February 17, 2019

February 13, 2019

CONFIDENTIAL: Tudor City's Most Sensational Crime

This episode of our Confidential series looks at the most sensational crime ever committed in the colony ‒ the notorious 1985 triple slaying in a Tudor Tower studio apartment.

George Senty
Three bodies are discovered in the apartment the morning of January 3, 1985. The victims are George Senty, 62, a freelance photographer and tenant of the apartment; Piroska Lantos, 29, a fashion model with whom Senty was obsessed; and Agnes Gramiss, 37, Piroska's roommate. All three are Hungarian.

Senty, a Budapest native, emigrated to New York in 1957 and opened a photo studio. He readily adapts to American ways, and by the '70s is sporting designer jeans and gold neck chains. He's quite the ladies' man, despite a perpetual cash-flow problem.

When visiting Budapest, he drives a Lincoln Continental and claims to be a famous fashion photographer. Everyone believes him, but in fact, his New York studio is barely scraping by. By 1984, he's decidedly on the downswing, mired in debt, and reduced to selling his cameras.

Piroska Lantos, photographed by Senty

Enter Piroska Lantos, Hungary's top model. For years, Senty has been urging her to come to New York, where he'll make her a star. He's hopelessly infatuated with her. In March 1984, she finally accepts his offer, even agreeing to move in with him. Expecting a chic penthouse, she finds a Tudor City studio apartment instead. Her wannabe boyfriend, truth be told, is a complete fraud. 

She moves out, signs with Legends modeling agency and walks the runway for Ungaro, Carolina Herrera, and Guy LaRoche, among others.

Senty continues to pursue her, growing ever more obsessed. He morosely tells friends "she is a star and I am a nobody," and threatens suicide. He believes that her roommate, Agnes Gramiss, dislikes him and is turning Piroska against him. He's convinced the women are having an affair.

It all finally comes to a head on New Year's Day, 1985. After taking the women out to dinner, he invites them to his apartment for a champagne toast. He serves the champagne, then goes into the bathroom, pulls a chrome-plated 32-caliber snubnose revolver out of the hamper, and shoots both women dead. Then he kills himself with four shots to the chest.

The story was so shocking that it even made the front page of the New York Times. Over at the Daily News, Piroska's face held page one for two days running, above. [The Goetz headline refers to Bernie Goetz, the infamous subway vigilante who had shot four teenagers the preceding week.]

The community was stunned. The News ran a how-could-it-happen-here story, above.

For the definitive, in-depth account of the crime, check out Patricia
 Morrisroe's excellent New York magazine piece, "Obsession," here.

February 10, 2019


A 1940 view of what was then called the East River Drive, today known as the FDR. Top center, the meatpacking district, along with the two mega-smokestacks of Con Edison's steam plant. Tudor City, upper right corner.

February 6, 2019

Tudor City on Film: HERE AND NOW

This episode of Tudor City on Film looks at Here and Now, a 2018 drama starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Vivienne Carala, jazz singer. Vivienne learns she has a brain tumor in the first scene, and for the rest of the movie she wanders around Manhattan in a daze.

Her walking is mostly confined to the city's concrete-and-glass canyons, so the Tudor City sequence ‒ which opens in the verdant South Park ‒ provides some respite. The action then moves to the Tudor City Bridge.

See our earlier post on the filming of this sequence, here, when the picture was titled Best Day of My Life.

Above and below, Vivienne visits the South Park, looking very lush.

She goes to the bridge and ponders the East River. A woman passes by.

The woman speaks to her. "I saw a whale here once," she says enigmatically, gesturing toward the river. "Right there. Swimming. Big as a truck." Vivienne doesn't respond. "You don't believe me, do you?" the woman asks.
Vivienne remains silent, and the woman edges away. Vivienne crosses the street, phones her manager and arranges a meeting downtown. Cut to next scene.

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The downbeat subject matter was not an easy sell, and Here and Now was a flop, earning a dismal 23 rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossing $13,892 after a one-week run in 51 theaters. It was pulled from theaters, and is now available on DVD and streaming platforms.

February 3, 2019

NEW YORK NERVES Ad Campaign, 1933

Herewith, a series of ads from a November, 1933 campaign touting the restful side of Tudor City. (What was then called New York nerves is today more commonly referred to as stress.) We've appended each ad with select copy highlights.

"Does gulping your coffee morning after morning 
put your nerves on edge? Are you becoming a victim 
of rush and roar ‒ scurry and scramble? Then 
move to Tudor City and give your nerves a rest." 

"Does your heart lose a beat when your alarm clock
 shows 8:30 instead of 7:30?" In Tudor City, "you 
sleep until well after sunrise ‒ enjoy a leisurely
 breakfast ‒ and still have time to walk to your office."

"Give your nerves a permanent vacation" from 
commuting in Tudor City, where "two blocks of 
private parks put you far away from city noises. 
Here you can add an hour a day for recreation."

January 30, 2019

The French Plan

Newspaper ad detail, September 1928

Book given to prospective buyers
The French Plan, an innovative stock-issue concept that partly financed Tudor City, was created by Fred French in 1921. In brief, the French Company received no profits on a building until the investors had been paid back in full, along with a six percent cumulative dividend. After that, all profits were equally divided between investors and the company in perpetuity. Fred French's philosophy: "We prefer a small percentage of profit on a large business rather than a large percentage of profit on a small business."

Further sweetening the deal was the fact that the French Company was made up of many subsidiaries ‒ architecture, building, underwriting and management arms ‒ that lowered costs and streamlined the operation. 

By 1926, the French Company had over 10,000 stockholders and a combined capital of nearly $100 million. For the ambitious Tudor City project, each building was separately incorporated and financed with a mortgage and public stock.

The Ninth Unit is now known as Windsor Tower, No. 5
Stock certificate of six shares issued to one Henry P. Kirkham.

Although the French Plan stock repaid its investors' principle along with a six percent dividend, it ultimately proved to be no financial windfall. Tudor City was never wildly profitable. Occupancy shortfalls during the Depression depressed profits, and then, in 1943, the entire complex was placed under rent control, with mandated minimal rent increases. For decades thereafter, the colony's apartments rented at far below market value.

January 27, 2019


Today, a photograph that ran in National Geographic in 1930, with its original caption.

In this mass addition to the rapidly changing Grand Central zone is an image of tomorrow's world. The Chrysler Building, world's tallest, is at left. Superimposed on its facade in this picture is the Chanin Building. The white structure is the new Daily News Building. To the right of it, along the East River, are apartment houses of Tudor City.

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A few explanatory notes: the 'topless towers of Ilium' refers to Helen of Troy, famously possessed of "a face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium." [Ilium is another word for Troy, a fortified city known for its tall watchtowers].

The Chrysler Building (hidden behind the Chanin Building) is still under construction in the photo. It would be the world's tallest for all of 11 months, surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931.

A detail of the above photo, zooming in on the News Building and Tudor City.