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Three-Bedroom Apartment in 1909 Building | Village Voice


Three-Bedroom Apartment in 1909 Building


Location Sugar Hill (Harlem)

Rent $1297.34 (rent stabilized)

Square feet 850

Occupants Derek Agile Jones (singer-actor); Stephen Charles Nicholson (performer-teacher, Music Together); Robert Roland (naturopath)

Agile, you came to New York to be a big star! [Agile] Yes, from the heart of Denver, 1997. Stephen and I are from the Actors Studio. We’ve gotten 20 other actors in the past five years to live in this building and its sister building—so many that James Lipton, host of Inside the Actors Studio, called this the Actors Studio Uptown Residences. [Robert] I met both of them at the Yoga Connection in Tribeca. [Agile] Yoga’s really a part of our lifestyles. At our school, if something wonderful happens, then everybody does it.

Every time you say something wonderful happens, I hear tinkling bells. [Stephen] Show her your walking-tour map of Sugar Hill. [Agile] People who lived in the valley in Harlem would look up and say, “One day, I’m going to have the sweet life.” A great number of intellectuals lived up here. Thurgood Marshall.

Cab Calloway. He would be directing his orchestra. Go, Cab. Some real toe-tappers. The lobby here is so grand, creamy marble. I just got good news. The Parks Commissioner’s office called, finally. For years, I’m always on the phone. “Fix my sidewalk. La, la, la.” You saw the cracks. And the “Home Sweet Edgecombe” flag outside. We got the children to make it.

Now your building looks very tidy yet your landlord, Baruch Singer, Harvard-educated son of a rabbi, owner of more than 50 buildings, reportedly ripped out the stairs of a five-story walk-up, leaving 20 tenants stranded, had another building that collapsed and killed three tenants, had 2000 violations in five buildings, it goes on. His pit bulls, Chaos and Mayhem. So, is he another wonderful thing happening? [Agile] I must say, I’ve never had a problem with the man. When we got the apartment, Stephen and I went down and did the charm thing on him. The office is on Delancey. It’s a dump, everyone smokes cigarettes. He was busy. He said, “You look like good guys. I trust you.”

You’re having your monthly house meeting tonight. [Robert] It’s very liberating to recognize the power of communication. [Stephen] Last month the ceiling fell down in the bathroom. [Agile] We really got some clarity. [Stephen] There was an overflow from the tub upstairs. [Robert] It was an interesting revelation in points of view. I was in the bathroom first. Since there wasn’t water actually coming through—the ceiling was just buckling—I went to check my e-mail. [Stephen] I went in. I see the Sheetrock buckling down, seems like it’s holding. I thought, “Oh rats,” to use the Peanuts term. I’d done a lot of renovation with Sheetrock. I got my coat. Agile said, “Do you see the ceiling?” I said, “Yes.” I walked out to go to work. [Agile] Shortly thereafter, I hit the roof. How could they not take care of the ceiling? The cats could be electrocuted. I yelled at Rob, “Why, you inconsiderate s.o.b.” I got the plumber. The whole ceiling was totally soaked. Da, da, da. At that time I was perceiving that they were not giving a fuck, but when I kind of calmed down, I realized where they were coming from. Also, guys, please put the top of the toilet seat down. With it up, in feng shui, it represents your money going down the drain. Since I’m creating abundance, I’m making sure I take care of every angle. The exterminator is coming on Thursday. Can one of you be here as a backup [Robert] I think I can be here. [Agile] Just in case, if I were to get a gig.

Agile, the only thing in your room is pictures of yourself on every wall. [Stephen] He doesn’t put any portraits of himself in the bathroom. He doesn’t want himself to go down the drain.

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