Town Home in Reds and Yellows
Family, art, and a notion of adventure drew this New Jersey couple to the co-ops
by Frances Madeson
Buying their East River Housing efficiency in September 2005, to use as a pied ? terre, made perfect sense to Jessica Reiner and David Bressen. They’ve been married for twenty years and both have two children each from prior marriages, but only Jessica’s daughter, who lives in East River with her husband and twin girls, has provided them with grandchildren (Jessica et al also purchased through LoHo Realty).
“We want to witness the process, not only see the result,” Jessica says about her granddaughters, whose images are featured in the not yet completely decorated apartment. “We love babysitting the girls, giving them another place where they can open up the refrigerator and stick their heads in.”
Jessica, who’s a mostly retired interior designer and graphic artist, comes into town mid-week to attend life-drawing classes at the Educational Alliance Art School. She studies with instructor Boris Zoubkous, whom she describes as both “rigorous and fancy.” Jessica draws every evening and her desk is covered with pencil sketches, many of naked human forms wearing the occasional hat.
On the weekends, she comes back into town with David. One of their joys is to walk to the Sunshine and Angelika for films, or sometimes just tool around with no particular destination in mind. “We love meandering through the city streets and being entertained by the conversations we hear. We want to be part of this city, and in East River we’ve found a spot that’s not frantic, and feels like a neighborhood.”
David, an engineer turned public relations executive, is now retired and spends his weekdays providing pro-bono PR services to more than a dozen groups. In addition, he’s active in the peace movement, serving as treasurer of his local New Jersey group. He regards the pied ? terre both he and Jessica have enjoyed fixing up as an oasis. He loves the sunshine and river views.
This year, instead of their annual vacation to San Miguel de Allende, a Mexican mountain town famous for its art schools, David underwent heart surgery to repair damage caused by Marfin’s Syndrome. His first walk during his recovery was the loop around the little Co-op park.
Originally from Philadelphia, David graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and, according to Jessica, “can build or fix anything.” He went to work for McGraw Hill as an editor of trade magazines focused on the construction industry. From there he moved to an aluminum industry trade association, and then founded Bressen Communications. He’s also served on a number of nonprofit Boards for his alumni associations and SOPAC, the South Orange Performing Arts Center.
Jessica’s career has been equally fascinating. She attended Hunter College and graduated from Lehman College, majoring in English with a minor in History. “I loved History,” she explains, “but with small children to care for, I couldn’t spend the time away from them doing library research. With English, I could borrow the books and read them at home.”
She wanted private school education for both children, so she went to work as an assistant librarian, then took several office jobs, and became an expediter in a carpeting company. From there she made the leap into textile- and then interior design. She found a mentor, “a gorgeous woman who had trained in a Bauhaus like school in New York before WW2,” who not only gave Jessica confidence, but provided opportunities to prove herself professionally and grow a very rewarding business. Many of her clients have been assisted-living facilities, nursing homes and hotel hybrids.
“Even in those settings, I gave up pastels long ago,” she said. “I’ve long been into warm, vibrant colors, bright and bold.”