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Oh, Mr. Wong

6 Jul

Mr. Wong did it again. He moved all of my worldly possessions (of which there are many) in the blink of an eye, driving away from the job as I stood in my doorway with my mouth open.

Yes, I filled this truck.

Let’s start from the beginning. The last time I moved (from Harlem to Battery Park City) I spent 3 weeks packing. I was so excited to be moving to downtown Manhattan that I started putting everything into boxes the moment my lease was signed. Unfortunately, this meant that I lived in chaos, without the day-to-day items I needed, for the better part of a month. Boo.

This time I decided I could surely get everything packed in a week. Afterall, I was moving out of a studio this time, and I’d downsized a bit. But then life got in the way and packing was put on the back burner. So in the end, I packed in only a few days. Thankfully, my friend Amber helped me out one night, and since she is a super-focused organization freak, shit got taken care of. The final odds and ends always end up piling up more than you expect them to, though, and the night before moving day I was up until 2:30 AM squirreling things away.

This is all of my stuff packed in boxes at the old apartment. Every square inch from the front of the pile to the windows, is full.

Vader and Johnny thought the pile of stuff was a jungle gym. Here Vader is, debating how to jump up to the tallest piece of bedframe board and balance himself there.

A few moments after I’d groggily gotten myself out of bed the next morning, I got a call from Mr. Wong. He had arrived at the entrance to my apartment complex, and the security guards wouldn’t let him in. Why? Because he was an hour and twenty minutes early.  The building won’t let trucks in before 9 AM, as I’d mentioned when I scheduled Mr. Wong for the earliest available moving slot.  But at 7:40, he was already duking it out with the guard in the booth.  I went downstairs to play peacekeeper and Mr. Wong reluctantly drove down the block to wait after being promised that he’d be the first one allowed in the complex at 9:00.

Once 9:00 finally arrived, the move-out went as smoothly as I thought it would.  In 52 minutes, Mr, Wong and his partner had moved everything out of the apartment and into the truck.  Mr. Wong moved everything from the apartment into the elevator, and his partner retrieved the elevator loads and moved them onto the truck.  The most mind boggling moment was when the partner guy picked up my couch and carried it to the truck, single-handedly.  WTF?!?!?!?!?!  If you google the phrase “brute strength”, I swear a photo of these two men will pop up.

I wrote down the address of the new apartment, and off we all drove to Brooklyn.  I thought that the stairs at my new place might throw my miracle movers for a loop.  My new apartment is one flight up, which means you can’t just load things into an elevator and roll them in the door.  But I was Wong  wrong.  Stairs are no obstacle.  The move-in was completed in a little over an hour.  Ridiculous.

Mr. Wong (in blue) and his partner, offloading the truck. One of the few times the two of them were in the same place at the same time.

These shelves are heavy. Most people would carry one shelf at a time up a flight of stairs. Mr. Wong carried FOUR.

Mr. Wong's partner has a stack of 4 full plastic tubs on a hand truck in this photo. He did not take them upstairs one at a time. He backed up the stairs, pulling the stack up one stair at a time. The strength required to do that is immeasureable.

Loading the goods into my new living room.

And so, by noon, I was on the road back to my old apartment to clean up, paint the walls back to white (the existing cream and tan walls were not acceptable; they had to be Arctic White), turn in the keys, and have my last round of Battery Park City halal from my cart guy.  With the help of my parents and Aunt Betty, it was all done by 4:30, and we headed back to Clinton Hill to unpack and grab some dinner.

Me, with all my belongings behind me.

My parents always insist that the first thing you have to do in a new apartment is set up the bed.  That way, when you run out of gas in the late evening, you can just go straight to sleep.  Smart?  Yes.  So, that’s what we did.

By the time my friend (and new neighbor), Biscut, came by for dinner (pizza from Not Ray’s – don’t even get me started on this pizza; I’ve eaten it 4 times in the last week), the bed was made, the kitchen and bathroom were unpacked, and half of my clothing pile was put away.  Boo-ya.

Lots of stuff strewn across the floor, but note the neatly tucked in bed. Ahh, comfort.

