How to Survive: Finding a NY apartment

Otherwise titled:

When you think you moved in next door to Beyonce but you actually moved next to the grumpiest woman in Brooklyn and a dog with anxiety

Finding an apartment in NY can be a truly soul destroying epic battle that will leave you broke and living in 900 sq foot or less paying more than you thought feasibly possible.

My idea before we moved here was that we would be able to afford a three bedroom beautiful old brownstone in the centre of Park Slope in Brooklyn. For those not familiar with Brooklyn it is the epi-centre of the yummy mummy. You are not allowed in if you do not have a baby, a dog or a really good amount of facial hair for a solid hipster beard.

The streets are tree lined, beautiful old brownstone town houses and it skims alongside Prospect Park, a sprawling park with more stuff for kids than you can imagine.

But it doesn’t come cheap. Brooklyn was once the place you moved out to from Manhattan for more affordable housing but now it is often more pricey than its island neighbour.

The beautiful brownstones I had imagined living in were often very tatty round the edges with weird tiny bathrooms and lay outs that were not that workable. We saw once such place that also had a large statue of the Virgin Mary in the garden and part of the rental agreement was to “tend to her” on a regular basis.

Many of the apartments we saw often involved lots of stairs and with a one year old and the possibility of more kids that wasn’t feasible. We seriously considered a four storey walk up building as it had amazing space and a terrace with views of Manhattan but I am glad to say we didn’t go for this.

What we did go for was a two- bedroom modern apartment in a stunning Richard Myer building right by the park. It was very smart, very white, with ceiling to floor windows and a doorman. It also had a playroom which, when we moved in the dark heart of NY winter, was a lifesaver.

It was expensive but when we signed the lease I was supposed to be working so we were fine, we could cover it. We had read somewhere that JayZ and Beyonce had bought a penthouse in the building so of course I had fantasies that one day I would bump in to her in the lift and as a fellow mother she would want to arrange an immediate playdate for Max and Blue Ivy.

Of course she didn’t live there and as it turned out we were one of the few families that rented there and were somewhat looked down upon for this. I met some lovely people but on the whole the playroom was full of nannies, it was a little snobby and as I didn’t end up working, and the cost of living here was a lot more than we imagined, we began living pay check to pay check.

Another thing I didn’t know about NY is that everyone has dogs, and the dogs live in often quite small apartments. This is fine if you are home all day and can walk the dog but the dog across the hall from us was clearly left for long periods of time and had been known to cry for eight hours at a time. I complained and was told that there was not much the owners could do as the dog had anxiety!

Well of course it bloody did. If I was left alone all day in a small space I would also get anxiety.

I tried to be friendly with the lady next door who took the term bitchy resting face to a whole new level, I mean she literally never smiled. She also complained to me when I was 9 months pregnant that my one year old ran around too much and cried a lot and it disturbed her.

“Well” I said to her “What should I do? Muzzle him? Tie him to a chair so he doesn’t run around? He is a baby what exactly do you expect and if you are adverse to children why the hell did you move to a building that had a playroom in it!? Adjust your miserable face and don’t knock on my door every again!” *Slams door in face

Of course I never said that I just burst into tears. I was nine months pregnant and have an rather large aversion to confrontation. My husband was close to giving her a very big piece of his mind but as we moved out 6 weeks later so it seemed unnecessary.

We now live in a less fancy area but lovely building with some of the nicest people we have met. We have a real support network, the kids in the building are all friends and play in the playroom or in one of our apartments while we all natter and complain about our children not sleeping/eating etc. We have wine nights, cook for each other’s kids and it feels like a real community.

Thinking about renting here?

These are my tips:

  • Live there for a while first in temporary accommodation. Get to know the areas and how much your other expenses are each month so you really know how much rent you can afford and where you want to be.
  • If you have young kids go for as few steps as possible.
  • Do not get a three bed just for guests. You do not want to be a hotel and everyone here has kids who share rooms so go for a more affordable two bed and buy and airbed for guests.
  • Your perception of size will soon change after living here. What you once thought to be small will seem fairly roomy once the NY mind set kicks in.
  • Outdoor space? Ha ha that’s what the park is for.
  • Try get a no-fee place if possible. Rental agents can charge upwards of 10% of your rent for the entirety of the lease you sign up for. It pretty crazy.
  • Get an apartment with a washing machine. So many buildings here have them in the basement and as anyone who has small kids will know that traipsing downstairs with a child hanging off each leg to do the 300 plus laundry loads a week is not going to make life much fun. Laundry when you have a washing machine in your apartment can be hard work enough.
  • Compromise! I know I sound like a presenter of Location Location Location (my dream job just in case Phil is reading and needs to replace Kirsty any time soon) but seriously no one stays in New York forever and you can fantasise about your dream four bedroom house with a utility room and a garden on Right Move in the knowledge that once you move out of NY any mortgage will seem cheap as chips!



One thought on “How to Survive: Finding a NY apartment

  1. So lovely to see your lovely smiling face again after … is it 12 years since Vietnam?!

    Your boys look delightful and I’m envious that you’re in NYC – I lived there for a time after Uni and loved every minute.

    Sounds like you’re doing really well – good for you! X Zoë


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