Monthly Archives: February 2010

STEPHANIE THEODORE


Gallerist Stephanie doing the ubiquitous Sunnyside sign in front of her apartment building on 46th Street.


An installation shot of Stephanie’s gallery in SoHo with sculptures by Norman Darren and paintings by Eric Poitevin (left) and Juliette Losq (courtesy THEODORE:Art)

“People don’t move to Sunnyside because it’s cool. This is the New York New Yorkers live in.”

Having been raised on Long Island, Stephanie Theodore moved to Rego Park right after college. She hated it there and swore to herself that she would never live in Queens again.

“I’ll live in Manhattan from now,” Stephanie told herself. “This is where it’s at!”

What followed were 17 years on Mott Street, where she lived in a six-floor-walkup and only communicated with her neighbors over disagreements and at co-op meetings. Slowly, bankers, lawyers, brokers and trustafarians descended on SoHo. When Stephanie fell in love with a man who owned a house in Sunnyside Gardens, it wasn’t hard for her to leave. The relationship didn’t last long, but her love for Sunnyside continued unabated. The neighborhood’s architecture, pubs and tight community structure reminded her of London, where she studied at Christie’s Education. In 2007 Stephanie bought an apartment on 46th Street.

On the weekends, she still returns to SoHo, where she runs THEODORE:Art. Her gallery represents primarily British artists with whom she has fostered long and growing relationships. Stephanie describes her artists’ work as “aesthetically mature, well-crafted and appealing,” but with a “conceptual and subversive agenda.” She shudders at the hype in the contemporary art scene and laments that many gallerists are more concerned with “packaging” and “surface” than with the work itself.

The pragmatic idealism Stephanie brings to her work as an art dealer mirrors her feelings towards her Sunnyside’s community. She does not want to live in a neighborhood overrun by superficial hipsters and is happy to return to Sunnyside at the end of the day. “I have the best of both worlds,” she says. “It’s nice to get away and not have black-clad hipsters all around or business people or tourists. People don’t move to Sunnyside because it’s cool. This is the New York New Yorkers live in.”

But Stephanie worries that Sunnyside’s Starbucks—a neighborhood’s “signifier of acceptability”—is the beginning of the end. Maybe real estate agents will invent a gimmicky name for Sunnyside, like when they dubbed her part of SoHo “Nolita”? And maybe hipsters will follow, clogging the streets with their “hipster babies in Sonic Youth t-shirts… Gag!” But Stephanie hopes that the existing nuclei of world cultures will continue to attract a steady stream of diverse immigrants with equally diverse professions—and with people who appreciate this “neighborly neighborhood” for what it is.

Listen to Stephanie’s interview

CHRISTINA AND PATRICK SULLIVAN


The couple’s knick-knacks<
Patrick and Christina Sullivan’s wedding portrait

“I put the collar on her.”
“But he let me run lose.”

I recently visited Christina and Patrick Sullivan at their house on 39th Avenue in Sunnyside Gardens, where they have lived for more then 40 years. Both came to New York by boat from Ireland. Patrick used to work at the airport helping to track down lost luggage, and Christina worked as a housekeeper. The couple, both long retired, first met at Gaelic Park in the Bronx.“I put the collar on her,” Patrick said in his thick Irish accent. “But he let me run lose,” Christina quickly added among giggles that turned into full-blown laughter.”The wheels of life are turning,” said Patrick, who is 84 years old. When the couple bought their one-family house in 1968 they paid $26,000. The sellers, who had lived in house since it was built around 1930, had paid around $6,000. Real estate prices in the neighborhood went down during the Great Depression and one of their neighbors acquired his house for $5,000 in the 1930s. In 2000 the same house sold for $270,000. now a one-family house in Sunnyside Gardens sells for $500,000 and up.“What happened?” Christina said.“Real estate is a very good business to be in,” Patrick said, matter-of-factly.“We had a very rude one,” Christina said about their own real estate agent 42 years ago. “Oh, he was rotten.”

After Christina and Patrick had put down a deposit for the house, the agent received a better offer and tried to give them back their deposit. But the couple refused to take it back and thus managed to acquire the house.

Christina and Patrick did not want their photo taken, so we settled on their marriage portrait. (“The good-looking fellow, that’s me,” Patrick said, laughing.)

In the podcast Christina and Patrick talk about old times—the creative potential in their neighborhood and mom and pop stores that have long vanished.

Listen to Christina and Patrick’s interview