Katherine Dunleavy's 2020 apartment goals were modest: after a year and a half in a windowless room in a financial district with one bedroom and two roommates, she was hoping to upgrade to a room with a window.
But her plans, like so many New Yorkers, changed when the pandemic broke out, and she got not just her own window, but an entire apartment.
"I loved living with roommates and while I always thought I would get my own studio one day, I didn't plan on doing it anytime soon," said Ms. Dunleavy.
The decision was largely down to a desire not to live with strangers – her friends and roommates had either left town to move home with their parents or had leases that did not match theirs. But the pandemic changed her life in other ways too.
“My last place was really just somewhere I could go to sleep. When I wasn't at work, I was often out with friends or at the gym, ”said Ms. Dunleavy, 24, who works in healthcare public relations. "But after that spring, I wanted a place where I would love to live and work. It's not just a place where I can relax. I'm basically here all day."
Ms. Dunleavy, who is from Chapel Hill, NC, moved to town two years ago. At the time, overwhelmed by the idea of navigating the city's housing market, she turned to a start-up that placed people in shared apartments that suited their desired budgets and neighborhoods.
"I ended up in a high-rise in the financial district with two flatmates I had never met before," she said. "Having just graduated from college, I thought it was like a first year dorm: it's either great or it's going terribly."
The roommates turned out to be great, but the room wasn't. A window or closet was missing in an interior room separated from the kitchen of a one-bedroom apartment by a series of French doors. It was also too small to accommodate anything larger than a single bed.
At first, a tiny, windowless room seemed like an acceptable compromise to living in New York, but that feeling didn't last long, especially when she realized she was getting on for what she was paying – $ 1,300 a month Could afford room with a view. (The total rent for the one-bedroom apartment in a concierge building with a gym and rooftop was $ 4,700.)
"It allowed me to live in town so I took care of it," said Ms. Dunleavy. "But after about a year it got very, very old."
When her lease came in in July, she had planned to either move in with friends or take one of the other rooms in the apartment. In addition to Ms. Dunleavy's room, there was a "real" bedroom with its own bathroom and a third "flexible" room created by a pressurized temporary wall in the living room. "It had all the windows and no real walls," she said. "I had real walls, but no windows."
One of her roommates moved out in February, and when Ms. Dunleavy and the remaining roommate were looking for someone to replace them, the pandemic struck.
It quickly became apparent that work from home and social distancing weren't going to be a short-lived phenomenon. So they decided to leave the room empty until they both moved out in July. "Nobody really looked and it was nice to have the extra space," she said.
Under the circumstances, neither Ms. Dunleavy nor her roommate, who eventually moved home with her parents, wanted to renew the lease for a tiny, expensive portion.
By dividing the rent two ways instead of three for several months, Ms. Dunleavy realized that she could indeed drive up the cost of a studio apartment. She was also optimistic that she could find a lot because of the pandemic.
"I thought I was going to stumble upon mind-boggling price drops," she said. “I was very naive, I think. It was my first real apartment hunt in New York. "
$ 2,550 | Financial district
Katherine Dunleavy, 24
Occupation: Senior Account Executive at a PR agency.
Live alone: "It sounds cliché, but it's very exciting to pick it all up and really have my own space. It makes me happy."
Set up the room: "I wasn't counting on how much inventory I would have to sort through on sites like Wayfair," said Ms. Dunleavy, who did most of her shopping for the new space online because of the pandemic. "I'm usually a crucial person, but when I look through 12 variations of the same couch I think," I don't know. "
The financial district: "I've checked out different areas, but I'm very glad I found a place here. I love being near the water and Hudson River Park. And Leo's Bagels – I go there whenever I can. "
Prices weren't as cheap as she'd hoped, but after about a month of hunting, she found a sunny studio around the corner from her old building for $ 2,550 a month. She moved in in mid-July.
"I thought I would like it, but I had no idea," she said. "It turns out I really love living alone."
"As an only child, I loved college because I could live with people my age," she said. “But I find it more relaxed to have my own space. I'm very clean in general, and in the past when I lived with other people I could be super clean and so could they. But if I want to leave my clothes off now, I'm in control. I can do what I want and I don't worry about annoying my roommates. "
Your new apartment has a foyer, a separate kitchen and several large windows with a view of the East River.
"The sunlight was huge for me," said Ms. Dunleavy. "I think it goes back to not having a window."
She was also relieved to be able to stay in the neighborhood. "I feel like people are a little surprised when I tell them I love FiDi," she said. "It's busy when you want it to be – you feel the New York energy when you go to work – but it's quiet on the weekends."
During the spring it was of course quiet all the time, especially after the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange closed.
"At the height of the pandemic, it was absolutely dead. Even the coffee carts were gone," Ms. Dunleavy said. “When they came back in May, I was so relieved. I said, "I'll have coffee that I could make at home, but I'll have a cup."