And then I crashed.  The sheer exhaustion from packing, moving, cleaning, painting, and unpacking knocked me out instantly.  I hate to go to sleep before the full un-pack is done, but I just couldn’t function any longer.  And so this post has to crash, too.  Yup, that’s all she wrote for one day….literally.  HA, I crack myself up!

Tune in over the next couple of days for furniture arrangements and more on Not Ray’s Pizza.  Oh yea, and you’ll probably get a rant about Time Warner somewhere along the line, too.  A week after moving in, I still have no cable or internet.  Not a good look.  So in order to blog tonight, I’m here at a random cutesy coffee house near my house with the rest of the neighborhood’s 20-something white girl population (maybe TWC f’d them over too?).  It’s a cute place with good food and outdoor space, and at the moment they’re trying to funk-i-fy it with some Fugees tunes.  White girls gotta have their jams.  Ah, gentrification, you bastard.

Told ya it was cute. The twinkle lights are out in a patio, in the back.

Anyway, if you’re reading this, you probs have internet and cable, so say “wut up” to reality TV for me.  Oh, how I miss you, HGTV and Bravo!



Plowing Through, Full Speed Ahead

6 Jul

Hello again! It feels like ages since I’ve posted…probably because it has been!

Real talk: it’s been a shitty past 2 weeks for this girl.  I’ve been dealt a bunch of major personal challenges all at once, and they have been TOUGH.  So, as any good drama queen knows, when the universe falls outta wack, the best option for dealing with everything is to curl up in the fetal position on your bed and cry it out with a glass of Pinot on your nightstand.  Check, check, and check!  Unfortunately, no pearls of blogging genius were spewing from my brain during this period, and who really wants to read whiney crap?  No one, that’s who.

This was from another rough week back in college, but the staples of the recovery process are the same: wine, a large pot of pasta, and some sappy girl tunes (note the "old fashioned" ipods).

I did break up the personal pity party, though, SOMEtimes over the past couple of weeks.  I went to work, I walked from my bedroom to my kitchen to retrieve cold pizza from the fridge, and one day I even shifted my sad sack body to the couch to watch Love Actually (cue more crying)…oh yea, and I moved.

That’s right.  I am officially a Clinton Hill resident.  Mr. Wong did his thing, and I’m in!  I never like to waste any time getting to the unpacking portion of moving, so that’s pretty much done, too.  And I’ve rearranged the furniture no fewer than 50 times, so the apartment is finally looking the way I’d hoped it would.

Exhausted from just completing the move, but happy because my friend Biscut now lives nearby! See those glasses of water? Yea, they were replaced with beers and gin & tonics about 10 seconds after this photo was taken.

Yup, I’m settled in, and I’m loving the extra space (when you’re used to a studio, a 1BR feels like a mansion).  And the kitty babies are doing a happy dance since they can now see exciting stuff from the windows, like birds in the backyard (I swear, to these cats, a bird flying by is like watching the Superbowl on a huge flatscreen).  They’re so distracted that they’ve even stopped waking me up at 5:30 AM!  So, I guess it’s actually me who should be doing the happy dance.

Any-who…details of the move and photos of the new place are forthcoming.  So, stay tuned.  It’s good to be back!  And in the spirit of happy stuff, leave a comment telling me what fun fun fun stuff you did for the 4th of July.  It’s a fave holiday in my parents’ house, so there are always major festivities and tons of beach-going.  This year was no exception.  What did you do?  Here’s hoping you’re sufficiently tanned.


Signed, Sealed, Delivered

6 Jun

…I’m yours!  I mean…it’s mine!  My credit was approved within a couple of hours today, and I met the condo owners to sign my new lease tonight.  So, I guess now all I need to do is call Mr. Wong, right?  Don’t worry, I’ll get you some pics of this move.  Now, I’m off to rest easy.  Goodnight!

