Curbed Horror Stories are firsthand reader reports about terrible NYC apartment experiences past and present. This week, in honor of Renters Week, we're having a rental horror story showdown. We'll post one or two horror stories each day with a vote for the best on Thursday. The winner will advance to the national round of our network-wide contest. Horror stories to email@example.com, if you please.
My then boyfriend, Daryl, and I moved to NYC in the spring of 2000 into what was then a much rougher-around-the-edges Clinton Hill. Our soon-to-be roommate was already living in New York and offered to do the scouting for us since we knew relatively nothing about the city and were living 200 miles away. When Jayson (Blair. Yes, THAT Jayson Blair) faxed us floorplans to a place he found we were thrilled. It would be more than big enough for the three of us and cost what we thought was a quite a reasonable rent.
When Daryl and I came up from DC to sign the lease, the absolutely insane broker was acting absolutely insane. She flailed and talked to herself and shoved papers in and out of desk drawers while we sat in her office. We told her I would be moving in a month or so after the boys, and she waved off any problem saying I would just be added to the lease later. As newbies, we did not object. The day before Daryl came to pick me and my things up from DC, he stopped downstairs to tell the landlord as a courtesy in case the sounds of moving me in disturbed them. That's when he learned that no one?not the broker, not Jayson?had informed them that there would be another person in the apartment and that I couldn't move in. Daryl came to get me anyway feeling assured that we could work it out. I'm a nice girl! People like me! We will win them over! Besides, I had no other option.
After trying to broker a peace with the landlords we were told in no uncertain terms that three 20-somethings living in "their" apartment didn't "fit their vision of the building." They had made an "exception" for two NY Times reporters because of the cachet the paper of record brought with it. People of New York: these are the gentrifiers you hate, and rightly so. For months, they harassed us with threatening letters written on Yale Club stationary. "Surely there are other apartments you can afford, Lili." But we were in a bind: the broker who had assured us all was well had been fired, Daryl couldn't abandon the lease with Jayson, and I couldn't afford to live on my own. As I dodged the landlords outside of the apartment, life inside of it was falling apart as well. Our bedroom was robbed while we were in the living room – no doubt by the crackheads who occupied the abandoned houses on the street behind us. We would field phone calls from the city desk clerk wondering if we could see the Times car that Jayson had borrowed parked outside. Our once-white couch became a color of dirty that I don't think I've ever seen before.
A few months of living with this dual-pronged misery was about all I could take. One August day I was scouring our lease for a loophole and found it written on line 1: "The above signed and their spouses and children may reside at this address." It was an easy solution. Daryl and I went to court, got our marriage license and returned the next day to be married. After we'd said the most unromantic I-dos ever, I went to school and he went to breakfast with our witness. Our next encounter with Landlady Agnes on the stoop ended deliciously. She'd asked if I'd found a new place and I informed her we wouldn't be going anywhere. I offered her the marriage license as proof and she scoffed in her German accent that she thought that that was the worst reason to get married ever. We did not care and she shut the fuck up about me moving out. (She is now divorced from Landlord Don and we are still married, neener, neener, neener.)
By February, I'd had enough of Jayson's problems and had to get us out. I found a place in a building across the street and moved there pronto. We took one of the two home phone numbers with us and thought that it was funny that we'd gotten Jayson's and he'd gotten ours. Until a few years later. When the "Reporter Who Nearly Takes Down the Times" has a listed phone number (ours), all the other reporters will call it. All of them. The news people who can get past the front desk will knock on your door. When you say a person who has become famous for lying does not live there, no one will believe you. Except Seth Mnookin. He thought it would make a good story. And he was right.
· Curbed Horror Stories archive [Curbed]
· All Renters Week 2012 coverage [Curbed]