Loft Peeping: The catacombs of 152 Reade

There was no way I was turning down a chance to see inside a Reade Street Petrarca building, and while those townhouses never disappoint (the 24-foot ceilings! an elevator! 8000 square feet!) what I didn’t expect were the building’s extensive vaults. It’s disorienting being underground, but it seemed to me like we were actually under the road bed, and not just under the sidewalk like other vaults I have seen. (And there are some really fabulous ones in this neighborhood.)

Of course John Petrarca left what I would say is an indelible stamp on the neighborhood with those buildings — both for their grandeur but also their style, which to me sums up the best of new (these were finished in 2001) construction in Tribeca today: clearly contemporary but with a (deep) bow to historic features, scale and materials. They stand out AND fit in here. (His own home at 158 Reade is even more handsome.) All four townhouses are heated with a geothermal system that brings water up from a 1200-foot deep well — putting Petrarca ahead of his time on sustainability as well.

The house is owned by Michael George and Elaine Pang, who bought it in 2005 for $7.4 million and it is listed now for $15 million. Thanks for the tour go to Brandon Trentham, who has the listing with Compass.



  1. John also renovated the small triangular building on the corner of Reade, plus designed and built the black steel townhouse to the west of the ones pictured (He had the front of the building fabricated into one large piece and brought in by truck) Reade street was closed so he could lift the facade into place. In addition he was instrumental in the narrowing of Greenwich Street. Traffic used to fly down Greenwich to avoid bottlenecks on West Street. He, and other early community activists, got approval to narrow the street and they raised money (sale of bricks) to partially fund it. He was a very creative, and devoted to the community. He is missed.

  2. Twenty years ago, I shot some pictures for John Petrarca of his staff on the roof of the building that would soon be torn down to build the townhouses on Reade Street. While we were there, they showed me the tunnels underneath- they said they used to extend all the way under the street and connect to the building on the other side, but the connection had been severed years prior to that, I think when the other building was torn down? Perhaps this is where the rumor of cow tunnels in Tribeca comes from?

    His untimely passing was a great loss to Tribeca.

    • Robert, this is so interesting!! I was actually pacing the floor underneath there and it definitely seemed like we were way past the edge of the sidewalk. Amazing. If you find those pictures, share with me!

  3. Will have to pull out the contact sheet, but I don’t think I took any photos down there at the time…

  4. I worked with John on the planning of these houses. And I sold all of them as his broker. He created the first new townhouse row south of Canal Street in 150 years, since the construction and later demolition of St. John’s Row, around what is now the Holland Tunnel Rotary. The vaults under 148- , 150, 152, and 156 Reade Street are enormous and extend deep into the street because they housed a brine utility earlier in the century. The brine pumping house was on Staple Street, I believe; The brine circulated through large pipes in those vaults, to keep food cool in the butter-and-egg warehouses in the neighborhood before refrigeration. John was a visionary, and had he not passed away prematurely, he would now be recognized as one of the country’s great architects.

  5. I guess it is just all how one looks at things. I miss the old Reade Street with the numerous little buildings. The townhouses lack personalality and style. But they are now part of the neighborhood so oh well.
    It was also nice to be able to rent a car on Reade Street too…oh, and buy an oven! Dating myself I know but you can’t buy me on the idea that change was better on this street.