... and a 'dump with character'
According to her paid obituary in The New York Times, O'Grady had a 50-year career in the theater -- mostly small roles in Off-Broadway plays. She studied with legendary acting teacher Uta Hagen, appeared in TV soap operas and had small, uncredited roles in "Next Stop Greenwich Village," "Taxi Driver" and other films.
She didn't earn much as an actress, but she didn't need to.
The obituary says one of her friends once described her apartment as a "dump with character."
When Pomerantz unlocked the front door to show the place to CNN, he struggled a bit to push it open because there were bagged items all over the floor behind it.
At first glance it became obvious that the apartment is in dire need of a full makeover. Everything from floor to ceiling will need to be replaced and modernized.
"I think she was embarrassed at how the place looked, but I also think she was embarrassed that she didn't pay much in rent," Pomerantz said.
O'Grady loved to read. Her apartment was filled with stacks of books.
When Pomerantz bought the property, he tried to get inside to see it several times, but Ms. O'Grady politely declined to let him in. It wasn't until 2005 that he finally saw the unit for the first time. A pipe burst inside her place and began to leak into the neighbor's apartment downstairs, forcing her to allow him in. That's when he noticed that O'Grady's apartment had no heat or hot water. He pleaded with her to let him install a hot water heater, but she refused.
"She would tell me, 'I'm not worthy of these repairs and these improvements. I don't pay enough in rent to warrant this ... I'm perfectly fine keeping it as it is,'" Pomerantz said.
Nevertheless, against O'Grady's wishes he installed a $12,000 heating unit in the apartment -- the equivalent of about 35 years of her monthly rent payments.
"She never used it," Pomerantz said. Instead, O'Grady used the apartment's two fireplaces and stove to heat it during the winter.
This is one of two fireplaces which O'Grady used to warm the apartment.
Yes, the rent will go up
The apartment is still filled with O'Grady's knickknacks and trinkets, making it feel smaller than it is. Books and scripts -- many from plays she acted in -- are stacked high in every room. Photos of her and her sister, Roberta, hang on the walls alongside images from her career in acting.
Remarkably, there's no tub or shower in the unit. Pomerantz said O'Grady went to the local YMCA to shower every day.
Pomerantz says he plans to renovate the apartment over the next several months and put it on the market.
There will be a bit of a rent increase -- to about $5,000 a month. But he's in no hurry.
“I've been so used to getting only $28.43 a month for the last 16 years that there's just simply no rush.”