Living in New York City can be a strange experience. Your life as a nobody can literally intersect with the lives of the rich and famous. It’s probably the same everywhere else, but because of the city’s population density (8 million crammed into 5 boroughs) and its concentration of celebrities, this can feel more intense. For example, your child may very well go to school with children of famous parents. There is a shock I get from looking at the school directory and seeing their addresses and phone numbers listed, just like that.
I admit that I am one of those uncool people who get very excited about seeing celebrities. But since in New York, you’re not supposed to care or act like you even know them, I try hard not to stare with a gaping mouth. Sometimes you are unexpectedly offered a glimpse into their lives. A few years ago, my husband and I went to look at an apartment in the East 60’s, between Madison and Fifth Avenues. It was in a nice, prewar walk-up, and the seller’s broker said nonchalantly, “Elle MacPherson lives here.” But it was hard to miss; her pictures were all over the apartment. We opened the closets, and her shoes seemed extraordinarily huge. After all, she is a tall woman, and a runway model at that. Otherwise, the apartment seemed quite ordinary. There was a child’s high chair in the kitchen, toys lying around, and even towels from the Ritz Carlton Hotel hanging in her bathroom. It was good to know that even celebrities pilfer items from hotels, like we do.
On the Upper East Side, it’s mostly the neighborhood celebs that are out and about. Almost every other morning, I see Deborah Roberts, the TV reporter and Al Roker’s wife, taking their daughter to school. Others I encounter a lot include Phoebe Cates and Woody Allen (and Soon-Yi).
Certain types tend to favor certain neighborhoods. The men of the NY Yankees, for example, seem to all live in the East Midtown area, in the 59th Street to the 46th Street range. Did A-Rod, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and Hideki Matsui all use the same broker? The exception is Jason Giambi, who lives on E. 77th Street (in a building we also looked at!) Incidentally, I’m proud to say that I lived in the same building as Derek Jeter when he was a rookie (and not making the megabucks he is making today).
But the really happening neighborhood is downtown. Downtown always had the more artsy vibes, and that’s where you’ll find the highest concentration of celebrities. In recent years, there are more notables raising families there, like Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Richard Gere, David Bowie and Iman, and Julianne Moore, giving it a more earthy, kid-friendly aura. Downtown is certifiably hot, and even the uptown blue-blooded types are moving down there. The celebrities’ influence on real estate is even more pronounced in Brooklyn. It’s said that Heath Ledger single-handedly raised property values on the street in the modest Boerum Hill area in Brooklyn where he lives with actress Michelle Williams. His neighbors are Jennifer Connolly and Paul Bettany.
If you want to check out who lives where in NYC, see the Star Map, courtesy of New York Magazine, which says that the city is attracting more celebrities than ever before (“Notes on New York’s Celebrity Infestation,” August 14, 2006). It seems to be true, and that’s probably good news for property owners and gawkers alike.