In a story that manages to be both delightful and catastrophically depressing at the same time, the New York Times reports that a residential block on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is currently embroiled in drama resulting from an ultra-rich couple trying to build either their fantasy home or what might be a pied-à-terre or secret boutique hotel. Intrigue!
Haitian-American jazz singer Malou Beauvoir and Pierre Bastid, “a 64-year-old Moroccan-born Frenchman who made a fortune in energy, and recently dabbled in Alpine hotels, restaurants and pharmaceuticals,” are building what seems like a modern-day Breakers mansion—not over the expansive bluffs of Newport, Rhode Island—but wedged in a brownstone on West 69th Street. The never-ending saga that has ensued, in which the an entire city block’s is held hostage to the whims of superrich strangers who lives elsewhere, is another sign that Manhattan really is becoming a playground for the wealthiest of the wealthy.
And all of that chaos, for what? An ostentatious home with “an underground theater and a recording studio, a Jacuzzi and a sauna, free-floating elliptical stairs (whatever that might be) and a wall of sculpture depicting trees, animals and birds of the jungle,” as well as a pool measuring 10 feet by 60 feet “clad in marble, and surrounded by columns, and softened by recessed lighting.” I’m sure Beauvoir and Bastid will enjoy their new local mall at the Hudson Yards. For the rest of their neighbors, good luck surviving.
To build this monstrosity, construction workers must excavate nearly 38 feet of rock and rubble, which has taken many months and will last many, many more. In the meantime, neighbors must put up with constant air pollution, rats and roaches, and unrelenting drilling. And just as maddening: it took local residents months to figure out who was financing the mysterious luxury project. Local real estate agents couldn’t figure out, and the construction manager stayed silent. Eventually, they got tipped off by a note:
Ms. Vazquez’s probe cracked open only when an unidentified neighbor slipped a small card onto the floor of her vestibule. “Malou Beauvoir,” someone had scratched on it, in what looked like an elderly hand. Ms. Vazquez’s sister and upstairs neighbor, Kara Kelly, started searching online, and the mystery was soon solved.
Once local residents learned the owners’s identities, Beauvoir and Bastid did little to accommodate their concerns. In a note forwarded to the Times by the construction manager, Beauvoir wrote, “Unfortunately, we have all experienced the disagreeable aspects of construction and the unpredictability of the process.” Have you, though?
I mean, the noise is so bad that the local Duane Reade is out of headphones:
Ms. Brown now wears $400 Bose Noise Blockers around her apartment. (Others favor headsets of the kind used on rifle ranges, or earplugs — when the closest Duane Reade has them. “They’re out of them all the time now,” lamented Steven Gilbert, who lives at 45 West 68th Street, and now orders them in bulk from Amazon.) Ms. Brown, who has lived on the block since 1969, blames the cacophony in part for her new $5,000 hearing aids.
Brown’s poodle also takes tranquilizers:
Her miniature poodle, Dorian Gray, has been even more affected: he’s taking Trazodone, a tranquilizer. (“One tablet orally up to three times daily as needed for calming during construction,” the bottle helpfully directs.)
And he is not the only pet to suffer:
Apart from Dorian Gray’s anxiety, Ms. Kelly’s dog, Lola, now shakes even when the jackhammers are idle. The cat living at No. 66, Titania of the Greil, is “overgrooming” and fighting irritable bowel syndrome, while Meadow at No. 51 is a “nervous wreck.” Birds on the block have stopped singing, one resident complained.
Some people have fled, moving elsewhere. One resident “plans to get herself tested for carbon monoxide exposure,” while another, 80-year-old Nick Jordan, fears he might die before the chaos ends. “I hope to outlive this,” said Jordan. “I may not.”