Sunday, December 14, 2008

Parting thoughts on the Upper East Side

Yes Virginia, there are bathrooms
bigger than a closet in NYC.

When I first thought of myself living in NYC, I pictured living on Gramercy Park with one of the exclusive keys to the park. The apartment in my dreams looked a lot like the apartment my Aunt used to have on 24th & 3rd -- Alcove studio with a walk-through closet to the bathroom. Separate kitchen. Lots of windows. Separate kitchen.

I never thought about the Upper East Side. Now it's hard for me to think about living somewhere else! Over the past year and a half I have really come to love the area. The shopping is amazing; the park is close; you have tons of great groceries and markets and Museum Mile is only 2 Avenues away from me. Did I mention Madison Ave? Or Carl Shurz Park? Or John Jay Park (with the pool)? The neighborhood is a mix of private townhouses, brownstones and high raises. The people are a mix of young and old from every country under the sun.

Oh sure it hasn't been perfect -- the 2nd Ave subway line won't be done until 2015 if it gets completed at all, meaning you're stuck on the 6 with 1,000 of your closest friends in one car. And it's not exactly a hopping bar or club scene up here at nite if you're into that kind of thing. And you may get run over by a Park Ave mommy or nanny. But it's been a wonderful first NYC neighborhood.

Five things I'm going to miss:

5. Being so close to Central Park. I spent many days sunning, walking and taking pictures in the park. I haven't even come close to exploring all of it yet. You can't underestimate the value of having huge amounts of outdoor space nearby. It really does make a difference.

4. National Jean Company, Marimekko, Lucky Brand Jeans, the 86th St line of stores, Jubilee shoes and Free People. All of these stores are within 10 blocks of me. They're not the only places I shop at but I wasted plenty of Saturday afternoons cruising up and down 3rd Ave for fun. Marimekko is probably the store I'll miss the most.

3. JG Melon, Atlantic Grill, T Bar, PJ Bernstein, Ray Bari Pizza, Totonno's, Gracie Mews Diner. Most of these restaurants have other locations in the city but some are only up here on the Upper East Side. I'll miss Haru's and my regular delivery places too. I was finally getting to know my local eateries.

2. The 6 train subway stations. Among the newest and best-kept; they are gorgeous. My 77th St station has a lovely mural when you walk in. I won't miss the crowding but I'll miss being on the line I've taken since I was a little kid.

1. My apartment. Yeah, despite everything I'm gonna miss it. It's such a cute little studio. I packed a ton of crap in here and decorated it well (if I do say so myself). It had everything I needed except for a dishwasher. It was brand new when I moved in. I was an uptown girl and that was pretty frickin' sweet.

Five things I don't think I'll miss:

5. My backyard. I really thought outdoor space was going to be key but I didn't really use it as much as I would have liked. I never had a real party out there due to scheduling conflicts. I sat out there but wasn't really able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked because the other buildings had outdoor space too and there wasn't enough privacy. But my foster dogs loved it!

4. Taxi rides up here. Man, I thought the fare from Flatiron was a lot but the few times I've taken a cab from work in Soho up here it's been over $20. That's at least $18 more than the subway ride and they both probably take about the same time. Cabs might even take longer. And catching a cab sucks in the morning.

3. Only 1 subway line. If you live in between 59th St and 86th St you can't take the 4 or 5 and this area is too densely populated to be served by only the 6. If Mayor Bloomberg really took the train to work every morning he'd know how much it sucks. In my completely biased opinion the 6 is the most crowded subway line and I'm glad I won't have to ride it anymore unless by choice.

2. The snotty people. OK, I get it. We're uptown. Upper crust and all that. Much fancier than the Upper West Side. Old money. Yeesh. Whatever. Can you please get the hell out of my way now?

1. My neighbors. Just to beat a dead horse a little more, I hope karma kicks both my next-door and upstairs neighbor in the arse with an equally bad neighbor moving into my apartment. Like maybe a cop who doesn't take any bullshit. Or a druggie party-addict who is up at all hours. Or a band member who holds practices here. I know it's evil. I don't care. They've burned all their empathy hours with me.

Five things I already know are gonna suck at the new place:

5. Getting to Yankee Stadium. Yeah, I'll still be near the 4 train, but I'll be about 40 minutes away. Yuck. Can't even think about this.

4. Far away from Central Park. But near Battery Park. Not quite a fair trade-off...but I'll make do.

3. No grocery stores in the Financial District. Apparently this is a hold-over from FiDi's reputation as a 9 to 5 neighborhood. Someone should really capatilize on this. (Hint, hint, D'Agostinos or Whole Foods.)

2. Doing my own laundry again. I got really used to sending it out.

1. Getting my friends to come down to my new place. It's kind of out the way for most of my friends...kind of like the Upper East Side has been. Oh well. You win some and you lose some.

The movers are coming at 9 AM tomorrow morning. I doubt I'll sleep much tonight. Too sad (to be leaving) and excited to be arriving at the new place. Parting is such sweet sorrow, Upper East Side.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Back in boxes

And so the process begins's the circle...the circle of life! No sooner had I signed my lease than I began packing. OK, really I started packing like 2 weeks ago but now I am in full-on living out of boxes mode.

The first comment: my god I have a lot of crap! I had really packed a lot of stuff into my tiny little studio. It hadn't felt cluttered until recently but I've clearly outgrown the space. When I first moved in here I lived out of boxes for about the first 3 weeks. I don't think I slept in my bed for the first 2 weeks because with the boxes everywhere there was no room. I am so excited that I won't have the same issue in my new place. I am getting back to that state in my current place though. I think I will spend the weekend sleeping on my couch, or with the sofa bed pulled out if room allows.

I have a checklist of things to do before I move. First on the list? Call the moving company! Even though I had a wonderful moving experience with Gentle Giant last time around I ended up calling Flat Rate Moving because BFF M just used them to move and she gave me a killer referral discount. Their rep was pretty cool. I itemized everything I could think of that I own. He kept asking me "Anything else?" which gave me flashbacks to Dude, Where's My Car? And then? No and then! I kept saying that's it but then oh wait I would think of something else.

One lovely thing about moving into a luxury building is they have all these weird rules. The moving company has to fax some kind of proof of insurance thingy (not the official name), you can't move in on the weekend even though there's a freight elevator and you have to sign up for a 2-hour moving window. Yuck. The rep has at least pretty responsive. Fairly responsive. Whatever.

I am so excited that I can't sleep. I move in on the 15th. Is it Monday yet?

Monday, December 8, 2008

One more hunt story to share

Last week I was afraid to write any posts before I signed my lease for fear of jinxing myself. But before I forget I have another lovely hunt story to share.

By Tuesday I had spent a day or two moping about losing Astor Pl place and I'm still smarting about being rejected by Tribeca. But like everyone was telling me when it's meant to be it will be. My management company rep at my current place was actually quite excited when I called her on Dec. 1 to say I would be staying a bit longer. But I wasn't. I couldn't even love my place anymore. I can't sleep here and I can't relax. I find myself staying at work later than I have to because I don't want to come home. That's a sure sign I needed to get out.

On Tuesday night I was cruising Craigslist and there was just nothing in Soho, Nolita or Tribeca. It was either something I'd already seen or something outside my price range. I tried looking in the Village but I am ambivalent about living there. One thing I have learned on this search is that Soho is loud at night and the Village is even louder. Unless I have thermopane windows is that something I really want to deal with? Probably not.

Come Wednesday I spent some time at my old enemies Best Apartments. On my first apartment hunt I was working in Flatiron and called about an apartment in Chelsea. They dragged me all the way up to the UWS just to tell me that apartment was no longer available. Bastards. I still harbor a grudge about that one. And despite this I was about to call them about another place. I must be a sadist.

This time around I called about a 1 BR in the West Village. The ad had two photos that didn't really show anything but the ad said "dishwasher" so I was in. I feel really badly because I called the poor agent on her cell phone around 9:30 PM. I'd just gotten home from work. She was quite understanding about it and actually said "You're still pretty early. I get calls after 11 PM all the time." Once again a broker forced me to come into the office before I could actually see the place but at least this time I could meet her at her office in Flatiron...wait...Best Apartments has an office in Flatiron?? You mean during my last hunt I could have just gone to the office in Flatiron??!? That makes me even madder about my first experience with Best Apts! Argh!

I wanted to meet at 11 AM. The broker, C, had another appointment then so we compromised with 1 PM. But the next morning the agent text messaged me to ask to meet at 11 AM because her appointment had canceled. I got the text at 10:30 and ran my ass out of work to make it in time.

Good thing I rushed because I had to wait around about 20 minutes before C was ready to see me. As 5, 10 and 15 minutes passed my mood got increasingly foul. However there is no sense in starting off a meeting with rudeness so I calmed down and smiled when C finally greeted me. She had me sit down with her boss, K, a dude on a mission to make me feel bad.

K - "So long have you been looking?"
Me - "About 2 months."
K - "Wow, really. And how many places have you seen?"
Me - "Probably about 50." I should never have said this, plus I was wrong. I've only seen about 20 places. It just feels like 50.
K (rubs face with hands) - "Ooookay. And what was wrong with them?"
Me - explains how my priorities changed during the hunt from MUST live in Soho to wanting a dishwasher, closets, prewar, etc. He asked me a few more basic questions about neighborhoods and the like.

K then proceeded to give me what I like to call the "Broker pretending to be your parent but actually just wants your money" lecture. You see Roxy, he told me, you're asking for too much in one apartment! You want space, plus a dishwasher, plus closets, plus below 14th St and that just may not exist in your price range! At some point you're gonna have to compromise on something! Probably multiple things. You need a gut check. You need to re-examine your priorities. You're never going to be totally happy so you may as well just settle for something close.

