Secret Church

It's cheerful on Fifth: "Hey, Bob, I'm just coming out of the barbershop"

 LOCATION Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn
PRICE $475,000 in 2004 [$340 common charges]
SQUARE FEET 1,050 plus balcony [loftlike condo in reconverted1904 school]
OCCUPANT Callie Hirsch [artist; telecommunications, New York University]

Hmm, telecommunications. I work with the student telephone services. I make sure we have dial tone, voice mail.

Were you trained? I started as a telephone operator. I worked at NYU for 15 years.

Callie Hirsch in Greenwood Heights
photo: Brian Kennedy
Callie Hirsch in Greenwood Heights

That's quite a day job. That's how I pay my mortgage. I lived in Manhattan 20 years. I'm from Rockland County. I went to Parsons and NYU.

You're so brave to buy this yourself. I've owned before. I had a one-bedroom on Thompson and 3rd. My mother and brother loaned me the money to put a down payment on this because I hadn't closed on the other one yet.

It's so interesting that you've owned more than one apartment. There were two before those.

Four total! You don't fit the flipper profile. I had to sell because money was needed. My father me taught me to be a landlord.

Why did you need to be a landlord? I rented out the 13th-Street-near-Fifth apartment and moved to l08th and Broadway.

Why didn't you stay downtown and rent out the 108th Street one? I needed a bigger space. I had a lover.

Your current lover? No, another one. My current lover lives 15 minutes away in Windsor Terrace. That's what brought me to this neighborhood. Everything in Manhattan was $20,000 more. I was dying for a unique space. It's so free in here. The windows are so high. I want to build a tree house of bamboo and paper.

I want to talk about the church near here . . . I've never been. I'm obsessed with the Gowanus Canal. I'm going to kayak on it . . .

The church has all these paintings, a mural like in churches in Mexico. That makes sense because the neighborhood is primarily Hispanic. Though it used to be Irish and German. The church was built in l850 but I couldn't understand why it looked so Pre-Raphaelite with those medieval little windows, peaked arches. It turns out, according to a news article on the wall by Tracy Hickenbottom, that the church was rebuilt in 1927. The walls have gold trim, it's actually tape, and small painted seals of towns and countries—Castrogiovanni, Italy; Villanueva, Peru—and flags from many nations hanging. You should see them. I can barely find time to make it up to my beautiful roof deck.

When I got off at Prospect I thought, Oh, this is really the Green-Wood Cemetery neighborhood—tombstone stores, funeral homes. Then it got more cheerful on Fifth, Luigi's Pizza and this man on his phone, "Hey, Bob, I'm just coming out of the barbershop." The Sabor a Mexico Restaurant with the Corona banner, each letter on a pink, blue, orange, or lime square. It was so bright and hot outside, but cool and dark inside, the white tablecloths in the breeze, paper roses. You have lace around your bed. My mother gave me that when I got married. It was the top of my chuppah.

Was that with the l08th Street and Broadway person? No, that was someone else.

This pale-green drinking glass with the bubbles is like the paper you paint on. I'm obsessed with dots. They thrill me. I don't know, they add lace to a painting.

Veiled. Now what about the famous Argentinean parrots in the neighborhood that people think got here because a crate broke at JFK in 1968 but nobody knows for sure. Their nests reportedly hold from one to six pairs, each with a separate room and entrance. I heard they kiss. Brooklyn College did a study. They sit on power lines in the morning, do their kind-of-like kissing. Then they fly out and get food. They come back to their nests at night.

Do they kiss some more? I don't know.

 
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