Occasionally, New Yorkers, disappointed with all of the traditional apartment hunt channels, decide to reach out to their neighbors directly.
This fall, leaflets appeared on the Upper West Side with a fluffy white bichon frize and a drum kit: “Hello! My name is sacha! I'm three years old, I bring joy to people everywhere, and I'm looking for an apartment for myself and my only human friend here on the Upper West Side! "
Sacha's human friend, Daniel Podolsky, 28, a research engineer at New York's Center for Structural Biology in West Harlem, said he published the leaflets after exhausting all other options.
“I've tried StreetEasy, Craigslist, and all of the Facebook groups: Columbia Housing, Gypsy Housing, Gypsy Housing NYC, Ghostlight Housing, N.Y.U. Housing, Upper West Side Housing. All the different broker websites, Zillow, the "AI-powered" ones texting you, "said Mr Podolsky, who was trying to escape from a dark and tiny studio apartment on the Upper West Side.
"It was just so small and had two windows – one looking out onto a wall and the other only getting good sun an hour or two a day," he said. "And then the pandemic started and I couldn't really go anywhere." The apartment was also pre-candemic with a price tag of $ 2,200 a month.
As rents fell in Manhattan, he thought he could improve his situation when his lease was renewed last July. But his criteria weren't easy to meet: he hoped to find an apartment of at least 700 square feet and good natural light for no more than $ 1,800 a month. And it had to be dog and drum friendly.
"I was pretty picky," he admitted.
Mr. Podolsky, an avid drummer, had disassembled his drums when he moved into the studio. There wasn't even room for a regular bed in the apartment – he bought and installed a used Murphy bed – let alone a three-piece drum kit. But with the pandemic keeping him busy, being able to drum at home was a top priority.
He suspected that his best choice would be to rent a maisonette on the ground floor or the top floor, with the extra floor serving as a buffer between his drums and the rest of the building, "spatially isolated from the neighbors." That was of course hardly foolproof: In his previous apartment in Williamsburg, it wasn't his landlord who lived downstairs, but the residents of the neighboring building who took care of his drumming.
When the neighbors complained, the landlord warned him to turn the drum down and knock on the ceiling with a broom. "I would get that feedback a lot," said Podolsky.
But even with pandemic rents falling, he struggled to find many maisonettes on the Upper West Side for less than $ 2,000 a month.
When it came time to renew his lease last summer, Mr Podolsky negotiated the rent at $ 1,800 a month and had his landlord add a clause that would allow him to terminate the lease within 30 days if he did could find another tenant, and 60 days if he couldn't.
The rent reduction made the situation more bearable, but by October the prospect of spending the winter in his dark, cramped studio made him try something new. Hence the aviators.
Did you actually work?
"I have five to ten nice answers," said Mr Podolsky. “The dog was the bait and the drums were the catch. But I was looking for something pretty specific. And I think it rained a few days after I set it up. "
$ 3,025 | Upper West Side
Daniel Podolsky, 28
Occupation: Mr. Podolsky is a research engineer at the New York Structural Biology Center.
The hunt for a home: “I spent most of 2020 looking for an apartment. I looked for work every night and sometimes on my lunch break. As soon as I finished, this whole memory was – I was like "straight in the trash". It was a terrible experience. "
Work breaks: “I got new drums when I moved in here. I have a programming job that makes me think about math all day. So it's nice if I'm bored or if I need a minute I can play the drums. "
His music: “Everything from rock to electronics and jazz to hip-hop. Music to groove to. Everything with a good rhythm. "
He ended up finding his new apartment the traditional way: in response to a Craigslist ad.
It was a maisonette on the Upper West Side upstairs in an older pre-war walk-in building with two bedrooms, a third room with no door off the top floor bedroom, and two bathrooms, two patios, and two skylights.
Best of all, it was next to an active construction site, which meant it wasn't going to be the loudest thing around.
The rent is much higher than expected at $ 3,025, but also significantly lower than the nearly $ 4,000 the landlord was charging before the pandemic. The construction site probably also played a role. Mr Podolsky reasoned that it would be even less than his studio apartment rental if he could find a roommate to share the costs.
He moved in mid-December. His drums – he bought a larger, four-piece set – went into the open space that isn't quite a third bedroom. So far there have been no complaints.
"It wasn't a problem," he said. "Even when I jammed with other people, nobody knocked.
The apartment has everything that its old one didn't have: lots of space and light. At this time of year, his bedroom, which is also his office, has sun all day. He accumulated indoor plants in order to take advantage of them.
"When you live in the city, you can feel very separate from nature," said Podolsky. “It almost feels like a little house above the building. The terrace is like a garden. I was in bed and sometimes I can see the moon. When it rains, the skylight is like a drum of its own. It's especially loud and I like it. "
He's still looking for a roommate. "I didn't look very carefully to be honest," he said. “But I have to find one so I can afford the apartment. I would like to find a roommate who shares my interests to some extent: math, programming, music. "
"And definitely tolerant of drums," he added. "It is a must-have."