When my husband and I were first married, we were unsure as to where we wanted to live–I was from Long Island and he was from Brooklyn, but we arrived at a common goal, we would love to live in New York. Later, after kids, we would move out to Long Island or New Jersey.
So with that in mind, we went to visit an apartment that, by New York standards, had an incredibly low asking price—the old “too good to be true” price. It was in Tudor City in NY’s Midtown east, an area nestled between 41, rising up over 42nd and bordered by 43rd on the north. Once up there, it seemed like the perfect little neighborhood–park, small stores, and a cluster of early 30’s “skyscrapers” that adopted a gitchy “Elizabethan” theme with its stained glass and shields. The coup de grace was the Gargoyles that kept watch from their parapets, and the unobstructed river views. We were in love.
Alas it wasn’t meant to be–the asking price was unnaturally low because the maintenance was astronomically high. We left that day a bit crestfallen, vowing that one day we would be back.
There was a place we called Lucey Land, it was the place, in a conversation, where we could explore the dreams of the future framed in aspiration and tough reach. Plainly said, Lucey Land was the place where dreams came true. Not the dreams of fantasy, or grandiosity, but the dreams of a normal life trajectory, turbo charged with hope.
In Lucey Land, we discussed taking trips to our communal ancestral homelands–Ireland and Italy, we talked about getting a small, unassuming place down South somewhere, to eventually avoid the deep winter, and to fly with the rest of the snowbirds. In Lucey Land, we would eventually mosey on back to Tudor City and grab a pied de terre where we could enjoy the best of the NY-avoid a crazy commute, and just have a crash pad in a City that we both loved so much.
We will never know if that particular attraction in Lucey Land would have ever been attainable–he died before the age where we would consider doing this, the age when all the kids were independent, or semi-independent. Like the other attractions in Lucey Land, if they are still to happen, there will be only one rider.
His last venture to Lucey Land, although not identified as such, came about 6 weeks before he died. He was still home and laying in bed when the promo for Carol King’s show on Broadway came on. Staring at the television, avoiding eye contact, he said resolutely, “If I get a little better, I’m going to take you to that.” I was grateful that he chose to stare ahead, because it gave me the moment I needed to swallow the hard lump of despair that had lodged in my throat, and reply gamely, “Can’t wait!
Needless to say, that trip didn’t happen, as well as many of the other plans we had made via Lucey Land.
Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made Of
For me, the attraction of NYC came early and hard. My father had always worked in the City and as children, we would come in for parties and other events from Suburban Long Island. We saw Charlotte’s Web at Radio City–waiting in a line that snaked around the block. We went to Madison Square Garden for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus every year, which always coincided with my sister’s birthday and was as a consequence, her gift. We came early and saw the parade of animals and it was so exciting!
As we got older, each of us took a turn working in his office. Sometimes it was just for a week or so, while his secretary was out on vacation, later it would be for the summer, and even later it was a two-year job for me after college and before another writing job.
My father’s structural designs, he was an engineer, rose up over the skyline making NYC feel especially “ours.” There was a sense of pride and if NY carried a feeling of exceptionalism in the 80’s, it was only because the 70’s were characterized by street crime, visible homelessness, and a few high-profile mafia hits. The recession, like COVID later would, hit NYC particularly hard and the movie “Escape from New York” became a cautionary tale.
My first job was on Madison Square Park, my next was across from Penn Station, then came 41st and Lex— all of these neighborhoods bring back memories of long days and longer night’s out.
When I eventually moved into the City it was a 5-floor walk up on Second Ave, a few doors down from Paddy Reilly’s, and right over a Chinese restaurant. Let’s just say the smell of Chinese food at 6 am after a night of fun was nauseating.
My mother, a Manhattanite by birth, returned to the City after her divorce from my father. With my youngest brother finishing up college, it was the right time for her to get back to her roots. For her, a beautiful gem of a two-bedroom off Beekman Place provided a much-needed sanctuary and, we believed, more opportunity for her to have a life that was more than bumping around a big house waiting for kids to come out for the weekend.
