The last time we checked, Greenwich Village remains among Manhattan’s most expensive neighborhoods with the median asking rent coming in at $3,550. On top of high rent prices are high sales, including a spate of recent celebrity homes for sale such as Keith Richards’ $12M penthouse.  Gone are the days when the Village was best known for its provincial customs and grassroots activism by the likes of Jane Jacobs. While the neighborhood of local shopkeepers and familiar faces still exists, it’s in bits and pieces. And the life and apartment of Patricia O’Grady is testament to all of this.

O’Grady’s Rent Only Increased By $12 Over 60 Years

O’Grady was the fortunate beneficiary of a rent-controlled 1-bedroom apartment at 498 Sixth Ave at the corner of West 13th Street. Up until her death in March 2018, O’Grady had been paying $28 per month in rent. Incredibly over the 60 years she lived there, her apartment only increased by a total of $12. Based on current prices, a typical renter in Greenwich Village pays over triple that on a daily basis.

She Had a Small Role in ‘Taxi’

O’Grady moved into the apartment in 1955 with a couple girlfriends, according to the New York Post, which broke the story. She was just 21, fresh out of UC Berkeley, and hoping to start her career as an actress.  The apartment was a classic New York City walk-up. It had no heat and no running water. Over time, the young women would make some updates to the place but not many. A sink was about as far as they got in modern amenities. During the course of 60 years, the roommates eventually moved out, the beatniks came and left the Village and the building changed hands. O’Grady had a couple of brushes with acting fame, including a minor part in “Taxi Driver,” but through it all she remained in the apartment with the bare necessities.

Aside from the piles of shopping bags, growing stacks of books and a Hillary bumper sticker, the apartment had stopped in time and remained unheated and without running water up until O’Grady’s death.

O’Grady Refused Improvements to the Apartment

According to Adam Pomerantz, who purchased the building in 2002 and owns Murray’s Bagel next door at 500 Sixth Ave., O’Grady resisted updates or modernization for the apartment. After the building’s ownership changed hands, Pomerantz did up the rent by a total of $1.98 over what O’Grady had previously been paying. He even tried to install a heating system. O’Grady declined his offer, but accepted the higher rent. She would drop her rent in the mailbox on the corner of West 13th each month as she always had. Most of Pomerantz’s tenants left their rent at the bagel shop downstairs since it was easier. Despite the hassle of postage, “She was very quick paying her $28,” Pomerantz said.

Image of rental controlled apartment greenwich village

Adam Pomerantz. Source: Stefano Giovannini

A Life Lived on Sixth Avenue

Like her apartment, O’Grady herself was something from another era and for her, the Village truly was a village. She was a regular on the Sixth Avenue circuit, frequenting the Ansonia Pharmacy, the Joffrey Ballet School where she took classes for years and the McBurney YMCA, a downtown institution.

Most gym members would not recognize O’Grady from her headshot, but rather from her practically gravity defying posture. She walked nearly at a right angle, making it hard to see her face. She would spend the majority of her day at the Y — a respite from her decrepit apartment – where she would shower in the mornings and spend the rest of the day chatting with friends in the women’s locker room or reading the New York Times in the Y’s communal reading room. She would take her meals at the diner across the street from the Y on 14th Street and then go to church for evening mass. She would typically stay at the Y until closing at 11:30 p.m. and then make her way back down Sixth Avenue to her apartment.

The Village Loses O’Grady

In March, O’Grady was fatally hit by a car on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 13th Street, just steps from her apartment. And with her death, the Village lost a local fixture; her signature posture and granny cart were a common sight and immediately recognizable in the community. O’Grady’s death will also mean the loss of a rent-controlled unit of housing, a disappearing rarity in NYC real estate. Pomerantz has plans to gut renovate the unit and lease it as a market-rate property. Although he hasn’t indicated how much it will command, comparable units on Sixth Avenue have recently been advertised for as much as $3,400.