Meet the Neighbors! Bill Herbst has a Thing for Za'atar

herbst bill Meet the Neighbors! Bill Herbst has a Thing for Za'atarWelcome to the latest installment of our ongoing interview series, Meet the Neighbors! Before he beame a broker, Bill Herbst spent years workin in advertizing and marketing, including on the “I [Heart] NY” campaign. He combines this experience with his genuine love of New York to help clients find the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood. When this Corcoran vice president isn’t selling, he’s working out at the gym, going to the theater or eating delightful meals at home.

Where do you live?
Where I wanted to live my whole life–in the Village across the street from Washington Square Park. It’s even better than I imagined it would be as a kid growing up  on Long Island.

How is work these days?  What is your latest deal?
I had a terrific 2010 ,and 2011 is looking to be even better. Prices have been holding steady for over a year and buyers and sellers are comfortable getting back into the market. I just worked with a divorced client who downsized from a townhouse to a two bedroom apartment. She’s a lovely woman and it’s truly gratifying to help her start on her new life.

What was the best meal you’ve ever eaten in New York?
My partner of 28 years is a pretty incredible cook, so I eat very well most nights. We’ll often spend part of each weekend wandering the city gathering ingredients. It could be Kalustyan’s in Murray Hill for exotic spices (four kinds of za’atar?), Chelsea Market, the Union Square Greenmarket, or the Harlem Costco. Having said that, recently two dear friends took us to Le Bernadin to celebrate my 50th birthday. We did the tasting menu and everything from the amuse-bouche to the dessert was extraordinary. As delicious as it all was, the service and the company made it even more special.

What was your first apartment like?
A dark one bedroom rental on the Upper West Side. It was before the existence of Combat, so every time you turned on the lights you kept your eyes closed for a second to give the cockroaches time to scatter. Our neighbors were a soap opera heartthrob and his ex-Las Vegas showgirl wife, who was also his manager. When they fought her insults were so creative that he couldn’t wait to share them with us the next day (though we’d usually already heard them through the walls). 

What is your recession war story?
Right after Lehman, I put  a large  pre-war apartment on Lower Fifth Avenue on the market. It was a great space in a top building, though it needed some work. I showed the hell out of it,f but we only got a couple of insane lowball offers. I tried to get the sellers to drop the price, to no avail. After our exclusive agreement expired they listed it with someone else… at the lower price. After all the time, resources and effort I’d expended on their behalf, that hurt. The new agent didn’t sell it either. The owners took it off the market and ended up selling it last spring through a broker who’d sent them one of those “I have buyers looking for a two bedroom in your building” letters. 

How do you get around town?
I walk. There’s so much to see here! If for some reason I can’t walk, I’m on the subway. I hate to sit in a cab stuck in traffic, watching the meter tick away my money. 

What is your favorite building in the city?
It’s technically not a building, but a park–the Highline. It brilliantly preserves a historic structure while re-imagining it to suit  today. At the same time, it makes us consider our city from a different perspective. Best of all, when you take a walk on it and look around, you’ll notice that everyone seems to be smiling. 

If you weren’t a broker, what would you be?
That’s a tough one.  I work hard, but I meet all sorts of interesting people, see beautiful homes, explore the city I love, set my own hours, and make a good living. My parents think I should be a tour guide because every time they visit from Florida I take them someplace interesting they’ve never been–and they lived here full-time until their 50’s!

What is your dream home?
Friends own an apartment in the building across the street from me.  It’s huge and has a wrap-around terrace with stunning views and a wood-burning fireplace. Very New York glamorous, plus I’d still be in the hood.

You just won the lottery.  What store do you stop by and what do you buy?
I’d go right to Tom Ford and order a custom suit.  I’d still take the subway though.

If there was one thing you could change about New York, what would it be?
I would remove car horns from taxi cabs.

Read last week’s interview here. >>

realestate@observer.com