Location Battery Park City
Square feet 800
Occupants Brent Pallas (designer); Janet Sobesky (home design and lifestyle editor, Woman’s Day)
Of all things—your building’s lobby has this postmodern pink-and-blue mural of the World Trade Center from the point of view of an airplane zooming down into it. How did your pigs survive the attack? [Janet] Last Saturday I put a bunch in the tub. I have about 300 ceramic pigs. They were pretty dusty. We’re only allowed inside our building between nine and five. Six hundred is still the only Gateway building people can’t move back to yet. It was the closest to the explosion. We’ve being sleeping in friends’ places since September 11.
What a view—Cove Landing, the I.M. Pei-designed Financial Center. Unfortunately, Ground Zero is to the right. You have so many snow globes. Your apartment looks like a snow globe with all the dust from the attack. I write the household hints column for Woman’s Day. My column for January is about dusting. I wrote—this was before September 11—”If I dust at nine, my place seems to get dusty at five.”
You don’t have doors on your kitchen cabinets. I took them off years ago. I got tired of opening and closing them. I couldn’t remember where anything was. We’ve stayed in four different apartments since September 11. The other day we came back here to get our pillows. We thought strange pillows were the reason we weren’t sleeping well. Staying in different places—you just sort of feel exhausted all the time. The other day, Brent came here and lay down on his bed for 15 minutes and took a nap. Today, we came to get a hair clipper and our cans of duck confit.
Have you had time to worry about anthrax? [Janet] Not really. Everyone keeps saying, “Oh, you’re coping with this so well.” Brent says that since we go camping all the time, it’s just like we’re just camping. [Brent] Look, we just found this old medical cabinet in the garbage. People are throwing out tons of stuff around here—furniture, everything. A lot of people are moving out. There are eight or nine moving trucks downstairs every day.
Are you going to stay in this building where both the Lefrak management and the Gateway Tenants’ Association have hired independent air quality experts and one tenant was quoted saying that he figured the air had photocopier fluids, lead, PCBs, toxic computer innards, asbestos, and bits of humanity? [Brent] You’re always going to find people that say things like that. This is New York. It’s not like we’re in Montana. [Janet] We’d like to stay. We’ve been here 18 years. We pay very low rent. If we looked for an apartment anywhere else in the city, we’d pay a lot more. [Brent] We heard management was offering people in the 600 building other apartments in other Gateway buildings. Last week we went and they just showed us more expensive apartments—$1000 more a month. I said, Are you kidding? We’re going to try to talk to somebody else.
You are the only visual artists I know who live in Battery Park, though there must be more. But how did you end up here? [Brent] When we moved from Chicago in ’83, we sublet a Tribeca loft for a couple of months, paying $1000. To live in lofts then, people were paying all this key money for the fixtures. We didn’t have like $15,000, plus we didn’t want to get into that, either. A real estate agent brought us here. It had a great view of the water . . .
Midwesterners are always thrilled to be near the ocean. Back then, this area was like living in Brasília, a tiny little place that was like a haven in the desert. I used to put up a display the day before Halloween in the hallway. Each year it got more elaborate—pumpkins, cobwebs. Everybody would bring their kids. I stopped doing it. This one super was always complaining, “Oh, it gets dirty.”