Happy Birthday to me (and twin)! Starting this year off right, doing amazing things. I hope. The apartment hunt has begun. Let’s start with Fabian. I had reached out to a real estate agency with a sign on 145th street, sort of randomly. This is the guy who called with all the negativity yesterday morning. After our phone call I had sent him several of the listings I’d seen on Streeteasy.com that he said didn’t exist but I didn’t hear back. An open house on 238th street was scheduled for 6:00pm, so once again I made my way to that neighborhood. I also had jotted down several of the other listings, just so I could visit the buildings and look around.
Arriving early, I checked out a building just off of 231st street. Huge plusses: one block from the subway, a great grocery store, a Starbucks, a mini-mall and a Target. Downside: fifth floor walkup, no laundry in building.
I walked to 238th and the address listed as 181 West 238th street. When I got to the buzzers, each was labeled with an “E” (for East) and the one in the ad indicated “W” (for West). The west side of the building, though, was labeled 182nd. I stopped a woman entering the east side of the building to ask her where 23W would be. She did not speak any English. Now, you know the stereotype of Americans who simply speak their English louder when confronter with a language barrier? I don’t do that. I switch to speaking French louder. But it worked. You’ve heard of Spanglish? I do Frenish, or Spanch. It worked, though, she was able to understand what I was saying. Unfortunately, I did not understand her and wandered the wrong way around the side of the building. Returning I accosted another woman and she explained that the “182” hand written on the side of the building was recent and most people used the old address of 181.
So, I was in the right place. I stopped on the stoop and messaged Fabian that I had e-mailed him addresses earlier. He responded by calling me and asking if I was available Sunday morning to look at some of the buildings. Of course, I’m available. But he started telling me that the one I liked the day before, with the memorial, he refused to show because he’d placed someone there in the past and they’d had a terrible experience. I thought that was odd. We made our date and I entered the building.
I went up to the apartment where the agent, Peter, was already talking to a young couple. The woman seemed enthusiastic about the place. It was on the 2nd floor, and I don’t remember if it had an elevator. The former occupant might have died in it. This place hadn’t been updated since the 60’s. Scheduled for a complete renovation, the agent said it would be ready the 1st of July. Which is perfect for me. Plusses: Very large one bedroom. Laundry in building, super in building. Could be cool once all the renovations are done. Each time I meet a realtor I try to take advantage of their knowledge on the ins and outs of the market. I asked this one if he thought it was normal for an agent to refuse to show a place. He did. So, I asked if Vincent and I could rent as a couple using his income. He said yes, but we’d have to file two $75 applications, one each. Okay.
When I returned home I asked the roommate what date the new tenant had to move in, did I have wiggle room? No. In fact, she reminded me, my agreement says I need to be out by noon on the 31st. That might kibosh that apartment. Fabian had sent me links to fill out registration. At the end of the document I was asked to agree to a payment of 15% of a year’s rent should I take an apartment he showed me. Shit. I went ahead and signed, but most of the agents I’d met were charging one months rent. Also, John, from the ultra cool located space with the walkup texted me, and now I wasn’t sure if I could see it without Fabian’s involvement.
This morning I was awake at 4:00am. I started downloading our W4s and tax info from the computer. I realized that we didn’t make as much as I’d said we did on paper. I quickly texted Fabian who replied it would be okay, the numbers were still good. At 10:00am, I went to the subway to reload my weekly card, determined to get better use of it this week. On the way to the station I passed a lot of people speaking French. Curious. Then in the station at the vending machine a group of teenagers surrounded me trying to load their cards. I heard a voice behind me instructing them, but it can be difficult the first time (we’re so used to putting in a card before pushing buttons, and it is the opposite). I reached over and started helping each one as they arrived at the machine. Their guide asked me how long I’d lived in NYC. “Three weeks!” I shot back. Then he asked if I was loading my card, and I said “No, I already did, I just like helping people out. It’s a habit.” The kids were from India.
