Discovering Brynn Wallner’s StuyTown
Suburban bliss in downtown Manhattan.
By Josh Mosh
This Must Be The Place explores the perfect spots, hidden gems, and secret slash not-so-secret retreats of New York’s luminaries and lunatics. In a city full of strangers, neighbors, and everything in-between, join us for an insider’s tour of New York’s most meaningful destinations.
When I first met Brynn she was the loudest girl in the office at my most corporate job ever. The closest thing I’ve ever had to a “work wife,” we bonded almost immediately, clowning on the patagonia and khakis crowd so often found flocking to New York’s glass towers and business districts. That was back in the days when AOL and Yahoo (two companies that still exist) thought they could compete with Google and Facebook by merging into something called Oath, which would turn out to be a total failure to the tune of 4.6 billion (with a B!) dollars. We started on the same day and we were laid off on the same day (along with 998 other people) too.
“I’m sick of billionaires making a decision on a whim and now I gotta find new doctors.” I remember Brynn said. “Like how am I supposed to have a primary care physician when every year I have new health insurance?” While it lasted, Oath was a cushy place to work. Brynn and I spent our days selling branded content trying to convince “upwardly mobile millennials” to take out personal loans to buy diamond engagement rings. The kitchen was bursting with free Goldfish and peanut M&M’s and our boss even took us on field trips to the movies and museums.
It was after one such trip to the Met when I found Brynn teary-eyed at her desk next to a life-size Timothee Chalamet cardboard cut-out she’d ordered for the office. Wiping away tears, she told me how the history had moved her, “looking at all that art, all that history, this work that’s lasted for centuries–it’s like what am I even doing here?” Unsurprisingly Brynn’s next position centered both art and history, as a writer for famed auction house Sotheby’s.
Yet those pesky billionaires struck again and when found herself looking for new health insurance in the early stages of the pandemic, she channeled a newly discovered passion for horology into Dimepiece, a digital platform dedicated to women and watches.
“When I got to Sotheby’s I could barely tell the time,” Brynn says with a laugh, “they asked me to write something about collectable timepieces and I was googling how to pronounce the french names! But as I learned more I came to see these luxury pieces like works of art. The watch world has such a boy’s club energy, I wanted to make a space for women to get into watches as more than just accessories.”
In only a few short years, Brynn became This Bitch of the watch world, penning pieces for Harper’s BAZAAR, GQ, the Financial Times, and more. They’re flying her out to Switzerland on the reg and she’s popping off in branded content for the Real Real and J. Crew. Now the one thing the watch queen of New York really needs, ironically, is some free time.
After some delicate scheduling I managed to catch up with Brynn walking her sweet (and spicy) lil chihuahua Honey through Stuy Town–the edenic 1940’s apartment complex on Manhattan’s Lower East Side where car-free paths full of attractive yuppies pushing strollers curve around impeccably landscaped lawns, sports courts, parks, playgrounds, and even a fountain– a place Brynn holds near and dear above all others. On a beautiful early spring day the sounds of the city disappeared behind 80 acres of tall peaceful trees and flowering bushes filling the air with the smell of fresh cut grass, windflowers and gardenia.
Josh: What is it about StuyTown that speaks to you?
Brynn: I love StuyTown. It’s a well maintained, peaceful community. I don’t live there – nor do I necessarily care to live there – but I take my dog for walks through it on the weekends to escape the grind of the city.
Josh: You’re from New Jersey, like me, but I’m from the ‘burbs and you’re from Hoboken.
Brynn: And I went to high school in the city. I had friends who lived in StuyTown, and on the weekends if I wanted to go to a party or something I’d have sleepovers. At the time I didn’t romanticize it the way I do today. I don’t remember it much from highschool, I do remember the brown squirrels though. They’re rare.
Josh: What is it you love about StuyTown now?
Brynn: I’ve never lived in the suburbs, but I imagine StuyTown is what the suburbs feel like. It’s sleepy and manicured, in a controlled way that feels so unlike the Manhattan surrounding it. I feel relaxed here, and it’s nice to stroll through at an absolutely glacial pace, looking up at the trees.
Brynn: I don’t know if I’d like to live like this, or if maybe I just like the idea of living like this. You can really feel the shift of the seasons in StuyTown via the vegetation that is diligently kept up and nurtured. With spring comes the flowering dogwood trees and the rosebuds… and by mid-summer, the place is teeming with life, birds chirping and hydrangeas the size of your face. The rose garden is in full bloom and honeysuckles perfume the air. The trees are mature and the oxygen feels cleaner (despite its close proximity to the ConEd plant on the East River). I’m so starved for nature, I’ll take what I can get.
Josh: So you come here when you need to touch grass?
Brynn: Exactly. And in the summer the grass is really high and there are flowers, you kinda feel like you’re in the south of France. You can tell how starved for nature I am. Like this is my nature, it’s so pathetic.
Josh: This place definitely feels natural. Around every corner there’s a new lawn or park or fountain.
Brynn: Oh yeah, this is the blacktop where I like to watch the hot guys play roller hockey. So now we’re entering the section of StuyTown I like to call the forest, and you’ll see why.
Josh: Is it because of all this pachysandra, or these tall trees that smell so good?
Brynn: I think these are gingko trees. But wait, this part is sad. Do you see this empty plot? That’s where the Heaven Tree used to be. It would bloom in the spring and I called it the Heaven tree because it was so heavenly. I’d stand under it and look at the light coming through the leaves with the skyline in the background…but I guess they chopped it down. Oh! And coming up over here is this really funny playground with sprinklers and like a railroad theme. Look what the signs say.
Josh: The ones that say “WET KIDS CROSSING?”
Brynn: Who thought that was a good idea?! Hahaha, we gotta keep moving, I don’t want to come off like a pedophile or like a weird person.
Josh: You’re not weird, I get it though. It is really peaceful here. Feels like a nice place to take a walk and smoke a jay.
Brynn: Yeah totally! Which I’m sure you know people do. Although, one thing that’s not great about Stuytown, it’s like a surveillance state. There are cameras everywhere and there are these little guys that go around like Paul Blart on Segways. So like if you were smoking weed here, you’d probably get ratted on. You can’t skate here. StuyTown certainly has a neutered, monitored vibe to it…But I wouldn’t change this about it because it contains the chaos of the city that would otherwise descend upon it.
Josh: It’s kind of funny how protective you are of this place, but you’re just a visitor here yourself.
Brynn: I know, but I like that about it. As a visitor I can be anonymous here. I feel like if I lived here it would be claustrophobic. Every now and then, I’ll let friends walk with me and Honey through StuyTown, but to be honest, that kind of tampers with the sweet, serene isolation I seek when I go there. My life is insanely busy, and when I’m not traveling, I’m at home doggy paddling with writing deadlines or rushing from meeting to meeting. There’s no other place in the city where I can feel present and calm.