One-Bedroom Apartment in 1961 Lefrak


Location Windsor Terrace (central Brooklyn)

Rent $717 (rent stabilized)

Square feet 725

Occupant Francie Albert (transition coordinator-guidance counselor for alternative high schools in Manhattan)

You walked in and she was on the table naked. They groomed her and her hair was so short. [To dog] Yes, you’re like a little dream, Mommy’s little dream. Oooh, yes. [To me] I really don’t want to say the O-word. She likes to go [whispers] out for walks, to restaurants.

She has her little teeth around my pen. No one turns her away—Le Zinc, Plumeria. They’re all in Tribeca. We go to the small dog run in Tompkins Square Park. They used to be together with all these big punk dogs. You just couldn’t take a small dog.

But why not nearby Prospect Park? No enclosed dog area. She has issues. She never barks, but she’s fearless and outgoing. [To dog] Oooh, mommy-waammy. [To me] I got her in a pet store in Bay Ridge. There was another dog, really peppy. He was starting to bite my shoes. He was too much for my lifestyle.

You’re near Connecticut Muffin, the park entrance with the high stone columns with carved leaves—someone was playing “Oh, Don-na/oh, Don-na”—and the 1930s bar Ferrell’s with the men standing in the brown gloom. Do you go to restaurants around here? Aych! A few opened but nothing good.

You moved into your 1961 Lefrak building eight years ago. You said you grew up in a late-1940s Lefrak in Gravesend. A disinterested party told me that Lefrak buildings are always nicely built. Later, Mr. Cortese, the Lefrak PR person, said that Sam Lefrak’s great-grandfather Aaron started the company in 1901. He came from France but “they were somewhere before that.” Then there was the Second World War, and thus “the impetus for the company to enjoy its enormous success, and it has built more than 200,000 apartments, including the 5000-unit Lefrak City in Corona, Queens. We name the buildings after trees, presidents, colleges. But we’re running out of names—trees, presidents, colleges.” Lefrak buildings, he said, are “typically six-story red-brick with indoor garages, a bench in back with a little play area for moms to sit on.” That’s where they trained war babies. By the way, the white balconies outside, the empty green hallway, the pink glass perfume bottles on your dresser—it all looks kind of Hitchcock, like someone could get murdered here and a record would be stuck playing over and over. Do you have one of the balconies? No, but this one-bedroom is bigger than the ones with the balconies. I got my pink glass from abroad, Czechoslovakia. I traveled with a friend . . .

Your ex-boyfriend you mentioned? Not the ex. My life can get confusing. [To dog] No biting! Be nice, mommy, mommy—NO! [To me] Sometimes she tears up her Wee-Wee Pad when I go to work. [To dog] Yes, yes, you mommala.

I guess this isn’t very Hitchcock. Do your parents still live in their Lefrak building? They moved to Penn South in Chelsea. They were on the list 14 years. My father worked 20 years in Phil Donahue’s building on Fifth Avenue as an elevator operator. They went to Penn South because it’s centrally located. I’m from Gravesend, Saturday Night Fever, Avenue X. I lived that life—DAs, gold heels. My hair, it still looks the same ’cause I’m into the retro. I’ve progressed from the moment. I always had it in my mind to leave.

Like John Travolta in the movie? Right, they’re sitting near the water. My ex was a local yokel. He was in fashion. Now he’s a personal trainer. We lived in Brighton Beach. The story of my life is that I can’t get out of Brooklyn. My parents got out. They wear black.

Will you move to Penn South? I’m on some lists—Independence Plaza on North Moore. These huge buildings with below-market rents, subsidized. Now people won’t be moving out at all after 9-11. People downtown are getting financial incentives to stay. It’s backing up the list. [To dog] Oooh, you, mommy-mommy.

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