I’m Celebrating, and Nobody Can Stop Me

7 Jun

I’m sitting on my couch in my underwear, watching House Hunters with my cats, and drinking champagne.  I don’t care if you think I’m lame.  For me, this is a party.  I am celebrating.  What am I celebrating, you might ask?

  1. Getting a new place (read more about that here).
  2. The end of a long day – we’re in the middle of being audited at work.  Noooooo fun.
  3. A big week in blogging.

The fun thing about blogging is that you get to just blab blab blab, and it’s your blog so nobody can tell you to shut up.  Seriously, if you’re a Chatty Cathy like me, you should try it.  But the sad/scary/ego-driven thing is that, potentially, no one gives a crap about what you have to say, and you’re blab blab blabbing to no one.  Lame-O.

But this past week, many reassuring blog milestones happened for me and Happy City Living.  They gave me so much happiness that I felt a celebration was warranted.

I should start by saying that I have super-duper-amazing friends and family who read my little blog and send me nice little loving notes about the things they liked reading.  THANK YOU!  Every comment, email, and facebook message makes me feel warm and fuzzy and loved, like you wouldn’t believe.

My parents, aka my biggest fans, who will read this blog even when everyone else decides they've heard enough of my babble.

BUT!  This past week, a girl I had only met ONE TIME told me she’d been reading my blog and even recalled a specific post she liked!  She’s a friend of a friend, and Peltz, if you’re reading this, I floated on air on the way home from that bar on Houston Street, after talking to you – and it wasn’t just from being buzzed on wine and cranberry-vodkas.

Then, I had ramen noodles at a great restaurant called Minca (yes, you need to try it if you live in NYC – best. ramen. ever.), with my friend Eliya, who told me he’s been reading the blog.  He said I should continue creating original content and that he thinks I might be able to monetize it soon!  (Hey, who doesn’t want some moolah?)  And he works in web advertising!  A real-life professional thinks HCL has potential!

Most delicious ramen noodles of all time.

Gratuitous noodle photo. Can't help it. Pasta is my #1 addiction.

On Monday, one of my fave bloggers, Liz from It’s Great To Be Home, mentioned HCL on HER blog, and that was amaze-balls.  Not only did she mention HCL as one of her biggest supporters, but she also has us on her blog roll, on her homepage!  Liz is the real freakin’ deal.  The girl flip houses, and she’s not one of those HGTV screw-up people who wings it and ends up in the hole from their stupid choices.  She turns average looking houses into homes that make me want to live in the suburbs.  No joke.  Check her out as soon as you have the chance.  If you didn’t click on the link above, click this one.  Now.

And then tonight, just when it seemed that the blogging world couldn’t get any sweeter, another of my blog idols, ZDub from Raising Colorado, read my blog and left a comment.  Ahhhh, life is good.  ZDub mostly talks about kids (which I don’t have) and squirrels (which, as a New Yorker, I think are just rats with furry tails) and I still love love love her blog.  I read it every day because she just makes me laugh so hard.  And cry.  Her daughter was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and I cry every time I read a post about it.  And then I laugh, because ZDub is FUNNY AS HELL.  So check her out!  Please and thank you.

And now it’s time to go, because in my blogging fervor I just drooled champagne on to the carpet (Vader is currently licking it up).   My sister would call me a shit show, and that means I must call it a day.  Celebrating can get out of hand, even if you are on the couch with your cats.

Vader, you're a lush! And you're no better, Johnny.

But before I leave, I must share this…the House Hunters lady is showing homes with her Yorkie dog in her purse.  I love dogs, but never have I seen such a thing.  Nor do I approve of it.  GET. IT. TOGETHER., woman!

Please note the dog in the bag, under the woman's arm. Also, note the bow in its hair. Ummm, no.

…Or maybe I’m the one who needs to get it together.  Meh, blogging superstars maniacs get to drink merrily sometimes.

Woo woo!

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

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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.

Cheers!

