Volume 16 • Issue 29 | December 16 - 22, 2003

Downtown Notebook

Artist move makes Tribeca a little different

By Wickham Boyle

This neighborhood is changing; well so are we all. I see it in the mirror or my lack of enthusiasm for a six-floor walk up party, but the transitions in Tribeca are sometimes more abrupt.

A few weeks ago I bumped into a longtime neighbor, the illustrator Edward Sorel, whose great, witty Thanksgiving drawing just graced the cover of the New Yorker. I have known Ed and his wife Nancy purely as neighbors for nearly two decades. This means I say hello and we pass pleasantries when we see each other in the street, the market, or the gym.

I don’t remember how we first met, but over the years I came to know that my kitchen window looked up into the back of their loft on Franklin St. I imagine it was Ed’s studio or a big living room. I couldn’t see in too well as they are on the fifth floor and I am on the fourth. They had more of a view right into our kitchen.

I recall Nancy praising my new stove, a six-burner Wolf restaurant range retrofitted for residential use. I had rescued it from my former country house after my ex had sold it. My husband and some pals made the trek to the Hudson Valley to get my stove and a few other treasures. I was so happy to have my big stove. Nancy said I could cook and feed an army on that range. I agreed and this past Thanksgiving although it was a small army of 25, the stove was blasting, but there was also a small sadness smoldering in my kitchen.

Ed and Nancy decided to move out of Tribeca and up to Harlem. I ran into Ed across the street at the Hudson Market now called Jin Market — I don’t do well when women marry and change their names, I do less well with stores. So there I was gathering ice cream and goodies for a late night fete and Ed seemed to be doing much the same. I expected this to be a usual exchange pleasant, punctuated by his elegant, yet gruff demeanor, and always a bemused look at the hug I give him. But this time he blurted out, “We are moving you know.” I asked where and at first when he said Harlem, I heard Holland. I said that was really far and he looked at me and gave me a diatribe on being so Tribeca -centric.

Okay it must be somewhere else I am thinking. So I try deftly to inquire exactly where. He tells me the street Uptown and I burst out, “Oh I thought you said Holland, okay Harlem, we can still see you.”

I told him about all the places we go to eat Uptown, the friends we have and Ed, ever an intrepid adventurer, asked if we would send them some ideas. I promised to put a group together at our favorite restaurant, Amy Ruth’s on 116th St., right after all the holiday rush.

I was happy to think that folks can remain intrepid and make big moves at all levels of their lives and careers, but sad at their leaving. I called and asked Ed if perhaps I could do an exit interview with him for this publication and he demurred, saying it was just time to leave Tribeca and that he didn’t want to say anything more. I learned long ago not to try talking Ed into anything. I had asked him to do some volunteer work for some causes and he was always clear, he would donate but not give his work for free. It was his policy as an artist and his adamant stance really impressed me.

On the morning after Thanksgiving I hung a sign, in my kitchen window, printed in big block letters that read, “‘WE WILL MISS YOU ED AND NANCY” and hours later another sign appeared in their window echoing the thoughts. The signs have stayed for days, but I know that as soon as the new tenants move in the sign will come down and I will not know who is peering into my kitchen as I sleepily make coffee or steal cereal late at night.

I miss the sensation that Tribeca is made up of like-minded souls, who came for adventure. But I will miss more my neighbors and the feeling they gave to the neighborhood I have turned into home. I suppose there will be many other Tribeca transitions, folks coming, babies born, or families splitting up and more moving on. Transition is what keeps us knowing we are alive and vital, so for that I will welcome all the changes.


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