Gateway Plaza resident pens Battery Park City memoir

Glenn Plaskin’s ‘Katie Up and Down the Hall’ to be released next week

From the Broadsheet Daily – View the original article.

Glenn Plaskin with Ryan, Pearl and Katie.

 

"Tucked away at the southern tip of Manhattan is a little town built on the water." With these words about Battery Park City, Glenn Plaskin opens his book, "Katie Up and Down the Hall," which will be officially released on Sept. 8. 

Katie was a cocker spaniel, named for Katherine Hepburn, Mr. Plaskin’s favorite of the many celebrities he interviewed as a staff writer for the Daily News. "But the book isn’t really about a dog," Mr. Plaskin explained. "What it’s really about is a little boy who had no mom, his single dad, two octogenarians down the hall who had never had children and me and my dog. What it’s about is how five unrelated neighbors went from becoming strangers to friends to ‘family.’ We all lived along the same 120-foot, red-carpeted hallway." 

The hallway was on the third floor of Gateway Plaza and as Mr. Plaskin tells the story, in 1988 – three years after having moved to Gateway – he acquired a puppy. "I had no idea how to train a puppy and a friend of mine said there’s this older woman down the hall who had a cocker spaniel who knows. I knocked on her door, – and I always tell people that some of the best things that happen in life are purely accidental. The door opened and there’s this very warm-hearted woman with flour all over her sweater. She’s always baking – and my puppy walked in. I put her in Pearl’s arms and for the next 15 years my dog was in her apartment virtually every day." 

Pearl and her husband, Arthur, then in their late seventies, embraced Mr. Plaskin as their surrogate grandson and they adored Katie. Soon the "family" was enlarged when John, a single dad, and his two-year-old son Ryan, moved into an apartment on the hallway. "I thought of that hallway as a magic carpet," Mr. Plaskin recalled, "and my dog was constantly pushing open doors with her paws going from one location to the next. Dogs herd people together, so we were her sheep. We were being herded together by this bossy, perspicacious, blond-haired cocker spaniel. Katie pretty much ran the show. She sat at the dining table, with her paws on the table – very spoiled, I will admit, and ate off the plate and she became a lifelong companion to Pearl and Arthur."

Eventually, the idyll was shattered. Arthur died. Mr. Plaskin lost his job and seriously injured his back. John and Ryan moved away. And then 9/11 happened, which Mr. Plaskin describes in a chapter entitled "The Day the World Stopped." 

"Pearl got separated from me that day," Mr. Plaskin said. "She fell down on the esplanade in the black smoke and said, ‘Leave me here. I’m an old woman’ and one of our Gateway neighbors – a wonderful woman named Lee Blake – came along and literally rescued her. Lee helped her get up and took her to the rescue boat and Lee tells me that they got Pearl on one of the last boats but there wasn’t enough room for Lee – and Pearl, even though she was not in great health, said ‘I’m not going without her.’ And she wouldn’t go until they got Lee on the boat, too."

As soon as they could, Pearl, Katie and Mr. Plaskin returned to Battery Park City "but from there on, everything began to unravel. Pearl’s health deteriorated. My dog’s health deteriorated."

In 2002, Katie died, followed two years later by Pearl. For years, Mr. Plaskin mourned, but in 2009, decided to write a book about what had happened. 

"There are basically three messages," he said. "One is, love remains whether your family is with you or whether the inevitable separation and death happens. These memories stay with you. A family is anything you want it to be – and my other message is open your door because you never know what’s on the other side. There’s always a kid in your neighborhood who needs a mentor, there’s always an older person who needs a hand, and there’s always a dog that needs a walk."

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

"Katie Up and Down the Hall," is being published by Center Street, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group. It’s available from Amazon.com and other Internet sources as well as in bookstores. On Thursday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m., Mr. Plaskin will have a book signing at Barnes & Noble Tribeca, 97 Warren St., hosted by “New York legend Liz Smith,” who will interview Mr. Plaskin. The evening will include a screening of the book trailer.