Mere days after the 2004 election, The Observer left the white-marbled-stepped townhouse on East 64th Street it had occupied for 17 years (as former editor in chief Peter Kaplan wrote in the Nov. 7, 2004, issue of the newspaper: “We worked in a home. Four floors, a giant alimentary center-hall staircase, caked moldings, brass chandeliers, glass-fronted oak cupboards, The New York Observer sometimes felt like a Henry James society home or a ’70s swinger pad, with reporters stacked and stuffed in its confines like Hong Kong tailors”) and moved into new digs at 915 Broadway, just a couple blocks south of the Flatiron Building.
It was, let’s just say, a bit of an adjustment. It was brightly lit and oh-so-clean-with just so many 90-degree angles!-and all the reporters placed, rather sensibly, into a horseshoe-shaped bullpen. Colleagues who had enjoyed tranquil isolation in 64th Street’s kooky townhouse layout (or behind stacks of yellowing newspapers) suddenly found themselves seated beside one another: Why is so-and-so so loud on the phone? What is with the chick typing on her keyboard like that? Did you know he spoke fluent Italian? The IM-kvetching pinged silently like a game of Pong through the newsroom. But with close quarters, so, too, came new camaraderie; that ill-advised Secret Santa experiment; the unstoppable softball team; boozy office parties; boozy office lunches; Fourth of July fireworks on the roof; secret office romances-requited and not-and the clandestine smokers’ huddles found in front, behind and around the corner of the building.
We got to know our neighborhood: Old Town, that cathedral of bars, became our satellite office-for every post-Tuesday night close, celebration, commiseration and occasional off-site meeting (we flirted with Punch, but we always came back). Shine Deli, so close it was impossible to ignore and yet so maddeningly overpriced that at least three staffers declared boycotts on it daily. There was ‘wichcraft, and Eisenbergs, the Shake Shack, Craftbar, the Silver Swan (RIP) and the Union Square Market. There were tennis rackets to look at in Paragon Sports, and walks to blow off steam around the park. There was the parade of familiar characters that streamed by our building daily: the muscle-guy, the hot dog-walker, the mysterious pack of shirtless runners regardless of season and towering models tottering by hopefully clutching their books to their chest. And we got to know our neighbors, sorta (the funny-smelling smoke wafting from the third floor; the polished, dry-cleaned-looking gals on their way to 20; those ever jocular Verizon guys).
A lot has changed in six years-in the world, in our city and in our industry. At The Observer, these years have brought new ownership, a new editor in chief-and now a new home. So, goodbye 915 Broadway! We’re soon heading to Times Square! Whatta town!