Clinton Hill, Here I Come

5 Jun

Well folks, I made a decision. You may recall from my last post that I was deciding between three apartments, since my lease at The Gate is up at the end of June.  Just to recap, here were the choices:

  • Option 1:  Stay in Battery Park City and pay $200 more, per month, in rent.
  • Option 2:  Sign a lease on a large, well-priced 1BR apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn that boasts some nice outdoor space.
  • Option 3:  Save some money by moving back up to Harlem, where the rent at my old place (Riverton) is now around $1400/month.

Painful as it is to leave our beloved Battery Park City, we just could not justify paying $2050/month for a studio (call us crazy!).  And since Agent Owens and I had decided to leave Harlem a mere 14 months ago, we felt like we just weren’t ready to go back yet.  That said, the decision has been made to go with the apartment in Clinton Hill!

Wikipedia offers a great map of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Clinton Hill is in the northern, central part of the borough.

Trust me, over the course of the weekend there was plenty of bellyaching on my part about the fact that I didn’t know which option to pick.  I think Agent Owens was prepared to break up with me if I uttered the whiny phrase, “I just don’t knoooow what to doooooo!” one more time.  It’s hard to give up living in an area you love so much, and it’s equally hard to pass up a chance to pay $1400/month in rent, for a large 1BR.  But still, I was being a little bit Scarlet O’Hara.

Fortunately, for everyone involved, the decision needed to be made relatively fast.  I have to tell The Gate whether I’m staying or leaving, by tomorrow.  And, I needed to submit an application on the Clinton Hill place ASAP, if I was going to go that route.  Time was a-tickin’.

In the end, we chose Clinton Hill, and I think we made a great choice.  Truthfully, Clinton Hill (as a neighborhood) is a big unknown for me, which is a little scary but mostly exciting.  Turns out, though, that we’ll be with family in the new place.  Agent Owens’s brother and his wife live about 4 blocks from the apartment, and they gave us a little tour of the immediate surrounding area today, en route to brunch.  Plus, I have some family friends in the neighborhood, and we have several college friends within walking distance.  Party in Brooklyn!

If you're familiar with Brooklyn, the Clinton Hill neighborhood is outlined here.

As for the apartment itself, we’ll be renting a condo from owners who are moving to Connecticut (where I’m from!  Seemed auspicious!).  The finishes are beautiful, the space is large, and there are 3 (count ‘em, 3!!!!!) outdoor spaces.  We have a private balcony, a shared back patio where everyone BBQs, and a shared roof deck.  Seeing as we are currently in the season of sunbathing, grilling, and letting-the-fresh-air-in, I am beyond excited.

All that’s left now is for the other agent to run my credit check and for me to actually sign the lease.  I am hoping that will all happen in the next couple of days, and I will certainly keep you posted as to how that goes.

So, without further ado, here are the pics:

When you walk in, you're facing the living room and the sliding glass doors onto the balcony.

This photo doesnt do it much justice, but the bedroom is quite large.

Double closet in the bedroom. Big plus? Oh, yes.

Hall Closet next to the bathroom, which has a linen closet, marble floor, and heat lamp. Ahhh.

The kitchen is at the back of the living room. Yay for lots of cabinets and a dishwasher!

Looking out onto the balcony, from the living room. The balcony overlooks the patio/garden.

Shared patio. Bring on the BBQs!

Picture me up here, in my beach chair, with a gin & tonic, gazing at that skyline. Yes, please.

When I sat down to write this post, I x’d out all of my Criagslist, MLS, and random apartment listing tabs on my browser.  It was beyond therapeutic!  And now, I’m off to watch the rest of the NBA finals in peace, with a beer, knowing that I have a place to rest my head next month.  Ahhh.


Images:  (1) Wikipedia, (2) Google Maps, All others Rebecca for Happy City Living

Get Up Offa That Thing

4 Jun

…and dance till you feel better! (Just kidding.)

I’m sure you might be wondering why, in my posts about apartment hunting, I’ve been talking about sitting at a computer rather than actually going out to see apartments. Well, I wasn’t just being lazy, and I did always have plans to get up off of my “thing” to see potential new homes.