He then finished up with this gem (not paraphrased, this is actually what he said): "It's clients like you that make brokers bald."

I can't even imagine what the look on my face was but let me tell you that I was seething. I didn't come in for a lecture, I wanted to say. And if you were forthright in your ads I could have probably saved myself 50 percent of the misery I've had for the last 2 months seeing apartments that were not at all as advertised! And you are bald! Don't set me up to say something extraordinarily rude like that!! But if there is one thing that being a manager has taught me it's that retaliation gets you nowhere. So instead I counted to 4, refocused and as politely as I could asked:

"Is the apartment I called about still available?"

K clicked his keyboard a bit and said yes. Yes it is. And as he clicked some more he said it actually sounded like it fit most of my criteria. (I'm well aware, I internally monologued.) We had wasted 45 minutes and I had to be back at work soon so C only had time to show me this one place. K asked me if I minded small places. It's a pretty good size he said but not huge. I have no idea how to respond to things like this. Small meaning...what? 200 sq. feet? 400 sq. feet? It was a 1 BR so how small could it be? C took me.

The apartment was on West 13th between 6th and 7th. We took the V one stop (it was cold) and then walked there. We got in to the lobby where C was supposed to call the Super. Except the intercom system was a phone, there was no directory and C had no idea what the Super's number was. My patience was wearing thin. She called K. She called someone else in her office. No one was very helpful. My God I hate this shit about brokers. Can't they be prepared? Such a waste of time. I was ready to just leave. Finally after about 10 minutes a resident walked out and we got in. It was a large building with an 'elevator.' Except it was one of those really old creaky 1-person elevators that I would never take. The apartment was on the 6th floor. C put her key in the door, and started to turn the wouldn't turn. Here we go, I thought to myself. She spent 5 minutes trying to turn the lock over and it just wouldn't. I tried too. Finally she got it turned 3/4 of the way...and it got stuck. The comedy of errors continues! She calls K, like he's going to help from the office?

Anyway about 5 minutes later she got it unstuck and we got in. I was hoping the place would be worth it but it sure wasn't. While the location was awesome (near the Magnolia Bakery among other things) the apartment was tiny. I had my measuring tape. The kitchen was a wall in the living room first of all so right there I lose space over my current place. The two rooms were tiny boxes. Together they added up to 250 sq. feet. So not only would I lose my separate kitchen, I would lose another 20 sq. feet of living space on top of it. Not worth it. There was also only one, tiny, single-door closet and the bathroom had no tub. I summarily rejected it. All that work for nothing.

As we headed down the stairs I was quite dejected. C started to talk and I thought she would have comforting things to say. But instead she berated me! That was a great place, she said. Your standards are too high. If you keep looking out for that perfect place you're never going to be satisfied by anything she said. You will never move.

This went on for a couple of minutes. I just let her unload. My God where has my fight gone? I should have berated her right back. Instead I just shrugged and replied, "Maybe I won't ever move, you could be right. But I'm not settling for crap." And then we said our goodbyes.

I figured that was the end of ironically-named Best Apartments, take 2, but that afternoon I got a call from C. "Hi, Roxy, I found an apartment in Tribeca that might work for you! Alcove studio, high floor, lots of light, dishwasher...would you be interested?" Uh, OK. Except the rent was $2500, so she had to call the management company to see if they would let me in. Which they would not. And that was the end of ironically-named Best Apartments, take 2. Don't be like me. Don't use them. They are horrible.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: I have a new apartment

See that appliance on the left side of the photo above? That's a DISHWASHER. Love them. Know what's even better? It's the dishwasher in my new apartment! Yes, it's finally true: after 2 months of searching and two failed attempts I have successfully signed a lease for an apartment. I feel 500 lbs lighter (see ya later, gorilla).

I know it's hard to believe but I even have nice things to say about 2 brokers! First of all, Broker S from Manhattan Connection emailed me on Wednesday to say he was back in town and yes he would check with Tribeca place about using my sister as a co-signer to see if that would get me in. It didn't work out but he even called me back to let me know! What a nice guy and I mean that. He didn't admonish me for anything during our viewings together and really advocated for me to the management company. That is exactly what a broker is supposed to do! S works at Manhattan Connection's office on 78th & Madison.

I have noticed in general that brokers have been a bit nicer to me this time around. I'm not sure if it's because of the time of year, the depressed market, my higher budget or a combination of the three. But in the end it was not S who found me my apartment. It was a different broker, L, from Platinum Properties.

After the West Village place didn't pan out and I wasn't even allowed to be considered for the Greenwich St place in Tribeca I knew I had to expand my neighborhood options. I know I didn't want to go north of Union Square (and really, not north of West 4th St) I realized my other option was the Financial District. I was pretty down on the neighborhood when I first moved here but recently I've visited it and I am warming up to it. Plus there are so many deals to be had with many financial industry workers moving out.

While expanding my neighborhood parameters I also gut checked myself about what I wanted in an aparment. I realized that besides the ever-present need for a freakin' DISHWASHER I would love to live in a full-service building. That wasn't possible during my first hunt but now I can afford it. So I looked for full-service skyscrapers in FiDi with no fee. And I found plenty including many listed by Platinum Properties. Kind of an over-the-top name for a brokerage in my opinion but I digress. I found three listings that interested me: a 1 BR in Tribeca off Leonard St, an alcove studio with floor to ceiling windows and a terrace in FiDi and a building with a pool in FiDi (c'mon, a pool!).

The next morning the broker, L, called me to discuss what I was looking for. I told her: a dishwasher and closets in a luxury building. Some other likes: high floor, nice views, open kitchen, big windows, light. She and I scheduled a long appointment to do several viewings that afternoon. She promised to gather up a few buildings for me to look at -- all no fee.

Their office is at 30 Wall St and I showed up a bit early for my 4 PM appointment. I'm not gonna lie -- as soon as I got off the subway I knew where everything to the west was, but the East was a big mystery to me. Broker L was very nice. She had an index card with 5 different buildings for me to look at. She told me all about each before we left and I immediately cut two (the one off Leonard St? That was Tribeca place that rejected me!).

The first building was 10 Hanover Square. There was a Starbucks in the lobby which I loved. All of these buildings have their own leasing offices within. So I had not only a broker but also a tour guide! The leasing agent gave me a packet (ooh, a packet!) about the building as well as a floor plan of the apartments I would be seeing. There were a few apartments available within my price range. Each apartment style is called a "line." I saw a T-line and and a U-line.

The floor plan above is a T-line plan.
The U-line plan looked just like it
but was flipped horizontally.

So ready for a new apartment term? "Studio home office." This is basically a 1 BR but legally a bedroom has to have a window. When you see studio-home office in ads you have two separate living areas. Almost all of the apartments I saw with L were studio home offices.

The apartments at 10 Hanover were lovely -- hardwood throughout, lovely granite breakfast bars, new appliances, nice closets and marble bathrooms. And one of the apartments was on the 21st floor and had an awesome view of 40 Wall St. But they were tiny for the price! $2325 for the lower floor and $2400 for the 21st floor. Plus I hated how you walked into the home office -- which I would have used as the bedroom. Granted people can see my "bedroom" now in my tiny space but if I'm upgrading I want to be able to keep it separate. I suppose you could make it the living room but still...awkward to say the least. And the neither living space was very big. I would only be gaining about 120 sq feet and some of that wasn't really usable. I do have to say that the building's amenities were great. I quickly came to learn that all of these buildings have huge lounges, roof decks and game rooms with free wifi. There was also storage in the building and the most amazing gym I have ever seen. It had a 3-story rock wall! Turns out the building used to the be the Goldman Sachs headquarters. Something about that made me feel dirty.

I was quite impressed with the building but not the apartment so we continued on. Next stop was the Crest. Located at 63 & 67 Wall St, two buildings were combined to make one. The apartments I looked at were both in 63 Wall St. Again I saw the lounge and the gym. The lobby of 67 Wall also had an amazing atrium.

Up to the apartments. We saw on the 3rd floor and one on the 12th floor. I was told there was an application in on the 3rd floor apartment so honestly I didn't pay too much attention to it. It was nice -- it had 3 HUGE closets) but I was excited to see the view from the 12th floor. That apartment had a wonky layout but I loved it! It was built on a diagonal so everything was built into nooks. And the view: wow. Another great view of 40 Wall St. The 3rd floor unit was $2495 and the 12th floor unit was $2595 but L was sure we could negotiate. Still, I was eager to see what else was out there.

The next building was 45 Wall St., and after the first two places neither apartment really impressed me. I saw a large studio that had awesome closets (and at $2295 cheap!) but was very dark and an alcove studio that had a nice terrace but was tiny (and expensive at $2550). We made one last stop at 100 Maiden Lane. The apartment had plenty of windows but no great view to enjoy so I passed.

I had seen almost 10 apartments by the end of the appointment and I admit my head was spinning! I was already having trouble remembering one apartment from another. Plenty to think about. L and I went back to her office and she suggested I sleep on it. It was late enough by then that none of the apartments was likely to be taken out from under me.

I spent all night deliberating between the 21st floor apartment at 10 Hanover Sq and the 12th floor apartment at the Crest. I liked the apartment at the Crest better but it was more expensive and the building amenities at 10 Hanover were better. 10 Hanover was further from the subways though. And the Crest had a better layout. Flip flop flip flop.

