Four-Room Co-op in 500-Unit 1969 High-Rise


Location Riverdale

Price $127,000 in 1993 ($760 maintenance)

Square feet 700

Occupants Eleanor Leinen (co-owner, Inside Gallery; “Millennium Shopper” on TV and radio and in print); Stephen Leinen (professor of sociology and criminal justice, Manhattan College; former lieutenant, NYPD; author, Gay Cops and Black Police, White Society)

You moved from your old apartment because somebody was murdered outside your front door!

[Eleanor] Riverside and 155th, Washington Heights. [Stephen] The drug trade was creeping west toward our area. There were too many incidents. We had a report that somebody was running down the block with a machete. [Eleanor] We had been there seven years. I met Stephen in ’86. I was head of Special Events under Dinkins and Stephen sees me and thinks I’m cute. I think he’s a pompous ass. The next day I called my mother and said, I met the man of my dreams. She said, Let me remind you you were already married once.

To Roberta Flack’s road manager. Now, why move to Riverdale? You’re in the south part with all the ’60s and ’70s apartment houses. The north part is full of mid-19th-century estates like Wave Hill, built by people fleeing the cholera epidemic in the city.

For one, we’re an interracial couple and we wanted to be somewhere where the community is diverse. Two, we were doing a lot of entertaining and wanted lovely surroundings, a lobby. We never looked downtown. We really didn’t think we could find something affordable. I’m very spiritual. I believe destiny brings you to certain places. A friend told me about this apartment and I came home and said to Stephen, I found the apartment we’re going to be moving to. [Stephen] I saw it and we made our decision that night. [Eleanor] We got married right here in this living room. Dr. Ruth Westheimer came. She gave us advice on sex.

This building is very Miami Beach—indoor pool, cabanas, crystal chandelier in the lobby, a big placard with all the names of the proctologists, orthopedic specialists. The white brick facade matches the Hebrew Home for the Aged across the street.

Willie Mays lives here. Gloria Lynn. People who went to jail live here.

Like Mario Biaggi, the 10-term congressman who was convicted twice—once for accepting a free vacation to Florida with his girlfriend from Brooklyn political boss Meade Esposito.

Recently quite a few of the black women in the building got together. Maybe 20-plus. Most of us are from the black middle-class neighborhoods. I was raised in St. Albans, way east Queens. Count Basie lived across the street. Sarah Vaughan around one corner. Joe Louis around the other. [Stephen] I was reared in Parkchester, Met Life’s housing development—one of the largest in the country, 40,000 residents—built in the late ’30s. [Eleanor] My mother lives six blocks from us now. She entertains her bridge club here, the Riverdale Beauties. They’re in their seventies and up. They have champagne, play till five in the morning. They let themselves out.

You have a mural on the wall of a cliff and a sky.

I contracted a Russian master painter. I waited until Stephen went away one weekend. [Stephen] If she told me about it, I would have said absolutely not. Now I like it very much. [Eleanor] The mural is like the dog. Stephen didn’t want a dog. I got the dog in Beverly Hills. [Stephen] This dog is the second love of my life. [Eleanor] We had a bird, too, a baby conure. One day it squeezed out of the cage in a panic and smashed into the mirror and flew to the bed where the dog was sitting and . . . [Stephen] The rest is history. A violent felony. The bird used to sit on my chest and talk to me. [Eleanor] It would say, You’re very handsome.

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