New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

COVID-19

Fictional Upper West Side Co-op Is the Star of New Show

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Co-op board, Upper West Side, Netflix, COVID-19, reality TV.

An Upper West Side co-op is the setting for the new series, "The Building."

July 31, 2020

“The Building: Under Lockdown” is a new TV show about New Yorkers stuck in their co-op apartments during a pandemic that was created by New Yorkers stuck in their co-op apartments during a pandemic. It was made using – what else? – Zoom, Brick Underground reports. 

The series, written by playwright and TV writer Ed Napier and co-directed by Emmy-winning TV producer Jesse Green and actress/filmmaker Jodie Markell, will run on YouTube. The scripted series, which is filmed by the actors themselves in their own homes and features careful use of b-roll and green screens, convincingly depicts residents of an Upper West Side co-op building trying to navigate the surreal “new normal” of the coronavirus outbreak. 

The season is divided into “cycles,” and the first one has six episodes and depicts the start of the COVID-19 pandemic up until the Black Lives Matter protests. The first episode is called “March 13th, 2020.” Videos will be released biweekly. 

But how real is the real estate depicted? Thanks to the format, it’s very real.

In the opening scene, co-op resident Stephen Cho (Pun Bandhu), a physician who is treating COVID-19 patients, is being banned by the board president, Gladys Pasternak (Kathryn Grody) from his Riverside building out of fear he will spread the virus. This story is ripped from the headlines, a nod to the true-life story of a doctor from New Hampshire who came to New York to volunteer his services during the pandemic – only to be barred from sleeping in his brother’s vacant Upper West Side apartment by the co-op board. 

“The Building” perfectly captures what New York co-op dwellers do best in times of stress: Kvetch! Via phone or Zoom, residents gossip about each other viciously. Stephen’s wife, Mallory Catalano (Alexandra Napier) wishes the coronavirus upon elderly Gladys, saying that after 22 years as board president, it’s “time for her to go” – as in, permanently. This sort of mean-spirited humor strikes a chord. Any New Yorker who has lived in a high rise knows that hell can be other people, particularly those in close proximity who have been running the building for more than two decades. 

Producer Anne Hamburger describes the show’s characters as “sometimes insufferable and sometimes lovable, comically idiosyncratic and infuriatingly stubborn – but ultimately, they are extraordinarily human.” Which is one way of saying they’re typical board members and shareholders in a New York City co-op. In other words, this show is reality real-estate TV.

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