Finally the next morning I had decided -- the 12th floor apartment at 63 Wall St. L and I chatted for while. I wanted to go back to the Crest and see the places again to take photos and measure. She agreed to take me back. On the way we chatted about the rent. L thought she could get the management company down to $2550. Blargh. That was still more than I wanted to pay by $50. That right there would save me $600 a year. Really I wanted to pay $2400, which would save me $1200. L suggested that we take another look at the 3rd floor apartment, which she felt she could get down to $2450. She mentioned that it had showed up in her daily listings so there was a good chance the application didn't go through.

On second viewing I fell in love with the 3rd floor apartment. Now that I had the other apartments to compare it to it really was something. Tall, 10 foot windows with stained glass. A nice kitchen open to the living room. Three huge closets. A nice layout. I wanted it!

We found out the apartment was indeed open so I put in an application. I offered $2400 on a 16-month lease with 1 month free. And on Friday morning I found out my offer was accepted and it was mine!! I signed my lease on Friday evening and I can move in on the 15th. Hooray! My long, miserable journey is finally almost over. I will post some more thoughts later this week but I need some sleep first. And to pack.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

State of the Apartment Hunt

Well, here I am. Still in the same apartment. With the mice. I ended up backing out of the Astor Place place so I am back to square 1...again.

When we last left off, broker I had told me that Astor Place place was insisting on a guarantor. I negotiated some free rent out of the deal and decided to move forward. I talked to my sis and she was cool with it so I had the application emailed. Good thing I checked it first because they had jacked up the rent in return for the free rent. Yeesh. Did they think I wasn't going to notice? The broker said "well the management company is paying my fee so I can't really negotiate." What kind of BS is that? The worst kind if you ask me. So I said no way.

Now I am sitting here with a chunk of change in my bank account that I can't spend, and though I'm sure everything will be fine I'm kind of hoping that I still have my place because I had to leave a message for my management rep earlier this week that I would be staying another month. I am 99.9% sure that she hasn't shown my place yet because 1) it's been a disaster area and 2) I'm pretty sure I'm the only one with keys to my door locks. The locksmith changed them after I moved in. I've tried calling every day this week except Thanksgiving and always get voicemail. So hopefully I won't be tossed out on the street tomorrow night because that would really suck! (Though it would also be just my luck lately.)

Between the crazy market and crazier management companies this 2nd NYC apartment search certainly has not gone the way I envisioned. Despite it all, I am optimistic I will find a great place. I'm lucky to have an understanding job and some flexibility in my living situation. Now we are entering the slow period both for new rentals coming onto the market and the amount of renters looking. The tough thing now is leases -- I don't want a lease that expires on Dec. 31! So I'll probably need to negotiate a 13-month lease.

The other option is to take a month or two off from apartment hunting. But every time I convince myself this is the right move (and logically it probably is) one of my neighbors will crash around or keep me up overnight or I will see yet another mouse scampering around and as my mental health slowly wears away I realize why I have to get the hell out of this apartment ASAP.

In one last-ditch moved I emailed Broker S back about the Tribeca place. Last week I had drinks with a friend who is a broker and he asked me why I didn't pitch my sister as a co-signer instead of a guarantor. The bad thing is she would be treated as a roommate instead of a guarantor. But the truth is it's mostly a moot distinction. So I wrote to S last Monday. Have not heard back: he either just laughed at how pathetic I am or he was on vacation last week. It's a longshot but you never know.

So for the meantime I am: 1 - hoping I still can stay in my current place for at least another month! 2 - hoping Broker S writes me back with good news and 3 - searching for anything that measures up to the Tribeca or Astor Place places. Maybe I'll just move to Queens.

Adventures in...Tofurkey

After all the drama of apartment hunting (still hunting) I was happy for the Thanksgiving break to have something else to think about. I spent the week before mentally preparing myself to gain five pounds in potatoes of the mashed variety, stuffing and turkey. Then I got an invitation I just couldn't pass up. Friends H & G were attending a vegan Thanksgiving and invited me along.

At first, I was like, no turkey? You must understand that I see a dish and think, "hmm, how could I add some meat to this?" I am very much the steak and potato kind of girl. But I was intrigued by the idea of tofurky...tofurkey...whatever. Not real turkey. I knew the stuffing would also taste different. I was in anyway.

Don't tell anyone, but I'm a big tofu fan. The only reason why I don't eat it more often is that I can't stand the smell of it raw. Give it to me grilled or cooked somehow and we're all set. I curious to see how it would hold up vs. turkey.

We met up at the restaurant around 4:30 on Thanksgiving. Soup to start with lots of veggies -- carrots, celery, peas, onion, yum. I kind of missed chicken or turkey in the soup but it was just a starter. Then we lined up, buffet-style for the main course. The side dishes were a'plenty: mashed regular or sweet potatoes (with pecans), stuffing, sweet potato pie, green bean casserole, noodle pudding, mixed veggies, cranberry sauce, some kind of bean dish, vegan gravy.

Then we finally got to the Tofurkey. I was trying to picture what it would look like. Would it be shaped like a turkey? Would it be rectangular? Would it resemble spam? Truth is it looked more like a ham -- big, ovular, kind of pinkish brown. A server cut into it with the classic turkey knife to reveal the stuffing in the middle. I took a slice on my already full plate and headed back to my table.

H & G watched me take my first few bites and waited for the reaction. It took me several bites before coming to the conclusion that it was pretty damn good! The tofurkey had the same consistency as turkey -- kind of moist, easy to break apart with a fork and a little bit tasteless. In no way would you ever mistake tofurkey for turkey but it was a suitable replacement. The stuffing was a bit of a disappointment (something to be said for sausage and the like as flavoring) but in the end the meal was delicious and I stuffed myself just as much as I would have with the real thing. Shopping on Black Friday was predictably a disaster. Nothing fit. And that's the way it should be -- making me buy nothing on Buy Nothing Day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all

My bad luck string with apartments continues. On Friday the no-fee broker (I) called to let me know that my offer had been approved for the Astor After being burned by Tribeca I have learned that doesn't mean much, so I wasn't surprised when the broker called today to let me know that the management company changed their mind and is now requiring a guarantor. It's kind of bullshit and I'm mad that I keep getting told I'm approved only to find that there are more asterisks than a baseball line score during the steroids era.

The reasons why I'm balking at a guarantor are: 1 -- I am more than likely going to make 40 times the rent I need for this place (I've started freelancing again for some extra cash and though it's iffy I'm sure I'll have no problem clearing $10,000 in freelance work for the year); 2 -- they freakin' told me I was approved! Seriously management companies. Your apartments are sitting vacant for weeks on end for a reason. I know you usually require 40 times the rent but that was during the boom times and guess what? The boom went ka-boom. Now we're crashing back to earth and your rents are going to have to come down if you insist on keeping these ridiculous rent requirements. Building value be damned. Take us as we are or let your apartments drive you broke! It makes no sense to me; buildings would rather take no rental income and uphold these draconian requirements than get rental income a bit under market.

I'm balking at the guarantor clause because of the shaky economy. I don't mind chancing ruining my own credit if I was unlucky enough to lose my job but there is no way I'm taking my sister down with me. That just ain't fair. Just this week two of my friends were laid off and I admit it shook me up a little bit. I wonder if this is a message from a higher power -- don't waste all your income on rent. I really want to move but the cards just don't seem to be aligned for this. Broker I told me he'd talk to the management company and see what they could do. I'm not holding my breath. At least I've already gone through this once so I'm not too upset. I just hope non-Super will let me stay in my current place.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Goodbye Tribeca, hello Village?

I gave up on the Tribeca apartment yesterday. I had finally convinced the leasing agent that I was qualified and he passed along my application to the central lease processing office. A day and a bit later, they told me I hadn't satisfied their requirements. They offered me two non-sensical options and finally I said ENOUGH! Yeesh. Seriously. So, moral of the story is don't work with Manhattan Skyline Apartments! They are rough mofos. Luckily I didn't have any trouble re-depositing my cashier's check.

I was disappointed most of yesterday but woke up this morning ready to look around again. With winter coming on there are fewer new listings each day. Really the market won't pick up again until after the 1st of the month. I really want to get the heck out of my apartment. I am motivated.

I had talked to broker S about continuing to work with him. He said that would be fine but I haven't heard from him since. I found an apartment listed by his firm but called the broker listed on the ad, I. I and I (heh) met up at the Starbucks at Astor Place to see a Greenwich Village 1 BR.

There were 3 apartments available in the building. Of course I'm now measuring against the Tribeca place...the Village place also has a doorman, also has an elevator and also has laundry (on each floor instead of in a room). It does not have a gym and I'm not sure about the roof deal. The first apartment was pretty cute. Two large closets when you first walk in. A tiny kitchen but I don't mind especially since it had a dishwasher! But all of the apartments are lofts. Which literally means you climb a ladder to the sleeping area. The ceiling was too low in the first and second apartments' lofts.

The third apartment was juuuuusssssttt right. It was by far the largest and its kitchen had a pass-through. The loft's ceiling was high enough to stand up in. Since the building is a converted warehouse the walls are really thick. Oddly enough, my broker used to live in the building so he knew tons about it. Of course, it was also $150 more expensive, putting it at $2500. Not only is that the tippy top of my budget, it's also $100 more than the Tribeca place. But it was 100 sq. feet bigger than Tribeca and...well...I need a place to live. The broker laughed that I hardly even peeped the bathroom. (He's right, I hardly did. But it has a tub and was pretty clean so I don't care at this point.) So I applied for it.

The best part? The broker filled out my application for me! And the only documentation I needed to apply was: two paystubs and a letter of employment. That is 80% less paperwork than Tribeca. I'm liking this place already. I find out tomorrow. My fingers are crossed and I hope yours are too!

