LIVING ON BOND STREET WAS BOTH HARD and idyllic. We felt like pioneers, even though a semblance of civilization was a block away on Second Avenue. New York University had not yet invaded NoHo with violet flags and buses, uptown had not invaded downtown, gentrification was happening somewhere else. Urban decay and manic panic were all around, yet there was something prelapsarian about our little colony, where the words of a prophet named Samo were written on tenement walls, and I’d record them in my diary as evidence of asphalt innocence. He turned out to be Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Every year, when the wind started whistling through my walls, I gave a “Fuck February” party. Couples fucked and did I won’t say what else on the icy terrace. When celebrities came, nobody wrote their names down or blogged their photos, though a few did bob their heads approvingly the night Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter sat down to play the always magically in-tune piano, and it caused a slight stir when a neighbor fed up with the Voidoids tossed a beer can through that skylight, seasoning the buffet with shards of glass. My future wife came to another of those parties, and asked if I was crazy, allowing so many lowlifes into a loft with Picassos and a Braque on the wall.
“Do you think anybody except you and I knows what they are?” I asked her. It may have been the moment we clicked.
Five years after I moved in, the rent was $225 a month when the phone rang and my landlord sounded as if he was next door. He was, in fact, in town and wanted his apartment back immediately for an indeterminate period and, instead of moving into a hotel as he suggested, I took it as a sign and moved away.
I admit, I’ve sometimes looked back. So I know that 52 Bond is still there (as are my old locals, Phebe’s and Marion’s); it’s still brick-red and shabby, and probably seems an eyesore to the uptown-chic aristos now plunking down multi-millions for condos at 40 and 48 Bond, which was an empty lot that hosted a thriving crack supermarket through much of the 1980’s. For years, I missed that loft.
But finally, things have changed.
Michael Gross is the author of 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building.