Here’s a nice little video essay on Leonard Bernstein’s apartment in the Dakota, on Central Park West and 72nd Street. It features mostly stills of the large, tall and crowded rooms (stuffed with furniture and artifacts), though there is also a little doc live-action stuff thrown in. The apartment was meticulously recreated for the film ‘Maestro’ thus answering the question: ‘why the hell did that movie cost 90 million dollars?’ In one of the film’s best scenes, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade cruises by at eye level as Lenny and Felicia (Mrs. Bernstein) have a terrifyingly convincing marital spat. The apartment is on the second floor of the building, a rather public space for such a public figure to reside in–though that’s probably part of what attracted Bernstein to it. The Bernstein’s first apartment was at the Osborn, across from Carnegie Hall on 7th Avenue and 57th. This video fills in the missing gap in my Bernstein real estate portfolio knowledge by bridging the Osborn years and the Dakota years with a 1970s stop on Park Avenue. This was the setting of Tom Wolfe’s notorious ‘Radical Chic’–somehow I always thought the Park Avenue location he described was a put-on as it made for a better setting than the Dakota. But no, the Bernstein’s did actually reside at 895 Park until the 1975 move to the Dakota, motivated (according to this doc) by the need for more space. Or was it motivated by the self-conscious reassessment of their social profile as parodied in Wolfe’s article? To close this too-long foray into the real-estate world of the Bernsteins: in the mid 1980s a Korean Deli was opened in the only commercial space on upper Park Avenue, a smallish 19th century building on the northeast corner of 75th street. The space had previously been occupied by a high-end florist who folded shop when it was discovered the place was actually a front for a cocaine dealing operation. The appearance of the Korean deli was a bit odd–it couldn’t have looked more out of place–but for those who lived in the neighborhood (me for instance) it was a pleasantly urban intrusion into the way-too-quiet and staid area. And yet it provoked the intense ire of a local resident, a woman who fumed that the deli’s presence was a huge blot on the neighborhood and would adversely effect real-estate values. She launched a failed campaign to have the deli shuttered and inadvertently made herself into a kind of urban villain–a well-to-do Park Avenue matron trying to destroy a perfectly legal small business out of sheer snobbery. Her attempt failed–the deli stayed open for another decade–but for a short time her name became synonymous with the unpleasant rendering of her type–somewhat like a ‘Karen’. The woman’s name was Shirley Bernstein. She was Lenny’s sister…


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