Monday, November 17, 2008

I think I lost my next apartment

Well it looks like Manhattan Skyline Management is going to fuck me out of the apartment they said I could have last week. I spoke to the leasing rep today who gave me three options: 1 -- get another guarantor (can't); 2 -- contact some bond company and get them to co-sign with me (sounds like a scam, no fucking way) or 3 -- put up some kind of asset worth $15,000 as collateral for the apartment (fuck no).

The best part was this paraphrased quote: 'We're not worried about whether or not you can pay the rent. You have good credit and we know you'll pay the rent. The issue is whether or not you meet the qualifications.' So basically...even though you know I'll always pay my rent you don't want me living here because I don't meet your arbitrary guidelines? Sure, that's not discriminatory!

The leasing agent told me to send documentation about my 401k and he'd see what he could do but at this point I'm over it. I'm not giving them anything else. I'm calling my lawyer tomorrow to see if there's any recourse (doubtful though). I'm also in deep shit. I have already given notice that I'm moving out Dec. 1 so now my hands are kind of tied. So I have 10 days or so to find an apartment. Yuck.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Manhattan Skyline Management is making me very angry...

...grrrr. Well, there is always some kind of drama with NYC apartment hunting and here I am once again. The first time around it was adventures in cashier's checks. This time around it's cold feet on the part of the building's management company. For this building it's Manhattan Skyline Management.

Let's review the hoops I've jumped through so far, shall we? I called about an apartment that was $2200/mo but that apartment was 'gone' so instead I chose a $2400/mo apartment. I filled out an application, I put in a deposit, I paid a credit check fee, I provided all required documentation within 24 hours (copy of driver's license, two paystubs, two bank statements, employment verification letter, first two pages of last 2 years' tax returns, etc.), I make very close to 40x the rent and with bonus will be close to the 45x this building wants (ridiculous) yet I STILL provided the same amount of documentation for a guarantor, I gave a check for ANOTHER credit check fee. I have been nothing but proactive for this entire process. And now you are telling me you're not sure if I make enough to live in your building? Please. I realize it must chafe you guys a bit that you have to rent some of your apartments below market levels. Don't think of it as losing money. Think of it as paying it forward.

Let's review, shall we? The reason you had openings in the first place is because a whole bunch of people in the financial industry lost their jobs and had to move out of your building. I work in the Internet Industry's fastest growing sector -- hosting. While other companies are laying off, our company is hiring. I realize I don't make $11 billion per year (yet) but I have been living in rental housing for 7 years and in that time I have never paid my rent late. That is at least 84 on-time rent payments and counting. Above that, I'm a quiet tenant. The loudest thing I do is blog! (Sad, I know.)

So which would you rather have? A trust fund baby who trashes your apartment, is obnoxious and fucks you over before moving out by not paying the rent for a few months because they just do not care? Or someone who has been clawing for money their entire life, who gets it and knows to pay their bills? God, I am so angry right now!

Yeah, I'm pretty
upset right now.

This would ONLY happen in NYC. I don't know of any other city, village, town, incorporated area, anything that requires jumping through this many hoops. And yet for better or worse I have done everything you asked and have shown myself to be more than qualified for the apartment. Yeesh.

Here is the deal. After being told I was all set for my apartment after a long week and a half process I was just waiting for a call from Manhattan Skyline Management to set my lease-signing date. And then lo and behold last night I get a call from the leasing agent saying that they're not sure I make enough in salary. What? Seriously? You told me I was all set! I have already notified my current landlord that I'm moving out because you said I was all set. You were calling me to set a lease-signing date! That's what you said! You said my application was approved but you wanted a guarantor as backup! This is why I get so nervous about this kind of thing. Good faith is no longer good faith. I knew it wasn't a done deal until I had a signed lease.

First of all, Manhattan Skyline Management, your requirements for living in this rent-stabilized building are exhorbitant. 45x times the rent is 5x above the standard. Furthermore we have been going through this rental process for almost 2 weeks. You have had my application for 12 days. You couldn't mention this before? You waited until AFTER I gave you a cashier's check deposit? What am I supposed to do now? I should mention that your two leasing agents have been mostly a pleasure to deal with but that doesn't make up for this.

Don't answer. Because I know what I am going to do. I am going to research every damn thing I can find in the god-forsaken city rental resources and come to you on Monday armed with enough information and evidence in my favor to bury you. Let's just forget about this little performance anxiety episode, set a lease-signing date and let bygones be bygones. There is no other option. BFF M just went through this exact same thing. Her management company came to their senses and realized peeps like us are ideal residents. Want to wake up to the same thing, Manhattan Skyline?

I'm going to go stew for awhile. Thanks for ruining my weekend, Manhattan Skyline Management.

Metapost: Drawing of a spider does not count as payment

From Geekologie via the Consumerist comes the hysterical and (apparently) true story of a man, his artistic sense, and a $234 bill. I needed a good chuckle this morning.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

'Not even the government requires this much paperwork'

What a crazy week. I feel as though I have not sat still for a moment. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent being forced to patiently wait for my sister to return from Italy so she could turn over guarantor documents over to the management company at the new building. Luckily work has been more than busy enough to keep me distracted.

I was also pretty nervous about talking to my current non-Super about moving. Even though I have been lease-free since August, you just never know. My boss put the fear of god into me by saying, "You should check to make sure that your lease doesn't have a clause saying anything about extending terms automatically if you stay in the apartment, whether you have a lease or not." GULP. This was something I hadn't even thought about -- the lease automatically extending another near even though I didn't sign a new one? Luckily one call to my family lawyer shut that fear down.

I scheduled a visit with non-Super on didn't happen. (I called during dinner. Bad form on my part.) I scheduled a visit with non-Super on didn't happen. I finally ended up politely telling non-Super I was moving out by phone. Luckily non-Super was pretty cool about it. I asked about the shelves I put up in the kitchen -- could I leave them behind? Non-Super wanted to come see. I asked about my chairs in the backyard -- could I leave them behind? Non-Super wanted to come see. I scheduled a visit with non-Super on didn't happen. Sigh.

My kitchen shelves on the right --
who wouldn't want them?

On Wednesday night my sister returned, and by Thursday morning I was already bugging her. I sent her an email with everything I needed: a completed application, two paystubs, two bank statements, the first two pages of 2006-07 tax returns, copy of driver's license, employment verification letter...a singing bush and an invisible sword. (Made those last two up!) My sister balked. And I can't blame her. Really all the management company should have needed was a paystub and her SS# to run a credit check.

"Roxy," she said to me, "I didn't have to give this much paperwork to get a mortgage!"
"I know," was my reply.
"I didn't have to give this much paperwork to buy a car."
"I know."
"I didn't have to give this much paperwork to get government security clearance!"
"I know. It's ridiculous. But this is just the way it is in NYC."

Her main concern was identity theft. Really, you are turning over your life here. For a freakin' apartment. BFF M and her Dad just went through the exact same thing so I had that to use an example. My sister asked me to play hardball so I tried. I told no-fee broker S it was ridiculous! All the management company should need was two things! It was a no-go and he got feisty with me. I went back to sis, who grudgingly agreed to give me her life story. Isn't she great?

I just turned in her paperwork yesterday. Now I am waiting for the management company to call me back with a lease signing date. I have paid the deposit but still need to hand over my first month's rent cashier's check. The next steps will be calling the moving company and packing! Cannot wait for everything to be signed and done.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Woo-hoo! I have my next apartment

The lease isn't signed yet so I'm still not considering a done deal...but it's pretty much a done deal. S called me today to let me know that the apartment in Tribeca is mine! Let's relive the weekend together, shall we?

On Saturday morning I woke up early and filled out my application. I had to assemble lots of paperwork -- an employment verification letter with annual salary that I'd gotten on Friday; my last two bank statements; my last two paystubs; the first two pages of my last two years' tax returns and a recommendation letter from my landlord. I'd chosen to contact my landlord from CT because I haven't told my management company rep or non-Super that I'm moving out yet. We'll come back to that caveat.

I made copies of everything plus my driver's license and then met up with S at his office. There had been some discussion about maybe offering less than $2400/mo for the apartment. But S recommended that I go in at the full rent price because there were going to be competing offers if I didn't. Reluctantly, I agreed. I had done some more research and found out some additional details about my apartment. Turns out my apartment was the smallest one on the floor. I didn't mind because it was still considerably bigger than my current apartment and the size probably accounted for the lower price. I also found out that my closets are slightly smaller but again it was a quibble. If I lost out on this apartment the next cheapest one was now sitting at $3000/mo -- way beyond my range -- and there are only 2 apartments left in the building.

Floor plan of an apartment
to mine

S and I headed down to the building. I wanted to take some photos of the apartment and he was showing another 1 BR to a couple of potential tenants. When we got to the building the leasing office was locked. Luckily the Super was nice enough to let us in to my future apartment. It was still gorgeous! I snapped a ton of pics that later on I realized were pretty dumb: a closeup of the dishwasher! A closeup of the thermostat! (Programmable!) A closeup of the closets! It was obvious that I was delirious.

Then I had a rare opportunity. S had to take some photos of the penthouse and he let me tag along. It was pretty awesome. The apartment had 3 BRs, 3.5 baths, a fireplace and a private rooftop terrace. The finishes weren't as high-end as I was expecting but it was a very nice penthouse. I was in awe. Someday, I kept telling myself.

