Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

So You Think You Wanna Live Here

I know I’m jumping back and forth here, but as I’ve said many times, I do what I want.

Now that I’ve covered the details of how I put myself in a position of having only three weeks to move to NYC, I’d like to talk about actually getting here.

The initial plan was to have my last day of work in Chicago on July 12th or 13th. Then I would head to New York around the 15th and have a week to find an apartment to start work on July 22nd. Quite the ambitious plan, no?

Before you assume I’m a crazy person, let me tell you that I had it on good authority that it’s an awful idea to rent a New York City apartment sight unseen. There are all types of shitholes and scams that will take all your money and leave you with little or nothing in return.

As I mentioned previously, I had my best friend with me. She lived in New York, so she was a great resource. I also wrangled my father and the husband’s father. The three of us got in the car and drove to New York on Sunday July 14th.

A benefit of marrying into a large family is that these people live everywhere. Some cousins of the husband agreed to let us stay in one of their apartments while we looked for a place.

They live in Staten Island, so we had the additional task of getting back and forth across all the bridges. Those tolls are freaking ridiculous. I know my dads spent at least $100 just getting us from Staten Island to Brooklyn to Manhattan and back again the three days there were here.

Side note. What does the phrase “my dads” mean to you? When you see it, do you think a father and a father-in-law? Do you think a biological father and a stepfather? What about a biological father and an adoptive father?

Maybe your two dads are married to each other (unless you live down south, then they’re still “life partners”). I guess it all depends. I have three grandfathers. One is my dad’s dad. The other two are the biological dad and adoptive/step-dad of my mom.

Blended families really do make for some interesting family trees. The family tree for the husband’s family is really something. Or it would be if someone wrote it down.

Okay, we’re back from the side note. So at this point in the story, I’m in Staten Island with my best friend and my two dads. I was hoping (and my mother was really hoping that I could bring the cats with us. But the cousin giving us a place to stay for free is allergic.

Once we settled in on Sunday night, we relaxed and ate ox tails, salmon, and rice and beans before heading to bed. The plan was to get up Monday morning and go look at apartments in Brooklyn.

Originally, I wanted to live in Manhattan. The husband wanted Brooklyn. After the hatred I felt towards our Hyde Park apartment in Chicago, we agreed that my preference would win for New York. But after looking at apartments on line and really assessing what we could afford, I narrowed down our search to Harlem and Washington Heights in Manhattan and to Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights in Brooklyn.

I’d seen all sorts of apartments online in the weeks preceding the move. The good ones were posted and removed the same day. Apparently that’s now NYC works. I was convinced that I could find a great 1 bedroom apartment in the upper edge of Harlem for less than $1400/month.

Then I stumbled across this wonderful apartment. 1 bedroom, 1 bath, exposed brick, north-facing windows, newly renovated apartment. And it was in a brownstone building. A gorgeous brownstone.

My whole thinking changed. All of a sudden, it was all about Brooklyn. Perhaps it’s because I grew up watching the Cosby Show and feeling like I could totally be one of their kids. But either way, I had a plan.

I spoke with a few brokers and picked two, one for Manhattan and one for Brooklyn. After I saw that amazing apartment, I set the Brooklyn broker appointment for Monday and the Manhattan broker appointment for Tuesday.

The apartment the broker showed us first was pretty good. Turned out she only had the one apartment to show, which sucked. My dads were pissed about that. After she showed us the apartment, she gave me the hard sell. Very aggressive, very put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is-or-else-and-else-means-this-apartment-will-be-gone-in-the-morning.

My dads didn’t like that one bit. They wanted me to keep looking. They wanted to look in Manhattan and maybe find a new broker to keep looking in Brooklyn as well. My best friend asked me how I would feel if the apartment was gone and I missed it. I told her I’d be pissed.

After hearing that, she encouraged me to go ahead and do what I needed to do to take this apartment off the market. That meant filling out the complete application for my husband and myself.

That also meant handing over all of the financial paperwork to prove I could afford the apartment. They require all you information to approve you. You need lots of money, proof of more money, a blood sample, a voucher for your firstborn, and a reference from your priest.

Even if you have all that, it still doesn’t guarantee you the apartment. If you turn in an application, but you don’t put down a deposit to take it off the market, someone else can apply too. Then the landlord can pick which tenant (s)he’d prefer, which is what happened to a friend of mine just last week.

I put down a deposit to take the apartment off the market, which really pissed off my father-in-law. I think it was because the money was going toward the broker fee instead of toward rent or deposit. I didn’t care, I just wanted the apartment.

After the application was complete, then it was time to wait. Normally it takes a couple of days to find out if your application is approved. The broker and landlord knew I was what counts as a “motivated renter.” That basically meant I had the money in hand ready to take the first apartment I loved.

The broker promised to get a quick response from the landlord. I think she pushed it even harder once my father announced we were headed to Manhattan the next day to keep looking. We left her office around 4:30 pm or so to head back to Staten Island.

About an hour later, the phone rang. It was the broker calling back. We were expecting a call from her the next day, certainly not so soon. In my next post, I’ll let you know what she said.

3 responses

  1. silverneurotic

    My Dad’s originally from Brooklyn, not sure what section though as he only lived there until he was two (if that) then he moved to New Jersey to live with his grandmother and one of his Uncle’s. Still lives in the same exact house actually. My grandfather had a brownstone. I guess it was sold when he passed away. Kind of a shame.

    July 28, 2013 at 07:41

    • It really is a shame because those brownstones are so expensive now. They used to give them away. I wish I lived here when that was going on…

      July 29, 2013 at 13:58

  2. Pingback: And Now He’s Leaving Me | A Chicago-Style Girl in NYC