July 2011: Trials of NYC apartment-hunting

Six weeks after starting a new job in New York City, I’m yet to actually move to New York City, as I haven’t yet found an apartment. I’ve been rotating between couches in Brooklyn and Manhattan, living alongside cats and encroaching on friends’ minimal apartment territory. It’s caused a few standoffs — with the cats.

One cat likes to pee on me. It peed on my shoes. It peed on the rug near my bed. It even peed one me. One night I woke with the cat hunched over my legs at the foot of the couch. I kicked her off and fell back asleep. I forgot all about the incident until I was folding my sheets in the morning and I smelled that unmistakable smell of cat urine.

Why do I subject myself to this? Because I can’t find an apartment — or at least an apartment to my liking.

A $900-a-month apartment in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park was about to come through, but then the landlord tried to strongarm me last-minute into moving in early. An $1100 studio in the East Village seemed OK, but the realtor demanded bank statements and tax returns from my parents. A $1230 studio in Murray Hill would have been perfect, with its full kitchen and private bathroom, but four other people submitted applications before me. Two $1400 studios in the East Village and West Village were both overpriced, as they also came with a $2,500 additional realtor’s fee.

I nearly signed on a $1125 studio in Hell’s Kitchen, after negotiating the realtor down from $1250, but I bailed out at last minute in indignation of paying a $2000 realtor’s fee for an apartment with no kitchen. It was also a little too close to the hubbub of Times Square; across the street was a strip club, and next door was Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) smiling at me from the billboard of his latest Broadway show. I looked into a $1000 studio in Greenpoint, but it was literally in the parking lot of a McDonald’s beneath an expressway.

A cross-eyed realtor took me on a wild goose chase around the Upper East Side looking at apartments either way-outpriced or way-bad (like, one was missing windowpanes). I nearly signed for an $1100 studio on the Upper West Side, one block from Central Park, and it didn’t seem bad despite being only about 80 sq ft (private bath, loft bed), but I didn’t see the point in paying the $200 credit check when I already knew that another girl had put in her application before me (she got the apartment). An $800 studio off Union Square seemed perfect despite its shared bathroom, but I saw the apartment after one other person who put in their application just before me.

Countless other inquiries have gone unanswered, or gone nowhere.

Lucky for me, my friends haven’t minded me too much (I think). Rich put me up for a night in Sunset Park. Pete’s wife was away for a week, which meant his apartment in Little Italy turned into man-town with me on the couch. Brian (and his girlfriend, Jordan) let me sleep in his bed for a week while he was in Peru, and then I moved to his couch.

But the cats HAVE minded. Lily’s cat peed on me, and Jordan’s cats in Brooklyn hissed at me, growled at me, glared at me, and generally acted hostile toward me. I feed them twice daily. I tried to comb their hair. I decided I’m not a cat person.

Apartment-hunting is draining and all-consuming. It’s difficult to enjoy a city where seemingly every potential apartment door slams shut on your face. The other day I dreamed that a coworker, who lives in the coveted location of 11th Street and 1st Avenue, was drinking coffee from my Superman mug. I was annoyed, wondering; Why isn’t he respecting my space? The dream’s meaning seems obvious: I need my own space! Enough with couches, I need an apartment.

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