When actress Patricia O’Grady moved into the top floor of a Greenwich Village walk-up in 1955, she (+ her three roommates) swept the hallway in exchange for a discounted rent. Of $16 a month.
It was NOT fancy, or even livable by today’s standards, just walls and a ceiling. So, the aspiring actresses fixed it up themselves, adding a sink and other necessities. The roommates moved on, but O’Grady never left.
Sadly this March, O’Grady, 84, was hit by a car just outside her home. O’Grady was fittingly in both Next Stop, Greenwich Village and Taxi Driver in 1976. Her rent in 2018? $28.43 a month.
Murray’s Bagel‘s owner, Adam Pomerantz, bought O’Grady’s building in 2002 and told the New York Post.
“I consulted with an attorney to find out if this rent was possible.”
Using a rent-control-formula worksheet, he said he was able to increase her rent $1.98 a month. It had been $26.45.
Possibly THE cheapest apartment in Greenwich Village, it may have been New York City’s last cold-water flat. There was no heat or hot water, but there were two working fireplaces.
Anytime Pomerantz tried to upgrade or improve, O’Grady fought him. When he tried to install proper heating, she pleaded with him saying,
“What you’re doing to me is torturing me. Please leave the apartment as is. I’m at peace.”
The apartment had running water and a toilet but no bath or shower. There was only a single gas light bulb which O’Grady struggled to replace when it went out due to her osteoporosis, preferring to live by candlelight. The pull-chain toilet and cast-iron stove were updated just recently.
O’Grady went to the YMCA on the 14th Street every day where she swam, showered, and read the New York Times.
Sticking it out in the unit was not easy. Her sister Roberta said that past landlords tried to force O’Grady out,
“A fire was set at some point. Everybody else left except her.”
The building’s only other current residential tenant, 33-year-old Steven Flisler, a producer at NBC, became close with his neighbor.
“I came back many nights and it’d be like 7 or 8 o’clock, or sometimes 1 or 2 in the morning, and she’d be sitting on the stoop, reading her mail, and I’d always spend 15 to 20 minutes talking with her about history and current events. I work in news, but I’d find out tidbits from her about what’s going on — she’d read the newspaper cover to cover.”
O’Grady continued to attend dance classes twice weekly at the Joffrey Ballet School, where she was a longtime and beloved student. Stephanie Godino, a teacher there (only two blocks away) said the school held a memorial service for O’Grady,
“She took classes at the school for at least 30 years…. I feel like she never went past 14th Street.”
Many in the NYC theater community had fond memories of Patricia, who was something of a legend. Edith Meeks, the executive and artistic director of HB Studio said,
“I was lucky enough to rehearse a couple of scenes with Pat in her apartment back in the ’80s when we were in class together. I remember a Siamese cat and a wood-burning stove, racks of costumes and a living room that she used as a rehearsal space.
A splendid woman… an artist, one of those singular people that New York seems to have a unique capacity to shelter.”
Had. Past tense.
With O’Grady gone, Pomerantz has gutted and renovated the apartment, to rent out as a two-bedroom. If you’re interested in it it’ll rent for around $5000 a month. (Give or take $28.43.)
(Photos, Wikpedia, YouTube, Roberta O’Grady; via NY Post)