When they tell you that finding a place to live in NYC is unlike anywhere else in the world, they are NOT kidding. You have to think of things you never would have thought of in finding a home, and you have to ACT FAST. You also have to think realistically about what you are hoping to find.
Let me start off by saying it is not easy, at all. What is realistic and normal in Manhattan is NOTHING like what is realistic and normal in Oklahoma. My mom and I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, and as soon as we checked into the hotel we both immediately pulled up Craigslist on our iPads and began the search. My ultimate goal was to live not only in Manhattan, but as close to the university as possible. Before our trip, I had prepared a “one sheet” that described me as a person, my interests, my living patterns, and how I am as a roommate, including references. I emailed my one sheet to listing after listing and we were just not hearing anything back. I immediately started to freak out and worry that maybe our one week trip was not going to be enough time.
We woke up Thursday morning, showered, got coffee and a bagel (oh, NYC bagels are perfection) and headed back to the hotel room to search more listings. When hundreds are listed a day, you never run out of options. The trick is staying in the budget. Finally, I heard back form someone and we scheduled our first viewing for Thursday afternoon. I was so excited because this listing was in my budget and was located in the East Village, the same neighborhood where the building housing the majority of my classes is located. We left the hotel with amble time and arrived with time to spare. We walked up to the 4 or 5 story building, which was located on a fairly busy street with a Vietnamese restaurant on the bottom floor and were buzzed up. We got to the door and walked into what appeared to be a hallway. But that was it. That was the apartment. The kitchen was immediately in front of us, with the bathroom next to it. No living room. There were 5 bedrooms total and they each just protruded off of the main hallway. I was lead to the available room and opened the door.
I knew to expect small, but this was absurd. There was a twin bed, a desk and a wardrobe… and those few items completely filled the room. You could barely squeeze between the bed and desk to walk to the window. We finished talking to the roommates and left the apartment with their contact information.
I was officially freaking out. I was horrified. This was going to cost me more than double what I pay for an entire apartment in Norman, for a single room that I could not even take two steps in. All I could think of was how I can’t do this, I just can’t do this. What am I getting myself into? Later that night the girl contacted me asking if I was still interested in the room because she wanted to chose me. I was so hesitant to decline since I had been chosen, but I knew how much I did not like the room, and how I knew not to take the first one I saw.
After I calmed down, we decided it would be wise to open our search into Brooklyn. The apartments are more spacious there for the same price, or less. I have commuted for 4 years from Norman to OKC, so I knew I could handle it. Little did I realize, the commute was just too dang long.
Friday the pattern repeated… shower, coffee, bagel, listings… At this point we had a few more viewings scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and Monday. However, I was still apprehensive because we were leaving on Tuesday, so I definitely didn’t want to still be looking on Monday. During the beginning of our search on Friday morning, we scored a viewing at an apartment in Brooklyn in the Clinton Hill neighborhood. We hopped on the subway and headed that way.
First of all, Brooklyn is way the hell out there. Second of all, the area of Clinton Hill we were visiting was not so nice. Walking to the building from the subway station, I did not feel safe and comfortable, at all. We got to the building and went into the apartment. This one was also a 5 bedroom apartment, but it was much larger than the one in Manhattan. Two men were filling the 3 empty rooms, and by the time I got there, 2 had been filled. The room that was still open was 78 square feet with a small window, an actual closet with a door, and an exposed brick wall. I loved it. The apartment had a rooftop balcony that overlooked Manhattan, brand new stainless steel kitchen appliances, and it was in my price range. But I just could not shake the unease of how unsafe I felt outside of those apartment walls. I didn’t care how much I loved the apartment, I just could not feel comfortable living somewhere that I don’t feel safe walking to at night after class. But I was afraid. I was afraid that I was running out of options because I had already declined the first room in Manhattan I had been offered. I still really wanted to view another room in the East Village that we had scheduled for 7PM that Friday night. I was told by the Brooklyn roommates that the room was first come first serve so if someone wanted it before I contacted them that evening after I viewed the room in Manhattan, that person would get it.
I was disheartened. But we trudged on. We had another Brooklyn viewing that afternoon, so we decided to scope out the neighborhood first. And of course, it decided to start pouring. My mom and I were sharing one tiny umbrella, walking through Brooklyn trying to find this apartment, and were flat our cranky. To add to our frustrations, the closer and closer we got to the building, we realized that this neighborhood was even worse. Apparently Brooklyn in my budget is not the Brooklyn I want to live in. The apartments we were viewing there were not reflecting the Brooklyn I had experienced while dining and on our previous visits. We saw the building and I immediately cancelled the viewing.
We hopped on the nearest subway and I swear to you, I have never been so happy to get back into Manhattan. At this time we still had 2 hours until our next viewing and decided to check out where it was located in the East Village, after stopping by our hotel to change out of our sopping wet clothes of course.
Walking towards the building, I felt so comfortable in my surroundings. I felt safe. This was a neighborhood I could easily see myself living in. This one just had to be it. My mom and I prayed, and I had friends in Oklahoma praying. Please let this be the one.
At 7PM we were buzzed and hiked up the stairs to the 5th floor of this 6 floor walk up. We knocked on the door and walked on in. The apartment is small, very small. It consists of two bedrooms with a kitchen and bathroom in between. There is no living room (a thing that is apparently more common than I imagined) and no hall way. We were shown to the room and the first thing I noticed was that there was floor space! The room is small, 80 square feet, but I could walk around! There is a twin bed up against the back wall, an indention in the wall with a bar for a closet, and a window with a view of the neighboring building’s roof and some buildings in the distance. Needless to say it was the best room we had seen thus far, and it was close to the building where my classes were being held… very close, as in a 5 minute walk close.
My mom and I were left alone to discuss while the roommate answered her ringing phone… another person was on their way to view the room. This is when I knew it. I knew this was it. This was my room. The location is absolutely perfect, there is space in the room, and it is below my budget. Time to pull the trigger. I told my now roommate when she walked back into the room that I’d take it, if she would let me. We shook on it, and agreed to meet back on Monday for the check and key exchange and for me to sign the contract.
I was ecstatic. This was actually happening! My mom and I immediately went to a nearby bar and had a Manhattan to celebrate. (Which I might add, may be my only one ever, those things are STRONG.) A weight was lifted, but not completely. I was still wound up until Monday evening. Despite the slight apprehension, we were finally able to have fun in the big city over the weekend.
Monday finally rolled around and we headed back to the East Village, and up to the 5th floor. I wrote the check, which took my breath away, we signed the contract, and she handed me the keys.
This was it. I have a set of Manhattan keys, to a Manhattan apartment, with a Manhattan address. I officially live in Manhattan.