TriBeCa: Cobblestone Streets and Multimillion-Dollar Homes


When Carla Bauer selected her TriBeCa apartment in a former spice factory that was being converted into a residential co-op, she opted for a two-bathroom loft. It was 1981, and the apartment cost $137,000, “which I thought at the time was outrageous, though what I really wanted was the one above it, which had a little tower that was so charming,” she said. But that one was asking $235,000, and “I remember saying to my husband, ‘Who would pay that kind of money?’”

The answer was Martin Scorsese, said Ms. Bauer, 71, a graphic designer and woodcut illustrator, who still lives in her fourth-floor space. Mr. Scorsese is long gone, but other film-related people have lived in the building, including Ms. Bauer’s husband, Chuck Levey, 79, a documentary cinematographer. The neighborhood, once an amorphous industrial area with a crop of converted warehouses, long ago became a celebrity-tinged community known for its historic buildings, cobblestone streets, family-friendliness and strong civic spirit — even during a pandemic that has prompted many residents to decamp to second homes.

Although they own a small cabin upstate, Ms. Bauer said she and her husband spent only a few days there before returning home. “I just felt safer in the city, where you can order everything in.”

She is a board member of Friends of Duane Park, which raises funds and plans programs for the cozy green space near her building, and she raised two children, now 30 and 27, who attended local public schools. But in recent months, she said, “I learned to love the neighborhood so much more. I never used to take advantage of Hudson River Park,” which took shape in the early 2000s. Now she rides her bike or takes long walks there. “It’s like being in a botanical garden on the water.”

The neighborhood’s beauty and “strong sense of community” attracted Scott Lawin, 49, a venture investor and adviser, in 2002, when he bought a loft on the top floor of an old barrel warehouse for $1.25 million. Those qualities kept him there, too — along with proximity to the highly regarded P.S. 234 — after marrying and expecting his first child with Mia Jung, a partner in an executive search business. In 2010, they bought a five-bedroom apartment with four full and two half bathrooms, for a price he would not disclose.

“We love the neighborhood,” Mr. Lawin said. “There’s a corner bodega, a shoeshine guy, quirky characters and independent businesses.”

Christine Cole, 45, her husband, Jason, 49, and their son, Frith, 9, have also stayed put, in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on the top floor of a six-story building with access to a shared roof garden that they pretty much have to themselves. “Sadly, we’ve seen most of our neighbors leave,” said Ms. Cole, a restaurant and hospitality consultant who has owned and managed several eateries. “We’re lucky to have a rooftop. It’s a beautiful escape.”

The couple rent their apartment for $8,000 a month, Ms. Cole said, and “hope to own it one day.” She and Frith have planted squash, watermelon, green beans and kale, and hear birds singing in their “getaway garden.” They take family outings to a green market and to Hudson River Park.

Ms. Cole is a chair of Taste of Tribeca, an annual fund-raiser for P.S. 234, which Frith attends, and P.S. 150, the other public school in TriBeCa. This year, instead of holding the food event, they raised money to provide 80,000 meals to hospital workers.

“This is such a close community,” she said. “There’s really no reason to leave. Everything is here. It’s quiet, safe, pretty — people call it Triburbia.”

The size and shape of TriBeCa — short for Triangle Below Canal — shift from map to map. All use Canal Street as the northern border. Broadway is often the eastern boundary, and Vesey Street the southern.

The neighborhood is dotted with parks and handsome historic buildings, many dating from the mid-19th and early-20th centuries, accented by a few flashy skyscrapers. An 82-story, Robert A.M. Stern-designed building at 30 Park Place, with a Four Seasons Hotel on lower floors and condominiums above, was completed in 2016, followed in 2017 by a cantilevered 60-story skyscraper at 56 Leonard Street, sometimes called the Jenga Building because of its shape. A 14-story waterfront condo designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects at 70 Vestry Street and a 64-story condo at 111 Murray Street, with a curved glass exterior, were completed in 2018.

Still under construction are a hotel on Greenwich Street, a nine-unit condo project on Washington Street and a public plaza along Hudson Street spearheaded by Friends of Bogardus Plaza.

The market for apartments under $3 million is generally “still going strong,” said Christopher Totaro, an agent with Warburg Realty who lives in TriBeCa. But the situation is “evolving week to week.”

In late August, 209 apartments were listed for sale on the UrbanDigs website. The least expensive (and the only listing under $1 million) was a studio in an 11-story condo for $988,000; the most expensive was a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom 58th-floor penthouse for $37 million.

Many homeowners who left during the coronavirus pandemic decided to offer their apartments for rent, Mr. Totaro said. A recent check of UrbanDigs showed 272 rental listings, from a studio for $2,827 a month to a furnished four-bedroom, five-and-half-bathroom apartment for $62,500 a month.

“TriBeCa is the epitome of downtown cool,” said Robert Dankner, the president of Prime Manhattan Residential. Restaurants abound, including Bubby’s, China Blue, the Greek, and Locanda Verde, in the Greenwich, a hotel owned by Robert De Niro, who is also an owner of Tribeca Grill and a founder of the Tribeca Film Festival.

Pier 25, part of Hudson River Park, includes a playground, volleyball courts and an 18-hole miniature golf course. Docked at the end is Grand Banks, a historic wooden schooner with a renowned restaurant. Pier 26 is home to City Vineyard, an eating and wine spot, and a large section of the pier is scheduled to become an ecological habitat.

The nonprofit Manhattan Youth community center, at 120 Warren Street, has a large indoor pool and many activities. It has been closed during the pandemic, although it has occasionally distributed free masks, books and art supplies to children, said Bob Townley, the executive director.

P.S. 234 Independence School has 600 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. According to the 2018-19 School Quality Snapshot, 77 percent of students met state standards in English compared with 48 percent citywide, and 84 percent met standards in math, compared with 50 percent citywide.

P.S. 150 Tribeca Learning Center has 164 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. According to the 2018-19 School Quality Snapshot, 89 percent met state standards in English and 85 percent did so in math.

The area east of Church Street is zoned for Spruce Street School, P.S. 397, which has 513 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade. On recent state tests, 78 percent met standards in English and 82 percent met standards in math.

Subway lines that stop in TriBeCa or on its borders include the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, C, E, N, Q, R, J and Z.

Washington Market, a 24-block area on the western edge of the neighborhood, opened in 1812 and became a hub for selling fresh fish, meat, dairy and produce. It was demolished in the late 1960s, after the food industry changed, and the land was given to the city.

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