The Climbers

Home Brooklyn Life The Climbers

By Rob Anderson

“I’m not crazy,” the woman says in a thick Brooklyn accent. “I am not going up there.”

She is speaking to the bottom half of a man–her husband, presumably–who has climbed up a perilous-looking, retractable metal ladder into a hole carved out of the ceiling in apartment 4D.

“I don’t know what it is. An attic, maybe?” the unseen top half of the man yells down.

But the woman has already moved on. She is inspecting the kitchen. It’s what you’d expect from a brand-spanking new condominium like this one: ample counter space, hardwood cabinets, and gleaming stainless-steel appliances.

The man backs down the ladder and shrugs.  “I just don’t get it,” he says as they walk out of the unit.

Today is the final open house at The Locale, a modern condo development in Greenpoint. A brochure describes the units as “chic, stylish, sensible, and sophisticated.” They are also unsold, so the developer has decided to hold an auction later this week to unload at least four, and maybe even all, of the building’s sixteen residences. The brochure says that the units were originally priced at around a half million dollars, but on Wednesday, the opening bids will start at $150,000.

Today, people shuffle through the building to preview the apartments that could be theirs by the end of the week. The elevators aren’t working, so to get to unit 4D, they have to climb the stairs to the top floor.

It’s no wonder that by the time they get there, not many decide to shimmy through the hole in the ceiling to see the unit’s second floor.

If you really want to make it up there, the retractable ladder is just the first step. After teetering your way to the top of it, you have to pull yourself up a few more rungs welded to the concrete wall. After you’ve lifted yourself up and through, you’ll find yourself in a small, greenhouse of a room, all windows and sunlight. Stand in there for just five seconds and you’ll sweat. From there, it’s hard to see what’s past the glass wall because there’s glue smeared across the pane.

But if you’re able enough to make it that far, and then curious enough to push through the door, you’ll finally understand why the developer thought it was a good idea to invest in this building in the first place.

Your eye starts at the row of brick townhouses directly behind the Locale. A thinning canopy of yellow and orange leaves shades fenced-in backyards, with barbeques and clotheslines and a cat resting on a cushion in the sun. Over the top of the houses you can see people in a park-an old man walking with a cane, a woman pushing a stroller, and kids swinging on a play set.

Keep panning up, and there is Brooklyn: Church steeples pierce a landscape of tar rooftops and brick warehouses. And then a little further, there it is. It’s the view that draws millions to the city each year, the one people living in far corners of the country conjure up when dreaming of making it big, of being in the center of it all, or of escaping.

The image of Manhattan rising out of the East River is so iconic it would almost be a waste to describe. You know what it looks like. We’ve all seen it so many times in movies or on television that witnessing it in person is like recognizing a celebrity on the street. There’s something familiar and unfamiliar about it at the same time. You feel a deep, personal connection-but, then again, everyone else does, too.

The glass door of the storage room slides open and two young women step across the threshold. They are the only ones who have made it to the top of 4D today. They walk straight to the edge of the deck.

“Now that is the view,” one says.

The other replies, breathlessly: “Crazy.”

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