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!
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?