Life in New York City
I've lived in Manhattan for over 12 years. They say write what you know and I know Manhattan. This is what life is like in the big apple, or at least what my life was like in the big apple. It's all true only the names have been changed to protect the guilty :)
I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when I first moved there. In my opinion the Upper West Side is the best part of Manhattan. It was cute, quaint, downright bohemian and it bordered Central Park on the east and Riverside Park on the west.
I loved that apartment and it seemed perfect at the time. It had almost everything I wanted and certainly everything I needed. It had a private balcony, it allowed dogs (I had one very cute Pomeranian named Poppy), it had a dishwasher and a washer and dryer in the basement and it was in the back of the apartment facing the South. The first thing you have to know about living in New York is that everything costs money and lots of it. Light costs money, windows cost money, quiet costs money, pets cost money and charm costs even more money. That is rule numero uno, everything costs money and lots of it. Write it down, there will be a test. My cute little apartment (video below) rented for $2,000 a month when I first moved in and $2,500 by the time I moved out 5 years later. Now before you freak out and think I had rented the Taj Mahal, let me set you straight. This apartment was not the worst apartment by any means but it also was not the best apartment either. It was a small, one bedroom apartment and it rented for $2,000 and that was a good deal. Later I would find out the reason for the decent price (which wouldn't last long). Come to find out the apartment was owned by a tyrant otherwise known as my a**hole landlord. And since I'm a Christian and don't want to curse while talking about him, I will call him A.L. for short. He was awful; any time anything went wrong (and lots did) he would yell at you. If the sink leaked it was your fault and he would yell at you, if there were roaches he could care less and it was your fault and he would yell at you, once I called him and complained about a dead mouse in my living room; he told me "at least it's dead". The outside of the apartment was kept in deplorable conditions, garbage was never collected properly and the stairwells were dark and dirty. Once I fell, missing the last step because the light was out in the stairwell. The basement, where we did our laundry, was a virtual chamber of horrors, we called it the dungeon, one never knew what kind of creature lurked in the darkness. It was all I could do to bring myself to do laundry.
Nevertheless, I loved that little apartment. I fixed it up and it was a cozy place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Sure there were problems, there were the roaches and mice and the gay couple downstairs had regular knock down drag out knife fights every month. One of them would wake me up in the middle of the night smoking right outside my bedroom window so I would put on my tap shoes and dance on his ceiling until he stopped! But, still it was my cute little apartment in the heart of New York City and I loved it. It was the very first apartment I ever had on my own (without my son). I was excited, no I was ecstatic to be living in Manhattan, the most vibrant city in the world, it was a dream come true. But, I was soon to learn how tough living in Manhattan could be when I started to run short on money and lost my first job, a stint at real estate. I needed to come up with that rent money and I needed to come up with it fast...
They say if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. And I was going to make it come hell or high water. I just didn't know how, yet... A.L. required first and last months rent, 2 months deposit and 6 months in prepaid rent to let me move in. Just so you don't have to do the math it was about $20,000!!!! I was not about to abandon ship now.
What to do, what to do, what to do? No job and the rent was due, what was I going to do?
I sat on my only comfortable chair, Poppy on my lap, and wondered where or how I would come up with next months rent money. I sat there and petted my little dog and cried and looked at my beautiful apartment. I looked and looked and then an idea came, like the proverbial light bulb over ones head. I looked at my high ceilings and at my closet and I noted that I had this area above my closet that the previous renter had used as storage and so I followed suit. It was the size of a twin size mattress and about 3 ½ feet tall but it didn't have a ladder or a way to get up there. I had pushed junk on top of it by standing on a chair and just kept pushing it in till nothing else would fit.
In my former life I had rented out rooms in Portland, Oregon. I had run a boarding house for about 10 years and looking up at that little space above my closet I decided I would rent out my closet or to be technical the space above my closet. I looked for a carpenter on Craigslist. Craigslist was always my first point of reference. I found a guy from Canada, and he gave me a price of $165.00 to build a ladder in my apartment. And so he did, he went and got the supplies from the hardware store around the corner and built a solid ladder in my tiny hallway into the wall (see pictures below) while I watched. I then proceeded to clean the area out and buy a mattress, linens, a lamp and a pillow. I was ready. I put an ad in Craigslist and almost immediately a woman answered. She needed a place for a week and I was renting my closet out for $100 a night (which, at that time was at least half of what you would pay for a hotel). I made the additional money needed for my rent and a new friend. She was an Asian concert pianist (later in our friendship she played in Carnegie Hall), when she asked me if I needed references I said “no...how many Asian serial murdering pianists are there”? I figured I was safe and we became fast friends.
From that time on, I managed my rent by supplementing my income by renting out my closet and sometimes my couch (if there were two people). This was all way before Air B&B came on the scene. I wrote another article about how to do this, if you want more details click here. I met people from all over the world and found it most entertaining as well as lucrative. I would put an ad on Craigslist and just waited for the clicks to come in. Some months were better than others, for example January was the worst and November and December were the best. I rented out my loft to Israeli soldiers, Brazilian ballet dancers, American Opera singers, Actresses and businessmen. I had people stay with me from France, Spain, Canada, Australia, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Israel, England Ecuador and Korea to name but a few. One woman paid me just to keep her luggage for the day and another man paid me $400.00 and never stayed for even one night.
I learned that people are pretty much the same everywhere. The really great thing is that they would tell me all their secrets...because what the heck, they were never going to see me again. Being the curious sort, I was greatly entertained and was able to pay my rent on time month after month.
Now you may ask, isn't this a little scary, sharing your space with complete strangers? And to answer that I would say, yes, yes it was, but for me it wasn't a deal breaker. I have never been the sort to shy away from a little excitement and adventure and yes danger too. By the way, I was never murdered or even assaulted! :). This was a way for me to stay in the city I loved, a way for me to supplement my income, it was a way when there was no way. Nothing like living on the edge, but then I didn't come to New York City to live a quiet, unassuming, boring life now did I?
Related articles by Brie Hoffman
- 20 Things I've learned about New York City since moving here...
New York City is unlike any other city I've ever lived. Here are a few idiosyncrasies that you might find amusing about the city.
- How I make $600 to $1,500 in Cash Every Month Easily by Renting out my Closet in NYC
When the going gets tough the tough get going. Making money has never been so hard. I found a way to make some cold, hard cash when I needed it most and I am going to share it with you.
- What is the Cheapest Way to Move Out of New York City?
Everyone seems to want to move INTO New York City but what if you have to move OUT? It's not easy and it's not cheap. Here are a few tips that will help.
- The Wild Wild East
Real estate in New York City is anything but civil. Practices in other parts of the country are either unheard of or resisted here. Fair Housing Laws...what's that? Multiple Listing Service is but a rumor....
- Free things to do in New York City
Why I love New York City I love Manhattan, let me count the ways. Being a single person I have been a minority in every single place I've ever lived...EXCEPT Manhattan. I love that, I love that we are...