Longtime Downtown resident Sandy Imhoff dies at 70

Photo by Louie Fleck

Sandy Imhoff, whose story and cats were recently featured in the international press when they were stranded by the collapse of the parking garage on Ann Street, died Saturday in the temporary apartment her landlord had secured on Sullivan Street. The cause has not been determined, but her tight circle of friends have painted a picture of her as a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker who made lasting friendships that spanned decades, who put her animals before herself, who loved the world of film and to the end, Downtown.

Her cat Cathy is also now seeking a home. She is with one downtown friend now — Tribecan Sue Moon — but Sue’s travel schedule won’t allow her to keep a pet permanently. So if you can adopt Cathy, who is a sweet 14-year-old with little fangs (!), comment here or email me at tribecacitizen@gmail.com.

Sandy lived for more than four decades in a second floor loft at 55 Ann, sharing a party wall with the garage. When it collapsed, a huge hole was torn in her living room wall, sending bricks and dirt into her apartment. “I was just in shock,” Sandy told The Post on April 18. “I was worried for the other people in the building.”

Sandy fled outside with her dog, but had to leave her two cats inside. That started an odyssey for Sandy over the next 10 days, where she moved four or five times around the city, an exhausting cycle that ended at an apartment on Sullivan Street secured by her landlord. (The cats were rescued by DOB in an effort that was covered by The Guardian.) But Sandy — a breast cancer survivor — was also suffering from MS, and the lack of sleep, physical exertion, worry and skipped medications, which were also left behind for several days, caused her symptoms to flare up, said her friend Joan Albert.

Photo by Sandy Imhoff

“She was not one to complain about things and she was very concerned about her animals — she prioritized them over herself for those last 10 days,” Joan said. “None of us realized how badly she was doing at that point. The stress and exhaustion had to be really really hard on her. When Sandy didn’t pick up the phone last week, Joan asked Sue to check on her at the apartment on Sullivan, where she was discovered dead. The medical examiner will send a report to the next of kin this week.

“I know all of us keep thinking: if only,” Joan said. “If only we insisted she go to the ER or helped her move in to Sullivan. If only.”

Sandy, who turned 70 last October, was a pioneer in the video animation craft, working first with slides and film and later with an Amiga computer, when personal computing first took hold, and eventually on a fleet of Macs that she had set up in her apartment. Many of her friends came from that world, “we called it AV work,” said former Tribecan Louie Fleck, who is now the manager of the archives at BAM.

Starting in the early ’80s, the two of them worked on countless video campaigns — at first creating multi-image slideshows with banks of projectors programmed by computers — until a year or two before the pandemic.

Photo by Louie Fleck

After growing up in Connecticut, she made her move to New York City immediately, going to the School of Visual Arts and settling downtown for good. One of her first jobs after school, Louie said, was pulling prints at a silk screen studio for artists including Tribecan Richard Serra; she had a few prints from those days in her apartment.

She doted on her animals, and over the years had a stable of Borzois — Russian wolfhounds — all from the same breeder. “Her love of animals was a major part of her life,” said her friend Clare Piaget, who lived in Tribeca for years and said Sandy was also part of the dog community in the neighborhood — she walked her dogs to the dog park in Battery Park City. “She always had at least one dog, frequently two, and multiple cats in her loft.”

Her New York group of friends bonded over movies, and Sandy would rally everyone for the New York Film Festival every year as a member of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. And she was a regular at the museums, especially MoMA. She was an introvert, friends said, but still thrived in New York City. “She loved New York City and I do too, so we connected on that,” said Louie. “She loved the grittiness and the funkiness.”

On 9/11, Louie and Sandy were scheduled to start work together in her loft around 9:30a, with him walking over from his apartment on Franklin and Greenwich. That never happened, but the next day he found her still in her loft in a state of shock, her block dusted with debris from the towers. “She stayed in her loft the whole time, never left,” Joan said. “Where was she going to go? Where would her animals go? I remember coordinating some grocery deliveries, since it got harder and harder to get to the apartment.” Her MS diagnosis came after that.

Had she lived, MS might have driven her from the loft that she loved: the steep stairs were getting harder to navigate, Joan said, and she was leaving less and less.

Friends said the family will be managing her affairs from here. But her network across all the phases of her life are now connected for the first time. “She has a lot of friends in different groups — the dog park, childhood, Downtown, college, work,” Joan said. “This event has brought us all together and in touch with each other. Hopefully we will all get together to remember her soon.”


1 Comment

  1. Sandy turned me on to the world of
    art and Art history. We would often skip school to go into the Guggenheim or the Whitney, or the museum of Modern Art.
    I am shocked and saddened by this, and had hoped to see her in NYC one of these years.