The Upper West Side, in the years since my clients moved there, has experienced significant change. Although always associated w. attracting artistic personalities; the improvement to the infrastructure & the upgrade to Riverside Park several years ago, has created a renewed interest to the demographics of this sought after location; specifically the area stretching above Lincoln Center to below 96th St. With it, an influx geared towards a family oriented and upscale population.
Development along Riverside Park, enhanced the value of real estate on the west side. With the fear that Trumps buildings would block million dollar views along the River, in the early 2000’s, (when he was only destroying skylines, not an entire nation) potential buyers put a moratorium on this strip of highly coveted property. However, the development along Riverside Blvd and the subsequent success resulting from a new wave of buyers, has been yet another real estate phenomenon. And with it came four star restaurants & celebrity chefs setting a tone as a destination, and raising the bar to the vibrant mix often associated with the Upper West Side.
A friend of mine, who was living on Riverside Drive in the ‘70’s, recently revealed that when traveling home after dark, she would be asked to be dropped off directly in front of her building, fearing potential conflict from vagrants and drug addicts infiltrating the streets. Kudos to Bloomberg and other advocates and organizations dedicated to cleaning up and restoring the image of this historic and architecturally rich part of the city.
My clients decision to choose a home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was in direct parallel to their need to be close to their Synagogue. The proximity to their son’s religious school was of paramount importance. Having previously lived in Jerusalem, this slice of Manhattan suited their needs and reflected a harmonious reference to their Israeli roots. She, an avid cook, needed a kitchen large enough, allowing ample room to prepare for social gatherings & religious celebrations. With the added amenity of beautiful terraces, holidays, such as Succoth, are celebrated outdoors. Designated entertaining areas are spread over 5 floors, often overflowing to outdoor space, enabling an ease in hosting parties.
In addition, both she & her husband are avid art collectors. Their museum quality collection has been on loan to major art institutions throughout the world. They enjoy rotating their art which is displayed intentionally to offset their eclectic décor. Modern masters hanging above Victorian furniture and French Deco antiques are a delightful, if not startling surprise. It often takes time to adjust to the sheer splendor of these extraordinary combinations … the impact can be overwhelming. Especially when viewed in areas of their home, least expected… ex. Picasso drawings in the children’s bathrooms. Equally impressive is that many of their acquisitions are kept in storage. I’ve visited their home numerous times and often leave amazed at the addition of a new work of art; not seen previously.
When they chose this mansion on the corner of Riverside Drive, they realized that the house, built by architect Charles Gilbert in 1885, would require a gut renovation. The challenge was leaving much of the exquisite original details intact, while bringing the house into the 21st Century. The exceptional dimensions added to their interest in restoration.
More an act of nourishing than renovating, each detail was refurbished and gutted to the beam; from the ceilings, & floors to the moldings; all meticulously restored throughout the house.
One of the few details untouched was the original staircase, an imposing sight as you enter the house.
The proximity to Lincoln Center, the Beacon Theatre, the park & river were equal draws.
Their boat is docked at the basin directly across the street, with views of the river & park, my client revealed that many are fooled by these unusual ‘ country’ views.
Aside from an impressive Film Location, my clients have generously used this magnificent mansion as a community and learning center for Kabbalah & spiritual readings. These groups are geared specifically to older singles, offering them a sense of community and emotional support. The kitchen is also used as an informal ‘soup kitchen’ to feed disadvantaged people in the neighborhood. She also finds time to work w. young female victims of domestic violence at a school in Brooklyn. She once confided her desire to ‘make a difference’ in the world.
I believe that the generosity of spirit in the use of her home, not just as a residence for her family but a public space for the community to enjoy; a location for film makers; a soup kitchen for the poor and most meaningfully her contribution to those less fortunate, would be a perfect example of a New Yorker, making a difference.
Booking a location :
When I received a call in March from a location agent, requesting this particular residence for a feature film, we set out on another mission. Typical in scouting locations, the first visit is often a photo shoot, where a ‘book’ of photos are prepared to be viewed by the director, set designers, producers, and a host of participants in the filming process. Angles of rooms, destined for specific scenes, are shot in order to determine where an actor will be positioned. Once approved, the rest of the technical group, accompanied by the director, visits the location.
A creative team of up to 30 often attends this ‘tech scout’.
The decision making process can take up to several weeks/ months, as there are always other ‘contenders’.
Once all are on board, negotiating begins. An arduous process involving an adeptness at maintaining ones sense of ‘cool’. With many ‘cooks’ handling the broth, there is often heat in the kitchen & fires that need to be squelched. Such was the case during this challenging process.
By mid-April, it was decided that this property would be booked as the stately home for the lead character in a feature film (not yet released).
Prep for the production began in early June, filming during the middle of the month, and wrap, the week preceding the 30th of June. One full month of intense work.
In order to accommodate the set designer’s specifications; all art was removed, crated, and stored off site in a special art storage facility. Each piece of furniture was painstakingly wrapped, and moved along with the art. Prep & filming were over a period of 2 ½ weeks, consisting of 13 hour days. And an additional 6 days for wrap.
Most surprisingly, at the end of this process, when filming wraps, and all equipment, actors, technicians, & extras leave…. no one, but myself and my clients would ever guess that a crew of over 100 (per day), with camera equipment the size of craters, trekked through this magnificent home, daily.
A tribute to the professionalism of all involved.
My special thanks to the location crew for patience associated with saints ! and fingers crossed to the producers/ directors for an Oscar.