The leasing office was still locked when we were done so S told me he would try again on Monday. But of course on Sunday J called me and apologized for his partner not showing the day before. He asked if I could drop off the application...except that S had it and it was his day off. I tried to stay calm. I even did my dishes! But I decided to go down to the building and just do everything again so I knew it was done. Of course S called me as I was leaving the building but I didn't mind. I apologized for bugging him on his day off. J told me I could expect an answer on Thursday of this week.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got the call today! I'd tried applying by myself but they are requiring a guarantor for me because I don't quite make enough. My sister has graciously agreed to co-sign with me again...once she gets back from Italy later this week. In fact I got the call so quickly from the building that I don't have all finances in order quite yet. I had to transfer some cash from my Morgan Stanely money market account and they are being slow as molasses. My rep was great but the company itself has all this bureaucratic shit to get through.

Hopefully by this time next week I will have signed my lease and will just be counting the days until I move. My last remaining hurdle is telling my current place that I'm moving out. My lease expired in August and I have not signed a new one. So I have no ties here. But I hope they don't give me a hard time; especially after the crap I've been dealing with from the neighbors. I'm talking to my management company rep tomorrow. I'm hoping it will go smoothly.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I think I found my next apartment

I'm almost scared to talk about because it's far from a done deal but I think I've found my next apartment.

I decided not to apply for the apartment on Houston. The more I thought about having only half a closet and a closet bathroom the less I liked it. My cold broke on Thursday but I've still been running a terrible fever. So when I saw an ad for a 1 BR on the Soho/Tribeca border for $2200 in a luxury doorman building I thought I was hallucinating.

I clicked into the ad. 1 BR/$2200 it said, with three closets, a dishwasher and breakfast bar in a rent-stabilized high rise with a gym, laundry and roof deck near the Canal St subway stations. Wha? It sounded like a scam. It was a no-fee listing by a brokerage I've never heard of -- Manhattan Connections.

It was late Thursday when I emailed so I followed up with a call on Friday morning. I had to leave a message but shortly after S (the broker) emailed me to set up a viewing at 5 PM that day. After getting some more details I learned the apartment was really deeper into Tribeca and not so close to Soho. Which made it all the more curious that the rent was so low. Also, the $2200 apartment was gone (sigh) but there was a $2400 1 BR on a higher floor. And I would love to live on a high floor!

We met at Broadway and Leonard. The building was on Worth St. It was a 16-floor high rise built in 2000. The lobby was made to look like a Colorado ski lodge which I of course got a huge kick out of. My no-fee broker S and I met with the leasing agent J. He elaborated more on why the rent was so low. They'd lost a whole bunch of tenants because of the market crash so the management company was offering a limited number of apartments at low rents so they could keep the building fill. Their loss was my gain. They could reset the rents once a day which was why my 1 BR was $200 higher than the other one. This seemed completely unfair to me but whatever. I saw their appointment book and it was full. J showed us the laundry room (huge) and the gym (free!) and the 2nd floor outdoor space. Then we went up to the 13th floor.

As soon as we walked in I was sold. The kitchen was open to the apartment on the right, just next to a coat closet. (A coat closet! I'd forgotten what those look like!) I could not believe how many cabinets there were. The appliances were white which is fine with me as I've grown to hate how hard stainless steel is to keep clean. And there was a dishwasher! It also had a breakfast bar that could easily double as a dining room table. The living room was large with a window three panes large. Across from the kitchen was a linen closet and a nice light bathroom. The bedroom was not huge but you could easily fit a queen-sized bed and a dresser. Did I mention that the apartment had 3 closets???

I knew this had to be my next apartment. "I'll take it!" I said excitedly. J and S exchanged knowing glances and we went back down to the leasing office on the 2nd floor. I got an application and "reserved my spot as 1st in line" and rent amount with a $75 good faith deposit/credit check fee. The apartment was mine! (Provided my application went through OK.) I agreed to have all my paperwork ready today. This morning I woke up early, filled out the application and got everything -- paystubs, tax returns, letter verifying employment, bank statements, the works. S and I took one more tour of the apartment today and now we're just waiting until the leasing office calls us back to submit the application. S has been awesome by the way. Nicest broker ever. Not having to pay him a fee is certainly helping my spirits.

There is so much more to tell but I don't want to jinx myself. I can say that the 1 BRs reset to $2850 today so I feel very lucky that I got in when I did. I have my fingers crossed that everything goes through and I get the apartment! Once I know I will have updates. Until then, I admit I'm a little bit queasy. Please please please let me get this place!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To apply, or to not apply

I am fighting a miserable cold that has left me sounding like Patty and Selma, but I'll be damned if it's going to keep me from apartment hunting. I should just open every phone call by saying 'hiya hun' followed quickly by that throaty grumble.

Last night I found an awesome ad for a no-fee 1 BR on Thompson St for $2300. It looked really promising -- two windows in each room, a nice but not too large kitchen (couldn't tell if there was a dishwasher), very bright and on a good block.

The ad was through Century 21 and the ad said contact the broker anytime so I did. I emailed her around 9:30 PM and she got back to me right away which I thought was cool. What was not cool at all was when she asked me to meet her at her office. Sigh. Please, I said, I work in Soho, could you please not make me come up to midtown only to go right back down? Company policy, she replied. So I confirmed with her in fucking midtown only because the apartment looked really promising. Through some creative research I found another broker listing the same apartment so I contacted him too. I figured if he agreed to meet me at the apartment I would just cancel on Century 21 and their bureaucracy.

This morning I hadn't heard back from Broker B so I grudgingly went to midtown to meet up with Broker A. I must have looked a mess. I had just left my doctor and I was running a bit of a fever. Once at the office they made me fill out your typical broker form. I didn't sign the back -- the part with the fee acceptance disclaimer. Turns out I had emailed with one of the pages and the broker was some dude. I was antsy. The apartment was a good deal and I didn't want to lose out. He wanted to look up other places for me...I said look I don't mean to be rude but I only care about this one apartment so could we just go? He started telling me about how his company gets 180 new listings each day...I cut him off and said so does everyone else, you're all looking at the same database and I'm not impressed. I'm not trying to deny you your living, I told him, but I won't pay a fee and I just want to see the apartment on Thompson already!

Oh, he said, that apartment is no longer in the database, he said. I slumped in my chair. Great. I was sweaty, feverish and had just wasted 45 minutes. Thanks Century 21!

I took a cab home and pouted. On Monday night I'd found a similar deal on Sullivan (dangerously close to work!) but when I showed up for the viewing the tenant told me she'd gotten word that her place had been rented. Dammit! And now dammit again! I worked for awhile when Broker B got back to me. Yes, the apartment was still available he said, and he would meet me there at 1. Really? Yes, really.

His company had swung an exclusive listing on the place. A-ha. So that was why it disappeared from the database. It was pretty cute. The entryway was a long hall with the bedroom off of it. It was a tiny bedroom, about 10x10. Big enough for a bed and a dresser and not much else. The kitchen was in the center of the apartment (no dishwasher) with the living room at the other end. The living room and bedroom were about the same size. The bathroom was nice and the apartment had plenty of light. But it wasn't quite the wow I was hoping for. The broker mentioned that he had another no-fee apartment around the corner on Houston.

The Houston apartment was much better. It was also a 1 BR. You entered into the kitchen, which was eat-in! With a dishwasher! The living room was off to the right. It was larger than the last place with cool ceiling molding. The bedroom completed the railroad style apartment. It was tiny like the last one and had noticeable open spaces between the floor and the baseboard. That made me kind of wary. But otherwise I loved it. So I started detail searching. The bedroom floor was pitched a little bit. That was workable -- honestly many of the apartments in Soho seem to have this issue. But where was the bathroom? Turns out it was in this closet-sized room in the middle of the apartment. It had a shower stall which kinda sucked. But otherwise it seemed OK. My nose was not working so I couldn't sniff for mold. The other issue was the closet -- there was a pantry style closet in the kitchen but only one other closet in the apartment. And it was tiny.

I told the broker I would apply and I left there planning to. I was going to ask for lower rent but I mostly loved the place. With my pub table in the kitchen and a separate bedroom it would feel like so much more space. But I knew I needed a reality check. I called T.

"Well," T said. "List the pros and cons." OK. Pros: separate bedroom. Eat-in kitchen. DISHWASHER!! Southern Exposure. Not first floor. Only one shared wall. Pre-war building. Close to work. High ceilings. Cons: Tiny closet. Tiny bathroom. Older appliances, etc. than my current apartment. On busy street. Windows had condensation on them (heat escaping? not very promising).

"Sounds like more pros than cons," T said. "But...tiny closet? Like how tiny we talking here?" I told him -- about half the size of my current apartment. He pointed out that I was already hurting for storage in my current place. And now I would half my storage? Yeah. He was right. That was almost a deal-breaker. And he didn't sound thrilled about the tiny bathroom. I think that is partly because he has literally been burned by my current bathroom. When guys, uh, use my bathroom they have to stand against a steam pipe to get enough distance. In the winter that can be pretty tricky.

So now I am less sure. I think I will keep searching and make up my mind tomorrow. Hopefully no one steals this one out form under me before then.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The lamest apartment scams I have fallen for

I am kind of naïve and known among my friends for being pretty gullible. I know and own this part of myself. So it's no surprise that I have fallen for (probably) more than my fair share of fake apartment ads. Addresses that don't exist; rents that are too good to be true; spurned lovers listing their partners' apartments. I feel like I have fallen for them all. Here are some of my greatest hits.

You can live in my apartment for 6 months if you'll feed my exotic fish.
I know; I know, just reading the summary is enough to make 99% of people say no fucking way. But during my first NYC apartment search a $1700/mo 2 BR sublet in Union Square sounded awesome. I wasn't afraid to feed a few fish. Whatever. The ad had what looked like legit apartment pics that struck just the right tone between luxurious and not attached to the furnishings. Sure enough though, when I responded to the ad the email I got in return was spam. I ended up having to ditch that email address. Which brings up a good tip -- always use a secondary email address when responding to apartment ads. You never know when some kook is going to find you or vice versa.

