Move to the theater district and find your community

Peace and quiet isn’t easy in Midtown, but Alexander Tom managed to find it in front of the Wicked Witches at the Gershwin Theater. Mr....


Peace and quiet isn’t easy in Midtown, but Alexander Tom managed to find it in front of the Wicked Witches at the Gershwin Theater.

Mr. Tom, 29, is the Associate Program Leader of the Musical Theater Program at Pace University in Manhattan; he also moonlights as a hearing coach, working in his apartment and in local studios.

Moving from his old Harlem apartment to one of the city’s busiest areas in May has, for him, meant surrounding himself not only with the theater, but also with his community: he often leaves his home and sees a friend. dive into a theater for rehearsal. West 51st Street can sometimes feel less like a two-way street and more like a small town. Moving before rental prices started to rebound after the pandemic crisis turned out to be the right move for Mr Tom.

“It’s calm, but I feel like I can do it as hard as I want,” Mr Tom said of his one bedroom apartment. His biggest purchase in the event of a pandemic was a Kawai piano, which he can enthusiastically play thanks to the pre-war walls of his building. In fact, his next door neighbor also plays the piano – they could do a duet, if only they could hear each other.

“I don’t hear the hustle and bustle of Midtown,” he said, “but I can walk outside and be exactly where I want to be.”


$ 2,025 | West city center

Occupation: Associate Program Leader of the Musical Theater Program at Pace University in Manhattan.
Favorite local cafe: “Bibble and Sip is a cafe owned by AAPI, with a llama as a mascot,” Mr. Tom said. “They have great cream puffs, the coffee is great – I love myself my Bibble.”
The show you must see right now: Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu “Go over.” “The writer does an amazing job having a conversation on stage, but also provoking the audience to have the conversation with himself,” he said.


Earlier this year, while living in a studio on the 125th and Broadway, Mr. Tom craved more space. The studio was so small that it had taken him months to properly arrange all of his furniture so that it was habitable. He had planned to spend two months this summer in South Carolina, working on a student production of “Hello, Dolly!” and he was worried that the rents would increase considerably by the time he returned to town.

Moving downtown was a top priority. The drive from Harlem to the Pace campus in the Financial District – which could take up to an hour and a half, at the whim of the MTA – had started to strain Mr. Tom. Many of his workdays started with classes at 9 a.m. and ended with rehearsals that lasted late into the night, which meant he arrived home after midnight and had to get up at 5 a.m. to start all over again. “I am young and lively,” he said, “but I am not this young, and I’m not this lively.”

The route should be shortened. So he set his sights on an apartment below 72nd Street and above 14th Street, looking primarily at apartments in Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown West, or near Lincoln Square. In Harlem, he had become accustomed to certain amenities that he knew he wouldn’t want to part with, namely a dishwasher and a gas stove, which helped him narrow down his options. (He loves to cook and regularly makes fresh pasta by hand.)

He eventually found a one-bedroom apartment on 51st Street in the heart of the Theater District, with a laundry room in the building and a small but well-equipped kitchen. The part-time doorman was a bonus, and he was delighted to be in front of the Gershwin, where he intends to see “Wicked”, his favorite musical, for the eighteenth time. It will be a celebration of his birthday in early September, but also of his first post-Covid musical, and a throwback to the second musical he ever saw when growing up in Arizona.

His new living room is roughly the size of his old apartment, and bathed in light despite the density of the neighborhood, which allowed him to develop his talents as a planter. “I’m no longer an excessive sprinkler,” he said with cautious pride. “Some plants do thrive, but with some of them I’m not sure if they’re the angry middle child or just don’t want to exist.”

With an influx of plants and an improved sofa, Mr. Tom was careful not to clutter his apartment with too many plants, given the importance of acoustics to both his personal piano practice and his work as a coach. . When a room includes more things that sound can bounce off, the sound fades faster. In his relatively free living room, he said, “I can play music and I feel like I’m immersed in music.

The artwork hanging in the room is a large abstract piece that Mr. Tom commissioned from painter Ariel Messeca, who is a friend. A trio of abstract paintings by Joseph Dermody, an artist from Connecticut, hang in his bedroom. The abstraction appeals to Mr. Tom: “I often sit at my desk and at my piano,” he said, “and I like looking at something that doesn’t have prescribed meaning, so that I can give myself a creative mind. Pause.”

Beyond sufficient space and healthier commuting, this new apartment has given Mr. Tom a better work-life balance even when working in the neighborhood. The location allowed him to take freelance coaching jobs that he previously would have turned down for commuting reasons. Now, when he takes a break for lunch and dinner, he can go home to recharge his batteries.

For those in the theater industry, “the pandemic has forced us to ask ourselves, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if the industry was better for us?’ And I think part of that is making sure you can stand up for yourself and take care of yourself, ”Mr. Tom said. “Being around the theater is great because I can get in there, but also get out for a while when I need to. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Move to the theater district and find your community
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