Today was the most significant day of my recent life. No sarcasm. No exaggeration.
To provide some perspective: In my recent life – say 1 to 1.5 years – I have gotten a new job, been promoted at that job, begun life-changing friendships, ended life-changing friendships, switched entirely to skinny jeans, and run four miles without stopping. It’s been a big year. Today though — today topped it all. Today I found out that I can stay in my current apartment and take over the lease from my former roommate without the rent being raised to market value or my having to pay the new-renter’s fee of 2-months rent.
If you’ve never lived in Manhattan, aren’t familiar with Greenwich Village, and don’t think it’s a priority to live equidistant from a vintage clothing store, CVS, and 24-hour Falafel stand – don’t bother reading on. The significance of my day is in direct relation to the absurdity of my life. But absurdity is in the eye of the beholder, and my eye behold Washington Square Park.
I live in a rent-controlled apartment on a quiet-ish street in the heart of Greenwich Village. It’s a two-bedroom, fourth-floor walk-up in an old tenement building below a very old chess shop. The apartment consists of a small all-purpose room (approx. 200 sq. feet), a tiny bathroom (approx. shower stall-sized), and two bedrooms (I’m afraid to measure – but they fit beds, small dressers and armoires…because they don’t have closets). By all-purpose room I mean kitchen, living room, dining room, library, solarium, office, and home gym. It’s a Swiss Army room. For this château we pay a very fair fee just under $2,000 for two people. To put it in perspetive. My friend down the street pays $2,800 for the same sized space – and she doesn’t have a bedroom window. Again, all in perspective.
Long story short:
The lease was held by my former roomate – an alcoholic yoga-freak who’s since moved to Switzerland. I found her on Craigslist, of course, and bribed her to pick me with chocolate and alcohol, natch. She has held the lease for five years, thus stabilizing the rent. Last May she moved to Europe but agreed to keep the apt. in case she moves back. I pay rent through her. She decides not to come back and wants to break the lease. Now as I formerly understood the terms of rent stabilization, changing the name on the lease left the apartment open to be re-listed at market value. The lease-holder stabilized the rent. New holder, new rent – plus standard down payment of 2 months rent. I was screwed.
The fear with which I went into that lease office to discuss the situation and find out just how expensive it would now be cannot be described. If you’ve ever searched for a Manhattan apartment or been beaten within inches of your life, you understand. Add to that the fact that my lease is up May 1st – day 5 of the Tribeca Film Festival. Also I don’t have enough savings for a realtor and can’t technically pay market value for anything south of 125th Street. Things I was considering offering the landlord by way of begging for just one extra month include: all of my shoes, one-three of my eggs, or sex – many times.
I’m not sure what my stance is on God, or miracles, or luck, or Karma but I got whatever good there is to get by whatever is in charge of giving it. The apartment is rent-controlled, not rent stabilized. I pay a security deposit and that’s it. I have the option to auto-renew after 6 months with a raise of only $50 to the total rent. Oh, and there’s a new Mexican restaurant opening two doors down.
It’s funny, I thought, after buying a celebratory bottle of wine that I will drink on my two-foot-long couch while cooking dinner with my left foot and doing leg curls with my right – the way we prioritize things in our early 20s life. Most people probably think I’m psychotic for being so ecstatic about holding on to my sad excuse for an adult apartment which, though cheap for Manhattan, is astronomical for the world. They’re probably right, but it’s way too late now. I drank the Coolaid and washed it down with a fresh-cooked Falafel. Now it’s Chess with homeless dudes, tanning on the West Side Highway, coffee shops with a wait-list, and the $10 Vintage-shoes rack until someone pries me from this heaven-sent apartment — or I require a full-sized bed.