In this installment of the Renters' Diaries, a trio of young renters try to upgrade their Brooklyn neighborhood. But what will they have to give up to do it?
The apartment that I shared with roommates for the past eighteen months was pretty nice, large, and, most importantly, cheap. This was due primarily to the fact that it was located in a fairly desolate part of Bushwick, but there were other downsides, too. For one thing, it was a duplex on the ground floor/basement of the building and the basement bedrooms lacked doors (and closets) and occasionally flooded. Also, a gut renovation of the adjacent building resulted in an interminable rodent problem. When I say that it was pretty nice, what I really mean is that it had a dishwasher.
Needless to say, we had no plans to resign the lease, and as the move-out day approached my two roommates and I began looking for three-bedrooms in Crown Heights, Greenpoint, or a nicer part of Bushwick or Bed-Stuy. Our price range was between $2,100 and $2,600/month, so after about fifteen minutes of searching we struck Greenpoint from the list.
Although we initially wanted to avoid using Craigslist, our desire to forgo a broker fee won out. As we began looking at places, the rest of the preferences that we thought we had were also whittled away: No ground floor apartments became well, definitely no basement apartments. Large common area became some common area. Shared backyard for grilling became at least we'll have a kitchen.
Weirdly, four out of the first five places we looked at had the front two bedrooms railroaded, with a separate entrance to the street-facing one. That meant that from the street-facing room, the rest of the apartment would only be accessible through the second bedroom or by leaving the apartment and entering through the front door. This was one concession we were not prepared to make.
After almost three weeks of searching, we found some more suitable places and narrowed our list down to three. One was in south Bed-Stuy and had a very large living room. The downside was that it was pretty far from trains, and also that the building's stairwell was clearly too narrow for us to get our couch into the apartment (we have a really nice couch that we got for free and are loath to give up—it's a long story). A second was located on a weird little dead end off of Herkimer Street in Crown Heights called Herkimer Place that most closely resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This is what it looks like in Google Streetview, and also in real life:
Vans parked on the sidewalk, we suspected, were par for the course on Herkimer Place. The apartment was large, with roof access, but very old and not in the charming, prewar way. More in the refrigerator-smells-like-it's-dying way.
The third apartment was also in Crown Heights, a little further east than we would have liked, but on a very attractive street lined with trees and nice, old brownstones. The building was also very old, but the apartment itself—on the second floor—had just been renovated, and now featured a sleek, new kitchen. The living room was tiny but ultimately the low price—$2,200/month with heat and hot water included—proved to be the deciding factor. We moved in two weeks ago, and are already enjoying living in the vicinity of actual restaurants. The small living room meant that we had to get rid of some of our furniture, but hey, at least we got the rest of it up the stairs.
· Renter Report archives [Curbed]