A Los Angeles Transplant Decides to Stay

A Los Angeles Transplant Decides to Stay

Some eight years ago, Revalyn Gold sublet her apartment in Los Angeles to a friend and moved to New York to take care of her aunt Helen, who lived in Morningside Heights.

“I lived very happily in L.A., but my aunt got very sick. I was the only one free enough to be with her,” said Ms. Gold, an actress, writer and director. She had always been close to her aunt, a sophisticated, stylish woman who provided glamorous Manhattan interludes in Ms. Gold’s Baltimore childhood.

“She took us to see the Rockettes, my sister and I, and ice skating. I loved to watch her put on makeup. She was in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and she loved to travel. Sometimes she spoke French to me,” Ms. Gold recalled.

“She was a pioneer,” she added. “One of the first African-American women to graduate from Syracuse University.”

Ms. Gold did not intend to stay in New York, but by the time her aunt died, six weeks before her 100th birthday, Ms. Gold had lost her place in Los Angeles.

“I got stuck,” she said. “I knew that if I went back to L.A., I would have to start all over again. Here, I was more starting than starting over.”

And in New York, unlike in Los Angeles, she had a place to stay. Though her aunt’s apartment had been sold, a friend was leaving a one-bedroom in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to move in with his partner in Manhattan. The building was somewhat shabby, she thought, but she liked the apartment itself, which had high ceilings and hardwood floors. And in many ways the city suited her, apart from the high rent and lack of greenery.

“I like all the avenues that lead to art and culture. I like being on a train, and meeting the eyes of a very young child, and we smile at each other. I like the subway, as crazy as it gets sometimes,” Ms. Gold said. “I like the influx of humanity in New York.”

It was not the first time a short-term stay in New York had morphed into a much longer one for Ms. Gold. In the 1960s, after her second year of college, she came to stay with her aunt in Morningside Heights for the summer and remained for several years.

“Through my aunt, I was introduced to Robert Hooks and the Group Theater Workshop” — a prominent African-American actor who formed an acting workshop in 1964 — “and I couldn’t go back to school after that,” she said.

After several years of sharing an apartment on East 21st Street, however, she got a scholarship to the Yale School of Drama, then landed a role in the Negro Ensemble Company’s production of “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men,” which traveled across the country, ending with a run in Hollywood.

She decided to stay there, settling in an airy apartment in Leimert Park, where she raised her daughter and lived for about 30 years. It had a big bird of paradise tree out front, front and back porches, a beautiful, tiled bathroom and a living room with beamed ceilings and a wood-burning fireplace.

“There was a park nearby with a lot of concerts, and I could just open the windows and listen to the music,” Ms. Gold said. “That apartment had a very nice vibe. It suited my spirit.”

She was paying just $550, an amount far enough below market to make it worthwhile for the landlord to initiate eviction proceedings, claiming that there had been a change in tenancy, although she had sublet the place with the landlord’s permission. A mediator hearing the case decided in the landlord’s favor, she said.

Hence, New York. After decades away, it was like moving to a new city.

“I had fond memories of that time,” she said of her earlier stint in New York. “But a lot of people I started out with were not here anymore. Some people I knew had died, some had moved, some were like superstars. Some were like falling stars.”

Brooklyn was also new to her when she moved into her apartment, a fourth-floor walk-up for which she pays $1,170 a month. She likes being on the top floor, except when she has to do laundry or has just come back from grocery shopping. And she likes the apartment’s French doors, although “if they actually fit, that would be better,” she said with a laugh.

Ms. Gold is constantly fine-tuning the décor. Some pieces are ideal for her needs, like the large armoire in the living room that holds hats and headwraps in a variety of fabrics and patterns, but she is still on the hunt for a sofa.

“The neighborhood is great for finding things,” she said. “At one point, I needed a lamp, and I walked down the street and there was a lamp. That’s happened a number of times.”

She also likes living close to the main branch of the public library, which she was delighted to discover loans musical instruments.

“I love the library,” she said. “It makes it convenient for people to get things done and participate in creating their own lives.”

It would, of course, be nice if there was a wood-burning fireplace and more foliage around her building. But those things, she observed, are not so easy to come by in New York.

“I’ve never lived in a place that was so unnecessarily barren,” she said. “But otherwise, I really like this building. I really do. I like the people who live on this floor. It’s New York, so you’re always going to have a writer and an actor and people from different cultures.”

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