The reason I did so much online hunting is that apartments don’t typically become available for a July 1st move-ins (the date I need) until June. Listings you find in May will most likely be for June move-in dates, and once you mention that you want to move in July, you’ll quickly get shot down by the listing agents. There are exceptions, but for the most part, landlords want to rent out their apartments ASAP. And, in the summer months, when inventory is flying off the shelves, finding a new apartment and signing a lease can literally all happen within one day.

Being a Type-A, plan, plan, plan kind of person, waiting until the last minute to apartment hunt can become extremely frustrating for me. So, here’s my plan of attack, which allowed me to get the ball rolling a little bit earlier…

2 months prior to moving:  At the end of April slash beginning of May, I began poking around listing sites, to get an idea of what types of apartments were currently available in my price range. Since I wasn’t tied to one neighborhood in particular, I tried to see what I could get for my money in a variety of areas.

1.5 months prior to moving:  In the middle of May, I started paying attention to apartments that I saw posted over and over again. Now, these units may have something wrong with them that’s preventing renters from signing a lease, but it is likely that the units are just overpriced. In the summer months, with so many apartments up for rent, renters are going to notice if a unit is listed for too much $. I started to make mental notes of unit’s I’d seen being continually posted. These might be good units to see, and there might be room to make a deal.

1 month prior to moving:  Last weekend, I started seriously looking. At that point, June was upon us, and the units on the market likely did not have a June 1st tenant moving in. As a result, brokers and landlords were willing to talk about July move-ins. I started calling agents to see if their units were still available and if they’d show the place to July tenants. Typically, I got one of three responses:

  1. The unit has already been rented.
  2. The unit is still available, but we’d like to get it rented right away. Would you conider June 15th?

I often lied and said I would consider the 15th. Hey, if the place were truly amazing, maybe I would settle for a pro-rated month. I started making appointments and noting the dates of any open houses that were offered.

Then, it began. I saw a whole bunch of apartments this past week – more than I’d care to recall, in fact. Remember those two days that were 90+ degrees with 100% humidity? Oh yea, I was trucking from crappy apartment to crappy apartment. There were two types of apartments: nice places that were immediately spoken for by someone willing to move in within the hour (ok, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much) and utter sh*t holes. It was a week of pure, unadulterated frustration.

3 weeks prior to moving: this is where we are now. I’ve narrowed my search down to three options. I could move to back up to Harlem (Riverton has apartments starting at $1400/month!); I could sign a lease on a cool place I found in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (with great outdoor space and real room to move); or I could stay put in Battery Park City (my true-love neighborhood). I still haven’t decided which way to go because I haven’t finished negotiations with the Brooklyn apartment agent, but I’ll be sure to tell you all about it once I do make a decision.

So, what should I do? Stay in my beloved Battery Park, gazing at the skyline and the river? Try a new neighborhood, and gain a little square-footage and outdoor space? Go back to a place I know to save a few bucks? Damn decisions. I’ve always sucked at making decisions like this, and somehow, it hasn’t gotten easier with age. I think I need a cup of tea…or 5 cups.


Images: Rebecca for Happy City Living

Video: YouTube

My Name Is Rebecca, And I Have A Problem

30 May

Obsession.  That is my problem.  Not like psycho-stalker obsession or addicted-to-drugs obsession.  It’s more of a Type-A, fixate-on-any-little-task-at-hand, make-myself-insane kind of obsession.  So, apartment hunting can really turn me into a crazy person.

Basically, my recent existence involves every moment of my spare time spent glued to my laptop.  I have so many apartment listings floating around in my brain that they are all turning into one giant glob of photos, addresses, brokers, costs, features….blehhhh.  Agent Owens is ready to throw this computer out the window, but I really feel like I have to give it my best shot at finding a more reasonably priced abode.  If there’s nothing better out there, oh well.  At least I will have given it the old college try.

Eventually, though, I do need to remove myself from the laptop long enough to eat.  So, yesterday, we used mealtime as an opportunity to go outside and get some fresh air.  There is a restaurant in our “backyard” called Merchant’s River House, and the reasonable prices, good food, waterfront dining, and proximity to home make this one of our most frequented eateries.  If you ever find yourself walking along the waterfront in Battery Park City, I would definitely recommend giving River House a try.

