A Year in NYC

Memorial Day weekend marked my one year anniversary in NYC. I have been ghost for a while – no blogs, no email updates.   Things have been hectic, stressful, and crazy.  I love NYC, but the one thing that I despise about the city is the housing situation.  You cannot understand unless you’ve lived here and if it was more than two years ago, you are already out of touch.  I didn’t have this much hassle/stress when I purchased my home in Chicago!  The rental market here is a vicious, dangerous bait & switch.  At least if they were loan sharks you’d know what to expect.  I thought I was going to be homeless until last Thursday.  The roommate is crazy and walks around in a t-shirt with nothing underneath.  Her husband has returned and she wanted to know if I wouldn’t mind staying alone with the husband for a weekend.  Don’t get me started on her crazy (her fish are as crazy).  Seriously, another story that I could not make up.  My lease with the roommate end May 31st.  Turns out the husband (who never lived there) came home Mother’s Day and said she shouldn’t have a roommate.  Probably has something to do with the fact that she has made NO space for him in the four bedroom apartment.  Did I mention she had male visitors at 11pm and later before husband came to live there?!  So it was necessary to move and the closer to the deadline the more doors closed on housing or I would rather sleep in Central Park than the places I saw for $1400/month in the ghetto! That is cheap by NYC standards.  My roommate’s apartment has a bodega (corner store) on the street level. My bedroom was above the 24 hour bodega.  The store clerk was Dominican so throughout the day and into the night I heard meringue. The store owner is Pakistani but acts Dominican/Puerto Rican.  So I would wake up to the Muslim prayer call at 5am and then he played bollywood music until the clerk arrived.
My new apartment is NOT in my preferred neighborhood of Midtown West-Hell’s Kitchen (in heart of Theatre District) or the Upper West Side (north of Hell’s Kitchen with a Lincoln Park flavor). My junior 1bdrm railroad apt would be an efficiency in Chicago, but by NYC standards it is spacious!  My bedroom will only fit my bed (like Barefoot in the Park).  Thank goodness I got rid of all my furniture except desk and three antique chairs because that is all that will fit in the living room and hopefully a bookcase (I need my books). I am very fortunate to have a full kitchen although the appliances aren’t normal size.  I saw other apartments with just two hot plates and a dorm fridge and they wanted $1700/mo – a price drop! Despite the small size of my new abode and not being my preferred location, I am happy to not have a roommate and to rest in peace. As my friend would say “A tent by yourself in the middle of the ocean is better than being in a mansion with other people.”  Or as Aesop says “a crust with quietness is better than a feast eaten in fear” or in my case with naked crazy people.  This was my sentiment the day before the move.  It quickly changed, read on.
Move-in Day/Renter’s Remorse
I woke up at 5am the day of the move-in.  The movers arrive an hour late, but they are so efficient and quick that the entire move is completed in two hours. My roommate was half naked when the movers came to get my things from the apartment (some things never change).  I think they are going to become good friends during my tenure in NYC – read below to find out why. 
As the movers put all of my things in my apartment, I begin to realize how utterly small the apartment is.  I knew it was small but with my things in the space, one person can’t move about.  I am one of those people that is normally 98% unpacked and settled in the day of a move. What should have been a happy occasion, turned to a meltdown.  Mind you, before moving to NYC I got rid of two-thirds of my belongings.  I only brought my desk, three antique chairs and 30 rubbermaid containers (clothes, dishes, books).  This in my new apartment made it look more like a storage unit.  My bedroom only fits my bed.  In order to unpack, I had to move at least three containers just to get to one.  Instead of feeling at home, my immediate thought was I have to move out of here as soon as possible.  Granted, I was grateful to be roommate free, but even in college and law school I had a better standard of living.  I was a wreck and actually cried that night at my pitiful “home.”  More than three people in my apartment is a fire hazard.  All I could think of is no apartment warming party, no dinner parties, no Christmas tree.  How I love Christmas!  Even the tiny Charlie Brown Christmas tree won’t fit in my apartment.  I was so disgusted with my living situation that I have not taken Snoopy out of the container. I immediately hung all my pictures, hoping it would make me feel at home.  Instead, all the pictures hangings made the apartment look like an old curiosity shop or the room in the house where stuff is stored and no one enters.  The only saving grace was my sleeping in my bed.  My entire year stay in NYC was sleeping on a twin bed (haven’t sleep in a twin since college). The next day I sent an S.O.S. to my Chicago friends.  The bathroom sink looks like something out of a kindergarten classroom.  It is so tiny that one can only wash your hands in it.  They were all wonderful about encouraging me and cheering me up.  
I now know why New Yorkers move so often.  The first place is crap and you keep moving until you find something better.  Once you do, you never leave – you just die in your unit.  I am now one of those people who hears about a death and wonder if the apartment is available.  A native New Yorker was joking with me and said that I could just stop the EMTs.  When she saw my eyes light up, she said that I could not go chasing ambulances to find vacant apartments.  What can I say, I’m desperate.  
Anticipate the Positive-Eliminate the Negative
A couples days after my move, a teen that I mentored in Chicago sent a text that she was in NYC for a summer internship.  I made plans to meet with her for dinner yesterday.  I showed her a few of my favorite spots in Hell’s Kitchen, particularly Amy’s Bread (love the ginger snaps).  I was warmly welcomed by the clerk who asked where I had been.  I told him that I moved out of the neighborhood.  He greeted my friend and made sure we had enough sweets to make any kid happy.  I showed her Alvin Ailey’s extension, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Lincoln Center and other haunts.  In showing her those things, it reminded my how much I love this city and how necessary it is for me to move to Hell’s Kitchen as soon as possible!


Ronda Lee
Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Ronda is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Los Angeles and New York. She loves to travel and is passionate about education equity, especially for first generation college students.