Tales from the West Village
Two feuding sisters and a smoke with Sarah Jessica Parker
If you step onto the Downtown 1 subway near my apartment and hop off at the Christopher Street Station, you’ll arrive in the West Village, where Manhattan’s numbered blocks become narrow, cobblestone streets with names like Bleeker, Barrow, Grove, and Commerce. It’s my favorite neighborhood in the city.
In the West Village, you’ll find the Friends apartment and Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment from Sex and the City. A local man told me about an urban legend: if you bump into Sarah Jessica Parker on the street, she might ask you for a light. And if you have one, she’ll stay and chat with you until the last puff of her cigarette. Weeks later, my wife and I saw Sarah Jessica Parker in Madison Square Park, filming a scene for her show And Just Like That1. We stood around the film set, and between takes, she smiled and waved at us. Her kindness made me think there was some truth to that legend.
A few blocks south of Carrie’s apartment, on Commerce Street, is Aaron Burr’s old home, which was recently purchased for $4.8 million by a wealthy painter2. And a bit further down is the Cherry Lane Theater3, where we saw comedian Neal Brennan perform his special, Blocks.
Just around the corner, across from the Commerce Inn, is a dreary, twin pair of antebellum homes with a courtyard between them. The story goes that years ago, a sea captain built the matching houses for his two feuding daughters. He hoped they would meet together in the courtyard to make amends one day. But the sisters never reunited, and the houses still stand today, haunting Commerce Street.
But it turns out this story might be another of those urban legends. It seems the houses were built by a property developer long ago and still stand as ordinary residences among the many in the West Village4. I prefer the story of the sisters, though. Stories like these—and the people who tell them—are why I love visiting the West Village and why I now carry a lighter with me whenever I’m in the neighborhood.