The students are everyone from a kindergarten teacher to Alan Cumming. You never know who is going to walk through the door,” Alex Schatzberg tells me when I meet him on the top floor of 9 St. Marks Place in the East Village, which is both where he lives and home to his New Vibe Yoga studio. It’s a cold day, but the room gets plenty of light — nothing around here is much taller than his building — and he has the wood-burning stove going to keep it toasty.
Schatzberg, 36, grew up in Marin County, California, came to New York to attend the Gallatin School at NYU in 2006, and graduated in 2010. He has been practicing yoga since he was 18 and started New Vibe in a townhouse owned by Doris Kornish, the co-founder of Two Boots Pizza, who had been one of his students. When she had to leave it, so did he. But he’d met Charles FitzGerald, who owns several buildings in the neighborhood and has opened many shops, including Bowl & Board (later renamed In the Woods) and Grizzly Furs, since first moving to St. Marks Place in 1959. FitzGerald still lives at No. 12 with his wife, Kathy.
He offered Schatzberg a 1,600-square-foot live-work space in 9 St. Marks Place, an 1833 Federal-style building he bought in 1967 for $75,000, when it was an SRO. FitzGerald had renovated it, clearing out the small rooms and opening up each floor, recycling the bricks by building fireplaces. Then, a year in, a boiler fire gutted the building — except for the wooden spiral staircase — and he had to begin all over again. (The building now has a sprinkler system.)
These days, No. 9 is home to a Korean restaurant, Boka, specializing in fried chicken, on the ground floor; a karaoke place, Sing Sing, on what was once the parlor floor; and, on the top floor, New Vibe Yoga. There are no other residential tenants right now in the building. During the pandemic, when Schatzberg was unable to teach classes in person, FitzGerald had him take care of the place and gave him a break on rent. “I don’t look at being a landlord like, ‘Pay this and I won’t have anything to do with you.’ I feel like I have some responsibility to make sure they succeed,” FitzGerald says.
Schatzberg refinished all the wood floors and single-slab counters throughout the building. He built a roof garden and an outdoor shower. “I take care of everything when there is a problem in the house, so I’ve worked with carpenters, roofers, masons, plumbers, you name it!” Now that his yoga business is up and running again, he has launched on the premises a lifestyle brand of New Vibe clothing, a fragrance, and home goods. “I call this place my little incubator,” he says.
Despite there being a karaoke bar and restaurant below, the street noise on the weekends is really his only issue, but then again, his studio overlooks two tall oak trees that FitzGerald planted as tiny saplings in the early ’70s, which, along with the wall of plants that thrive in the sunny southern exposure, bring the natural world in even in winter.
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