Director Adria Petty Puts East Village Dream Pad on the Market

Photos: Lauren Carol Smith.

After more than ten years, Adria Petty – the photographer and commercial, documentary, and music video director –  is selling her condo at 325 East Ninth Street. The three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot unit, at the ground floor of a building that dates back to 1905, is going for $1.995 million.

Since 2008, Ms. Petty – daughter of rock star Tom – has spent most of her time in her native Los Angeles, shooting music videos (most notably Beyonce’s “Countdown” and “Sweet Dreams”) and advertisements, including spots for Clorox and McDonald’s. But yesterday at a meeting in her East Village kitchen, she told The Local that she has moved back to New York in the interest of “inspiration and good people.” In February, she bought a small apartment off of Washington Square Park. Her Ninth Street digs hit the market last week.

Ms. Petty first moved to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College, and graduated in 1996. After short stays in Tribeca and the West Village, she found the apartment on Ninth Street sometime around 2000. She wasn’t necessarily looking to settle east of Broadway. (“When I was in college,” she said, “the perception was that this was a druggy, scary neighborhood – but it’s not. It’s pretty friendly and awesome.”) But she was lured by the apartment’s fireplaces and garden – things, she said, “that keep you feeling a lot more alive during the winter and extreme summer in New York.” She fell in love with the space immediately after walking in for the first time and looking down into the sunken living room, with its dramatic candelabra chandelier.

“I really liked the way it was laid out,” she said, “because you could be in any room in the house and feel like there’s no one here. There can be 10 people in the garden at a dinner and it’ll still feel really empty.”

She also loved the block between Second and First Avenues, which she described as a “supportive, beautiful” community dotted with small shops like Archangel Antiques as well as the longstanding Source Unltd Copy Shop, where she would often run business errands. “They’re sort of like the stores of people’s dreams,” she said.

DSC_0054Lauren Carol Smith

Ms. Petty said that when she bought the house, she paid five times the amount that the previous buyers had paid five years prior (she declined to give the exact amount). “I got it at a time when real estate was overvalued, but got it at a good price because it wasn’t in the West Village. But it offered me so much more in terms of a lifestyle and in terms of a destination for my friends.” For a while, she had a standing Sunday brunch where friends could drop in to read the paper by the fireplace or lounge in the garden.

She also found the apartment useful for work: She designed the artwork and packaging for her father’s album “The Last D.J.” there. The opening sequence of the Crimea video “Opposite Ends” was shot in the bathroom before it was renovated – “when it was really raw and scary,” she said. She and Manhattan songstress Regina Spektor used the kitchen table to lay out a magazine that accompanied the initial release of Ms. Spektor’s album, “Soviet Kitsch.” (Ms. Petty also directed the videos for “Us” and “Ode to Divorce” off of the album.)

That spirit of casual collaboration is what has brought Ms. Petty back to New York, where she now lives across Washington Square Park from Anna Gabriel, another Sarah Lawrence alum and celebrity offspring (she’s the daughter of pop singer Peter Gabriel). Like Ms. Petty – whose revealing portrait of Paris Hilton, “Paris, Not France,” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2008 and was picked up by MTV – Ms. Gabriel directs documentaries and music videos. Both filmmakers have documented their fathers on tour (Ms. Petty was the second unit director in Peter Bogdanovich’s film about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”)

“What is good here is that you can harness a lot of talent and get people to work with you even if it’s not an industry-status thing or a really profitable job,” said Ms. Petty of New York. “People want to get together and express themselves in the visual media in the same way they would with music.”

Ms. Petty admitted that the East Village isn’t exactly what it was to her at the beginning of the millennium: “When I left college, the scene in the East Village was very similar to what Williamsburg has become – you’d see everyone on the street and have all of your buddies a few blocks away. But people grow up and they get jobs and they have families.”

But she still finds the neighborhood inspiring, citing the Bowery and a portion of Avenue A near East Seventh Street as creative centers: “To say the neighborhood isn’t the neighborhood anymore is not true because there are things like that block where Johnny [the owner of Niagara who goes by Johnny T.] has taken Niagara and Cabin [Down Below] and Black Market – and Sidewalk has become a much cooler establishment. That little hub is very much alive and kicking, and so is the Bowery Hotel.”

“There is a community and a neighborhood that looks after you,” said Ms. Petty.

For a price, all that can now be yours, with a little bit of beach chic thrown in. Before The Local left, Ms. Petty strolled out to the lovely back patio and showed off some new shingles on the building’s back wall that she said would turn silver as they aged over the next year. The effect, she said, was very Nantucket.

Check back with The Local on Friday for “Adria Petty’s East Village.” She’ll tell us about all of her favorite local haunts.