A Clinton Hill Apartment With a Party Attached

A two-bedroom gets handed down to friends, along with the annual party that celebrates the New York City Marathon and its runners.

A Clinton Hill Apartment With a Party Attached

Patrick Sandefur first encountered this apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, when he attended a marathon party there in 2007. He took over the lease in 2011, and now lives there with his wife, Sarah Grace Holcomb.Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

A Clinton Hill Apartment With a Party Attached

The Clinton Hill apartment that Patrick Sandefur shares with his wife, Sarah Grace Holcomb, has a history tightly entwined with the New York City Marathon and those who lived there before them.

Mr. Sandefur first encountered the space in 2007, shortly after he moved to New York and was invited to a marathon party there. Arriving that Sunday morning, he found a gathering similar, in its D.I.Y. spirit and aesthetic, to many he’d attended in the past. But standing on the stoop, cheering on tens of thousands of people as they ran by, he experienced something completely new.

“The sheer scale of the marathon is overwhelming,” he said. “What comes into relief when you’re on the stoop is how much it takes to pull off. People think a marathon party will be corny, but it’s really magical. It’s truly a transfer of energy from all the runners.”

He was hooked. And so, he kept coming back. He noticed that a lot of other people came back, too, and the size and scale of the party increased by the year, with more elaborate cheers, costumes, decorations and breakfast foods. Then, in 2011, Danielle Strle, one of the two hosts, told him that it was going to be the last party because she was giving up the lease.

“I was like, ‘What, you’re giving up this lease? I love this apartment,’ ” said Mr. Sandefur, an artist and location scout, who quickly found two other roommates to split the $2,400-a-month rent for the two-bedroom that was convertible to three bedrooms. On the first floor of a townhouse, it also included the backyard and basement.

The party, of course, also came with the apartment. As did Nick Chapman, the other party host, who had long rented a room in the basement as his music studio and whom Mr. Sandefur was happy to keep on at his rate of $200 a month.

Also included were Ms. Strle’s and Mr. Chapman’s sizable collection of party supplies: banners, horns, cow bells, reusable mylar balloons, numerous coffee makers, waffle presses, griddles, costumes, extension cords, decorative car lot-style fringe, several musical instruments, laminated flags to honor the runners’ many nationalities and sheets explaining how to say “keep going” and “run faster” in different languages.

$2,600 | Clinton Hill

Occupation: Mr. Sandefur is an artist and location scout for film and TV. Ms. Holcomb is an artist and high school visual arts teacher. They also run creative nature retreats on the side.
The G train: The G train: runs right underneath the apartment and makes the basement shake when it goes by.
16 years: is how many years the marathon party has been held, canceled only when the marathon itself was canceled after Hurricane Sandy.
Breakfast: is served for about 150 to 200 people,including guests, neighbors, volunteers, and the guys from Luigi’s pizza, who stop by on their way to work. Later in the day, they see them again, when they pick up 10 pizzas for their post-marathon, backyard fire pit party.
Inspiration: The most inspiring time to watch the marathon is around 2 p.m., when the runners who go by are just trying to stay ahead of the cleanup truck. “You see people carrying other people,” said Mr. Chapman. “And then we do our own race to try to get all our party garbage onto the garbage truck.”

During Ms. Strle’s first November in the apartment, she awoke to screams and cheering one morning, and was surprised and delighted to see the marathon going by outside. But after a decade in what began as her college apartment share, she was ready for a change, even if it also meant abandoning her perch along Mile 9 of the marathon route. She was, therefore, ecstatic that Mr. Sandefur would be taking on the place, and the party.

“They’re always covering the first-place finishers, but there’s like 50,000 people who run the race,” said Ms. Strle. “People work so hard.”

“There’s a sea of people, it’s the triumph of the human spirit on display,” Mr. Chapman said. The next year, the three of them threw the party together, with assists from roommates past and present and the upstairs neighbors, who routinely offer up their electrical outlets so that no fuses are blown in the process of feeding hundreds of people waffles, egg sandwiches and coffee, all while the sound system is blasting out their playlist of running, walking and doing-your-best-in-New York-themed songs.

Mr. Sandefur learned that someone had to be out at 6 a.m. to negotiate with the water table people, making sure they didn’t set up right in front of their building; that the first runners — the wheelchair group — goes by around 8:45 a.m.; that the women’s elite runners flash by about a half-hour later; and that blowing up mylar balloons with a straw works better than a pump. Fortunately, in 2013, a fourth host joined their crew: Mr. Sandefur’s girlfriend, now wife, Ms. Holcomb, who’d moved into the apartment.

“New York can be rough. You walk down the sidewalk and it smells like pee or you get yelled at on the street,” said Ms. Holcomb. “But watching the marathon is so inspiring it makes you love New York all over again. I cry every year. It’s hard not to.”

The marathon is a very regimented event, and so, in many ways, must the party be, which has made it easier to notice even little changes over time. The cheerleader costumes have disappeared, replaced by a banana and Left Shark (the character made famous by Katy Perry’s Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2015), the pre-iPod MP3 player is now a Spotify playlist and increasingly, the wheeled conveyances that Ms. Holcomb and Ms. Strle whisk downstairs into the basement when their guests try to park strollers, not bicycles, out front.

The apartment has evolved, too. It no longer resembles a college crash pad, but rather the thoughtfully decorated apartment of two married artists that it is. The couple now lives alone, paying $2,600 a month, offset by the $200 a month Mr. Chapman still pays for the basement studio, where he recently finished composing his first symphony.

But even in the most structured environment, there are always a few surprises. One year, Letitia James, then the public advocate, now the New York Attorney General, stopped by. Another year, someone left a drum set on their stoop the morning of the marathon, having seen them out there during other races playing makeshift instruments.

And last year, when Mr. Chapman, the event’s short-order cook, debuted Monte Cristo French toast, they finally had a runner stop by. Only, it wasn’t a snack she was after, but pliers, because a rusty nail had wedged itself into her shoe and was gouging her foot. They pulled it out and off she ran; they never got her name, but tracked her number and saw that she finished.

Will any of them ever cross the blue tape and run the race themselves? It’s unlikely. None are runners and as Ms. Holcomb put it, “If we ran the marathon, well, then we couldn’t do the party.”

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