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Onetime FiDi Loyalist Ditches Area for 'Real Neighborhood'

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Brian Van, the longtime Curbed commenter whose well-documented love/hate relationship with his Financial District neighborhood led to the legendary "ruthlessly priced out of FiDi" rant, has finally moved. And against all odds?neighborhoods under consideration included Morningside and Prospect Heights, for Christ's sake?he has unpacked his bags on Allen Street, Hell Square, USA. His tale is one of bravery and fortitude, and luckily, Brian Van has decided to share it with us. Unprompted, of course. So, without further ado:

Yes, BrianVan has invaded Hell Square! I can't wait to roll out of bed on weekends and walk across the street to the 'Stack in a bathrobe! Details:
After my intense disapproval of FiDi and it's 24/7 desolation (affordability was not a concern - I'll get to that in a second), I was on the hunt for a new residence. Hadn't moved in three years, was a bit apprehensive about where I'd end up (along with whom I'd end up with), and the entire process of finding an apartment in Manhattan (or with proximity to the fast-moving parts of town) is rather dreadful. Didn't quite get to save up enough for a down payment on a $1.4m condo quite yet, so renting was necessary.

The initial search was for a studio in the $1400 range (give or take a few hundred). I was hopeful for a below 14th/above Canal arrangement, would have much liked a good apartment on the Upper West or in Park Slope or in the 'Burg, and was flexible to consider neighborhoods such as Morningside Heights and Prospect Heights,
Brooklyn. (Bed Stuy, Sunset Park, UES/Yorkville, Red Hook, all of Queens and all of New Jersey were among the neighborhoods that were put on my blacklist) Unfortunately, brokers and CL ads were not as flexible as I was. Settling for the roommate share concept (much more affordable), I visited a few desirable properties before settling in on a dream apartment in the middle of the LES. And then all hell broke loose. "Hey, you know how we agreed you could move in early January? Well, it has to be February 1st now." This was three days before Xmas, and without elaborating how I let an annoying situation turn into a disaster, let's just say that I was obliged to either accept this or find a new apartment on short notice.

I opted to wait it out. Stored all my stuff in a rented storage room, packed a big duffel bag, and embarked on a month of couch surfing. I was a vagrant for 32 days, including New Year's. This worked out quite well despite imposing extreme inconvenience. January involved being locked out of apartments overnight, the abrupt cancellation of my ATM card, a lot of trips to Jersey City (eventually the only place I had a guaranteed spot to sleep), a stay in a UWS youth hostel, my personal mail being held hostage for several weeks, frequent visits to hotel lobbies for Internet access, a lot of begging to friends, a lot of showers at the gym (along with a lot more old man balls than I'd like to see in any given month), and a coat closet at my investment bank office filled with laundry, sleeping blankets and other survivalist gear. (more details TK in a future article about "my month of homelessness").

And now - victory. Sure, it's not exactly cheap (I'm paying as much as my rent hike in the old place would have cost - so I didn't exactly save money in moving), and it's never quiet, but there is tremendous upside. Aside from the sweet 20 minute commute to work in Midtown, I now live in a REAL NEIGHBORHOOD with a dizzying array of services and a near-obnoxious slate of nightlife options. Not to mention the fact that I live someplace people would actually like to visit! More apartment parties! My roommate is a cool dude who's almost always out of town! No more cabs home at night, because I'm always within walking distance from home!

Sweet, sweet Brian Van. Fly high, little angel.
· Reader Rant: 'Ruthlessly Priced Out of FiDi' [Curbed]