Location: West Times Square
Rent: $2220 (market)
Square Feet: 450
Occupant: Julie Cencebaugh (owner, Cencebaugh Contemporary Gallery); Paisley (border collie)
Why are you inside this big orange and beige building that rises up out of the 50th Street subway stop in a neighborhood where developers have been sniffing around for years and where X-rated movie houses used to be and there are all these people who are sad that those places are gone, though those are the people who never went to see women doing you-know-what anyway? The penthouse here rents for $6000. I’d been subletting a one-
bedroom on the Upper West Side for a year for $1450 and the tenant moved back in and I had a really hard time finding anything. I have a dog and I wanted to stay on the Upper West Side but I couldn’t find anything affordable. I had a two-month time frame and I was worried I’d be homeless. I was homeless, for two weeks. I rented a Ford Explorer and my dog and I had to go on the road until this apartment was ready. I moved here last October. I have floor-to-ceiling windows, a fantastic view. The apartment is very Alice in Wonderland to me because I’m very petite. My doors go all the way up to the ceiling so they make you feel smaller than you actually are.
Eight feet eight inches! You grew up in an isolated monastery on the Thousand Islands on the Canadian border. The Thousand Islands was once a millionaire’s playground. People drank champagne and pushed each other into swimming pools. There are old castles like the one George Boldt built to show his love for his wife and he had the island reshaped to resemble a heart but his wife died in 1904 and he was such a wreck that he ordered the 300 workmen to leave and he
never returned. I heard she ran away with one of the workers from the town and that’s why he stopped building the castle.
Oh god. Then in the late ’70s, Abbie Hoffman hid out in the Thousand Islands when he was a fugitive. I’d seen him several times growing up. He was an environmentalist. I remember the day he surrendered and Barbara Walters flew in by helicopter.
The Price Is Right Island was given away in 1964 on the TV game show. Thousand Islands is what the salad dressing is named after. It’s primarily ketchup and mayonnaise. And seasonings. It was the house dressing at our country club.
We have to talk about your apartment again. You said Tony Danza lives here and Nicole Kidman did once and Victoria’s Secret has executive apartments. Then you said you’re having a huge book problem. I found these shelves I really liked in a magazine article. I still have this picture of them because I’m so angry about it. The article had all these storage tips. So I called the designer boutique that the article said sold the shelves. They said, We don’t sell the shelves. We just sell the towels on the shelves. They were kind of snotty about it. I still have all my art books in piles on the floor. I have a large collection of first editions and livres d’artistes, these handmade books. Some are in the $3000 range and storage has been like a huge dilemma for me. I majored in drawing and lithography and I came to New York for an internship at Dieu Donné Papermill. Here is a first edition of Edward Gorey’s The Curious Sofa.
That’s where Sir Egbert locks Alice inside a room and starts up machinery inside his sofa and then Alice screams uncontrollably. I always show it to people while they’re sitting on the sofa. Here is a deluxe handmade first edition of Marguerite Duras’s Hiroshima Mon Amour. It’s like a love letter. It’s all pink, so personal. You know, the experience of looking at a book is, well, you’re in the real world and suddenly your head tilts forward and you’re in the page.
How often are you in the page? Quite often, unless I’m looking out the window at the clock on top of the MONY building. I’m learning metric conversion by watching the temperature clock go from Fahrenheit to Celsius.