The problem for us, though, was that sitting outside in the finally-spring weather, feeling the breeze off the water, was a glaring reminder of why we love where we live.  In the winter, Battery Park can be brutal, due to the wind that blows up from the water.  Turn a corner and you’ll feel the blast of an Arctic-like chill.  However, during the spring and summer, you could not find a better spot to be, in NYC.

Along the promenade you will find…

Walkers, joggers, bikers, and rollerbladers.

A marina boasting beautiful yachts…

…and a sailing school

Parks for families and sun bathers,

Outdoor dining,

And even on the street-side of the buildings, there is a peaceful, almost suburban feel to the neighborhood.  I stood in the middle of the street to take this photo, without fear of being run over:

People walk their dogs and stop to chat:

They let their kids run around without holding tight to Mom or Dad’s hand, and they leave their puppies tied up in front of stores while they run in to get their groceries:

For all these reasons and more, Battery Park City has become one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city.  After working in midtown and battling crowds on the subway, there is a sense of serenity to coming home, here.  I’m still close to friends, bars, restaurants, shopping, and transportation, but when I walk up my street, I’m also a world away.

At one point, during my bellyaching about apartment hunting, Agent Owens reminded me that BPC is not going anywhere.  Goodness knows I move quite often, and if I ever find myself in a position to move back to this area, everything I love will still be here.  And who knows?  Maybe there’s another neighborhood that will be an even better fit for my lifestyle.

With that newfound positive outlook, I am back to the hunt.  You can find me glued to my computer, if you need me.

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

Spoke Too Soon

17 May

Remember my last post about my lease renewal saga?  Remember at the end of the post when I said, “I’m actually relieved that the leasing office came back with such a definitively high number because if they’d countered around $2000 I wouldn’t know whether to stay or go?”  Well, when I didn’t accept $2162 and expressed how disappointed I was with their lack of willingness to work with me, they responded.  The woman I’d been emailing with told me she was going to pass my request along to her boss, the leasing director.  About an hour later, I got a new counter at $2050 with a note that this was their final offer and that this renewal would not be considered again.  Basically, take it or leave it.


Now, here’s where I am:  I COULD pay $2050/month, but I really don’t WANT to pay that much.  On the other hand I love living in Battery Park City, and really had not planned on leaving so soon.

Hard to see how great it is via photo, but I reeeeally don't want to give up my city skyline view - one of 50 things I love about my apartment.

For the moment, I have jumped feet first into searching for a new place.  I want to make sure I know all my apartment options before making a decision.  Unfortunately, I am in the middle of the crazy summer real estate market (read more about the seasons of apartment hunting here).  Prices are high and inventory is flying off the shelves.  Not an ideal set of circumstances for getting a great deal.  In fact, when I called a listing agent about an apartment this morning, it had already been rented BEFORE the open house, and the agent said, “If you don’t have to move right now, don’t.  The market is red hot.”  Wonderful.  That makes me feel great about my search.

Anyway, now that staying put is an option, and now that it seems like moving may very well be a hugely un-fun task (since it’s high season for renting in NYC) here are the pros and cons of STAYING at the Gate:


  1. I wouldn’t need to front a bunch of money for a new place (security deposit and first month’s rent, up front).
  2. I wouldn’t need to shell out $400 for moving.
  3. I wouldn’t need to pack all my stuff and live in chaos for a month, while I leave one place and move into another.
  4. I love my apartment and would really love to continue living in it.
  5. I love the view from my apartment and doubt I’d find something like it again, in my price range.  You can really become picky once you’ve lived on the 30-something-th floor!
  6. I love Battery Park City, and don’t want to leave here so soon!


  1. It’s tough to save money when you spend over half your salary on rent.
  2. If I ever want to NOT be a renter, I need to start saving more money.  See reason #1 for the reason why that can’t happen at The Gate.

