Trying to find an apartment in New York City when you don’t live in the city is a nightmare — not that trying to find an apartment in New York City when you’re in New York City is much easier. But unless you have a lot of money and a broker who actually wants to earn his 15% commission, you’re going to end up sacrificing some of those things that would be considered normal amenities in any other city in America just to put a decent roof over your head.
I already knew these things when I was preparing to move back to the city in July. I was given about 60 days from the time I accepted my job offer to find a place and relocate, but in New York speak, since landlord’s here do not hold places for people, I had about two weeks. As the weeks in my search passed by and I was running out of time without being able to do a quick find-an-apartment weekend trip, my search came down to two options. One was sharing an expensive apartment in a new condo-style building in Brooklyn. My roommate would be a 45-year-old man who told me once he installed a kitchenette in the bedroom I’d be renting, which already had its own bathroom, it was expected that I would not be in any of the common areas of the apartment, i.e. the state-of-the-art chef-style kitchen or the enormous living room and balcony. The other option was a more modest Jr. 1-bedroom apartment in Harlem across the street from my last place that was owned by my previous management company and that I had a friend of mine visit twice to check out. I went with Harlem.
When I moved in, things were cool. I already knew the neighborhood so I wasn’t expecting to be grabbing Sunday brunch with friends in the area. But I also wasn’t expecting to be dealing with what I will call “special” neighbors, cat burglars, and other critters, literally. The first time I became a bit suspicious of my dwelling was when my super, who was also my super at my last place, gave me the rundown on my neighbors. He told me a couple of the apartments on my floor were empty besides the quiet guy to the left of me and the old lady on the right who I didn’t have to worry about — just don’t loan her money. When he said that I thought, I don’t ever plan on that being a discussion we would have. But just the next week we were having a completely different one.
When I received an email notification that my package from Target had been delivered I was prepared to have to pick it up from the local post office because of it’s size. What I wasn’t prepared for was the lady to the right of me yelling “hey. hey I have your package ” when I came home. Part of me was happy I wouldn’t have to go to the post office now, the other half was like, umm I don’t know you and I didn’t ask you to do this. What was also uncomfortable was that my neighbor, whose name I still don’t know, would not allow me to enter her apartment and get my package, she insisted on carrying it out to me. Fine, I understand wanting your privacy, despite the fact that we’re talking about the same woman who basically took my property, but when she wouldn’t even stop at the door to set my box down and instead pushed her way into my place, I was on edge. She commented on how nice my place was and all I could think was, if this lady breaks in my apartment and sells my stuff for cash it’s going to be on.
Thankfully, that never happened. What did happen was me essentially telling her to STFU one night when she wouldn’t stop yelling uncontrollably. At first I thought the woman was hurt, so I peeped my head out the door. Then I realized she was just babbling nonsensically, and annoyed I slammed my door shut. She decided to do the same, which prompted me to look in the hall again. This time two males that I’ve seen in her place before were in the hallway. One began to explain to me that she was off her meds, the other thought she was on drugs. My neighbor then peaked her head out saying she was screaming because I slammed my door when all I had to do was ask her to be quiet. Not one to pick a fight with crazy, I asked her to be quiet. She said okay, closed the door, and went back to yelling about being under investigation by the FBI. At that point I didn’t need anyone to explain anything to me: that chick cray.
Much to my misfortune, she’s not the only oddball in my place. Last Monday as I came home my male neighbor to the left stopped me to ask if I’m the “one who’s singing all the time.” Embarrassed and apologizing for being too loud, he said he wasn’t bothered at all and thought I sounded great. He then gave me his name and introduced himself. I said thank you and went inside my apartment and thought nothing else of him. At 11:30 pm, my doorbell rang. Knowing no one was there to see me, I ignored it and thought it might be an accident. A minute later, the bell rang again so I tip-toed out of bed to look through the peep hole. Apparently I wasn’t light enough on my feet because my neighbor, in his yellow flannel pajamas, announced “It’s James. The neighbor you met before.” With my mind in Law & Order SVU mode, I asked him what he needed and that’s when 50-year-old, wild about the eyes James said he needed to talk. I told him no, said I was going to bed, and then I grabbed my fuchsia Komachi knife and laid it by the bed thinking I’ll be damned if that negro tries to get me without a fight.
Two days later, there was a different intruder I had to worry about. After coming home late from work last Wednesday I grabbed some food on the way to my place and simply planned to shower, eat, have a cocktail, and pass out. Unfortunately, when I walked in my bedroom and turned on the light I found a stray cat sitting in my bed. Yes, a stray cat nestled in my streets. Startled, and wondering if I’d just relived a scene from Jumanji, you know when the kids find a lion on their bed, I simply backed out of the apartment, called my super, and hoped I was hallucinating. I was not. When my super entered my place he looked in my bedroom and there the disgusting orange stray cat I take precautions not to even walk by on the street because it looks so gross, sashayed his or her arse out of my place and gave me a look like “you’re lucky I feel like leaving” as it walked by me. I haven’t been back to my place since.
I could write off that last situation as the random dealings of an ally cat so determined to find shelter it spent hours biting and clawing it’s way through the side of my AC window expander, but because I skipped over the part where my property manager’s neglect to close the holes I noticed the day I moved in resulted in a rodent infestation I don’t feel like I have to explain myself. Two hotel stays and a week on a friend’s couch later, I’m mustering up the courage to return to my literal hell hole tomorrow without having to cut a mother effer– which in this case could mean a stray animal, my crazy neighbor, or my landlord who doesn’t understand the concept of peace of mind and why I’m hell bent on breaking my lease. Despite the great things that have happened since moving back to NY, this is one of those times where I can’t help but ask myself, where did I go wrong?
Have you ever had a sucky apartment situation?