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

Love is in the Smoggy Air

25 May
  1. On Monday night I watched the season premiere of The Bachelorette. (Big Love is over, and Grey’s Anatomy isn’t aired on Mondays.  A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.)  This is unrelated, but my early bets are on JP, Ryan P., and West.
  2. I went to a wedding in Wisconsin this past weekend, wherein I watched two friends get married after dating for almost 10 years (!!!!!).
  3. At the wedding, I saw a friend from college whose date was a guy she met online.  He was super cool, and they were so sweet together.
  4. The online couple reinforced my belief in the power of relationships that start online – like my relationship with Agent Owens (yup, we met on match.com!).  It was a very love-filled, romantic weekend.
  5. It’s spring in NYC.  This is the season of drinking wine in the park and going for romantic strolls.  Well, if it ever stops raining for longer than 2 days, it will be that season.

Bottom line:  love is in the air.  And so, I thought to myself, “Self, what better time to talk about dating life in NYC?”

Everything is different done differently in this city, including dating.  This is not the kind of place where a guy rolls up to a girl’s house and drives her on a date.  This is a city where you take the subway to the restaurant – or a taxi, if you’re really feeling spiffy.  If you’re a girl, you may very well have your high heels thrown in your purse and you’ll have to stop a block away from the date place to change out of your “walking shoes”.  As for the location, you have an overwhelming number of restaurants and bars to choose from, and the ambiance of the place you pick could well set the tone of the date.  And, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there’s the issue of actually trying to find that one great person who makes your heart skip a beat, in such a mass of humanity.  This can seem virtually impossible. So, the rules are different.

In my humble opinion one of the easiest ways to meet potenial partners is at school or work.  However, eventually college ends, and sometimes your working world consista of a company of 8 people (like mine), with no dating options.  Hell, I’m sure some of you at companies with 1000+ employees still think the pickings are slim!

Then, there’s the bar scene.  But it’s nearly impossible to imagine a future with a man who’s slurring his words or puking on your shoe.

Yea, nobody wants to date that drunk girl (me).

A third matchmaking option is that you could have a friend set you up.  Of course, if it doesn’t work out things can get awkward fast.  This is all starting to sound exhausting, isn’t it?

Enter, online dating.  There used to be a real stigma attached to this method of meeting a mate, but now, it’s quite commonplace.  And in the city, it just might be the best option.  Let’s be real here.  City people like to get shit done.  We move fast; we work late; we keep our smart phones attached to our bodies; we squeeze in social engagements; we knock you over if you’re walking too slowly; and we certainly don’t have time to mess around with culling through the millions of other residents of this town just to find a decent date.

Online match-making was made for us city-dwellers.  One can go online, pick the exact characteristics that they’re looking for in a partner, weed out the weirdos, and schedule as many dates as they’d like, with no string attached.  You can complete this whole search process from the comfort of your couch, and you can get messages from people directly to your email account.  What could be easier?

Intersted?  Here’s my advice after about 9 months, 50+ dates, and countless communications on match.com:

Step 1:  pick a website

As time goes on, the options for internet dating sites are becoming more numerous.  Depending on what you’re looking for, you might choose from one of the following well-known dating sites:

  • Match – good for high volumes of members
  • EHarmony – tends to be Christian-based, and makes matches for you
  • JDate – the best known Jewish singles site
  • OkCupid – free!
  • Lavalife – geared toward enjoying the single life
  • Zoosk – creator of the commercial with the dart thrower (my friend Joe and I watch this commercial over and over and over again.  “I’m getting’ stupid loose.”)

Step 2:  make a profile

The site will prompt you to fill out a profile, and this public description of yourself will likely change over time.  As you get into reading other people’s profiles, you’ll likely discover the best ways to present yourself, as well.  Highlight your best characteristics and the aspects of yourself that you consider important.  And most importantly, try to convey your own voice.  It’s easy to sound generic in these biographies.

Also, make sure you post photos that are flattering, but realistic.  No one wants to see how cute you looked 10 years ago.  They want to see what you look like now.

