The Trendy Discover NoMad Land, And Move In
By ELAINE LOUIE
Published: August 5, 1999
THE fashionistas are on the move, this time to a neighborhood so anonymous it hardly has a name. On the maps in city taxis that show Manhattan neighborhoods -- Chelsea, Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side -- this area is conspicuously gray. Historically minded people may refer to it as Rosehill, after an 18th-century farm belonging to John Watts, a Tory sympathizer, that covered roughly the same acreage. George Trescher, the fund-raiser, who lives in the area, calls it Curry Hill, because of the many Indian and Bangladesh restaurants. Others call it NoMad, for north of Madison Square Park.
The neighborhood, which extends from 23d Street to 34th Street, between Madison Avenue and Second Avenue, possesses history. Stanford White designed the Madison Square Garden that once stood on Madison Avenue at 26th Street. (In 1906, he also died there, shot on the roof garden by Harry K. Thaw, the husband of Evelyn Nesbit, the showgirl who was his lover.) Herman Melville wrote ''Billy Budd'' at 104 East 26th Street. The 69th Regiment Armory, at Lexington Avenue and 26th Street, was the site of the scandalous 1913 Armory Show, where Marcel Duchamp showed ''Nude Descending a Staircase,'' and where Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse were introduced to this country. (''A bunch of lunatics,'' Theodore Roosevelt called the European artists.) To the average New Yorker, though, the neighborhood is unnamed, unmemorable.
To its newest residents -- who include Marin Hopper, the fashion director of Elle magazine, and John Bartlett, the fashion designer -- it's NoMad. Six months ago, Jason Weisenfeld, a vice president of Barneys, and Greg Winkelman, a vice president of Tommy Hilfiger, bought an apartment there. Antonio Prieto, an of-the-moment hairstylist, and Eva Lowell, an apprentice jewelry designer, moved into a place last month. Hamish Bowles, the European editor at large for Vogue magazine, is looking in NoMad.
What brings the fashionable folk to an unfashionable neighborhood, where an occasional prostitute still hovers around the corner of Lexington Avenue and 27th Street? (At least the prostitutes are chatty, Mr. Weisenfeld said: ''It's always nice to come home late and get a compliment: 'Love your shoes!' '')
What the fashion set has discovered is the real estate equivalent of a sample sale, in an enclave that Peter Lobo, a deputy director of the City Planning Department, called ''primarily middle-class.'' In an area where the last census found a per capita income of $38,590, co-ops, condos, and rentals are about two-thirds the price of those in Greenwich Village, SoHo or TriBeCa.
At 140 East 28th Street, a co-op building, owners have the real estate equivalent of an Armani suit -- at the sample-sale price. For the label-conscious, this 1931 structure is a Bing & Bing building, which places it among the city's finest prewar properties, according to real estate agents. A 900-square-foot one-bedroom apartment sells for around $300,000, said Nathaniel Siegel, a broker with Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, who found co-ops in the building for Messrs. Bartlett, Weisenfeld and Prieto. An identical layout at 45 Christopher Street, also a Bing & Bing building, is $500,000, Mr. Siegel said. He sighed, then murmured, ''I almost don't want to tell anyone.''
The proprietors of Bing & Bing, a real-estate company founded in 1906, put money into each apartment ''because they wanted it to last for the least amount of maintenance,'' said Christopher Gray, director of the Office for Metropolitan History, a research company in Manhattan. Many apartments have 20-foot-long living rooms with working fireplaces and coat closets with built-in umbrella stands, a tray for keys and a mirror inside the door.
Lofts are being noticed, too. Last month, Mitchell Speer, a broker at William B. May, sold a 2,000-square-foot loft at 117 East 24th Street to Antony Nagelmann, a photographer, and his wife, Helen Faraday-Young, a fashion designer, for $700,000. ''A 2,000-square-foot loft in TriBeCa or Greenwich Village would sell for $800,000 to $1 million,'' Mr. Speer said.