Please call me at 6 AM about this apartment before I go on a business trip.
Oh yeah, this was a good one. At the time I was commuting into the city from Connecticut and you bet your ass I was up at 6 AM every day. This ad was for a $1550/mo studio on the UES that included backyard space and a dishwasher -- dishwasher of course meaning WANT. So sure enough I called a little after 6 AM. And I went straight to voicemail, a message which said, "I am sorry to inform you that this is not a real bitch of an ex-girlfriend thought this would be a funny way to get vengeance." I guess a lot of people must have called early.

The apartment is at the corner of Spring & Prince.
This one is another doozy and it actually has a bit of a personal backstory. Back in college 93.3 FM in Denver had an April Fool's Day prank where U2 was playing some 'secret' show in a warehouse on the corner of 2 roads that didn't cross. Ya know, where the streets have no name and all that. Thanks to the intervention of my friend J I didn't fall for it (I told you I am gullible) but two of my friends were definitely driving around trying to figure out where Colfax and Alameda crossed. Except that they don't. Add this to the list of reasons why KCSU is 100 times better.

But back to NYC, Soho is harder to get a bearing on than the grid because everything is a street name. There aren't really avenues. So when I first started my 2nd apartment hunt I fell for a scam where I was told to meet the faux-broker at a corner that wasn't real. "Meet me at the corner of Spring & Prince at 11 AM," he said. Too bad Spring and Prince never cross. I could have just looked at a map before going down but no I thought I was the idiot. I called the faux broker's number and he kept telling me I was only a block or two away. I fell for this twice before finally realizing just how dumb I was. I'm sure the guy and some friends were in a coffee shop laughing at me. Hope they get run over by a parked car.

You can live here rent free if you clean up the apartment for me.
I didn't fall for this one but a friend did. She was looking for a roomie situation and found an ad where some banker dude was offering free rent in exchange for maid services. She actually met with him and found out what was involved -- sorting and doing his laundry, cleaning up after dinner every night, dusting at least 2x a week and passing the white glove test, etc. Bullshit stuff nobody should put up with. Sadly none of that was super off-putting to my friend. What finally drove her to say no was that she was expected to do it all in a French Maid outfit. Quelle horreur! Sadly I think he was serious.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Finally have a feel of where to live

After close to 2 months of searching, I am finally figuring out where I want to live. Not everyone searching for an NYC apartment has the luxury of time and I am happy to not be in a rush (although with each passing night of almost no sleep due to my neighbors I crack a bit more).

I have gotten to re-know Soho a lot better now that I am working down there. Things came full circle for me on Saturday when I was checking out an apartment and happened to walk by The Bitter End on Bleecker. I used to see shows there all the time and suddenly I rebuilt the mental map I used to have of the area. Most of the shops and bars I used to hit are long closed but it's great that some are still around. After that I didn't have to check my map for subways -- I knew where I was.

So in Soho I've figured out that my block of choice is Sullivan between Spring and Prince. Close to work, close to shopping, close to several subway lines. If I could afford it I'd love to live on Greene or Mercer or Crosby but those all seem to be the most expensive rentals (and one Nigeran scam that I replied to. Oops.). In Nolita Mott and Elizabeth seem to be the blocks of choice. That area is closer to the 6 train but further from work. I've also expanded a bit to include the West Village up to West 4th St. I realized that area is convenient to work, close to Union Square and that's where Washington Square Park is! With NYU close by I'm a bit wary but willing to consider it.

Washington Square Park

I saw about 10 apartments this week. Most were by-owner and the rest were broker no-fees. The good news is rents are definitely starting to come down. Everything I saw this week except for the bait and switch apartments was negotiable. In some cases the owner came right out and said it was negotiable and other times I had to ask. In two cases I saw apartments being shown by current tenants. Both were in the financial industry and had just lost their jobs. You can tell landlords are starting to get nervous. The credit standards are tougher and they want long-term commitments.

The best apartments I saw were a cute 1 BR on Thompson and a lovely studio on West 4th St. The 1 BR was one of the fired financial industry tenants. She was very nice and kindly allowed me to view the apartment one night after work. It had an old old kitchenette and an old bathroom with a shower stall (no tub) but was otherwise lovely. Exposed brick walls, built-in shelving and a bedroom large enough for a full-sized bed plus a small dresser. In total it was about the size of my current apartment. I've given up on finding a large apartment. At this point 350 sq. feet is my goal. If you want more you will pay out the nose for it. That apartment was $2300/mo but has since dropped to $2150/month. I feel that $2150/mo is pretty fair.

The West 4th St studio had a kitchen and two closets to die for. The kitchen was redone last year with Bosch appliances including a dishwasher and a built-in microwave/stove/oven combination thingy. The counter backsplash was cool glass tile. The closets were both California Closet-style and there was even a tiny balcony with a view of the Washington Square Park arch. But it was a bit smaller than what I currently have. The closets were not enough to overcome this so I passed. It was $2400/mo.

The worst apartments I saw were: a 1 BR on the Upper East Side (I had a weak moment) where the bathroom was in the bedroom and even though it was on the 4th floor every window had bars on it, creating a dark dank feel and a 1 BR on Mott St that had a bathroom that reeked of mold. I couldn't see any but I knew it had either been there or was growing in. No windows, no ventilation, no thanks. It was $2295/mo. I also saw a two-room studio on West 3rd whose only window faced another building 2 feet away and whose kitchen ran the entire wall of a narrow living area. There was no room for anything else really. It was $2300/mo.

I am going to see 3 more apartments tomorrow. I still haven't figured out how to get my finances in order in time but I am so ready to move. I can't wait to find a place!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Metapost: Tips for people who just got mugged

Via Craigslist. It's scary out there kids. Gentrify at your own risk.

Plea for a good night's sleep

I realize that people live different kinds of lifestyles. Some of us -- like my friend J -- are early risers who enjoy being up with the sun and go to bed early to get a good start on the next day. Some of us -- like my friend P -- are night owls who hit the hay as the sun comes up and then wake up ready to do it all over again.

I fall somewhere between. I like to stay up into the wee hours of the morning but I don't really like to sleep too late either. I'd classify this lifestyle as New York normative. Unfortunately for me I've been suffering from a severe lack of sleep lately due to my neighbors. Not only is my upstairs neighbor still tyrannizing me; now my next door neighbor has joined in on the act. I just can't believe how little they seem to care about anyone but themselves.

There is this John Stuart Mill quote running on MTA ads in the subway right now from "On Liberty," which is one of the most interesting books I've ever read. I can't remember the quote verbatim. So to paraphrase it says that each person should do what's best for themselves because you can't please everyone; however you can't be so selfish as to harm other people. Maybe it's silly but I wish my neighbors next door and upstairs would read this and find it self-applicable.

My run-ins with my upstairs neighbor are pretty well documented. Just...not...pleasant. Finally about 3 weeks ago I snapped. It was 11:30 on like a Tuesday or something and the sound of a rolly toy and the pursuit of it was threatening to send me away in a straight jacket. So I called my management company. The rep is just as exasperated as I am at this point. She told me she'd done everything she could do and said call the cops. So I did. And while the cops said they couldn't give her a ticket they agreed to talk to her. The cops also said I was not the first one to complain about the neighbor...yet they couldn't write her a ticket. They warned me it could make the situation worse. Well that hasn't happened because it could not possibly get any worse! I got one peaceful night of sleep and since then it's been all noise all the time. Nearly 24/7.

I mean, look, I get it. Some peeps are up at 4 AM every morning. I don't care and believe that each person should be able to do as they please. But there needs to be some semblance of courtesy. Maybe not stomping around in heels at that hour? Maybe not playing music really loud at that hour? Maybe thinking beyond yourself a bit?

My next door neighbor is like a middle schooler. She comes home every night from work and proceeds to get on the phone for 5-6 hours a night. I only know this because she yells into her phone so loudly that my wall occasionally vibrates from it. No joke. My friends call her Loudy McBitchy OMG. The best part is that she has the same conversation 2 or 3 times a night with different people (or maybe the same one? I'm not really sure). And I don't want to be sure! In fact I don't want to hear about the guy she is supposedly dating that never calls her or her jerky boss and coworkers. I just. Want. Quiet. For awhile I dealt with it by just putting my headphones on every night but lately it's been so loud that I can hear it even with my music turned 3/4 of the way up. Sometimes I turn up my stereo all the way to drown it out and I can still hear her over it. It's depressing. Her other trick is having friends over at 3 AM and then playing "who can shout the loudest." Usually this is accompanied by crappy pop music.

I just don't know what to do anymore. My quality of life is so negatively impacted. Here I am being selfish now -- I would really like to be able to sleep from 11 AM to 8 AM in peace. This is the one part of NYC living that I hate. This is why I am willing to go into debt to move. The search for peace sends me looking for a new home.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The good ol' bait and switch

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...still shame on you! Every time I think to myself "Oh, this broker sounds kinda nice, maybe she/he won't try to fuck me" someone should come out of the woodwork and smack me upside the head. Because 100% of the time a broker will give you a bum deal.

One thing I've noticed going through the by-owner apartment rental section on Craigslist is that there's a surprising number of broker listings in there. AKA miscategorized. And no matter how often I flag them (and I'm sure I'm not the only one flagging them) they never seem to get removed. The end result being that probably about 1/3 of the listings I contact are actually broker's fee listings cleverly disguised as by owner listings.

