One-Bedroom Apartment in London Terrace

LocationChelsea
Rent $2835 (market)
Square feet 980
OccupantsAdam Nelson (CEO, Workhouse Publicity); Alison Nelson (co-owner, Chocolate Bar)

Your closet! Rows of sweaters, sectioned into colors, the plum, the black. It's like a 1940s movie-star closet but no silk ascots, all rib knits.[Adam] It's like a Baby Gap. [Alison] This is my closet.

A few wool skirts. Don't you have any clothes?[Adam] She wears some of mine. I have to explain. For 10 years everything I owned was in a bag. Alison and I both met because we grew up on welfare. [Alison] No!

Hold the ascot: the Nelsons in London Terrace.
photo: Jay Muhlin
Hold the ascot: the Nelsons in London Terrace.

Alison's father is a fire dispatcher![Alison] Here's a wedding picture. When we cut the cake, I fed myself by mistake. I'd just done all the planning, production work. That's my dad's bagpipe band. They came to play after playing 22 funerals that day—November 17, 2001.

Look at that photo of a woman holding a glass against her cheek, so glamorous 1970s, a movie star?[Adam] My mother. She was a school teacher. When my father split, we were all on our own. We'd been building this house in Long Island. Now my mother was fully responsible. [Alison] I came from Rockaway, Bel Harbor. [Adam] They're all such "good people." I was just driving with her dad. I said, "Oh, they lowered the speed limit." He said, "Well, you know, if it saves one life . . . " Who says that? George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. I never saw my father. One day I walk into Pizza Plus, Ninth Avenue and something, and there's his picture on the wall signed: "To Pizza Plus, Love Bill." I met him finally on the set of Cadillac Man. He plays, like, character roles. When I came to New York, instead of having three waiter jobs to pay the rent, I began house-sitting for five years. I did every showcase I could. Someday you'll see my picture in Paul's Pizza. Alison and I met when I hired her to be my production manager on my show—The Story of Lenny Bruce. The heel fell off my shoe and she had a shoe hammer in her purse.

Your dog looks like a pit bull.[Adam] The remarkable thing about this building, and I've lived in a lot of different places, they allow animals, there are children around. It really feels like a throwback to another time. The doorman says "Hello." At first Alison wasn't used to having a doorman. [Alison] The other day a friend of mine was talking about moving somewhere. I said, "But there's no doorman!"

The doormen here used to dress like London bobbies.[Alison] They still dress as bobbies.

Is that what the doorman was dressed as?[Alison] Maybe it's the maintenance men.

Anyway, this 1930 building with the Tuscan arches, sun deck that looks like an ocean liner, and oh, there used to be page boys for delivering messages, but this building was pretty much middle-class. Developer Henry Mandel's dream of self-contained urban community and "the largest apartment house in New York City"—some 1665 units—housed some 200 secretaries along with its company presidents. [Alison] I heard when the building was finished, he declared bankruptcy.

Now the building is full of glamorous fashion designers. But today I can't think about fashion, all I can think about is war. Though the other day the two merged. I was at this Ronald Feldman opening. There was this perfectly dressed family, mother in a big Yamamoto coat, father in something, little girl with a purse shaped like a perfectly stuffed lamb. And that night I dreamed lots of stuffed animals were flying low in the sky and dropping particles of chemical warfare, but they looked like snowy pieces of paper. I was with other people but thankfully we didn't die, we just sort of passed out.[Adam] I hope that's how war is, all cute, cuddly, and snowy.

Wait, that photo over there. Is that your mother? [Adam] No, it's Gretchen Mol.

 
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