BY JASON SHEFTELL (NY Daily News)
Thursday, September 6th 2007, 4:00 AM
Jeffrey Tabak has been selling real estate in Tribeca since before it was even called Tribeca. The one-man firm he started in the back room of his father’s Hudson St. law practice was the neighborhood’s first real estate agency.
“Back then, Tribeca was called ‘the Washington Market area’ or ‘the City Hall area,'” says Tabak, sitting on the deck of his Chambers St. apartment, where he has lived for the past 14 years. “Or else we would just say, ‘close to Wall St.’ ”
“There was no PS 234 in Tribeca at that time,” says Tabak, referring to the top-rated New York elementary school that has helped Tribeca become one of the strongest neighborhoods for families with young children.
“The influx of celebrities also gave this neighborhood a huge push. After John F. Kennedy Jr. moved here, I was showing apartments to a different A-list per week.” After all these years, Tabak is as much a part of Tribeca as Bubby’s, the bar/restaurant made famous when Kennedy became a nightly regular. But you’d better be a neighborhood staple when you decide to change the name of your firm to “Tabak is Tribeca.”
“Myself and my two agents were in one of our weekly meetings,” says Tabak. “The realty names sound the same, and after all this time I just felt ‘Tabak is Tribeca’ was appropriate to market what I believe is our strength. We know the neighborhood better than anyone else who could even attempt to sell real estate here.”
He’s not being conceited. There probably isn’t an apartment in the neighborhood that’s been sold that he hasn’t seen. That’s what makes him a successful boutique broker, his intimate knowledge of the local turf.
Tabak is well-known by residents and waves to almost every other passerby from his office on Reade St. He employs two agents; one, Andrew Melnick, has been with him since 1991.
Melnick, who is equally well-known by the locals, has coached soccer and Little League in Tribeca for more than a decade. It seems there isn’t a child or parent who walks by whom he doesn’t know. When they consider selling their apartment, they call Tabak.
“Some of the spaces in the neighborhood we’ve sold or rented multiple times over the years,” says Melnick. “We know the spaces much longer than we know the people who live there.”
Tribeca has seen great growth in popularity in recent years. Two huge condo developments are going up on Chambers St. A Whole Foods store will arrive with those new buildings. But it hasn’t always been a popular area.
Just 30 years ago, Tribeca was a bikers’ and artists’ haven. Empty warehouses were used for squatting, and bars were filled with tough guys.
But it had the perfect makings of a residential neighborhood. Cobblestone streets and former factories intrigued New Yorkers looking for big spaces near Wall St.
The neighborhood rode a long wave of success until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 sent people packing. Tribeca became cloaked with 18 inches of debris from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. The die-hards, says Tabak, stayed. Some even moved up to bigger apartments, taking advantage of the discounted prices.
“I got the keys to 35 apartments sent to me with calls from the owner asking me to sell their apartments,” says Tabak, sadly. “It was a tough time. But after two years, new families have moved in. Now all those people who left want to come back.”
Outside on the streets, kids are playing in Washington Market Park. Two giant cranes working on new residences hover above the West Side Highway. Baby carriages line up outside the 24-hour McDonald’s. It’s as much a family scene as you’d see at a suburban Chuck E. Cheese’s.
“Tribeca is and will always be all about families,” says Tabak. “And we’ll be here to help them find a place to live.”