So earlier today when I saw two no-fee listings in the by-owner section I should have known better than to respond. I must be masochistic though because respond I did. One was a $2195/1 BR and one was a $2295/1 BR. Both listed by the same broker. I spoke with him soon after and got the details.

I should have known the bait and switch was coming when his first questions to me were "How do you feel about a basement apartment? How about a 6th floor walkup?" Ugh. I rejected the basement but said I was willing to consider the 6th floor. No one above me sounds great right about now (right, crazy loud upstairs neighbor?). Then I got the usual rundown -- what are you looking for (1 BR preferably), how much (up to $2500 but the closer to $2000 the better), and when are you looking to move in (oh ya know, whenever). Then he asked about broker's fees and I know I clearly said "I am not willing to pay a broker's fee. Of any kind."

Suddenly the apartments that I called about were no longer options. Instead the broker wanted to show me 2 1 BRs he had. One on Sullivan in between Spring and Broome, one on Mott between Prince and Houston. Both areas I am down with so I said OK. I made two mistakes: I didn't ask how much either was and I didn't ask how much security was expected on either. This was very dumb on my part. Because the broker may as well have said "Pay attention to my hands. Notice there is nothing up my sleeve. Yet in the next hour we shall go from no fee to a 15% of the annual fee! Moohoohahahahaha...."

The pledge: I met him at the Sullivan apartment. He gave me the actual address (and bragged about it, as though he had to proove that he was human and not broker scum). It was really, really close to work. As in I could see my work's windows from the front of the apartment building. It didn't really bother me too much. I was more worried about the location -- the building was on the end of Sullivan right against the Avenue of the Americas. Street noise would be an issue. One of the tenants came out to put out some garbage so I asked him about the building. He had nothing but good things to say which was nice.

The broker came up shortly after and seemed nice enough. Not smarmy. He took me inside to a 2nd floor 1 BR. It was cute. It was a gut renovation and had a washer/dryer in the kitchen. A year ago I would have shit my pants at the washer/dryer. But now I'm kinda like 'damn that is taking up valuable real estate in this apartment.' The kitchen did have a dishwasher which made me drool. The layout wasn't too bad. You walked in to the living room with the kitchen and the bathroom off to the right. The bathroom was a nice size and had a full tub and a cool sink. To the left was the bedroom. The bedroom was OK. My bed and maybe a small dresser would have fit. But the closet space was disappointing. Smaller than what I have now and only one closet in the apartment. I wasn't sold.

I asked the rent and found it was $2350/mo (ahem, notice how this is already $50/mo more than the most expensive apartment I had called about?). I balked and the broker said he wanted to help me out by negotiating a rate I was happy with, like $2200/mo. Well, that's a bit better. Then he mentioned broker's fee something-something and I must have made such a look of sheer horror that he suggested we move on to the next place.

The turn: On the way from Sullivan to Mott the broker started talking about how long he's had a relationship with the owners and blah blah he tries to sign long term tenants yadda yadda so he doesn't earn very much money in fees sob sob so he works very hard to earn his fee. I wanted to say "by doing what, opening a fucking door or two?" but instead I replied, "Well, if there's one thing I can say it's that I have been looking for a couple of months now and I've noticed that owners and brokers alike have already become more flexible in their demands because of the market downturn." I was pretty proud of myself. He retorted that his apartments never stay on the market very long so he wouldn't have to do that, but I just shot him a skeptical look and dropped it. He spent the rest of the time talking about how quickly the apartments would rent and how if I wasn't ready to move rightthissecond I should just not move at all. Whatever, dude. Is that broker code for don't waste my time? Because if it is, go fuck yourself. If I spend 1 hour with you, that means you cost $66/minute if I pay your frickin fee. That's more than any phone wench I know of.

The prestige: The apartment on Mott was actually on the corner of Houston which again meant road noise. While the Sullivan building was probably 15 units or less, this was an elevator/walkup hybrid with probably closer to 30. The apartment was on the 5th floor and we took this weird little elevator up. It was kind of cool, kind of claustrophobic in there. As the broker opened the door to the apartment he told me they were going to list this apartment for $2395/mo but again he was willing to negotiate...the rent but not his 15% of the annual rent fee. Whoa, what?? How did we get to that amount of fee from no broker's fee. He said he had to go check out another apartment so he left me alone to walk around.

I immediately texted T for advice. No reply. I walked around the apartment. Like Sullivan St it was gut renovated and had a washer/dryer in the kitchen. The layout was slightly better with two closets but they were single door and would still be less closet space then I have now. The bathroom was nice with the same sink as Sullivan St. There were no windows in the living area which was weird. The bedroom had two windows and the top portion of the wall was actually a window to let light filter into the living area. Still, no windows in the living area was kind of weird. It was a reminder that I had neighbors on both sides plus above and below.

I did some quick calculations in my head. Let's say this was a by-owner apartment going for $2200/mo. If the owner required a 2-month security that would mean $4400 inaccessible to me for the entire time I lived there but theoretically coming back to me when I moved out. If the apartment required a 1-month security deposit plus a 15% broker's fee for a 1-year lease that would add up to $6160, $3960 of which would go to the broker. No fucking way. Negotiation ahoy!

I started talking money with the broker. We talked about getting the rent down from $2395/mo and his fee. I told him that I wasn't really comfortable paying more than one month as a fee as an opening point. The grimace on his face was palpable and I couldn't help but smirk. Since he had blindsided me with the broker's fee I blindsided with him with some news of my own: my deposit money wouldn't be available to me until November 15. At that point he totally cut off the deal. Which was actually OK with me. Neither apartment was The One. They were decent but far from perfect and while $2200/mo would have been OK, I honestly felt they were overpriced.

He uncerimoniously dismissed me from the apartment at that point (no handshake or anything, jerk). I walked down the stairs, not wanting to get stuck in the elevator. I saw a reply text from T -- "Get the fuck out of there now. Bad deal." Amen. I will be interested to see if these apartments do in fact rent right away or if they sit on the market for a bit. Seems like everything else is sitting tight, just waiting for a renter.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Timing is everything and procrastination is key

OK hounds, go find me the perfect apartment!

Timing is the thing that frazzles me the most about Manhattan apartment hunting. I am of two minds when it comes to timing: some things I wait until the last second on, like when I was a journalist I just couldn't write a story until there were only a couple of hours before deadline; some things -- like moving -- I like to take my time with and plan out every last detail. I start prepping 2 or 3 months in advance.

Apartment hunting is tilted towards the procrastinator in NYC. Really, you shouldn't start hunting until 15 days before you want to move. Which is ridiculous to me! Who can plan a move in 15 days?!?? (Probably more like 13 once you sign the lease and all that stuff.) Find movers, get boxes, pack, in less than two weeks? Just the idea kills me. Imagine if your lease was up November 1 and you didn't start looking until October 15. It would freak me out. What if you don't find a place? I really think this pattern tilts in broker and management company's favors. Just another factor that leads renters to accept less than awesome for their apartment. At some point it becomes a matter of finding anyplace rather than THE place.

For the majority of apartments you really cannot expect a lead time of more than 21 days at most. If you're not planning to move until Dec. 1 it's way too early for you to be looking. All you can do is get an idea of what is available in your price range. The longer an apartment stays vacant the more money the owner loses, so the excuse you'll get is that someone else will come along who can move in sooner.

Slowly though, the glut is starting to appear and maybe the scales are tipping in the renter's favor. A few apartments I've seen but passed on have sat on the market for close to a month and the price is dropping. In fact, I'm pretty sure the cute 1 BR I saw on Sullivan St just dropped from $2495/mo to $2295/mo (still a bit too much in my opinion, but getting closer!). I'm also starting to notice more lead time in the ads. Apartments that won't be free until Dec. 1 or even Jan. 1 are starting to pop up slowly but surely.

I'm not really sure how much negotiation latitude this opens up just yet. This past weekend, management reps and brokers without fees were still rejecting my requests for a free month of rent. But some of them have started to say things like 'I think we could negotiate them down a little bit on the rent.' That kind of leverage has been missing for far too long and I look forward to its return. $100 or $200/mo off the rent may not seem like a lot but that's up to $2400 a year. That's like 2000 Wendy's double stacks. (I just had one this weekend, and man they are tiny in NYC! Way smaller than I remember them being in Connecticut. My stomach is still thanking me today.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween...of superheroes!

As a kid, I honestly only remember trick or treating once or twice. I definitely remember wearing the same pink panther costume until I was like 10 but that was just to school. Once year I was a poodle skirt 50's gal. And then in college I was always a sexy devil. Boring old me. Last year I was Pebbles from the Flinstones. That was pretty fun. I was also very sick as I remember. That was not so fun.

So I was pretty damn excited when T asked me to be his date to a Halloween party up in Connecticut this weekend. The theme is superheroes and villains which totally means that I get to extend the Summer of Superheroes a bit longer! (I am not letting go of it. Maybe ever.) I have met the couple friends throwing the party before and they are very cool. The wife is an art dealer and the husband used to work for Marvel comics. Now he works on graphic novels I think.

When T called, he said I was the first of his "many, many girlfriends" that he thought of because I am a nerd. And it's true. I know a surprising amount of trivia for someone who has never read a comic book. My first question was naturally, "Well, do we have to go as characters from the Marvel world? Or can we branch out to DC too?" T just laughed and I know he was rolling his eyes at me. "Roxy, you're killing me," he said. But he still wanted my ideas. His criteria was that he didn't want to look dumb. My criteria was that damn I don't know how I feel about spandex. I was trying to think of costumes that wouldn't require too much. I gave up on that quickly. I can't think of a single female character that wouldn't need leggings or something skintight.