Step 3:  search for matches or sift through the matches your site has turned up

Depending on the site you use, you’ll do some combination of searching on your own and filtering match results that the site generates.  Whether your matches are computer-generated or self-selected, make sure you’re realistic about what you like and don’t like in each profile you view.  If something seems “off”, move on to the next person.  If you find someone you like, contact them.  Throughout your time on the site, you’ll get more savvy at filtering through the available members, and you’ll be less apt to hum and haw about sending an email or setting up a date.

Step 4:  make contact

Depending on the site you’re using, you’ll be able to make contact with the people you like via email, phone, text, wink, chat, etc.  Do what feels comfortable.  Try to get a feel for what the person is like.  On the other hand, don’t judge them too harshly for being awkward at first – afterall, talking to strangers is universally recognized as being extremely difficult for at least 50% of the population. Like how I just made up that statistic?  Yea, makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about.

Step 5:  go on a date

If there is one thing I would warn against, it would be endless strings of emails.  If you like someone based on their profile and their first couple of emails, go out for a drink with them.  You can waste so much time emailing back and forth with someone, only to find out when you meet them that they’re nothing like you thought they’d be.  Trust me, I know this from experience.  Meeting someone face-to-face will be the most efficient way to find out if they’re someone you’re interested in.

Also, you may be wondering why I said you should go get a drink.  Here’s the theory:  coffee dates can end up being very platonic and non-intimate; dinner dates will trap you at a table too long, especially if you wind up not liking the other person after minute 3; and hookups on the first meeting are just slutty.  You may be considering some more alternative type of date, but I’ll warn you against a few things:

  • Even if you’re a great chef, don’t cook for the person – they shouldn’t know where you live until you know them a little better.
  • Sporting events might seem great, but 9 innings of baseball is a long time to make small talk.
  • Concerts and movies are entertaining, but you won’t be able to talk with the other person much at all.

Drinks are ideal.  Even if you don’t drink, you can have a non-alcoholic beverage.  Either way, it will be short, sweet, and to the point.  Then, if you happen to have landed a date with Prince(ss) Charming, of course you can go out on a longer/cooler date after the drinks meeting.

Agent Owens and I actually ended up on a dinner date the first night (because I had another drinks date planned for earlier that same evening, hehe).  Here’s how it went down:  I talked his ear off for the entire evening and then somehow also convinced him to get drinks with me after our meal.  I thought he didn’t like me because he wasn’t really saying much, but it turns out I was taking up every minute of the date with MY talking.  Anyway, that was years ago.  Not that anything’s changed – I still talk his ear off, and he still hopes I’ll give myself a sore throat so that he can get a word in.

Me giving a psycho waiting-for-a-response stare, and Agent Owens thinking, "If this nutcase doesn't shut up, I'm going to lose my mind."

I will say that in nearly every instance of dating someone I’d met on Match, I found myself with a nice and respectful person.  Even though most of the guys weren’t right for me, I was lucky enough that no one was ever a complete disaster.  For me, I scanned the male-membership for tall, non-pale, non-Republicans.  Once I found someone I liked, the preliminary conversations and emails really only established that the person was intelligent enough to put together a full sentence.  Then, I’d plan a date.  I made dates pretty fast and furiously, believing that sheer quantity would get me a better chance of finding a great guy.

I ended up dating one guy from Match for a couple of months, and then I met Agent Owens.  We’ve been together ever since.  So, I’m going to go ahead and pat my own back here for being an online dating success.  The dirt is being brushed off my shoulder as we speak.  That said, here are my NYC online dating TIPS!:

