What I Learned From Living In My First New York City Apartment

Carrie Bradshaw? Yeah, right.

I had a really hard time coming up with a title for this post.

Depending on your familiarity with NYC, you’re either thinking I lack creativity or have already been jaded by the concrete jungle. It’s probably a combination of the two, as living here can be both inspiring and exhausting, and my creative juices are definitely low in this transition of seasons.
For the uninitiated, a young person’s first New York area apartment is typically outside the city, as real estate in the island is the most expensive in the nation, so you can imagine why I’d struggle settling on a headline for this piece.

The Meatpacking

When I landed a job in the Meatpacking district six months ago, I stumbled over myself to leave D.C. and find a temporary place in New York. A friend of my sister’s knew someone who had a vacant room in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and given the apartment’s reasonable monthly rent and proximity to the subway (the G train, which has  a reputation for being the worst line in the MTA system), I seized the opportunity and moved all my stuff into the room.

My first NYC area residence was more of an adventure than I anticipated, and not necessary in a good way. When I relocated from Bed Stuy to the Upper East Side a week ago, the male movers, both of whom were brawn, fit fellows from Minnesota, commented on how creepy and eerie my bedroom and neighborhood as a whole felt. They were unimpressed with the view from my bedroom window, which faced a junkyard and an abandoned building. I was relieved to get out of there, but as I learned overtime, the view from my room was the least of my problems. It took my first NYC area apartment for me to fully appreciate moving into the city, and while starting my New York experience in Manhattan would have simplified my life, I wouldn’t have realized how lucky I have it now had I not done the BBQ (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens) thing. Sure my uptown apartment gives a whole new meaning to the word “bedroom,” as my room barely fits my full mattress, but I actually find the minimal amount of space cozy and cute, and I’d love to stay there for two years. :) I never felt that way about Bed Stuy, so here are some tidbits I learned from my first place:

1. Bucket showers aren’t so bad. In October, the shower handle broke and I was forced to clean myself with a giant pot of hot water. When this happened, I hadn’t showered in three days (I was working nonstop and abiding by my occasional crunchy granola California tendency to limit my time in the shower so as not to dry up like  a raisin), so my hair was knotted and greasy and I felt ickier than ever. One of my close friends from college grew up in Guam and cleaned herself with a bucket for months on end during devastating storms, so I channeled my inner Angela whenever this happened and just dealt with it. I looked okay afterwards, obviously not shiny and refreshed, but I didn’t repulse anybody either.

2. Accessing your apartment is a privilege, not a right. New York is made up of old buildings, many of which have locks that won’t budge without giving you arthritis. Such was the case with the lock outside my first apartment building entrance door, which on average took ten minutes to open every time I wanted to get inside. There was no trick aside from patience, and I can’t tell you how many mini panic attacks I had at 2:30 a.m. on weekends, when the streets were deserted, my phone battery was low, and the rusty lock indicated that it would snap my key in half before letting me inside. Not such a good situation when being chased or held up by a robber. At first, I thought I was the only one who struggled to open the entrance door, but when I noticed letters taped to the door begging management to change the lock “before we’re all locked out,” I realized I wasn’t the only one who was at war with the evil threshold. People began propping the door open with the yellow pages and bricks (still trying to figure out where all those bricks came from), so a week before I moved, the building manager finally replaced the lock with one that did its job. Imagine that.

3. Steam can serve as a curtain. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my roommates and I didn’t bother to get a bathroom curtain for our shower window, which faced a junkyard and abandoned building. Rather than potentially give building or trash pit dwellers a free peep show, I let the shower steam for five minutes before hopping in so the window would fog up. When you’re not invested in your place, you don’t care to purchase every household necessity for it.

Carrie Bradshaw's walk-in closet doesn't exist!

4. A closet is the ultimate luxury. Especially if it’s in your room. There was only one closet in my first apartment and naturally, it was right by the kitchen. When I went ahead and hung some of my clothes in there, things didn’t go over well. I didn’t realize it was selfish to want a tiny fraction of space in the only closet in an apartment of three, but such is to be expected in NYC, where people are cheated every second.

5. Calling 311 can result in a spat with firefighters and other men of “service.” Earlier this year, our heater broke and remained on full blast for several days. Though it was chilly outside, the heat indoors was so intense we couldn’t sleep and seriously thought our skin was going to peel off. Because I didn’t have the building manager’s phone number (wasn’t allowed to have that information, how wonderful), I called 311 and the operator incorrectly told the fire department that there was smoke in our apartment. The whole team came over and shouted me down for the false alarm, stating, “We were told there was a fire.Nothing like getting into a heated debate with a group of hostile Bostonian firemen to feel a sense of belonging in New York.

6. Roommates will take your money. I learned this from my mover, who informed me that it’s common for a person to buy large apartments so he/she can charge exorbitant rent to occupants and therefore pay as little as possible for his/her own room. I don’t think I fell victim to this, but it happens a lot in New York, at least as seen on “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23,” so you may be better off living alone sometimes.

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5 thoughts on “What I Learned From Living In My First New York City Apartment

  1. So happy to hear about a successful move! While I’m sure you won’t miss the ghost or the junkyard, it’s great to look back on that and see how far you’ve come! Plus, it’s always great fodder for that debut novel!

    As much as I love my shitty West Boston apartment, the day I move into something that was built this century (I’d even accept something built in the LAST century,) has no (or at least fewer) rodents, and s air conditioning too much to ask for?, I will feel like I’ve made it.

    Thanks Laura, for the post!

    • Thank you! Living in places with character BUILDS character! You’ll appreciate your newer apartment having lived in an old one. Boston buildings have so much charm! You’re lucky the place is free of rodents :) Glad you appreciate what you have! I know I do. Thanks for your insight!

  2. Pingback: 100 things I’ve learned since moving to NYC a year ago « Laura E. Donovan

  3. Pingback: Should I move back to Brooklyn next year? | Laura E. Donovan

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