He offered him as Magneto and me as Mystique, which would have gotten a slap had he been here in person. I countered with him as the Scarecrow and me with a bat to fix his straw stuffing. He challenged me to come up with something better. He retorted was him as Mr. Fantastic and me as the Invisible Woman, which I have to give him props for. Quick-witted bastard, that one!

Here's what I came up with: him as Venom (he rejected Spidey as too emo) and me as Black Cat. Him as Daredevil and me as Elektra. Him as Captain America and me as Wonder Woman. Him as the Joker and me as Harley Quinn. Him as Batman and me as Catwoman. Him as one of the Ninja Turtles and me as April O'Neill! Him as Cyclops and me as Jean Grey (I thought this one would be kinda cool -- he could do the Cyclops version from the X-Men movies and just wear red-tinted sunglasses with a leather jacket. Alas, he said no.)

I think we have finally settled on him as Gambit and me as Rogue. It was easy for T. He has a long trench that will work great. Then all we needed was a Under Armor top and some baggy jeans. I got him a bandana in case he wants to one and we tied rope on a broom to look like a bo staff. We even found these cool light up cards he can use if we wants to be fully propped. He's currently working on his Nawlins French accent. It's gonna be really tough for me. I have no clue how to pull of that green and gold number Rogue wears. And I'll need a wig. I have the tiny jacket and gloves though. The chances of me successfully pulling off a southern accent are slim. I am excited to see what everyone else does.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dear Roxy, tell me about living in NYC

I've been getting a lot of questions from friends, friends of friends and the like about moving down here lately. So I thought I'd compile the recent ones into a post. This time around, questions about how much you need to make, where to get the most space for your money and what a car fanatic should do.

Q -- What's it like living in NYC?
No joke, it's awesome. There is no other city in the world like it. You hear a different accent and language with each person you pass. The food, the shopping and the culture are unmatched. New York may not be as old as the cities in Europe and the East but it's unique in that the immigrants who've landed in America have taken neighborhoods and made them their own. No where else can you feel like you've gotten a taste of China, Italy, Ireland or Russia all in the same day.

That being said it's challenging to live here. A lot of people come to NYC and find out they aren't tough enough to survive here. If you don't know anyone here you will spend the majority of your first year alone. It takes a long time to make friends here. There are people everywhere and even your apartment won't feel like a true escape. If you need quiet or alone time you will not be happy in Manhattan. Everything is very expensive here -- food, rent, utilities, clothes, going out and the like. Your college dorm room will look like a mansion compared to your first NYC apartment. There's a me-first attitude that pervades and it is very grating. You have to learn to rise above and find people with a similar like-water-off-a-duck's-back attitude. Once you make friends it's great. Having someone to live through all those only-in-NY-moments with you makes it all worth it.

The people here are great once you learn the nuances of New Yorkers. But coming from the South or Midwest is often difficult. You will find the people here rude. Life moves ridiculously fast here. Just prepare yourself. You can do it! If you can make it through the first year semi-happy, sane and still stuck on NYC you will be fine. If you're unhappy, I really recommend that you leave. If a you're not happy here after a year you will most likely never be happy here and it's not worth dealing with all the bullshit. Move on. Try Philly or Chicago; cities with a similar pace but a different zeitgeist.

Q -- Should I move to NYC now, or should I wait?
Depends. I advocate moving here now for just about anyone. I say wait if you're under 18, just got married or just had a kid. Moving here is such a huge change and you don't want to be facing more than one life change at a time.

Q -- Are rents coming down?
Not yet. There seem to be two schools of thought on the matter. The first school says that of course rents are going to come down because the people that lose their jobs are going to move out of NYC. The vacancy rate will rise and more apartments will be available leading to lower rents. The second school of thought is that some of the people who bought apartments will be forced to sell. Then they'll rent instead. That would actually make the rental market even more competitive than it is.

My personal guess is that in 6 months the rental market will have to start correcting. Regardless of the number of people renting, sales prices are starting to drop and if they drop below rental rates people will just start buying anyway. Also, many of the financial peeps have severance pay that is just starting to run out. They will start making moves now as their cushion is depleted. So however it happens rental rates should come down. Just a guess though.

Q -- Where can I get the most space for my money?
In one of the boroughs for sure. Many parts of Brooklyn are just as expensive as Manhattan these days. And Brooklyn is only convenient to Manhattan below 23rd St. So I'd suggest skipping it for Queens. If you work on the East side Queens is pretty convenient. Long Island City is expensive but Astoria, Woodlawn, Forest Hills and Jackson Heights all have decent-sized apartments for 20-40% less than a Manhattan apartment. Take note that subway trains are kind of iffy on the weekends into Manhattan from Queens. Do your research before you commit to a borough. There's also Long Island or Connecticut though I can't recommend either with a straight face. If you're moving to New York, move to New York!

If you work on the west side, I would consider New Jersey (much as it pains me to say so). The PATH trains are pretty reliable. There's also a ferry. Jersey City and Hoboken are pretty cool little cities and have amazing skyline views. Then again, it's still Jersey.

The Bronx has some nice neighborhoods. Riverdale and Pelham Bay are a couple off the top of my head. If you have a family this is one borough you should look at closely. Make sure to factor in commuting time though. For jobs in midtown or south, count on at least a 45-minute commute.

In Manhattan you may get lucky in the Financial District. But not too lucky -- think 500 sq foot studios; same size for 1 BRs and on from there. Spacious is a relative term in Manhattan.

Q -- What's the minimum annual salary I need to make to live in Manhattan?
In my opinion you need to make at least $50,000/year if you plan on living by yourself. With roommates I think you could slide by at $40,000/year. I know people who do it for less but it's not like they have a ton of spending money.

For one thing, most landlords require that you make at least 40x the rent in annual salary. So if you make $50,000/year you would qualify for monthly rent of up to $1250. I know of ZERO apartments in Manhattan for that price. Really the least I would expect to pay for a studio is $1550. Even if you have a guarantor paying anything more than 60% of your monthly income towards rent is asking for trouble, especially in today's economy. Do you really want to have no disposable income to buy things like clothes, movie tickets, books, drinks or dinner? That doesn't sound like a good way to live.

Think of it this way: making $100,000/year in NYC is like making $50,000/year anywhere else in the country. It's decent but you're by no means rich. There are people who make such ridiculously high salaries here that it's hard for the rest of us to keep up. And the city caters to the rich and not the rest. Them's the facts of life, bitches.

Q -- How much does it cost to move into the city?
If you're coming from the tri-state area expect to spend about $1200-$1700 on the move for a studio apartment worth of crap. If you're coming from east of the Mississippi put it around the $2000-$4000 range just for the movers and the truck. Further west you should budget anywhere from $2500 to $6000 for a studio apartment's worth.

Make sure you research your moving company very carefully. If you're coming from NY/CT/NJ/Mass I highly recommend Gentle Giant Movers. They did my move and two of my friends' moves and they are amazing. Incredibly dependable and honest, though a bit more expensive. Then again I'd rather pay an extra $250 to know that the movers will show up on time and take good care of my stuff. Anyway, out of state moves should be calculated based on weight rather than hourly cost. You should get a fixed bid contract -- you sign and agree to a price before the move. Remember to tip your movers!

Then there are the expenses once you get here. Some of your furniture is going to be too long, wide or just plain big for an NYC apartment. You will need to buy some new stuff adapted for vertical living.

If you plan on using a broker (sigh) to find an apartment expect to spend between $8,500 and $15,000 just to get into an apartment up to $2000/mo. That will cover: your first month's rent, your security deposit of one month, a broker's fee and a credit check or application fee. The broker's fee can range from one month's rent to 20% of the annual rent. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.

Q -- Should I live in a doorman building? and Why are doorman buildings so much more expensive?
Growing up, my Aunt lived in a doorman building. It was awesome -- his name was Oscar and he always gave me a piece of Hershey's chocolate when I came to visit. When I started looking for an apartment I thought a doorman was a deal breaker. They help you with groceries, they receive packages for you, they take care of your dry cleaning.

But the truth is a doorman shouldn't be a dealbreaker. True, doormen usually come in elevator buildings so if you want an elevator a doorman might be a byproduct. And it does suck trying to get a package sent to you via the UPS/FedEx/DHL trifecta. So you adjust. You get packages sent to your work. You learn to carry your own groceries or get them delivered. You take care of your own damn dry cleaning.

Doorman buildings are more expensive because the tenants combine to pay the doorman's salary. And you have to tip on top of that. In the end, the costs outweigh the benefits for most youngins.

Q -- I need to have a car. Where should I live?
Really? Really really? Because there's awesome services like Zipcar for when you absolutely have to drive. I heart Zipcar (95% of the time). You really don't need to own a car in Manhattan. And this is coming from a drive-aholic!! In Connecticut and Colorado I would drive just to drive. Gas was a lot cheaper then.

The public transportation in NYC is really good. Sure I bitch about it but it's way better by bus or subway then it would be by car. I can't tell you how many traffic jams I've sat in trying to get from the George Washington Bridge or one of the tunnels to my apartment. Hell, I somtimes take taxis home to the UES from Flatiron and it usually takes about 45 minutes vs. an 18-minute subway ride.

It's hard to park in Manhattan. Just about everything on the street is parallel parking. Parking garages are valet only and it costs about $20 per half hour. So good luck with that. They have weird rules like Alternate Side. Your car is 60% more likely to get broken into than around the rest of the county. Good luck with that too! Oh, and your insurance? Maybe better not to even talk about how high your rates will be.

If you absolutely cannot live without a car, try the Bronx. My car-owning friends say it's the best borough for cars.