Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Professor John’s Hoboken Real Estate and Culture Dialogue

Here is a new column from Professor John Bredin who in addition to teaching as a professor, and now moonlighting as a real estate agent, also hosts a community talk show at the Symposia Book store. I hope this is the beginning of a periodic column here at the Hoboken Journal from the perspective of a man who sees the cultural value in living in the Mile Square.

Professor John’s Hoboken Real Estate and Culture Dialogue

As a freshly-minted real estate agent (sadly, college teaching doesn’t pay the bills) with a focus on high-end properties in Hoboken, my goal is to craft a holistic approach to the profession by caring as much about the community with a focus on the aesthetic, social, and cultural treasures that enrich our neighborhood as the beautiful features of homes in the Mile Square City.

In his 2000 book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Harvard professor Robert Putnam says the mental health of a community is best measured not by the number of friends you have, but by how many people you can have a brief chat with on the sidewalk heading home after work. By this standard, Hoboken must be one of the happiest places on earth! Washington Street, Hoboken’s main drag (recently voted one of the 10 best streets in the nation by the American Planning Association), has the feel of a classic Italian piazza: a great democratic mingling space the Romans referred to as “the commons;” where you founded the identity of your life in communion with fellow citizens.

A bohemian jam session in the Monroe Arts Center, during last week's Hoboken Artist Studio Tour.

A relaxing stroll down Washington Street, taking in the wonders of its historic architecture, also brings the magic possibility of a social encounter. As an English Professor, I have a particular interest in human dialogue. Martin Buber, the great theologian and author of I and Thou, has taught me something about the sacredness of authentic dialogue; a process enhanced whenever I remember what the psychologist Carl Rogers said about the importance of deep listening and acceptance of people. So, a simple walk down Washington Street to pick up a ripe avocado for dinner, for example might lead to an unexpected moment of connection with another person (even if just a friendly wave) that would be unheard of in the more alienated suburbs….or even in NYC. Yes, there is a touch of Mayberry in Hoboken: which is one reason why we love it!

As for the arts, I find it just as enchanting to behold the marvelous details of a Garden Street Brownstone as a funky, kaleidoscopic collage on the Hoboken Art Studio Tour. Just as my pulse never fails to quicken at the wondrous sight of the oversized, B and W still of Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront, hanging in the arched brick courtyard outside the Hoboken Museum. In the first Hollywood film shot entirely on location, Elia Kazan chose Hoboken for its authentic sense of place,a quality it still enjoys. Glancing at this iconic cinematic image, I’m reminded that I must be moving forward in my own quest to be a “contenda”, i.e. to enjoy a life filled with purpose and meaning—simply by living in such a cool city as Hoboken!

I’d like this column to open up a collaborative space to celebrate the current wonders of Hoboken….and to ponder ways of improving it. For me, that would include expanding its arts infrastructure to feature more gallery spaces, and to create more venues for theatre, dance, and independent cinema. I chose to hang my license at Halliburton Homes on First Street because of its intelligent, aesthetic and evolved nature: the same qualities I seek to expand in the world through my teaching. It’s the furthest thing from a real estate “chop shop” that you could imagine. Halliburton also happens to be the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified retail real estate broker in the United States.

One glance at the spectacular photographs in our office, taken by Cindy Halliburton, of an atmospheric old barn in Woodstock, NY where the recycled wood for our desks was harvested from, tells you all you need to know about the integrity of this company. These are photographs even Alfred Stiglitz (a former friend of Picasso’s, and Hobokenite, he lived at 500 Hudson Street, who put photography in the same “high art” league as paintings and sculpture) would’ve approved of.

Moving forward, as a dialogic project, I’d like to invite your reflections (or stories) on the unique qualities that make Hoboken one of the best places to live in America. Releasing your imagination, feel free to send an idea about how to make it better too. Real estate questions are also welcome. My e-mail is john@halliburtonhomes.
-John Bredin

Here are some photos of interest that tie into the theme of John's piece he submitted for inclusion:

Elvis is right outside the building!!! Interesting characters add a carnivalesque flair to Hoboken's already vibrant street life.

Garden Street Enchantment!

Amidst bookstore closings throughout Hudson County, Symposia remains a blessed source of intellectual (and social) nourishment.

Hoboken's place in cinema history was established when On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando, was shot here in 1954. What future films will be made here, by the "contenda's" in our midst?

Because of Hoboken's own Alfred Stiglitz, photography is now considered a fine art. Current, and future, art innovators may walk among us now in the Mile Square City.

This wintry dreamscape from Woodstock, NY was captured by the photographic art of Cindy Halliburton. To reduce its carbon footprint, Halliburton Homes had its desks made out of recycled wood from this barn.