‘Michael Shvo Is a Gift’ Says Mr. Curbed, Joey Arak

042307 article sitdown  ‘Michael Shvo Is a Gift’ Says Mr. Curbed, Joey ArakLocation: Tell me how Curbed works on any given weekday.

Arak: Well, in the morning, we try to be a little more newsy—solid news stories from newspapers. Right after 9 is when the Curbed posting day starts.

We don’t really have a schedule for when things go up, but, over the course of a day, we try to do between 12 and 15 [posts] total.

 

How many tips does Curbed get a day?

Oh, man, it’s got to be—I’d say between 80 and 100.

 

Where do most of them come from?

It’s really everything. Well, not everything—we don’t really get that much Staten Island …. We get a lot of stuff from publicists about new developments. But mostly it’s readers putting in their two cents and ranting—a lot of reader rants. It’s a lot of readers who checked out a development, went to an open house, and want to talk about it; a lot of readers who checked one out online and want to talk about if it’s overpriced or not.

 

What’s Curbed’s relationship with the residential brokerages?

I would say there really is no relationship; almost like, I would say, “love-hate”—but most of the hate that’s geared toward a brokerage from Curbed comes from the comments [from readers]. There’s gentle chiding from us—if brokers are lazy with their listings, or the typos they make—but we’re never really like, “Screw Corcoran” or anything like that.

It’s really just reader hate.

 

What comments won’t you post?

Well, the thing is, if you post a comment, it gets up on the site. There’s no holding back or way for vetting, which is why you see so much blatant racism whenever we do anything about Harlem. Or whenever we mention Dumbo, it creates this insane flame war.

 

Between who?

The Dumbo defenders, people who live there and bought there, and everyone else—who say, ‘Dumbo’s just an overpriced piece of shit; it’s not a real neighborhood.’ Their words; I find it to be a lovely neighborhood.

If something gets out of hand, then Lock [Lockhart Steele, Curbed’s founder] will go in and just erase a bunch of comments. Or someone that knows us will e-mail and say, “Look at this horrible thing that’s being said on this post”—anti-Semitism or racism. But sometimes it’s hard to keep up, because sometimes there’s so many posts, and comments keep building and building.

 

Lockhart Steele—is that his real name?

It is.

 

Do you edit other Curbed writers’ stuff?

We try to fix each other’s typos. But it’s just a blog, it’s not a magazine—that’s what Lock always says.

Yeah, we put effort into it; but it’s not, like, controlling our lives. [Mr. Arak is also a full-time associate editor at Stuff magazine.] But people do really see it as an influential voice in New York real estate—probably because you really don’t get much honest discussion about real estate from the media, usually, because real-estate advertising is such a big driving force for newspapers.

So, oftentimes, you won’t see too much critical real-estate reporting.

 

What papers in particular?

I mean, both the [New York] Times real-estate section and the [New York] Post’s Home section—just kind of soft fluff pieces about buildings. You rarely see down-and-dirty reporting. Not that we do down-and-dirty reporting, but we do provide a forum where you can discuss.

What new neighborhood names are readers trying to push? People, for instance, have tried to get Madison Square Park North to stick, and “SoFi” for South Fifth Avenue.

Pretty much the gray box on the cabbie seat that’s not Gramercy, that’s not Murray Hill. A couple of years ago, we had a neighborhood-naming contest; that’s the area that had the most votes.

Also, I think the Lower East Side that’s not Hell’s Square—that’s just the heart of nightlife, and then there’s the Lower East Side that’s not a part. It’s below Delancey, but way east to where Co-op Village is, and just where there’s regular houses and people with cars. I like “the Real Low” for that—like for the Real Lower East Side.

 

Finally, do you guys have an obsession with Michael Shvo? He seems to pop up on the site very regularly.

Yes. Michael Shvo is a gift from God. We met him—probably the best night in the history of Curbed. We went to the 20 Pine party. [Mr. Shvo markets 20 Pine the Collection, a newer condo.] We walk in, completely crashed it, severely underdressed—everyone else was in suits inside this insanely packed room, the lobby of 20 Pine; John Legend is playing onstage.

We see Michael Shvo, a suit and the hair slicked back, and we’re like, “Oh my God, there he is!” So Lock was like, “I’m going to go talk to him.” And I’m like, “No, don’t do it.”

So we walked up and said, “Hey, Michael!” And he turns around, and Lock’s like, “Hey, I’m Lockhart from Curbed.” It took him a second, but then he lit up and gave a huge handshake. And I introduced myself to him.

I want to remember his exact words: I think he said, “I really like what you guys are doing; no one else is doing [it].” Then we actually took pictures with him. That was a crowning achievement.