The Insider: Lockhart Steele
Talk to Lockhart Steele for ten minutes, and you’ll probably get infected with his passion for NYC—not shocking considering he founded Curbed, Racked, and Eater—three sites dedicated to covering the real estate, fashion, and food scenes across dozens of infinitely lovable locales including his own. Here, the South Street Seaport resident/fan-club president schools us on his old ‘hood (the LES!) and the floral shirts that he’s been known to rock. —jiayi
Q: What made you start Curbed?
A: I was living on the Lower East Side and had a blog where I wrote about the way the neighborhood was changing. I realized that I really dug chronicling the way New York’s neighborhoods evolved.
Q: So, how much would you say the Lower East Side has changed since you lived there?
A: I lived on Rivingston Street for exactly ten years—from March 1, 2001 to March 1, 2011. It changed a lot. Pre-9/11, the streets down there were pretty deserted. Many of the restaurants, like Schiller’s, didn’t come along until 2003 or 2004, which is when the neighborhood began having these cool spots. Then, you have the era of the mid-2000s, which led us to rename the neighborhood Hell Square, because that’s really what it became at night. By the time I left, I’d step outside on a Friday or Saturday night, and it was like I was body-surfing.
Q: Did you grow up having an interest in architecture and neighborhoods?
A: Totally—but just casually. I think architecture and real estate are interesting because they’re both topics that get written about a lot by insiders, who write in a certain lingo that’s completely incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t learned them. Part of what we wanted to do at Curbed was to demystify that a little bit—and have a little more fun and straightforward honesty around these things.
Q: Racked was founded on the same philosophy. How do you see the relationship between Curbed, Racked, and Eater?
A: The way I think of it, they’re each telling a different side to the neighborhood story. Curbed is coming out of the point of view of real estate, but also the neighborhoods themselves—the characters and the stories that make a neighborhood what it is. One of the thoughts we had in mind when we started Eater was a that single restaurant opening could almost re-define an entire neighborhood. When Keith McNally came to Rivington Street and opened Schiller’s, that was a real big moment for that neighborhood. And then with Racked, it was the same idea. The three of them form a sort of a triangle in my mind—they each show an important part to the local and neighborhood story.
Q: There was a NYT article that mentioned your fondness for floral shirts—how would you describe your style?
A: Downtown preppy. I have a certain fondness for Paul Smith shirts. But I’m usually pretty casual.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about New York?
A: My favorite thing is just the way the city is constantly reinventing itself. Oh my god, I wake up from one construction site to another construction site—from the South Street Seaport, where I live now, to Cooper Square in the East Village, where I work— which I think is perfect considering that I started Curbed.