Bless Your Heart, New York: A Room of One’s Own

Dear New York,

I feel like we need to talk. You and I got off to a rocky start, I know. You were cold and distant, maybe I didn’t try hard enough, but the point is we had finally settled into a groove. Not exactly a fairy tale romance, but things were going alright. Then, I decided to move (not so much decided as “was forced to because our landlord sold our house,” but whatever). I told you we were taking our relationship to the next level, as it were, turning a page on a new and exciting chapter full of new neighborhoods and new adventures. And you, New York? Well, bless your heart, you basically laughed in my face.


For a city of immigrants, famed for welcoming the tired and poor and struggling artist alike, you were not what I would call welcoming, dear. I approached it like a fun research project, and my roommate and I daydreamed about what new wonders you might have to offer us: “Natural light! Hardwood floors! Roof access! A dishwasher!” But my optimism was swiftly squelched when I realized that for a city with 2,581,170 apartments, you seemed to offer exactly zero in that happy Venn Diagram zone of affordable and non-sketchy/closet-sized/inaccessible/just plain gross.

I tried Street Easy. I tried Zillow. I tried Nooklyn. I even tried Craig’s List. And each search left me more and more discouraged. Now I know I’d been spoiled, New York, with my family-of-a-friend deal that comes once in a lifetime, never to be seen again this side of the Hudson River. But I had seen my friends, not so blessed, who still managed to find cute apartments, with room for their stuff, without selling their souls, bodies, or kidneys to make rent. But you, New York, you spit all over my rosy colored dreams. Clearly you don’t like change any more than I do, because when I said we needed to talk, you just wanted to start a fight. So I said bring it on.


I formed a squad, because every good warrior needs a squad. We added a third roomie to the mix, and he and I set about searching, and lowering our expectations, in earnest. One spreadsheet and several sleepless nights later, we felt like we were making progress. We had picked a neighborhood, we had a list of options, and now all that was left was to visit them and make our choice. Little did we know your fun, and our torment, was just beginning.

We’d heard rumors of your fickle nature, see, of how you would dangle the perfect apartment in front of people only to snatch it away, for applicants with thicker dossiers and quicker trigger fingers. We were determined to be prepared, well-armed for the fight we knew was coming. So I Googled “Documents You Need to Apply for an Apartment in NYC.” And then I nearly fell out of my chair. I was expecting the bank statements. I was expecting the paystubs. But you, New York, you blew me away. In order to apply for an apartment within your borders, I had to round up more scraps of documentation than an FBI background check. By the time I was done tracking down three year-old tax returns and a copy of my social security card, I wouldn’t have been surprised if you had demanded a blood sample and my first-born child. My new roomie offered to compile and copy all of our documents into neat packets for every application we might submit. Needless to say, he got to know us very well, very quickly.


One Saturday morning in July, the roomie and I set out on an apartment visiting quest, having lined up three visits that day and five more for Sunday. Like Goldilocks with a renter’s checklist, we started off bright eyed and enthusiastic, determined that by the end of the weekend, we would have found our perfect home. Place number one was too far from the train, in a neighborhood that would have given my mother at least 14 new grey hairs per day. A second was better located, but smaller than a dorm room, with dirt-crusted crevasses along the base of the sink and the tub. Place number three was a little darker than we wanted, not quite as close to the train as would have been ideal, but it was nice. Wood floors, exposed brick, laundry in the basement, a roof. Now we were getting somewhere.


With one good option in the bag, we arrived at Sunday, with several more appointments on the books. That morning, we started making calls, just to confirm. And one by one, New York, you slammed those doors in our faces. Our five appointments became four, then three, then two, then one single pad that hadn’t been scooped up already. The panic began to set in. I was leaving on vacation that week, and needed to move the day after I returned, so our time was running out. Which is when we called up Door #3, fingers crossed that it too hadn’t slipped out of our grasp.

The next several steps were a blur, New York, so dazed were we by this roller coaster you had us on. There was the application, and fees, and deposits, and interviews. There were discussions and pro/con lists, lease provisions and rooftop rules. And then, we signed. You had put us through our paces, New York, and rather than do a victory dance as we crossed that finish line, we simply collapsed in exhaustion…and then got up to pack more boxes.


Now we’re starting to get back on better footing, you and I. I’m moved in (thanks in huge part to my family and their car, allowing me to avoid battling your streets and stairs myself). The roomies are here too. We got a microwave and a toaster and a cozy rug. Things are looking up. But New York, I feel like something has shifted here. I thought we’d come to an understanding, see, to happily coexist in mostly copacetic harmony. I admitted you weren’t just a dirty, ugly scrum of skyscrapers and smog; you gave me a job and some new friends and a whole bunch of theatre and bagels. I thought things were going ok. And then you kicked my shins and took a big ol’ bite out of my bank account. You made it so hard, New York, way harder than it should ever have to be. And I know you’ll say the struggle is what makes it worth it, that I’m tougher now because I’ve fought you tooth and nail for a room to call my own. I’ve been initiated into that weary-eyed club who nod sagely and, with a shiver, say, “Oh yeah, apartment hunting in the city. I’ve done that.


But this is not a club I had any desire to join. I’m already in the Apartment Hunters of Paris Society and the United Job Hunters of New York Association. I’ve got enough t-shirts: I’m good. So now we start a new chapter, New York, and I feel both closer and more distant from you than before. Maybe this is just what growing together feels like, learning to adapt and change as our innocent (slash grudging) romance turns into a long-term, nitty gritty relationship (with no marriage plans at present, thank you). Commitment is hard, honey, but I’m willing to give it a try. But please, oh please, let’s not move again for a while? I just got my last box unpacked.





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