I took the train back up to 242nd street, and then tried to catch the bus for the remaining 20 blocks. I would have been on time, but two Bx9 busses arrived at the same time. I went to the first one and the driver said “This is my last stop.” Oh. So, I ran behind the bus to the second Bx9 and the guy was pulling alongside the stopped bus. He stopped, and I gestured for him to let me on. He pointed to the curb. I thought he was telling me to get out of the street and he’d pick me up on the curb in front of the stopped bus. No. He went on into the traffic. How are you supposed to know which bus is stopped, and which is going?
Now I was running late. I decided I could make time walking to the next bus stop. All of this road ran alongside Van Cortlandt Park, which is pretty. I got a good rolling speed walk gait going. At one point I sped past a man who exclaimed “Wow, look how fit you are, going so fast!” I turned to walk backwards and replied, “I’m late, I missed my bus!” He gave me a shocked sympathetic glance. I made it to the 251st street bus stop and caught the bus to 262nd.
Finally, I met Fabian. Not the most personable person. He showed me the laundry first. Then one of two nearly identical apartments. The first was on the 2nd floor and the floor was tile. It was a large studio, about 20 feet long and 15 feet wide, with the kitchen and bath tucked in the bath. The second apartment was on the 4th floor and identical in size and layout, but pained a nice blue, and with wood floors. Here we stopped and talked for a bit about expectations. He too told me I’d have to fill out two applications for husband and me at a total of $150. He also would claim his 15%. He didn’t know how much the apartment cost. I told him the listed price, but he didn’t seem to believe me. We parted with him telling me he’d contact me Monday with more information. I decided I didn’t want to do business with him. And the commute was just too far.
John (of the cool apartment) had texted me two apartments to look at that he’d left open in the building. I made my way back there, thankful there was no more mention of dealing with Fabian. Both apartments were on the fourth floor, which was really the fifth. (The listed apartment is on the fifth.)
Apartment 4A opened right next to the bedroom. A good size, I’d guess 15 x 9. Then down the hall a new fridge and stove, then the bath, then the living room. Nice layout. Pretty floors. Apartment 4B opened onto a long narrow hallway. At the end were the bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bath. It smelled of cat piss. I returned to 4A and called John to sort things out. He did not like the idea of filing with Vincent’s job, and told me he didn’t think it was ethical. He also suggested that an agent charging to application fees was pocketing half. He became more encouraging when I told him I expected to find work soon, saying a letter of hire with salary would be enough to get me an apartment. Most listings say they want three paystubs from your current job, which I obviously don’t have. This is part of why I’ve been so anxious.
He also told me about another property with an elevator that I should check out. It was very near the open house, so I got my free birthday drink at Starbucks and walked to 238th street and Bailey Avenue. The open house apartment was very nice. All polished and shiny new, but alas, no pets. I didn’t chat with that realtor much, but walked a block to John’s other apartment and let myself in. At first I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to get in through the front buzzer, but a woman with a cute bulldog in a cone let me in. The lobby/stairwell area was gigantic, with three offshoots of apartments. I took the elevator to the 2nd floor and let myself into he apartment. It was also very nice. The best feature was the funky shaped foyer that had room for coat hooks or a coatrack. The kitchen was merely a fridge, stove, sink and foot of counter space on the corner of the living room. Still, the floor was parquet, and very pretty, with a serious slope in the bedroom. John’s favorite thing about the building was the super. This apartment is 10 blocks from that Starbucks, but in a quieter neighborhood.
So, my choices so far, the large apartment on 238th rented by John the five floor walkup or the refurbished to be apartment just got a note that’s rented.
Okay. Monday I am determined to find work. I spend the day sending out applications to all the temp agencies on the “Time Out: Best Temp Agencies in NYC” 2017 article. One of them replies immediately. I also get notice that I have passed the GSST exam for the UN (although I did better in numerical than situational reasoning, go figure) and am to take the proofreading test on Wednesday. I am meeting new agent tomorrow. Contact with other agents are – back soon from vacation.
It is critical mass – I need to get a job to get an apartment this week. Converge!