Obviously, there are way more pros than cons.  But saving money is a key consideration here, and it may outweigh all the pros in this situation.  Man, it sucks to make smart adult decisions.

And now, like a mature adult, I’ll show you a few more pictures to sway you over to the “you should totally stay in your apartment” side of the debate:

Another part of my view overlooks Ground Zero. Obviously, I need to be here to monitor construction progress.

Even on a gray day like today, my backyard is beautiful! Gotta love being down by the water.

Vader clearly doesn't want to move. He's clearly going to lie on all boxes to prevent me from packing. He's also clearly crazy and seems think he's a dog with that lying-on-my-back-waiting-for-a-belly-rub stuff.

Anyone else in a situation like this – hashing out the great save-money-or-live-where-you-love debate?  Tell me what you chose to do! Please!

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

You’re Joking, Right?

11 May

…that’s what I thought to myself when I read The Gate’s email response to my rent-lowering request.  In case you missed the lease-renewal-negotiation scenario, here’s a quick recap:

  1.  This past year I’ve been paying $1857 for rent.  That price was the net effective of one month free on a 14-month lease, with a base of $2000.
  2. I received a lease renewal letter in the mail.  The Gate offered to renew my lease at $2200 for one year or $2310 for two years, making my monthly payment at least $343 more than I currently pay. Oh, hell no.
  3. I wrote the leasing office a lengthy email stating why the rental market did not justify the raised cost.  I also listed a bunch of reasons why Agent Owens and I didn’t feel we’d received all the amenities we were initially promised.  To start the negotiations low, I asked the building to compensate me for the lack of follow-though on the initially promised amenities.  I asked the leasing office to REDUCE my current rent to a base of $1900, with a month free on a 14-month lease (net effective of $1764).  Fair to receive compensation for services not rendered, and best to start low when negotiating, right?

And today, they laughed in my face.  Wanna know what their counter offer was?  $2162. !!!!!  WTF?!  They lowered their initial offer by $38/month.  And they claimed it was their final offer.

Great size for a studio, but $2162 is just not happening.

Needless to say, I will not be paying that much.  I immediately emailed them back, letting them know that I was extremely disappointed with their counter and that I could not believe they wouldn’t be more interested in working with their current tenants.  I reiterated that there was no point in offering new tenant incentives, only to price those new tenants out the following year.  I’m sure they’re not at all fazed by my virtual hissy-fit, but let me tell you, I. was. pissed.

So, *insert big, giant, dramatic sigh*, now begins the hunt.  Who knows if the leasing office here at The Gate will respond to my email.  But it’s becoming quite clear that I need a back-up plan.  This means that for the next month or so, I’ll be living and breathing apartment listing sites.  Did I mention that I’m Type-A crazy/obsessive?  I am.  Poor Agent Owens.  My head will probably be buried so deep in my computer that he won’t even be able to pull me away from the screen for dinner.  Yea right, who am I kidding?  Even a stressed out girl needs to eat pasta!  But beyond apartment hunting and eating pasta, there won’t be much else.

In a way, I’m glad the counter-offer was so definitive.  Mentally, I’d figured that if the renewal price was below $2000, I could afford to accept it (not happily, but it’s better than packing up all my things and moving, yet again).  I’d also figured that if the counter was above $2100, it would be a definite no-go.  The only tricky situation would have been if they’d offered something in the $2000-range.  That would have thrown my budgeting for a loop.  So, no harm, no foul, right?

Riiiiight.  Keep telling yourself that, Rebecca.  I’m off to pout and sulk now.  You can find me in the corner, if you need me.

The corner nook in my apartment where I sit on my bed and sulk.

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

Comin’ Out Swinging

10 May

I am of course the one punching the lights out.

The rent negotiation battle has begun.  Last week, my building management company sent me a lease renewal  proposing that if I want to stay in my apartment, I should pay over $300/month MORE in rent than I currently pay (!!!!!).  And since then I’ve been coming up with 8,371,734 reasons why I should NOT pay that much.  Ok, not that many reasons, but I’ve certainly come up with a bunch.