With my mother’s apartment, we were able to visit and enjoy the City with the kids when they were young. With zany trips to Madame Tussauds, or museums, ending with dinner at a lovely Irish Pub on Second Avenue, my children enjoyed spending time in NY and seeing it from my mother’s eyes.
My oldest daughter would come in and spend weekends with “Nan” when she needed a break from her siblings and they delighted in each other’s company. They would explore K-town for costume jewelry, or go downtown where my mother would hit some of the best fabric stores, always looking for her next project. My daughter learned where to get the best and least expensive items all over the city. They drank tea and visited with my aunts and it was an amazing experience for my oldest.
The boys, my nephew and my son, who are two days apart, would go in for a weekend and my mother took them to the Intrepid museum and they bought lottery tickets, and basically enjoyed the compact nature of city living. Going down to the corner store, or the local “Duane Reade” proved an adventure and they always came home with souvenirs and stories. My mother did that with her grandchildren until her illness took her out of her City and brought her into the care of others.
And so it was that one day in March, I returned to Tudor City. As can sometimes happen in NYC, not much had changed from how I remembered it–same theme, same pre-war architecture, the view, which had been narrowed on the periphery by some larger buildings, remained exceptional.
Walking through the hallways, it was surreal, was I really going to do this?
After a confab with my brother, a sturdy realist, it was agreed that I should rent first, see if I really like it as much as I remembered. Ever the pragmatist, he offered that by this time next year, my situation may have changed and a small studio in Tudor City may not be as practical.
So with the prefabricated freneticism that NY rental real estate perpetuates, I began my search. It was like a crazy game of Slap, the card game where the fastest and highest card down was the winner. The first apartment, a corner unit with unobstructed river views, was lost within an hour of my putting a deposit down. (I still think it was unethical). The second apartment was also lost because I wasn’t fast enough with my collection of required paperwork, (within the hour!) which with a co-op, even for rental, was worse than a mortgage app.
Then I switched brokers and the pace slowed. These brokers lived, and had an office in, Tudor City, so they knew their stuff. They were more interested in getting the right people in the units than the wholesale land-grab that Compass perpetuated.
This time, there were two apartments–one with a double view and the other with a view of the park out front. The double view wouldn’t clean and paint as the broker told him was required, so he took it off the market. The second apartment would be mine.
Last week, I got notification that I had been approved and I am set to move in May 15th. It occurred to me that this was the first thing I have done since my children have been born, that is just for my benefit and enjoyment. Everything else, in the last 29 years has been done weighing the risk/reward as it pertained to the children.
I became weighed down with guilt–did I deserve to do this for myself? I started to rethink my terrible commute, was it really that bad? I mean 4 hours per day isn’t unheard of. I started to rethink everything that had gotten me to this particular decision. I was incredibly nervous about the whole thing, to the point that when I was waiting for approval, I almost convinced myself that I didn’t deserve this. My youngest daughter is still home, is this really the time for this. But, as I watched how excited my children were for me, it became clear that the source of my nervousness was the fact that I knew that they did not need me to be with them every minute. That coming back to NJ on a Friday night would be time enough.
My fear stemmed from the idea that I was NOT as needed as I had been and as a result, I could do this for myself. Hours of commuting in each direction from the start of my job in December had caused me to feel anxious and stressed. One Friday night it took me 4 hours to get home. It was untenable and with my office being in Queens, didn’t look like there was any other solution. This was the solution.
So on the 15th of May, I will get the keys to my little crash pad, and it will be a dream come true, not just my dream, but Michael’s dream for me as well. This Lucey Land ride will have only one rider, but I will be accompanied, in spirit, by my co-dreamer.
Claudia Lucey is a widowed mother of four, mostly adult children. Her “happy place” is the beach, where she spends every waking moment in the Summer. But spending time with her children is her greatest joy. Her philosophy is that laughter, even through tears, is the greatest emotional outlet. Nothing makes her happier than a good laugh, even at her own expense. She is a Director of Marketing for a construction company, yet she is a trained journalist who loves to write and photograph buildings of any size or shape.