  1. Find the right site for you.  Research a bunch – they all have different costs, different search methods, and different standard operating procedures.  Most importantly, they all attract a different type of member.
  2. Be yourself – in your profile and in person.  Sounds cheesy, but if you’re an opinionated chatterbox like me, you may as well portray that from the get-go and end up with someone who likes puts up with those qualities.
  3. Be honest with yourself about what you want.  Don’t settle for someone just because they’re good-looking.  If there’s a glaring red flag (like they’re uber-religious and you’re a confirmed atheist), don’t expect them to change for you.  This is your chance to hand-pick someone who is exactly what you’ve always been looking for.  Take advantage.
  4. Pick public places for dates.  Safety first.
  5. Always make the first date a drinks date (see above for the reasoning).
  6. Tell a friend where you’ll be on your dates.  This helps for safety purposes, and it also give you someone who can help you out with a fake-emergency call if the date is truly tedious.  My friend Karen knew every date I ever went on while I was a member of Match and always checked on me to make sure things were going ok.  What a gal.  She’s actually getting married to a guy she met online, later this year.  He’s a gem, an I’m sure this is her good karma for being my date support for all those months.
  7. Don’t be afraid to actually make dates and meet people.  It is much easier to form an opinion of someone in person, and you’ll waste less time than if you email back and forth a ton of times.
  8. When you do email people, do NOT send generic form emails.  It’s a big turn-off when you’re the recipient of a note that you can tell has been sent to 50 other people.  Take the time to be genuine and mention something that you liked or noticed in the other person’s profile.
  9. If you go on one or two dates and realize you don’t really like the person, text them a nice note to let them know you’re not interested.  Don’t drag people around on dates that aren’t going anywhere.  Personally, I used to say “Hi!  Just wanted to thank you for the date last night – it was really nice to meet you.  Unfortunately, I just don’t feel the spark I wanted to feel.  Hope you find someone great, very soon, though!”  To the point, but kind.
  10. If you find the perfect person, on your 5th date or your 50th date, don’t hold yourself  back.  Don’t play games or be emotionally unavailable.  Just go with it, and enjoy.

Going with it, and enjoying.

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

Quick Lesson On SMART City Living…

18 May

Tonight I went out for dinner with some friends, near Union Square.  We finished our meallate, at around midnight.  Normally, when I’m by myself and it’s late and raining, I bite the bullet and hop in a taxi to get home.  But since I was right near the subway at Union Square, I chose the train instead.

There were plenty of other people on the train, but there was one old drunk dude who was behaving badly.  He would not stop talking to me and asking where I lived.  Then, to make matters worse, he followed me off the train and continued to harass me as I walked up to the street.

Since it was late and raining, there weren’t many people out and about.  The stores were all closed in the area, so I couldn’t duck in anywhere.  I did NOT want this creepy guy following me home, and I didn’t want to turn off of the main avenue with him tailing me.  So, I walked out into the middle of the street, and marched away from the direction of my house, against traffic.  I decided I’d get in a taxi to get away from the guy.

The taxis were basically all full.  However, out of the corner of my eye, I saw an off-duty cab stopped up ahead.  I scurried up to it (as quickly as is possible in heels) and dove inside.  I immediately apologized for ignoring the “off duty” sign, and said I just needed to be driven a few streets over to evade a guy who was following me.  As long as I wasn’t near the creepster, I didn’t care how far the cabbie was willing to take me.

If the "Off Duty" words are lit, the cab is technically unavailable.

But the driver was super nice.  He told me about his 26-year-old daughter and said that he always made sure he took care of his passengers as if they were his children, too.  He was more than willing to take me right to my front door, even if it meant driving 10 minutes out of his way, at the end of his shift.  I got home safe and sound.

I say all this to say…despite my obsessive love for New York, there are millions of other people here, and there are bound to be some crazies.  They seem to just come out of the woodwork more at night.  Still, I never hesitate to get on the subway at night if I’m with my friends or Agent Owens.  And, truthfully, aside from a few random drunk dudes, I’ve never had any problems with feeling unsafe at night in the city, even when I’m alone.  I always choose brightly-lit routes home, where I know lots of people will be around, and I avoid dark side-streets.  I walk with my bitch-face on.  But even when you’re an alert person, every once in a while, someone sketchy makes you feel uneasy.  Go with that gut feeling, and be overly cautious.  Spend the $10 to get in a cab and get home safely.  And the next time, maybe just treat yourself to a cab in the first place, if you’re alone and it’s late.

And to all you city nay-sayers who are ready to chime in about how dangerous NYC is:  for every drunk asshole in this city, there are 10 nice cab drivers who will take care of you as if you’re their own kid.

Happy smart city living, to you, too!

Image:  Life

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.

Ugh.

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:

PROS:

  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!

CONS:

  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