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Diary of a DJ: Mike Nouveau Seeks Cheap Downtown Rental

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When he's not playing music in the Boom Boom Room, Tribeca Grand, Avenue or whatever exotic city that's currently in the throes of Fashion Week, DJ Mike Nouveau is ... frantically combing Craigslist for a cheap 1BR rental! The downtown scenester is hiking up his skirt and hunting for a new apartment before his East Village lease runs out. Follow him on his journey!

After being holed up in a small Avenue B studio for four years, I've decided to look for a bigger space. The guidelines: one-bedroom, downtown, $1,600 per month or (preferably) less. When I signed the lease on my current apartment in 2006, it was for $1,275. At that time it was the cheapest studio apartment I had ever found in Manhattan. It's rent-stabilized, and I figured I would stay for 10 years. Then a funny thing happened: Rents in Manhattan actually started to go down. I was seeing listings for apartments bigger than mine, for less than I was paying four years ago. So I decided to give up my studio apartment for something bigger. Only problem: My lease expires on March 31st, and I was in Paris for Fashion Week from March 1st through March 12th. Time to hit Craigslist!

I landed at Newark Airport, dropped off my luggage and was out the door to see my first two apartments, both in the Sky East “luxury” apartment building on East 11th Street between Avenues B and C, right around the corner from my current apartment. The Craigslist ad talked up a 24-hour doorman and amenities that I figured were out of my budget. The broker led me through the building, up some stairs, into a second-floor passage (very motel like), and then down again into a courtyard separating what turned out to be two buildings. The two available apartments open right into the courtyard, on the ground floor. I suppose that both apartments were “nice” compared to most tenement-style apartments in Alphabet City, but they were also both smaller than my current apartment, and significantly more expensive. I headed home to unpack and refresh Craigslist.

The benefit of jetlag: It gets me out of bed and onto the street at an ungodly early hour. I was up by 7am, but the new Craigslist ads didn't start showing up until about 9am. It's a downpour, so I cabbed it to a by-tenant open house at a West Village 1BR on Morton and Bedford asking $1500. Beautiful block, and the apartment was garden level with an entrance underneath the building's stoop. The bottom steps were flooded from the rain, leaving me and the other attendees with soaking wet shoes. We walked through a small hallway/boiler room into a grimy looking apartment that was already a downer when the tenants informed us that the move-in date had been pushed back to May 1st. Our soggy group was out the door and up the stairs in about five seconds.

Next up was the Lower East Side, where I waited for the broker to arrive at an apartment on Essex and Canal. A good area to find deals since the area is somewhat off the beaten path (cheaper and quieter than the stuff above Delancey Street) and I think some people get freaked out when they hear “Canal Street.” Before my studio I lived in a massive apartment with three other guys on Ludlow and Canal and I fell in love with the neighborhood, and was kind of hesitant to move to the East Village after the lease was up. The listing was for a “large renovated one-bedroom” for $1,600, my absolute maximum. This wasn’t the rent I wanted to pay, but I know that you can see a big difference in quality of apartments when you jump from the $1,400 range to the $1,600 range. The broker, a nice younger guy named Nicky from a newer agency called NYC-Now, told me the landlord might go for a low-ball offer. Now we're talking.

We entered the building and headed up to an apartment on the second floor. That alone was a nice change, because it feels like every single apartment I look at is on the top floor of a walk-up. It's like the apartments on the lower level are never vacated! Decently sized, nicely renovated?this was definitely someplace I could live. When you're used to apartments with strange layouts, low water pressure and uneven floors, it's nice to find a place that just seems normal. There is a certain joy that comes with having a fan/vent over my stove so my apartment doesn't stink when I cook. That's something I haven't had in a long time. Not that the place didn't have a few downsides, one being the four large windows looking out onto another building and that's about it. I submitted an offer of $1,450, and talked the broker's fee down to something more reasonable.

I left feeling hopeful, but also aware that the landlord could reject my offer or me personally because of my good-but-not-perfect financials. I met one more broker who showed me some more LES apartments, but nothing of interest. He promised to text me if he found anything else that met my specifications. I cabbed it home, still soaking wet, ordered some pad thai from Klong and passed out to the warm glow of Craigslist.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II of the Nouveau saga, which involves at least one broker rant that our lawyers will have to take a look at!