Lease negotiations tend to be much more flexible when it comes to renewals, than they were in your initial lease signing process.  When you’re first signing on with a building, the landlord has determined a price that the apartment is listed at.  Assuming that price is reasonable for the area, he will keep the apartment on the market until he finds an applicant who will agree to pay the requested sum – and it usually doesn’t take too long in this city.  However, once a tenant is IN an apartment, negotiating the renewal price is somewhat subjective.  Here’s why:

  1. The landlord would rather keep the existing tenant (assuming it’s a good tenant), than spend the time and money searching for a new tenant.  He definitely doesn’t want the unit to go unoccupied (unpaid months), if he can avoid it.
  2. The landlord still wants to make as much money from the existing tenant as he’d make on a new tenant lease (assuming the new leasing price would be more than the previous year).

So, there’s a fine line that landlords try to tread between making the most possible money and expelling the least effort.  In a building The Gate, with tons of units, negotiating flexibility will mostly depend on how many vacant units the leasing office is dealing with.  If they’ve got a ton of units that they’re worried about filling, they’ll probably play nice with me and come down on their renewal rate.  If the apartments are flying off the shelves, so to speak, they’ll dig in their heels and ignore my pleas.  The fun part is that we’ll never really know the hand they’re playing with.

I’ll spare you the long-winded epistle that I composed and sent over (I’m sure you don’t have a full hour to read this post), but here are the points I made to argue for a lower rent than the building’s initial proposal:

  • Comparable listing prices – other apartments in my area that are renting for $2200-$2300 are 1BRs, not studios.  If I had $2300 to spend, I’d live in a larger place.
  • Building amenities – apartments listed at these higher prices offer amenities like roof decks, fitness centers, laundry on every floor, etc.  The Gate does not offer any of this.
  • Tenant inconveniences – we lived through a full lobby renovation and main hallway renovation  in the past year.  There was construction for months.  Also, the laundry room constantly has broken washers and dryers, and we’re always losing money to machines that don’t spin the clothes dry.  (SO ANNOYING! But I say to myself, “Self, at least you’re not hauling your laundry up a hill in Sunset Park.)
  • Rent increase rate – as someone who signed a lease during a lower market, my rent rate is significantly lower than the management company is now charging.  However, if you’re going to offer incentives to make the apartment affordable one year, it doesn’t make sense to then price those same tenants out of the building just one year later.
  • Good tenant status – I made sure to reiterate, at the end of my novel note, that I am a tenant in good standing with the building.  I pay my rent on time.  I play nice with my neighbors, take care of the apartment, and I’m quiet as a mouse (Vader is NOT, but I am).

TIP!:  When possible, look to move into buildings that are rent stabilized.  This means that the rent cannot increase beyond a certain percentage in any given year.  I believe in 2010 the Rent Guidelines Board ruled that rent stabilized apartments could go up 2.25% on a 1-year renewal.  If your lease does not include rent stabilization, your landlord can raise the rent as high as the blue sky, and you can’t say shit about it.  In other words:  if you don’t go the rent stabilized route, you’ll be begging and pleading for mercy, right alongside of me.

Basically, negotiating renewals is all about establishing fair market value, which involves a combination of all the above items.  In other words, it’s pretty subjective.  Still, here are some items your building will definitively NOT be concerned about:

  • You didn’t get a raise this year.
  • You lost your job.
  • You incurred some unusual set of expenses that put you in the hole.

You care about your money issues, I care about all your money issues, and I’m sure your mom cares about them, too.  But the landlord doesn’t.  Sorry, Charlie.

Anyway, I thought I made some good points in my negotiation.  So, I emailed off my hopeful letter.  It’s in the hands of the lease cyber-gods now.  Cross your fingers and toes for me, please.  If you don’t, there will be a lot of blog belly-aching about having to pack up all my crap belongings again.  Nobody wants that.  Crossies!

