Monday, July 14, 2014

New York City: The Rent is Too Damn High

**Final in a series about my 11 day house hunting trip to New York City. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Columbus Circle and Central Park South
 Does anyone remember Jimmy McMillan and his political party, The Rent is Too Damn High Party? I do. Mostly thanks to Kenan Thompson and SNL when good ol' Jimmy was in the New York State gubernatorial race a few years ago.

Back then he was just a crazy dude with a fantastically-named political party.

But guys, Jimmy wasn't lying.

The first apartment I went to look at in New York City was a studio in the West Village for $1850 a month. I was psyched because nothing in the West Village rents for $1850. I met up with my broker and we went to see this apartment.

I sure wish I'd taken some pictures.

Actually one picture would've done it. You could've seen the entire thing in one picture.

This apartment was the size, pretty literally, of my walk-in closet. I'm not a very good judge of size, but there is no way it could've been more than 120 square feet. I'm being generous. It has a mini fridge and a stove, a sink the size of an iPad. You could fit a bed in that apartment. And nothing bigger than a full. A twin bed would've given you a pathway to walk from the living space/kitchen into the tiny bathroom. I think my exact reaction was, "Seriously?!?!"

 That apartment was all about location. And I'm sure it will make somebody very happy. I, however, was not that person.

Wednesday Alex, my broker, and I went out to look at more places. We started on the Upper West Side because that's close to Columbia. We looked at one place on Broadway and 86th, in a nice building. $1800 a month got you a little studio, with a bathroom that has a tub. The kitchen had a half-fridge, a sink, no counter space, a few cupboards, and a hot plate.

A girl's gotta be able to cook, especially because a girl can't afford to eat out much when she's living on a prayer. And student loans.

So we went to the Upper East Side.

Meanwhile, it was a million degrees outside. Like, 90 degrees with 90% humidity. I'm used to dry heat, where 90 means 90 and when you walk outside you're not instantly sticky and you don't constantly want to take a cold shower to avoid dying of heat stroke and/or dehydration.

Alex and I looked at some studios in the UES. I fell in love with one. It was so pretty. White cabinets in the kitchen with dark granite counter tops AND a dishwasher, a marble bathroom, recessed lighting, a back corner unit in an elevator building... Madonna lives across the street. So I applied for it because at $1895 a month, it was perfect.

But I didn't get it. And I found this out on Sunday because of the long holiday weekend.

 Alex told me not to panic, but it was WAY TOO LATE for that. I was leaving town in 3 days and I had no place to live. And I wasn't going to be back in NYC until I moved permanently in August. Panic was the only logical emotion.

We set up an appointment to meet Tuesday to go look at more apartments on the Upper East Side. My parents came back to NYC from Boston on Monday afternoon and wanted to see Columbia's campus. Tuesday morning we took the 1 train to campus so they could check it out. I left from there to meet Alex.

Hurricane Aurthur had brought in thunderstorms and wonderful 72 degree temperatures over the weekend. I spent much of Saturday walking around downtown with Carly and barely broke a sweat. The weather was gorgeous.

Tuesday, unfortunately, was back to 90 degree temperatures and 90% humidity. Naturally. It was like being in a sauna in Hell. So Alex and I tromped around the neighborhood, trying not to melt into the sidewalk. "Just because I look like I'm about to die, doesn't mean I'm going to."

The first place we looked at was a "garden level" apartment which is a prettier way of saying "basement". Though it's not technically "basement" because it's on the first floor of this building. It was a tiny little studio with the best kitchen of any apartment we'd seen or saw. Stainless steel fridge (a real sized fridge!) and stove, a built in microwave, A DISHWASHER, dark granite counter tops and so much cabinet space all my kitchen stuff could easily fit with room leftover. It had one small closet, one sizable window, and a/c built into the wall. A good-sized bathroom with a stall shower and black and white tile.

The more I looked at it the more I liked it. The building is an elevator building with laundry, and allows pets. It's like the trifecta when it comes to a building. At least for me. That apartment was almost to the top of my budget at $1950 a month. I liked it, but I was unsure. So we went to see some other apartments.

One apartment had a mirror in the shower. So that was weird. Another one was on the 3rd floor of a walk-up, only the first floor was called "lobby level" so the third floor was actually the fourth floor and physically, I don't have the stamina to make it up those stairs. Not at this point. Not after being sick all winter. In a year, maybe, but not right now.

I decided to apply for the garden-level apartment. Alex thought it was a solid decision. I was still unsure. Mostly because I wasn't sure if I was applying because I thought I could live there or I was just desperate. By this time, I was leaving town in less than 24 hours. My ox was in the mire.

After Alex had submitted my application we went to see one last place in Hell's Kitchen. It was a pretty legit building, but the apartment was not great. It had a much lesser kitchen and a living space that couldn't have been bigger than the one I'd already applied for, all for about the same price.

Alex: "I think the one you've already applied for is the perfect apartment for you."
Me: "Okay."
Alex: "Okay?"
Me: "Okay."

Then I walked the 12 blocks down 8th Avenue to the hotel I was staying in with my parents and realized that there was no way in hell I wanted to live in Midtown West. Too many tourists (wow, I'm already becoming a real New Yorker!). Alex called a few hours later to say I'd been approved for the garden-level apartment. I was very happy to have someplace to live.

And then Wednesday happened. As we were in a car on the way to the airport, Alex called to tell me the management company that rents the apartment I'd been approved for has a new policy where they want "in-person lease signings". You see why this was a problem, right?

Alex: "I'm going to call them back and scream at them."
Me: "Excellent."

As my mother and I picked up our order from Shake Shack in JFK, Alex called me back with an update on the apartment drama. Managers going over people's heads, bulls--t new policies, and in the meantime the first apartment I'd applied for had been re-listed. Alex resubmitted my application for that one. And hope was reborn.

All the way through the longest flight from JFK to SLC.

Thursday morning Alex had good news. The management company was going to let me sign the leases in Utah. The apartment was mine. And the other apartment? "There's something shady going on with that landlord," Alex said, "there's a reason the first application fell apart."

"Okay," I said.

On Friday at a Chase bank, with dilated pupils and 3 certified checks, I signed a one year lease on a tiny apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In the low 80s, 2 blocks from the subway and the crosstown bus, 3 blocks from church, 2 avenues from Central Park, the Met, and the Guggenheim.

"When Jesus said 'I never said it would be easy, I said it would be worth it', he was talking about NYC." - Nick

I'm not sure a more true statement has ever been uttered.  

Love, Sarah


  1. Oh my goodness, Sarah.... what an adventure! Yes, it's expensive, but then again, it has a kitchen, it's Manhattan, and it's worth it :).

  2. Hope to visit with you before you leave next month. Hank :-)

  3. I can't believe you didn't want the one with a mirror in the shower. That sounds totally awesome. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've been showering and thinking, "I sure wish I could watch myself do this!"

    I am so excited for your adventure. And for you to have a full kitchen! And a dishwasher! And AC! I haven't had AC or a dishwasher in years and would love them... but not enough to pay your rent :)

    Love you cuz!