Born and raised on the Upper West Side, Altman moved to Brooklyn in 2005 and has been making the most of it ever since. Her mom, for instance, now lives in Brighton Beach, and the two held an art show at a salt marsh in Jamaica Bay. “Most young people move to Brooklyn and only think of Williamsburg and Bedford Avenue, but it’s so big and diverse,” she says. “My advice is to just hop on the F train and get off anywhere.”
What do you do?
I work at a clothing store called Assembly New York. I’m a vintage buyer there. I’m a jewelry designer. I’m a filmmaker. I’m going to LA on Friday to the Independent Spirit Awards for a film that I wrote. And I’m a stand-up comedian.
How long have you lived in Brooklyn?
I grew up in Manhattan, so I’ve lived in New York City my whole life. But I’ve lived in Brooklyn since 2005.
Why did you move to Brooklyn?
Because Manhattan is really stressful. My mom moved to Brighton Beach in 2005 because she used to live on the Upper West Side, and she felt like it had lost all of its character. My mom’s kind of a hermit and she wanted to live somewhere really eccentric, so she moved to Brighton Beach. I lived with her for two years, and I tried to live on the Lower East Side for six months but I hated it, so I moved back in with her. Then I moved to Williamsburg for about a month, and then I moved to Greenpoint.
What’s your favorite thing about the apartment?
It’s quiet. Where I grew up in Manhattan was next to a nightclub and it was horrible and stressful. And it’s near the train. And I face the backyard, so I feel like I’m not in a city. My whole life I idealized living in the woods. Also, I grew up on 72nd Street, which is all stores—kind of like Union Square—so I’ve tried to make my apartment away from the “city.”
At Home with Carlen Altman
What’s your least favorite thing?
Nothing. I really like it. I feel really grateful to have a house. I don’t know —it’s on the 4th floor. The idea of paying rent.
What are the three things you'd save first in a fire?
My talking-Moses ring, that I made. I would save my laptop, even though it’s five years old. That’s it. And my cell phone.
What’s your favorite room in the space? And favorite time of day?
I love to take naps—no—I like sitting here. Wherever the bunny is, I like being there. I like sitting here by the window and thinking I’m gonna get a lot done. I like right before sunset. It’s really, really, really nice.
If you suddenly received a windfall of cash, what changes would you make to your space?
I would try to buy the apartment. Honestly there’s nothing I need. I’ve tried to set up my life where I work for other people as little as possible. And I feel really grateful for that. The idea of working five days a week to pay rent and never having time to appreciate your apartment is a really sad reality.
If you could move your house/block/neighborhood to another city, which one would it be, and why?
It would be Southern California. Because of the climate. Or it’d be Northern Florida.