Image:  Flickr-ClaudioGennari

Moving Out 101

13 Apr

So, we’ve been talking a lot, lately, about moving apartments in the city.  After my lack-of-heating debacle with my hellish landlady in Sunset Park, you can probably see why I was so anxious to move out.  I thought it might be worth mentioning, though, that “moving out” does not just mean telling your landlord you’re leaving and then hauling out your belongings.  Generally, moving out entails:  landlord notification, cleaning out and cleaning up, and an inspection of the apartment.

Landlord Notification

With Dorothy (the aforementioned hellish landlady), landlord notification was easy.  Fair or unfair, our disdain for each other seemed to be mutual.  On one of the million days when I told her my apartment was freezing, she said to me, “I’m not renewing your lease in May.  You complain too much.”  I wanted to argue with her, but past discussions with her had taught me that reasoning was not her strong suit.  An old quote popped into my head:  “When arguing with a fool, make sure he isn’t doing the same thing.”  And I kept my mouth shut.  I didn’t want  to live within 10 miles of Dorothy, and she was just as happy to see me and my obnoxious need for heating, walk out the door.  Good riddance!

MJ says "peace out, adios, later gator" to Dorothy.

Still, most landlords actually WANT tenants.  They fix little things that go wrong in your apartment because that’s their job.  In turn, you pay them the rent check that they want, as your half of the bargain.  If you’re going to leave the apartment, the landlord is going to want to get a new tenant in as quickly as possible.  So, typically, there is a clause in your lease that demands you give the landlord 30-60 days notice if you choose not to renew the lease.  Fair.  Letting them know you’ll be leaving gives them enough time to schedule the prepping of the unit for a new tenant, once you’re gone.  It also gives them time to list the unit for rent, and your lease may even require you to let them in to show a prospective tenant around.  Either way, the bottom line here is that a month or two before you move out, you should let you landlord or management company know that you won’t be renewing.

Cleaning Out and Cleaning Up

The cleaning out part is pretty obvious, I think.  Basically, you have to pack up everything you own and move it out of the apartment.  Your landlord doesn’t want to have to go back through the apartment and discard a whole bunch of beat-up furniture or ratty clothing that you couldn’t be bothered to pack.  Throw away or sell anything you’re not taking with you, but do NOT leave it in the apartment.

Once you’ve moved everything out of the apartment, go back and give the place a good once-over.  If you’ve lived more like an adult with some decorum, than a reckless college kid, this cleaning step should be quick.  Run the broom around the floor once.  Wipe down anything that looks truly grimy, and call it a day.

The only items you should need to clean up your apartment (minus the kitty).

If you’ve treated the apartment more like a frat house than an adult home, you may need to dig into the “clean up” thing a bit deeper.  If you have holes in the wall (larger than nail holes) or major damage that you have not previously reported to the landlord, you’ll need to get those fixes taken care of, in order to avoid having the landlord deduct money from your security deposit.

A crack in a ceiling, like this one, is clearly not something you could have caused. Still, you should report something this to the landlord prior to moving out, to avoid any issues. Consider this photo a preview of what's to come when I tell you about my life in Harlem.

Also, keep in mind that many landlords require that painted walls be returned to white, upon moving out.  Check your lease to see what is required.  Again, failing to leave the apartment in “good condition” may mean losing some (or all) of the money from your security deposit.


Once you’ve got the apartment looking clean-ish and damage-free, meet with the landlord or a representative from the management company so that they can inspect the apartment.  In a situation with a private landlord, they will likely cut your check for returning the security deposit on the spot (assuming the inspection doesn’t turn up any issues).  If you’re dealing with a management company, though, they’ll probably just sign off on the unit, have you counter-sign, and send your check in the mail.  You know how these things go – expect to wait up to a month for your security deposit to be returned from a management company.  Boo.

If you follow these fairly simple guidelines, moving out should be a breeze.  I mean, when you think about the whole process, the PHYSICAL MOVING should be the hardest part, right?  Right.  So, dot your “I’s” and cross your “T’s” to make your life a bit easier.  It will be worth it when that security deposit is back in your bank account.

Got any other odd-ball move-out stories?  Share!  No one likes a surprise on the way out the door.

Images:  (1) BackSeatCuddler , (2) and (3) Rebecca for Happy City Living