Lower East Side: A Jewish Life, With Family Ties.
New York Times
By Penelope Green
Published July 25, 2004
FAMILY ties are still strong in the 12 buildings of the Cooperative Village, the former union and socialist housing complex that runs along Grand Street from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive to Essex Street. Dov Goldman's own familial strings are particularly tight. Mr. Goldman, 28, is living in his fourth apartment there since 1998, lured by family into the first, propelled by it into Nos. 2 and 3, and celebrating it in his fourth, an airy
one-bedroom with a terrace that he shares with his wife, Rozalyn, 25.
Mr. Goldman's big brother, Jacob, a Co-op Village booster so passionate he's made a career out of the place — LoHo Realty, Jacob's company, hatched in 2000, is the No. 1 broker for its 4,500 apartments — arrived first, in 1995. He was a young law student, ready to start a family and drawn by the low rents.
The apartments went co-op soon after, though prices were capped until the turn of the millennium. Jacob's first purchase was a one-bedroom for $12,000; he swapped his one bedroom for a two-bedroom — "for a de minimus amount," as he put it. Dov's first purchase, a 500-square-foot studio, cost $25,000. Six months later, brother Jacob nudged him into a one-bedroom with a balcony for $65,000. In 2000, the apartments hit the free market. Jacob, with a new company and three children, bought Dov's one-bedroom for just over $98,000 and a three-bedroom right next door for $177,000, and combined the two; Dov bought Jacob's old two-bedroom for $138,000.
"Who says big brothers aren't bossy?" said Ms. Goldman, who met Dov through his sister Rivka five years ago. Last summer, just before their marriage, Dov Goldman sold his two-bedroom for $299,000, trading in an extra room for a balcony and paying an extra $1,000 — the price of the one-bedroom was $300,000. He also joined his brother's company as a sales associate. "It's hard to say `no' to your family," he said. In any case, Dov is dreaming now of the next domestic move, a breakthrough into the apartment next door.
Like Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the Cooperative Village is its own ecosystem, distinct and particular even among the distinctly particular neighborhoods of Manhattan. The suburban flight of second-generation residents in the 70's and 80's is largely stanched. Young Orthodox Jewish families like the Goldmans began moving in in the early to mid-1990's, drawn by the neighborhood's historically Jewish context and services in an urban wrapper.
"It's a neighborhood that has all the basics you need — the synagogue, the kosher restaurants — to live a reasonably comfortable Jewish life without living in a Jewish shtetl," said David Deutsch, humor editor of the archly toned magazine Heeb. Mr. Deutsch, 35, lives with his wife, Aliza, 29, and their two children in Ms. Deutsch's grandparents' apartment, a two-bedroom on a ground floor. "Definitely there is a type here, and not the sort that would want to live in Rockland County: young, urban, Orthodox, cool, I guess."
(Rockland has a sizable Orthodox community.)
It was Mr. Deutsch and Jacob Goldman who renamed their area LoHo — as in Lower Houston — one Shabbat afternoon in the late 1990's, he said, explaining his notion that the name LoHo would manifest a hip destiny on Cooperative Village. It is not clear that anyone other than Mr. Deutsch or Mr. Goldman ever deployed the name, except in conjunction with Mr. Goldman's business, which has sold 400 apartments in four years. But it is true that a bit of a hipster luster now glosses east Grand Street, a spillover from the other side of Delancey Street and its youthful renaissance.
SuChin Pak, 28, an MTV news correspondent, will close on a one-bedroom with balcony this Wednesday, for $332,000, in Seward Park, one of the complexes that make up Cooperative Village. Richard Fortus, a guitarist for Guns N' Roses, moved to Seward Park last year. Ms. Pak's best friend is already living in the Amalgamated complex, and she's leading a posse of her friends through open houses here this weekend.
"I'm working on a `Friends' scenario down here, and it seems to be panning out," she said happily.
Gary Shteyngart, author of "The Russian Debutant's Handbook" (Riverhead Books; 2003), is submitting an application for an apartment in the East River complex from Italy this week. Another young pop writer, Laurie Gwen Shapiro, is growing her own family in her grandparents' apartment in the East River complex.
"I'm in between the old socialists and the hipster-artists," said Ms. Shapiro, author of "The Matzo Ball Heiress," which was published this spring by Red Dress Ink. Her apartment is on the 21st floor, called the Penthouse by the neighborhood's residents. "All those artists see me hitting the button for 21 in the elevator and their eyes narrow," she said. "They want to know how I got it."
She'll tell you how she played the grandchild card. "I said to my parents, who were snow-birding between Florida and the apartment on Grand Street, `If you want a grandchild, I'm going to need a place to raise one,' " Ms. Shapiro said. "Everyone I know here who lives in a big apartment has read the riot act to their parents."
She relishes raising her daughter, Violet, 2, where three generations of her family lived. (She calls Grand Street "The Street of a Thousand Mothers.") Ms. Shapiro and her husband, Paul O'Leary, a rock musician from Melbourne, have a film company called Lifer Films, in homage to Ms. Shapiro's tenancy. Indeed, Ms. Shapiro said they're working on a logo of a woman pushing a shopping cart and shouting, "How's your mother!"
"I can't wait to invite them all to the O'Leary bat mitzvah," she said. "I knew my husband was finally assimilated when he used the word farblunget in a sentence. The rough translation is `lost without a clue.' It took him forever to come home one night from the 24-hour Pathmark, and he said he'd gone farblunget, and I said, `You're in!' "
Dov and Rozalyn Goldman are just settling into their renovated one-bedroom, which was opened up this spring by Joe Foti of Lower East Side Construction, who is a third-generation contractor on the Lower East Side. There's recessed lighting and a stainless steel and granite kitchen, just barely broken in by a family birthday party last weekend. Mr. and Ms. Goldman — he proposed to her by hiding a ring in the box of a Simpson's trivia game — are huge board-game fans.
They played Cranium all Saturday night, ending in a draw with Jacob and his wife. "It was a sort of tie," Dov explained, "though we did catch people cheating."