Monday, May 20, 2013

The Worst Apartments in NYC


In the mood for a good cry? Try being 21 years old, earning under $30,000 per year in the entertainment industry, and start searching for an apartment in Manhattan with your best friend. 
(A room for rent via The Worst Room Tumblr)
Ask any twenty-something New Yorker who wasn’t gifted an apartment from Daddy or grew up in the city, and you’ll hear stories upon stories describing the woes of looking for an affordable – and livable – apartment in New York City.

This tumblr about “the worst room” vacancies in the city has us all sympathizing with offers of cramped lofts, pullout couches in shared living rooms and windowless boxes for rent. All are listed at unreasonably high prices for what you actually get, like $600 for a “comfy L shaped sofa… just for you!” or $700 for a “loft bed above the closet in the kitchen.” Those sound really desirable, right?

My personal search back in 2006 for my first Manhattan apartment wasn’t far off from those pathetic listings. Armed with my recent pay stubs, an employment letter, my parent’s W2 Forms (because thankfully I had heard I’d need a guarantor), a photo ID and my checkbook for the inevitable credit check fee, my coworker Lauren and I headed to appointments with brokers we had made after scouring Craigslist. 

With our budget of $2,000 per month for a two-bedroom, we thought we’d have some luck. Little did we know that wouldn’t even get us a decent one-bedroom we could convert into a two. Here are two of the gems we discovered during our search:

Lower East Side True Two-Bedroom, $2,000 per month. Sure, it was actually two bedrooms. Two bedrooms separated by a dingy kitchen without windows and lacking a living room. A “wing two-bedroom” is the term I’d later learn to describe this basement apartment in Chinatown. Yes, Chinatown – NOT the Lower East Side – as the listing had described. The trendy LES may border this historic Asian-centric neighborhood, but they are absolutely not the same place. 

To enter the vacant space, we had to follow the broker down a flight of outdoor cement steps into a basement entrance, opening into a long, dark hallway (where crack addicts most likely dwelled) to reach the locked apartment door. Every inch of the place reeked of cats, as the current tenants were straight up cat ladies with a litter of kittens wandering the space. Without any windows, the whole apartment was void of natural light. This dark, damp apartment was eerie at best. Yes, it was within our budget, but that didn’t mean we deserved to live in this stinky dungeon from hell.

Upper East Side Railroad Two Bedroom, $2,200 per month. “Railroad” sounded very old New York, so we were intrigued, without taking the time to Google exactly what that would look like. When the broker let us into this fifth floor walkup (after some huffing and puffing once we hit the third floor) the three of us crowded into the entryway. He was quick to explain that this tiny space that couldn’t have measured more than 100 square feet, was “bedroom number one.” Um, the three of us could barely stand together comfortably in this space. How the hell would a bed of any size fit in there? This was just the space meant to hang coats from wall hooks and rest wet umbrellas, not to have a good night’s sleep. 

As we continued, the living room was next. At least this apartment had an actual living room. This connected us to bedroom number two. In this room, you could possibly fit a full size bed, dresser and nightstand. But, the last space was the kitchen with a bathroom right off to the side. How could one of us sleep in the entryway (aka Bedroom Number One) and have to walk through her roommate’s bedroom every time she needed to use the bathroom or cook? “Railroad apartment” really just means "no privacy." If someone could afford to live in this apartment alone, it would work as a one bedroom. But this was not roommate friendly.

After weeks of searching and crying ourselves to sleep in the Edgewater, NJ apartment I shared with college friends, we finally pulled in our fellow coworker Renie, who also happened to be looking for a place to call home in the big city. Off we went looking for a two-bedroom we could convert into a three for around $3000 per month. In the coming weeks we found an East Village apartment in a new building with an elevator, doorman, gym and laundry in the basement and roof top access with a stunning view. For $3,450 per month, we equally split the rent at $1,150 per roommate. While this was a bit above our initial budget, and the rooms weren’t equal in size for the price tag, we made it work for what was to be one of the most memorable years we’d live in New York.

I’d love to hear YOUR stories about the worst rentals you’ve come across over the years in NYC! Share your apartment search horror stories in the comments below. xo

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