Frank Gargiulo brought an inexpensive apartment to Weehawken, N.J. seven years ago. But there is another apartment – a beautiful, sunny, 1,300-square-foot space with a conservatory, patio, and Victorian details like bay windows and pocket doors – that kept him there.
Mr. Gargiulo, a 57-year-old creative director, had lived in the East Village, where he had a one-bedroom controlled rental for $ 1,800 a month. He left the apartment during the last recession in 2009 and moved to Portland, Ore.
When he returned to New York for a job in 2014, he had come to appreciate having more space and a less hectic life. He had also enjoyed the affordability of Portland. In one house, his room was only $ 250 a month. At another, he exchanged his part of the rent and designed graphics for his roommate's jam shop.
When a friend with a two-bedroom in Weehawken offered him the other bedroom for $ 1,100 a month, Mr. Gargiulo happily accepted. He had already stored some of his furniture in his friend's apartment and had little time to find a place, which made the move even more convenient.
"It was incredibly cheap," said Gargiulo, who paid only $ 550 for his portion of the rental. He learned that his old one-bedroom East Village room had been split into a three-bedroom and was renting for $ 5,000 a month.
As for Weehawken, which sits across the Hudson River from Midtown and measures just 1.4 square miles, he immediately liked it. "It's close enough to Manhattan, but far enough from Manhattan," he said. “Going through the tunnel felt like an escape in a way. It's convenient, it's reasonable. The quality of life here – for me it is wonderful. "
After a few years, the friend decided that he would rather live alone and Mr. Gargiulo decided to look for another apartment in Weehawken.
He found his current apartment on Craigslist in 2017. At $ 2,450 a month (now $ 2,650), it was barely his friend's shop, but it was stunning and huge, with well-preserved Victorian woodwork, original lighting fixtures, a large eat-in kitchen, and five other rooms that easily make up two suites : a friendly room layout. Mr. Gargiulo's suite, with two large rooms and a tiny office, was the size of his entire apartment in the East Village.
“I fell in love with this place,” he said. The apartment is on the second floor of a three-unit Victorian building; The long-time owners of the house live on the first floor, while their daughter and her husband live in the upper apartment.
$ 2,600 | Weehawken, N.J.
Frank Gargiulo, 57
Occupation: Creative director
Leaving the East Village: "I miss it from time to time, but it's not that I can't go there."
On Weehawken: Trader Joe & # 39; s is about a 15-minute walk away and a new deli and wine store, The Oak, has opened nearby. But the gastronomic offer is somewhat limited. "Union City has some local spots and some nice restaurants nearby."
His landlords: You have lived in the house for decades. "Fortunately, they found something that wasn't destroyed," he said of the house's well-preserved interior.
"I can't really say that my landlords are family, but it does feel like family," he said. “You're inviting me on vacation. I don't have a car and when they drove to Florida last year they said, 'Here are the keys. You can use it. & # 39; "
The generous attitude also extended to granting Mr Gargiulo a rental break when he moved in before he could find a roommate. That was the biggest downside to living in Weehawken: It can be difficult to find roommates.
“It always took me a while to find people to move in,” he says. “It's not Brooklyn. It's not even Jersey City or Hoboken. It is the unknown. "
In addition, there is no train. The best option to get to Manhattan is by bus. Occasionally he jumps for the ferry, but it's less convenient for him and a one-way ticket costs $ 9.
However, the bus is difficult to sell for many New Yorkers. And there are few alternatives for the budget conscious. A new prospective roommate who had never lived in the New York area before was not worried about the lack of a train; she told him she had ridden her bike everywhere. He felt compelled to point out that since the Lincoln Tunnel was out of the question, she either had to cycle to the PATH train in Hoboken, to the ferry, or to cross the George Washington Bridge well into the city center. She didn't take the apartment.
After an unsuccessful attempt to find a roommate this spring, Mr Gargiulo decided to use the other half of the apartment as an office.
Before the pandemic, he worked for an agency that developed advertising concepts for Broadway shows and cultural institutions. He was fired shortly after the shutdown and now runs a freelance business, Art Dictator. With the other suite of rooms, he thought, he could create an office and conference room for customers to visit.
At first it felt strange going into the other half of the apartment. His last roommate had left a TV that he sometimes watched, but "it felt like my half was against the other half," he said. It also seemed like too much space.
"But now I'm enjoying the whole place," he said. “It's just so beautiful. It gets so much light. It was really nice to be here during this time. "
During the height of the pandemic, Mr. Gargiulo, an avid baker, was delivering baked goods for his neighbors, and they also brought food, including an occasional cocktail, that was outside his door.
“Weehawken has something like hometown. I just love it here, ”he said. "In a way, it has made it even friendlier here and Covid all along."