Friends Apartments- Fiction or Fantasy?
Love them or hate them, Friends was an acclaimed television mainstay, winning 69 awards during its eleven year run from 1994-2004. Friends debuted on September 22nd, 1994, with Greenwich Village as its somewhat implausible backdrop. Monica’s apartment, aka the “Friends Apartment”, as well as Joey and Chandler’s apartment, is shown to be 90 Bedford Street, based upon the exterior shots used for the show. During the first five seasons Ross lived in an apartment in what is shown to be Washington Square Village; and Phoebe lived in apartment 14 at 5 Morton Street.
Of course the question that always comes up is how could these people, struggling actors, musicians, waitresses, cooks, etc., afford those apartments? The show does provide some answers, which are debated to death in various online forums. Monica and her roommates pay $300 a month for an illegal sublet of her grandmothers’ rent stabilized unit. Perhaps this was a more prevalent arrangement in 1994 than today; stabilized and illegally passed down apartments do still exist, but are much rarer in an extremely high demand market. Phoebe lived in her grandmother’s apartment. The show doesn’t explain whether it was a rental or owned, although if it was a rental, Phoebe would have been eligible to gain succession rights to the rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartment, as she had been living with her grandmother for several years prior to her death in season five.
Ross, one of the two “professionals” on the show, and Chandler, (who paid most or all of the rent on the 90 Grove Street 2br he shared with Joey during the first five seasons), are assumed to be able to afford their own apartments as a paleontologist with a Ph.D. from Columbia University and some sort of never fully specified financing professional, respectively.
We have previously looked at some of the Friends Village locations including the interior and exterior of 90 Bedford Street, 5 Morton Street, and the now-gone Moondance Diner that stood on the corner of 6th Avenue and Grand Street for 64 years, from 1933 until 1997. I remember their high quality classic diner food, eating there many times as child and teenager. It was replaced by The James Hotel and features a David Burke Kitchen. The diner found a second life. It was shipped all the way to Wyoming in 2008, where it has experienced several ups and down, closing and opening several times over the past nine years.
In 2015 our Director of Preservation and Research, Amanda Davis (who is also a big fan of Friends) took a researcher’s approach to “Where did Ross on Friends Live“, looking at maps and data on interior and exterior shots of several of the show’s buildings.
According to the 1969 LPC Greenwich Village Historic District Designation Report, 90 Bedford Street “was built in 1898-99 for Leister & Dohrenmund by Schneider & Herter, architects. At third story level it retains the round-arched windows of the Romanesque Revival period, and a handsome unifying foliate band course. Most striking is the use of contrasting white masonry lintels and sills against the darker brick background. The fourth and fifth story windows are capped by prominent lintels carried on brackets.”