Due Diligence

A former music student who now presides over one of NYC's oldest community music schools shares his love for the UWS

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In a limestone townhouse on West 108th Street off Broadway sits one of the city's oldest community music schools, with 51 years under its belt: the Bloomingdale School of Music. (The East Village's beloved Third Street Settlement holds the honor as the oldest.) Founded in 1964 with just 75 students (paying anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar per lesson!), it has seen countless students go from beginner to musician, including Ken Michaels, who now presides over the school as its board president. (His children have also attended the school and, full disclosure, so do the kids of one of our editors.)  

We spoke with Michaels about his experiences as a born-and-bred New Yorker, what he misses about old NYC, and more:

1. What neighborhood do you live in?

The Upper West Side.

2.  Is this your dream neighborhood or is there someplace else in NYC you’d prefer to settle in?

Yes, I've been lucky to have lived here most of my life.

3. Do you own or rent?


4. How’d you find it?

A lot of leg work and some luck with a good broker.

5. What’s the one thing you love the most about it?

Proximity to parks.

6. If there’s one thing you could change about your apartment, what would it be?

Make it quieter.  

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

Long; odd layout.

8. Do you dream of old New York or prefer the 2015 version?

I prefer the safer, cleaner New York, but I miss the days of mom-and-pop stores, good-to-great pizza parlors every few blocks, and inexpensive bowling alleys.

9. Tell us about the favorite apartment you’ve ever had.

I'm very happy where we are now, with lovely neighbors and family nearby.

10. And the worst?

The apartment in which I grew up is now an expensive condo, but in the 1970s, it was an inexpensive rental, and frequently lacked heat in the winter; we moved out after a neighbor was held up at gunpoint in the elevator and we were burglarized.

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

New York wouldn't be New York without the subway.

12. What's your favorite spot in the city?

The Central Park Reservoir is great, especially since the fence was rebuilt below eye level a few years back.  It's a cool mix of wildlife, tall skyscrapers, and good people-watching.  I also love going to the free concerts at my alma mater, the Bloomingdale School of Music.  The classical and jazz performances by teachers and students are top-notch.

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

Neither really fits me. I'd probably take the brownstone, though it might be nice to play Yertle the Turtle in a penthouse for a while.

14. If you could live elsewhere, where would it be?

Ignoring the issue of having to earn a living, I would definitely enjoy living in Italy.  If I had to be more pragmatic, I'd say Seattle.

15. Any advice for a recent New York transplant?

Walk everywhere you can.