Significant sociologists, even the ones famous for studies on the inequalities between siblings, sometimes have complicated relationships with their little sisters.
New York University sociology chair Dalton Conley (pictured) sold his sister Alexandra, the former executive director of the Soho Repertory Theater, a two-unit apartment at 323 West 11th Street for $1.44 million this month, according to city records. “I definitely have a lot more money than she does, and that’s why she gets the hand-me-downs,” Mr. Conley said. “I’m older, I’m in a more established industry; she was working for a small black-box theater.”
What about childhood? “I was more of the good kid. She was more of the punk hanging out on St. Marks Place in 1981.”
The professor’s 2004 book The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why has a cover with four whole eggshells and a cracked fifth, though the professor’s relationship with his sister isn’t black and white. “It’s not like I’m rich and she’s poor! But there’s definitely an economic difference,” he said.
Their real estate deals started in January 2005, when the siblings were living a few buildings away from each other on West 11th Street. The unit next door to Ms. Conley’s apartment came on the market, though she couldn’t afford to buy it. “But with a big stretch, I could,” Mr. Conley said.
So the brother and sister switched apartments. “I sold her mine and I bought hers,” he said, “and then I bought the one next door, and then I bought a little strip of hallway and created one unit. … It wasn’t quite a swap. I think she gave me $150,000 because mine was a two-bedroom, hers was a one-bedroom.”
When his wife, the artist and engineer Natalie Jeremijenko, returned from a job in California, she wasn’t happy with the new place: “She doesn’t like quaint cutesy little Greenwich Village; she likes lofts,” he said. So, by last November, they’d paid $1.65 million for an apartment on West 29th Street, and agreed to sell the two-unit place on West 11th back to his sister and her husband.
Mr. Conley said the $1.44 million price was lower than what he could have gotten, and he agreed to it only because selling to his sister meant saving money on things like brokers’ fees. “I do a bit of economics, too,” he said.
But that sale closed this month, and his new $1.65 million apartment was bought last year. “There’s when the beauty of a sibling comes in,” he said. “She even lent us money so that we could do a down payment before we had sold. … Ironically, we really didn’t get along growing up, we had vicious fights, but somehow there’s a very high degree of trust now.”
On the downside, both siblings have had to intermittently move back into their parents’ place because of all the real estate dealings. “I’m sick of it. I’m not moving again,” Mr. Conley said. “I think we both think that now.”