New Fish

If Joe Socks were here now, I'd be a protected guy. Now I'm just . . .

Location South Street Seaport
Rent $2,100 [market]
Square feet
450 [one-bedroom apartment in 1873 former hotel and boarding house]
Occupant Jim Wintner
[co-owner, PhotoGraphic Gallery; founder, president, and CEO, BenefitEvents.com, online auction services for nonprofits]

Here we are walking on the old cobblestone street around the corner from your new gallery. Now we're in the elevator—so tiny, like apartment buildings in Paris. Paris elevators only fit two. This holds three.

Looking out your window, I think of the men in their rubber boots, flopping the halibut around. You're across from the old Fulton Fish Market. We're across from where people parked their cars for the fish market. It moved to the Bronx a few weeks ago.

You hear traffic on the highway.It's hard to have a business discussion.

The cat keeps ramming into my shoulder.Felix Albert.

Was he a famous French writer?He's a famous French American cat. His name was Fat Albert. A woman who stayed at my apartment on the Upper West Side called him Felix. I had an informal bed-and-breakfast.

In the same apartment you were illegally subletting for 12 years? Yes, a classic six. I had three people sharing it toward the end. The owners raised the rent to $3,000. At some point, they did due diligence and found the leaseholders were living in Florida.

You look out at the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the greatest engineering feats. I went to the same school as Roebling, who built it—Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The cat's clawing. You hit it on the head with a lint roller. Joseph "Socks" Lanza was boss of the fish market. My father knew a lot of these guys.

What did your father do?If I told you, my own story wouldn't be as interesting. [Phone rings.] This is Jim. [He hangs up.] Joe'd been in jail a long time. I was with my father at Vesuvio, the restaurant on West 48th. Joe was there. A guy said, "What are you doing these days?" Joe Socks said, "I like to go fishing." Somebody who spent lots of time in jail would love being on a boat. If Joe Socks were here now, I would be a protected guy. Now I'm just . . . [Phone rings.] This is Jim.

Where did you grow up?West 79th, Long Beach, then . . . [Phone rings.] This is Jim.

This building was designed by John Snook, who designed Grand Central Depot, the precursor to today's terminal. Then liquor merchant Henry Meyer made it a hotel. The bar's gingerbread carving on the ground floor is in the Eastlake style. I read this in Walking Around in South Street. Famous people came. Thomas Edison, Annie Oakley, bang bang, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The last one is speculative. How did you decide to move down here? I've always been captivated by the financial district. I'd come in 1966, no residential units then, not even the public housing. I studied city planning. Wall Street's the most interesting part of New York architecture. I like to be near the water.

Like Joe. About a year ago, this broker was showing me stuff. I said, I don't want to waste your time. I don't have a job. I don't have references. I don't have a bank account.

But you have all these businesses. I don't make the kind of money they want. For a $2,000 apartment, you're supposed to make 40 times your monthly rent. She took me to a building on Fulton Street, very tacky, apartments were $1,600, $2,000. She said, I have one other. I walked in, saw the bridge. Being a total romantic archi-slut, I said, This is for me. She said people didn't want to live down here, too out of the way. But it's just a 10-minute walk to the subway. When I lived with my girlfriend on Second and . . .

Why does your girlfriend live there? That's none of your business.

 
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