few months in NYC living in a women's dorm on the UWS... Need I say more?

11. Name one NYC service you couldn’t live without.
The MTA.

12. What's your favorite spot in the city?
The Ziegfeld movie theater on West 54th Street. It's never crowded, and it feels like you've entered a time warp when you walk in—lots of old-world glamor. 

13. Which would you rather: Brooklyn brownstone or a penthouse in a shiny, new condo?
Brooklyn brownstone.

14. If you could live elsewhere, where would it be?
Santa Fe, New Mexico.

15. Any advice for a recent New York transplant?
  • Try to find a quiet home, that's not more than a 10 minute walk to public transportation
  • Invest in good walking shoes/snow boots
  • Buy really warm winter gear
  • Take advantage of all that the city has to offer: Explore every neighborhood, try to enjoy at least one cultural outing per week


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