On a crisp winter day in January, I woke up at the crack of dawn (that’s what I call 6am, or really any time before 10am) to get to JFK in time for a lovely tropical vacation. In all honesty, I am unsure if where I was heading is considered tropical, but let’s pretend it is. As I was leaving my apartment, a huge white envelope resting against my door greeted me. I knew what the envelope contained. I’d been anticipating this particular envelope for a while. It was the lease renewal to my apartment. My lease was up at the end of February, and I was expecting a bit of a hike in my current rent. The new lease I held in my hand was not a hike; it was a hot-air balloon ride. My management company, the villains in this story, wanted a $500+ increase. Yeah, my heart skipped a few beats. As I lugged my over-packed luggage to the subway, boarded the plane and finally arrived to the beach house I would occupy for a week, I tried to decide what I should do. Will the evil Management Company negotiate? Do they realize a $500 rent increase is the definition of absurd? How much do I really love this city? And oh crap, I don’t have a job!
To better understand the predicament I was in, you need to understand how much I looooovvvvveee my apartment. To better understand why I love this apartment, you need to know more about the apartments where I’ve paid my dues.
My first apartment in Manhattan was my first apartment EVER. I had never had an apartment to myself before. Living in college dorms just doesn’t count. I searched for my first apartment for months. I was ridiculously picky. It should only take anyone about two weeks to find an apartment in New York, but I wanted everything without paying the cost for it. I wanted all the things considered luxuries in Manhattan. Things like an elevator, a dishwasher, laundry in the building, close to the subway, grocery store near by. You know, just a few basics.
What I got was an apartment on the sixth floor of a small building above a Cuban restaurant. The building did indeed sport an elevator…the size of a refrigerator! The uber small elevator only reached the fifth floor, which meant I had to walk up the last flight of stairs. No problem, I can manage 20 steps. Except the elevator hardly ever worked. So what this really meant is that I was living in a 6th floor walk-up. Worse yet, the heat wouldn’t work in the dead of winter. Numerous calls to the management company didn’t yield any change. But it was a spacious apartment for a Manhattan studio, so I dealt with the lack of amenities and heat. I walked up the stairs, and convinced myself it was exercise. I hauled my laundry to my parents’ house, and filed it away as more convenient since my mom lovingly washed my clothes for me. When I got really cold, I used my oven as a heater. Yeah, that’s safe!
My denial was manageable until one day I heard a knock on the door and opened it to find two very burly men wearing NYPD badges around their necks. After introducing themselves, they asked me if I had noticed any illegal activity in the building. The detectives informed me they had received a call suspecting narcotics activity and prostitution in the building. Needless to say, I freaked out! It couldn’t be true. I can’t possibly live in a place where criminal activity was taking place, I thought. As I’m processing the bomb which was just dropped on me, I realized the detectives are staring at me. It finally dawned on me they were wondering if any such activity was occurring in MY apartment. I let them in to inspect of course, all the while astonished anyone could suspect me of doing anything illegal. They asked me if I heard my intercom buzzing a lot in the middle of the night. I told them I had, but I thought it was just rogue kids. They smiled. It took me a while to put all the new information together. It turns out the rascals buzzing me each night were not annoying teenagers, but johns! I was living in a brothel.
It would be an understatement to call my first apartment a nightmare. But if it weren’t for that nightmare, I wouldn’t love my current apartment so much. The elevator works, I have a washer and dryer on my floor, and to date I have only suspected one person of being a prostitute. Compared to my first apartment, I live in paradise. I was not going to lose this apartment! I negotiated the $530 hike down to $180. Take that evil management company! Oh wait…I still pay the equivalent of a 3-bedroom house mortgage for a tiny studio. Damn the evil villains!