Places I’ve Lived: Shacking Up, And The Apartment From Hell

Henry Street, Brooklyn Heights; ???
In 2000, I moved to New York City for college, and into a tiny dorm room with two other girls in Brooklyn Heights. (My school was on the Upper East Side. That was a hell of a commute.) This experience spoiled me, because Brooklyn Heights is one of the prettiest areas in all of New York City, and ever since then, I’ve fantasized about living in one of the buildings along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. But I got to experience it for nearly a year, which was good enough. One of my roommates stole my food, had sex in my bed, and once asked my then-boyfriend if she could use his credit card to cut lines of cocaine. Ah, college.

 

Sullivan Street, Greenwich Village; $875-$750/mo (my share)
My college boyfriend and I made the ill-advised decision to move in together right before my sophomore year. Most of my friends had figured out that living off-campus was way cheaper than dorm life, and after the whole food-theft-and-cocaine thing, I was convinced this was an awesome idea. My mother strongly cautioned me against it, but like all dumb 18-year-olds, I didn’t listen to her. So we moved into a teeny studio in Greenwich Village. The apartment had a loft bed, and we were able to fit in a dresser, a desk, and a ratty old chaise lounge. We lived in that cramped space during 9/11, after which our landlord lowered the rent to entice us to stay for another year. This is where I learned to never, ever live in such a small space with a significant other, because if you don’t have your own personal space, things will go sour quickly. We fought constantly and broke up almost as soon as the lease ended. Sorry I didn’t listen to you, Mom—you were right.

 

41st Street, Astoria, Queens, 2004; $450/mo (my share)
After a stint living with my parents, I spent seven months in a tiny room in Queens. I lived with two girls, one of whom was a college classmate; she had two cats and an incredibly rambunctious dog that would jump on my head in the mornings if I left my door ajar. One of my roommates had incredibly loud sex, to the point where the other girl and I wondered if she was faking it. (I don’t know why I’ve had bad luck with roommates who had no boundaries about sex.) Eventually I was spending all of my time at my then-boyfriend, EJ’s, place, and decided to move in with him.

 

82nd Street, Upper East Side; $675/mo (my share)
I did not make the same mistake twice: For our first apartment together, EJ and I moved to a one-bedroom on the eastern edges of the Upper East Side. It was a one-bedroom in name only: The landlord had erected a partition that didn’t quite reach the ceiling to create a “bedroom,” which could only fit a full-size bed and a dresser. But it had a door, and there was enough space for all of our crap, so it worked. The street was quiet and lovely, as Upper East Side streets tend to be, and we would occasionally run in the park nearby. But we outgrew the place and our landlord raised the rent by $1,000, so we decided to move to Brooklyn because it was cheaper. (Ah, 2005.)

 

Prospect Place, Crown Heights, Brooklyn; $600/mo (my share)
We moved into a two-bedroom in what was described as Prospect Heights—it’s not, never listen to brokers, they lie!—with one of EJ’s friends. I loved this apartment because we were close to a bunch of trains (including the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, a wee little subway line that makes only four stops), and Prospect Park was a ten-minute walk away. We stayed for three years, got a cat and got married, but moved out when our third roommate decided to cohabitate with his boyfriend. We lived there before the area started to become trendy: I remember seeing a guy smoking crack on a stoop at the end of the block once, and that spot is now a taco joint. It never fails to amaze me how quickly things change in New York.

 

Lincoln Place, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; $825/mo (my share)
The warning signs with this place were everywhere: The entrance steps were falling apart; the lobby was dirty; the bathroom was covered with grime; and, perhaps the biggest red flag, a few massive dead cockroaches were in the (old, gross) fridge. But EJ and I believed the broker and landlord when they reassured us that everything would be taken care of before we moved in. Surprise: Everything got worse! One neighbor smoked pot endlessly and blasted music at 7 a.m. on weekends. My cat got stuck behind the (old, gross) bathtub at least three times. The pilot light in the oven went out and the landlord told us that we should just get down on the floor and light it ourselves. The roaches become a full-fledged colony that two rounds of exterminators couldn’t kill. Finally, there was a night when I opened a drawer in the kitchen and found a few dead bugs among the silverware. Cue a massive hysterical crying fit/panic attack; we moved out a month later. It’s the only time I’ve ever broken a lease early. The takeaway: If you see even ONE warning sign before you sign a lease, run away as fast as you possibly can, because oh god, it’s just going to get so much worse. On the bright side, we lived less than a block away from a really lovely bar with nice bartenders who doled out generous pours, a necessity when you live in the Terrible Apartment from Hell.

 

12th Street, Gowanus, Brooklyn; $837.50/mo (my share)
After the Terrible Apartment from Hell, we moved into my current place, a one-bedroom railroad apartment in Gowanus. The kitchen and bedroom are both huge—big enough to fit a kitchen table and chairs, and a queen-sized bed, respectively—but the plumbing is crummy and it’s incredibly narrow. But it’s clean, and quiet, and did I mention it’s clean? So I can’t really complain. EJ and I lived there together for nearly three years; when we decided to divorce last year, he moved a few blocks away and I lived on my own for the first time. This mostly involved binging on Netflix and Chinese food, and having conversations with my cat. (No shame here.) My new boyfriend lives with me now, and we’re probably going to move when the lease is up. Hopefully we’ll find a place that is neither old nor gross, has no bugs, and is relatively quiet, but with New York, who knows?

 

Amy Plitt is the senior editor for Time Out New York.

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10 Comments / Post A Comment

Oh heyyy any chance you want to share what the full rent was on your crown heights place? Curious how much it’s gone up in recent years. Not that I live in the complex or anything, strangers on the internet.

the tacos are great.

“One of my roommates had incredibly loud sex, to the point where the other girl and I wondered if she was faking it.” I had this conversation with my old roommates about our other roommate regularly.

“Is she even enjoying this?”
“It sounds the same with everyone, every time.”

It’s amazing what you get used to. Very glad to be living alone.

Ha, I’ve known so many people who lived there! It was $1,800 for a two-bedroom when I moved in (end of ’05). And yeah, those tacos are pretty awesome.

dham (#2,271)

@Amy Plitt@twitter

That seems crazy? I moved into a 3-bedroom on that block in 2006 for $1650, and stayed there two years. But they raised the rent to $2100 when we moved out.

@dham I don’t doubt it. Was it the same building? I met a bunch of people who lived there, in 2-brs, who paid less (and a couple who paid more) than me, so who knows what the landlord was thinking. It had only gone up to $1,900 by the time I moved.

dotcommie (#662)

ugh reading about NYC rentals always makes me feel ill

MattP (#2,270)

Have you since learned how to re-light a pilot light? It’s not difficult and usually a better idea than waiting for the super to show up while your apartment fills up with gas.

@MattP I do know how to do it, but this was an ongoing thing that he just wouldn’t permanently fix. Eventually we just turned the gas off altogether and made everything in a microwave.

The pilot thing is pretty standard in old ny apartments. I remember being a kid and living in at least 2 different buildings in Forest Hills with my family and the pilot light just goes out some times. You need to get the really long matches and just keep them on hand. It’s not so bad.

As for the roaches, if you see one (dead or alive) in the stairwell, you have a chance. If you see one in the apt (dead or alive) your don’t take it unless everything else about the place is amazing and if you see more than one, just don’t bother.

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