New Yorkers don’t need to watch sex tapes. We live in the voyeurism capital of the world, where we can catch our neighbors in the act practically any time we want. Adorama Camera on West 18th Street sells thousands of low-end telescopes a year, and those models ain’t for stargazing. Eight million people are separated by mere windowpanes. Take Nick Engstrom’s back window on West 4th Street. He can see into seven immaculate townhouses, where he can glimpse casual nudity, duck hatching, and ladies’ hat-making. Engstom, 28, has ample time to consider the view: He’s a creative-writing graduate student with a nice deck and a bad case of writer’s block who works (or tries to) next to his window six to ten hours a day. “My backyard,” he says, “is like the Hitchcock movie Rear Window.” So we engaged in a little investigative voyeurism. Here are the people Engstrom stares at all day—who he thinks they are, who they really are, and what they say they see when they look at him.
What Engstrom Sees: “A famous actress lives on the top floor. She lives in the one with the stained-glass windows. My neighbor told me.” The occupants pull their shades, so Engstrom can’t confirm the celebrity’s identity. When people are visible, they “seem to read a lot of books. Like, constantly.”
Who Really Lives There: Ray Albergotti, 53, marketing executive, and Andre Becker, 48, president of Gotham Writers’ Workshop. No famous actress—the partners have lived there for a decade. “We do like to read,” says Becker. (The rumored actress is probably model Stella Tennant, who once lived on the block but moved to Scotland years ago.)
What They See of Engstrom: “That bedroom light is on all night long,” says Albergotti. “And they built that deck. Our shades are usually down, though, so we don’t see much. We hear a lot of partying from the building.”