Friday, November 5, 2010

Flashback Friday: Apartment Hunting in the Bronx

I have basically spent all afternoon trying to find apartments in Phoenix, which has had me thinking about the last time we looked for apartments.  It was the fall of 2005, and Jason had just moved to New York.  I was living with a friend at the time, and things between us got kind of tense, so Jason and I needed to find a new place to live pretty quickly.

Our budget was $1,000 a month, which, almost anywhere else in the country, seems lush for a 1 bedroom apartment.  However, it was actually quite meager in NYC.  We considered Queens and Brooklyn, two far more hip and happening boroughs, but ultimately decided to limit our search to upper Manhattan and the Bronx.  I felt comfortable with these areas, as I had been living in the Bronx for the past 18 months and commuting through upper Manhattan.  Plus, we figured that we could get more for our money in both space and proximity to the train in these areas.  

We ended up checking out only one apartment in upper Manhattan.  It was in Harlem, somewhere around 120th street or so.  My commute would have been a mere 20 minutes, which was awesome (compared to the hour I had in the Bronx).  The apartment went for around $1050 a month - a little high, but possibly worth it.  We met the super at the front door, and she took us up to the apartment.  As she did, she asked us if we cooked often.  When we answered yes, she commented "well, that could be a problem".

We didn't know what she meant until we saw the "kitchen".  Friends, it was tinier than tiny.  The whole kitchen was a 3 ft by 4ft room.  The sink was a bar sink; there was a single kitchen cabinet hanging above the sink.  The counter space?  A 6in x 12in  piece of plywood covered in laminate and literally glued to the wall next to the sink.  The fridge and stove stood side by side and looked like a full size fridge and stove that had found their way into Wayne Szalinski's electro-magnetic shrink ray.  The stove had four burners, and the fridge had a freezer door on the top, but they were about 2/3 the size of your standard appliances.  We laughed out loud.  So this is what $1000 was going to get us in Harlem, huh?  Nope, we'll stick to the Bronx.

Well, the Bronx had it's own challenges.  We checked out one apartment that was listed for $800 - a real deal!  It wasn't in the best part of town, but we were pretty tough, so we went to have a look.  Now, keep in mind that for my job, I went to some of the most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods in New York, and I sometimes went there at night, by myself.  I don't scare easily.  But as soon as we got out of the car, in broad daylight, I felt afraid.  We should have just gotten back in the car, but we were already there, so we went inside.  The building wreaked of urine and had dark, dingy hallways.  The unit itself was painted a bright orange throughout.  Linoleum covered all the floors, including bedrooms and living room.  This kitchen was closer to normal, but the bathroom was so small that Jason literally could not sit on the toilet.  We were there a total of 5 minutes.

We applied to a few other apartments that were passable, but most were on the fourth or fifth floor of a walk up, had no laundry facilities in the building, and had no dishwasher (not a must, but definitely helpful).  Then, just when we were getting discouraged, we found a diamond in the rough.  The apartment was in a pre-war building that had recently changed ownership.  The new owners were cleaning up the building and renovating the units.  It had good security at the door, with a video phone in each apartment, laundry in the basement and an elevator.  Even better, they had a ground floor apartment (remember, we have an 80 pound dog - ground floor is good!)

The apartment itself was amazing.  We were moving into a newly renovated unit with hardwood floors, tile in the bathroom and kitchen, brand new bathroom fixtures and brand new kitchen appliances - including a dishwasher! And, best of all, it was only $975!
Check out that video surveillance and nice long hallway!

Shiny new appliances, lots of counter space, bright new cabinets!  A think of beauty!

That is a lot of space for a New York apartment!  Heck, for any apartment!
Bright white tile, bright white toilet, bright white sink.  It's nice to know that you are the first person to use your own toilet!

Once we found this little gem, we determined that we would only leave that apartment when we left New York! We enjoyed 3.5 years there before moving to Portland.  Oh man, I loved that apartment!  Our accommodation in Portland had its own set of challenges, but we'll save that for another day!

What have your apartment/house hunting experiences been?  Any good stories?


  1. Oooh, your first few apartments sound like what we went through in Egypt. We ended up taking the one with the crappy kitchen, but it was only for the summer. I love what you eventually ended up with!

  2. I got pretty lucky as far as most of my apartments have gone. However, I did live in an apartment my brother dubbed the "double-tall" instead of double wide. It looked like two trailers stacked on top of each other, seriously. I ended up leaving as soon as my lease was out to live in a granny cottage of a house that was being renovated by a friend to be flipped. That was a cool place, but there was a weird vent that went straight out under my house to the grass. I always worried some weird creep would end up in my family room through the vent. Oh and the door didn't ever really lock, you could just shoulder it open, always good for a single woman living alone!

    Your NYC apartment looks awesome. What was your job in New York that had you going to all these dangerous neighborhoods?

  3. oh man! theriot avenue will always hold a special place in our hearts.
    remember when we used to play cards on sunday nights? you will never believe this but we are actually moving BACK to the bronx! long story but we've had some landlord issues and the perfect place opened up!

    i am loving your nablopomo!! and now DYING to know the product you work with at work. so intriguing!! glad u ended up in phoenix. my whole fam is there so hopefully we can reunite sometime soon!!

  4. @Austyn - I can't beleive you guys are moving back the bronx? What part? Ok, we have to chat soon!

    @Amy - I did recruiting for a non-profit summer camp for inner city kids. We had government funding for kids from failing schools, so I spent a lot of time at those schools, meeting with administrators and teachers, talking to students and meeting with parents. As you might guess, some of the worst schools in NYC are in the some of the worst neighborhoods.

  5. Wow, you ended up with a beauty! Is this the same apartment you sublet and had trashed?


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