Written by Tad Friend and Originally Published in The New Yorker on May 27, 2013
Manhattan, the vertical city, greets newcomers as a sheer rockface. To even begin the ascent requires agility, nerve, and a secure base camp. If you can’t establish that base—the right apartment—the plunge is swift: you bounce to a friend’s couch, then to a squat in Bushwick, and suddenly you’re at the Port Authority holding a sign for bus fare home.
In the spring and summer of last year, people from all over—from Brazil, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Bangladesh, Japan, even the Upper West Side—pounced on a Craigslist ad for a base camp in Chelsea: a twenty-five-hundred-square-foot loft with two large bedrooms and two baths. When they visited, Apartment 6-E at 211 West Twentieth Street proved even better than advertised. The ceilings were eleven feet high, and the windows and pendant lamps flooded light across a wood-burning fireplace, Mies Barcelona chairs, and a West Elm sofa set topped with Hermès blankets. Almost everything was dazzling white: walls, floors, furniture—even the books were cloaked in white jackets.
The apartment’s owner and impresario was a photographer named Michael Tammaro. In profile, Tammaro, who was fifty-four, resembled the Indian on the Buffalo nickel, but he was a fey charmer who adorned his shaved head with a driving cap and his arms with a Cartier watch and a gold Hermès bracelet. The one constant of his ever-changing décor was Tucker, a boisterous pit-bull-and-shepherd-mix rescue dog. On Facebook, he posted a photo of him and his dog on a rocky beach and captioned it “Family Portrait.” . . .