Manhattan Real Estate in history: Tom Cruise circa 1981

By
Real Estate Agent with Compass

50 West 86th Street

50 West 86th Street

Tom Cruise has been on the news and in the papers these past few days for being fired by Paramount pictures for jumping on Oprah's couch and talking about Scientology. Since this is a real estate blog I won't comment on that. However I will comment about the building that both Tom and I Lived in circa 1981.

My first Manhattan apartment was a studio with a sleeping loft complete with brick wall and huge windows. It was on the parlor floor of a limestone mansion built in the early 1900's. In the photo it's the apartment with the 2 large rounded windows to the right of the front door.  The blinds I bought are still in the windows.

When I moved in we didn't have a live-in super. The landlord and his wife lived in New Jersey but owned this building as a hobby/investment. An unknown struggling actor in acting school lived upstairs in a 300 square foot studio. The rent at the time for his apartment was $300. He worked out a deal with the landlord to help pay his rent.  He took the garbage out to the street and vacumed the halls. The next year he got his big break in the movie Taps and the rest is history.

After Tom moved out the landlord made renovations. Tom had a rent stabalized apartment. Mine was also. I paid $700 month. When a rent stabalized tenant vacates if the landlord makes renovations they can then raise rent to market rate.

He connected Tom's third floor studio with the second floor 1 Bedroom adding a sleeping loft/storage and making the rest of the third floor a floor thru. Years later the landlord would tell me "Just got another Christmas card from Mrs Cruise Tom's mother thanking me for helping him with the rent.

The landlord then built a triplex penthouse and wouldn't you know it another actor moved in only now the penthouse apartment with new marble bath was getting a market rent. This time it was Robert Downey Jr. He was starring on Saturday Night Live at the time. Then his girlfriend at the time, Sarah Jessica Parker moved in with him. About a year later they broke up and I remember helping Sarah  load stuff into her mother's car one night. All I can say is they were all really nice, very polite cordial people.

The building had a real history. It was originally built as the townhouse for The Gimbel familiy from the famous department store. In the 1940's it was supposedly a brothel where gambling took place. As you can see in the photo there are two entrances. The apartment below mine had a separate entrance with an iron gate. That apartment has a swiming pool in the middle of the living room. It must have been Mr. Gimbel's gym. The building later became a boarding school and finally apartments.

It has 5 floors and 10 apartments. A walk up with mahogany stairs. A chiropracter now rents the pool apartment and mine is rented as a live/work professional office. I will always think of 50 West 86th Street as the good luck building.

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Rainer
36,693
Sara Lipnitz
Max Broock Realtors - Birmingham, MI

Very, very cool.  Gotta love the big city with all the history and culture.  My home used to house a family of 5... that's it... nothing glamorus!  Maybe someday they'll tell stories of a famous real estate blogger who lived here.  :) 

Aug 25, 2006 06:50 PM #1
Rainmaker
314,155
Brian Brady
San Diego VA Home Loans/858-777-9751 - San Diego, CA
858-777-9751
Sarah Jessica Parker?  This is too much!   What a cool place to live.
Dec 27, 2006 03:17 PM #2
Anonymous
anne

Great story but you forgot to add that saxophonist King Curtis lived there in 1971 and he was stabbed to death in s skirmish with two junkies in the front of the foyer whom he climbed over while bringing in an air conditioning unit for his apartment. The neighborhood must have been rougher then!

Oct 08, 2008 02:07 PM #3
Anonymous
Susie

I lived in the first floor solarium apartment down the hall to the left of your apartment in 1967/68. At that time I don't think there were any 'to be famous' actors living there, but the person who lived in your apartment was a seamstress and at one point her apartment was looted. We had all kinds of serious locks on our door so no one was able to break in. The neighborhood seemed safe at that time, but I know it went down hill after we left. 

Our apartment had floor to high ceiling windows overlooking what once must have been a lovely garden, but when we were there it was untended with a little trash thrown in. Nonetheless the large windows gave us marvelous sunlight and an airy feeling. Good memories all!

Feb 07, 2010 04:47 AM #4
Rainmaker
599,330
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Anne, I didn't know about King Curtis thanks for filling me in on the building's history.

Susie, Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting. I always wondered who lived in apartment A1 before me. I really liked the solarium apartment. Around the time I moved in, the landlord, Lee Allen connected the solarium apartment and the pool apartment with a staircase. He tried to rent the combined apartment as a duplex. He was unsuccessful so rented them as two separate apartments.

The landlord when I lived there really cared about the building. He was always fixing and renovating. I remember when I put a big serious bolt lock on my door, he was upset that I ruined the aesthetic value of the beautiful mahogany door.

From what I hear the neighborhood deteriorated in the 70's. NYC went bankrupt. But the neighborhood made a comeback in the 80's. Today the gardens between W 86th and W 85th streets are lovely again and the townhouses have been restored to their original detailed beauty.

Thanks for sharing your good memories.

Feb 07, 2010 08:32 AM #5
Anonymous
Therese Flaherty
Would love to talk with you sometime - I've owned the building now for ten years and have done many upgrades - met Sara Jessica Parker and talked about when she and robert Downey jr live here
Jul 08, 2012 04:38 PM #6
Anonymous
Dave

How was Cruise like when u met him, first heard of him?

May 30, 2016 02:22 PM #7
Rainmaker
599,330
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

As nice as could be. I met him years later at a party in Hollywod when he was a big star and again was just as nice to me as when he was an unknown actor.

Jun 03, 2016 02:39 AM #8
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Mitchell J Hall

Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn
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