Some women post birth stories – those detailed, moving chronicles of how their child entered this world. This is not that story. Not exactly. This is the story of how a new apartment birthed a whole new version of daily life for a single girl in the big city, and how it all happened astoundingly fast.
With a lease expiring at the end of April, I’d started casually looking for May 1 available apartments early in the month. But between how busy I was (see previous post) and how quickly real estate goes in this city, it really didn’t make sense to start looking in earnest until closer to the end of the month, when I could both devote the time to going to see spaces and had the added urgency of needing a roof over my head as April wound down.
Enter the mother of all networking efforts. They say finding an apartment in New York is a full-time job – this is why there are so many brokers in this city, prepared – for the small one-time fee of a month’s rent or more – to find you the perfect apartment with resources not available to the common man.
This is also why when looking for a new apartment, you’ll see New Yorkers posting, texting, calling, emailing anyone and everyone they know, to see who knows of something coming available. I had coworkers referring me to building managers and supers. I had friends in other states emailing their friends in New York. I had a tab permanently dedicated to Craigslist, PadMapper and NYCBits, tailored to my needs (budget, pet friendly), refreshing it several times a day to see what’d come up.
For about a week, nothing jumped out at me. In my price range, I was looking at the far side of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, heading out to “up and coming” neighborhoods – which is really just a nice way of saying you may or may not feel safe walking home alone at night. So desperate did I get at a certain point that I nearly put a deposit down on a truly beautiful one-bedroom in a neighborhood I didn’t love (the space felt intimidatingly luxurious!) before the broker emailed to say someone else had snapped it up.
Blessings in disguise.
Then, it happened. I refreshed the Craigslist tab and there it was. A tiny dot in an unexpected neighborhood – Williamsburg, that hipster mecca known far beyond the five boroughs, and known for being far outside the price range of the average Jane (self included).
And yet, this space fell squarely in my budgetary comfort zone (less than my Manhattan studio!), accepted pets and, as the ad said, “won’t last long. Location! Location! Location!”
I arranged to see it the next day. I put a deposit down before I left.
A 4th-floor walk-up, it’s easily 2.5x the space I had in my first apartment. There’s a full kitchen (a freezer!), three windows that flood the space with sunlight, and despite a small-ish bathroom and limited closet space, feels practically cavernous compared to where I came from. It’s two blocks from a park, surrounded by restaurants (and across the street from an adorable cafe) and on a more residential street than you’d ever find in Midtown.
One major hiccup in getting into a new apartment in NYC is the dreaded application process. Management is at the advantage when it comes to tenant selection, able to approve or deny interested parties as their bank accounts and letters of recommendation paint a picture of the kind of renter you may be. I gathered items I’d had on hand for my last move, forwarded them on to the broker and the next day had word – the space was mine.
Which was a good thing, seeing how I’d already arranged for movers and started forwarding my mail!
I do not recommend moving in the span of 5 days – from finding the apartment to moving into it, those five days were easily a few of the worst of the last year. I spent one horrible weekend packing up everything I’d crammed into 200 square feet (quite a lot, actually!), not even leaving the box-filled space that Sunday. Moving day was not just gray and overcast, it was the day New York got more rain than we typically see in a month. And the million trips up and down 3 flights of stairs into the new place had my legs sore for days afterwards.
But all’s well that ends well, as they say. Just over a week in the space, I’m settling in quite nicely. I hung new curtains in the windows (sunlight = good. privacy = also good.), shifted furniture around a few times to find the set-up I like, and actually unpacked my kitchen into cupboards rather than leaving my pots, pans and measuring cups out for the world to see on make-shift, baker’s rack storage.
With boxes (mostly) unpacked (and between shopping for some of the new furniture I have the square footage for!), I’ve started exploring the neighborhood more, too. I discovered this weekend I live two blocks from Brooklyn Brewery, and there’s a market around the block I’ve claimed as my new go-to for produce. More on that in a future post.
For now, suffice it to say there’s a reason people flock to Williamsburg, rent-stabilized apartments or not. It’s charming in every way, and I can’t wait to make it home!