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In Which the "Sixth Borough" is a State Too Far

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If reading The Hunt stokes your deepest hopes that someday everything in life could work out, then you, too, are obsessed with the New York Times Sunday Real Estate section. Join us as we venture into the depths of this weekend's installment.

Philly is often referred to as the "Sixth Borough" given it's not too long commute and penchant for attracting those looking to save a buck. However, for those coming from Philly to the big, bad city, things are not so pleasant. This couple learned that the hard way, hoping to find a nice one-bedroom in a central location for around $1,800 a month. Clearly, the search was not easy and it looks like things got pretty desperate. In the end, however, they found a disappointingly small one bedroom over in Harlem. One thing they're happy about is how affordable the area is. All in all, not bad for newcomers!

They had been paying $800 a month in Philadelphia, but in New York, their budget for a one-bedroom in a central location, or at least with good subway access, topped out at $1,800. They ventured to Hoboken, which both found “awesome and beautiful,” Ms. Kelly said. But the apartments they saw there were nearly half an hour from the PATH train to New York. “We walked and walked,” Ms. Kelly said. “What if it’s raining, it’s snowing, it’s dark?”

Back in Manhattan, $1,795 a month bought a small, closet-free room with a bay window on West 103rd Street. “I was aghast,” Ms. Kelly said. “We thought a one-bedroom would be attainable, and we realized we were more in the studio section.”

Prices were more affordable farther uptown. Ms. Kelly was hopeful about 3333 Broadway, the five-building complex on Broadway near 135th Street, “the biggest apartment building I have ever seen,” she said. (It has nearly 1,200 units.) A large renovated studio, with great Hudson River views, was $1,395. The listing mentioned an easy approval process.

Still, their paperwork didn’t pass muster.

Growing frantic, Ms. Kelly found the Hotel Alexander on West 94th Street, an extended-stay hotel. That was “something I had never heard of,” she said, “but it made sense to me.”

She started the paperwork. The agent there told her to skip one question, because it was only for people applying for regular apartments. A light bulb went off. Could he show her regular apartments?

He could. One rainy night, Ms. Kelly visited a small one-bedroom in a midrise brick building near Harlem Hospital Center. The place was freshly painted, with two small closets, wooden floors and high ceilings. The rent was just $1,350 a month.

Relieved, they moved in the late fall. To Mr. Sabean, the place seemed smaller than in the pictures. “The video didn’t give me the depth perception I thought I was getting,” he said. “The angle definitely misled me quite a bit.”

· Leaving Behind an Arduous Commute [NYT]