On Henderson Place, “they look out for their neighbors.” After 32 years, Kevin Bing, who now tends the door at Henderson House, should know.
Part of the building at 535 E. 86th Street occupies what was the west side of the cul de sac of Henderson Place. The 1959 midrise faces a set of buildings almost 100 years older than itself.
In 1881, developer John Henderson built 32 houses for “persons of moderate means.” Twenty-four of the Queen Anne-style houses remain, designated as the Henderson Place Historic District in 1969, on the corner of East 86th Street and East End Avenue, stretching a full block north to 87th Street.
Even near the turn of the 19th Century the houses were considered small. Rent, according to The New York Times, was $650 a year, low compared to up to $1,500 charged for other row houses in Manhattan. The first residents were, in fact, “moderate:” an electrician, a hat and collar maker, someone who worked with coal, a florist, clerical employees of private clubs. By the 1920’s, however, one of the once low-cost houses had become home to The Duke and Duchess of Richelieu; another housed war correspondent Horace Green and his family, including two governesses.
Henderson Place has a spirit, a definite character, said Bing. “When I came here, it was always family oriented.” Today, people are so absorbed and pressured, a lot more detached. There’s no time for small talk.”
The charming gatekeeper, who once worked in retail sales at Saks, has watched a generation grow up. Some have moved on, many have stayed. “There’s still a lot of affection. People look out for their neighbors.”
Asked what he would change about Henderson Place, Bing turned traditional. “You see that asphalt? I would make it as it was. The cul de sac is a part of history; it should have cobblestones, a place to relax Cars and parking take away from the history.”
For driver Edward John, Henderson Place has been both a place to rest and a frequent starting point for his job. Virtually every morning, his shining black car is parked at the corner of Henderson Place and 86th, awaiting a morning commuter.
“It’s a service the building never promised,” Bing said. “Everybody loves it.