On the C-Line

The View From Grove Street

That beneficent landlord has come and gone, along with much else, but Bilderback has held on to her perch. Living there, she performed and choreographed. For 40 years she's taught movement and dance at the Union Theological Seminary.

A wide, high mirror dominates her front room. Leaning against one wall, it reflects the sparsely furnished living room set off from the kitchenette by an ochre-colored screen. "WhenI dance, that table just goes into the foyer," Bilderback says, extending her arm toward a four-legged wood piece. "That chair"—she points to a corner—"backs up a little, and the screen moves forward."

"I love dancing here," she says. "It's very much my turf. I wish there were more room though. There are some dances I can't do, or that I start and can't finish." The limited space of 5C has also influenced her choreography: She's created "standing dances, where I don't go anywhere."

Next stop, Greenwich Village: the facade of 26 Grove
all photography: Sylvia Plachy
Next stop, Greenwich Village: the facade of 26 Grove

The bare wood plank floor is darkened with age. "The color makes me think of the chestnuts that broke open on the way to school [in Portland, Oregon]. For my annual Christmas party, I used to coat it with Gym Floor—they don't make it anymore; it's dangerous. I had lovely Christmas parties, where singers would sing and musicians would play and poets would read poetry. Do you know James Wright?"

It's not the floor or the mirror, though, that makes the apartment home to her, but the pale green wood-trimmed sofa, given by friends soon after she moved in and reupholstered many times. Her bedroom is as cluttered as her living room is spare. One double bed serves for sleeping. Another low bed, perpendicular to it, makes a "desk," covered with a life's worth of papers, programs, and photographs to be sorted. The second bed was intended for a visiting gentleman friend, but proved too uncomfortable. She's never shared the space full-time with anyone. "This apartment would never work for two," she says with a confiding smile. "People who don't work nine to five, we're a species unto ourselves."

6C, Sherri Levy, 'early thirties,' Freelance TV Commercial Producer

Sherri Levy, Tess, and her rooftop view

"That's Beck with Thom Yorke from Radiohead, that's Elliott Smith singing, and that's Steve Malkmus from Pavement. My best friend took them."

Rockers, in black-and-white and hung in frames, posture and sing on walls all over Sherri Levy's apartment. "My Dad was a rock photographer too," she adds. "He loved Elton John." One photo shows her dad at age 32, looking studly in a denim jacket. "He was the coolest," she says. "He died when I was nine."

It's these photos, her books, and her dog, a shepherd mix, that make 6C home for Levy, which it has been for seven years. Hardbacks and paperbacks, two-deep on every shelf, reveal her literary passions: fiction from Latin America, South Africa, India, England. Her dog also comes in under the literary rubric. "Tess," she says. "Tess of the Doggyvilles."

Poor Tess, who's grown old in 6C, has her own bed on the floor beside Levy's because she can't climb up anymore. "She goes to acupuncture with Dr. Bridget Halligan at West Chelsea Animal Hospital," Levy explains. Her living room looks cool, modern. The couch is black leather—"the only thing I could have with Tess." Next to it, in front of the kitchen, stands a stainless steel doctor's cabinet, which she uses for liquor, and in front of that, a matching steel table.

Producing TV commercials—she did the American Express spot with Seinfeld, and others for Xerox and Diet Dr. Pepper—Levy travels six months a year. "When I'm home, I love to be here," she says. All her windows rise above the roofs of nearby buildings. "There's no one above me, no noise. I can't see down to the street or hear the noise. Gay Pride weekend marches right outside my door, and the streets are mad. But it's a refuge in here. I have an east and south view, and the apartment is flooded with light. At night I see the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building from my couch. Some of the best times I've had here are the heady days at the beginning of a relationship, in winter, with a great view of the snow, when nothing exists beyond these four walls."

Several years ago, a group of tenants met in the large basement apartment of their super, Lydia, and her partner, April, to discuss a "crime wave" in the neighborhood. In the past 10 months, the street has seen the drug dealers and prostitutes return—and worse. Baum, who's secretary of the block association, has become more vigilant, but so far no building-wide meetings have been called.

Mostly, the residents of the C-line tend to have only fleeting knowledge of each other—by sight in the lobby or elevator, by sound through the windows or floors. Andrew and Bill hear Joy's practice scales floating up when they're relaxing on their sofa. Jayne knows that Sherri's also a dog owner. Bob knows Jayne through their Sotheby's connection; he says that her apartment "is perfectly painted, whereas mine was done by a starving actor." Bob's also gotten friendly with Andrew over the years and had him to parties. "Andrew loves that disco from the late '70s and early '80s," he says with amusement. "Many times I've gone to sleep to the sounds of 'I Will Survive.' "

As for Andrew, he recently learned that 6C, "the expensive one that got away," is, indeed, flooded with light. "I knew it," he groaned.

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