If you’re like us here at Caretaker, you probably don’t have a lot to remember your last apartment by (other than a couple hundred dollars of the security deposit you never got back). That's what Rental Histories is for: a column to reminisce about the places you’ve temporarily called home.
Today on Rental Histories: His first rental was as a college senior—a studio in Saratoga, New York that cost $650 a month. Now this 34-year-old works at a digital publication and shares a $4,000-a-month apartment in Brooklyn with his girlfriend.
Occupation: College student
Moved In: Fall 2006
Moved Out: Summer 2007
Rental Type: Studio apartment in an old townhouse
Monthly Rent: $650
Highlights: I was finally living off-campus, in the middle of very quaint downtown Saratoga—the front porch of the building had rocking chairs where you could sit and look out at Main Street. I had my own space, and there was a small roof where I could lay out on my sleeping bag and listen to music.
Lowlights: I was still in college and not technically living on my own. Plus, the walls were wood-panelled.
Right before my senior year of college, my school built fancy new apartments to entice seniors to stay on campus and keep paying room and board. A lot of my friends fell for this trap, so it was harder to find people to move into a place off-campus with. Luckily, a friend of mine who had graduated the year before was still living in Saratoga and connected me with his landlord.
My studio was down the hall from my friend’s apartment, where he lived with his girlfriend. She was a good cook who had a waitressing job at the best restaurant in town, so they were always making dinner and gifting me wine from the restaurant. It was nice to have them close but still be able to walk down the hall and be in my own world. I got used to cooking dinner for myself every night and organizing my weeks in a way that would help me once I started working after college.
The apartment had a disproportionately large bathroom compared to everything else, which was kind of bizarre. One of my friends once stayed with me and got so drunk that he just slept on the bathroom floor in a sleeping bag because it was the biggest open space available. The place wasn’t anything great, but I remember it fondly. I distinctly remember going through the tumult of my first "very serious" college relationship in that apartment, listening to music at top volume while feeling distraught over some fight or slight.
My dad paid my rent when I lived there, and occasionally I'd forget the give the landlord the check. He lived nearby, so sometimes he'd come to collect. Because I’m a weirdo, I liked to pretend he was some kind of gangster, so I'd sneak back to my apartment through a back alley, up the fire escape, onto the small roof, and into the back window. What can I say? I was in college.
Occupation: Paralegal, then freelance writer, then editorial coordinator
Moved In: Fall 2007
Moved Out: Winter 2011
Rental Type: Two-bedroom apartment
Monthly Rent: $2,000 in total, $1,000 per person
Highlights: The apartment was in the heart of East Williamsburg during the heady period of 2008-2012, and all of my friends lived nearby. Also, it was spacious and cheap for the area.
Lowlights: The bedrooms faced a busy street so it could get noisy—and since they were also opposite each other, privacy could be a little tough.
The recession was just starting as I graduated from college, and I lied about wanting to go to law school to land a job as a paralegal at a tiny law firm in NYC. I moved in with a good friend from college, and I couldn't have asked for a better first "adult" apartment. We had a large living room with tall ceilings and no windows, a huge kitchen with big windows that led out onto an expansive roof, and a big, dingy bathroom with a clawfoot tub.
Our apartment was the center of our social circle. All of our friends lived nearby in Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, or in Bushwick, so people were constantly dropping by. Everyone was a musician, and we ran in the same circles as Vampire Weekend, Das Racist, Sharon Van Etten, and Grizzly Bear. We had massive parties almost every month; we had Sunday barbecues and Mad Men viewing parties; we had impromptu hang-outs on weeknights; we even had the occasional jam session, singalong, and recording session. We shared the building with one other unit, and the three people that lived there were in their late twenties and had their own friends over all the time, too.
I'll remember this apartment for the thick layer of black roof tar that covered our kitchen floor after every party, for the fact that it seemed like I'd never want to do anything than hang out with my friends every day forever, and for how much promise New York can seem to offer when you are 22 years old and making money for the first time. It was also the place where I weathered the slow end of my very serious college relationship and a tumultuous relationship with a co-worker that left me emotionally distraught. I also published my first legitimate short story when I was in this apartment and got my first real bylines.
I could have lived in this apartment for longer than I did. My roommate stayed for a decade before the owners of the building kicked everyone out to renovate the units and raise the prices. But I moved because living with a close friend for a long time can put a strain on the relationship even if you are both good roommates to each other—and I just wanted my own place.
Occupation: Editorial coordinator, then assistant editor, then managing editor
Salary: $40,000 when I moved in, $90,000 when I moved out
Moved In: February 2012
Moved Out: February 2017
Rental Type: Studio apartment in a four-story walkup
Monthly Rent: $1,400 when I moved in, raised to $1,450
Highlights: No roommates, no one else to appease. I could do what I wanted! The apartment was in a nice neighborhood on a quiet block and convenient to a good grocery store, and I got to explore a new part of Brooklyn.
Lowlights: There were a lot of cockroaches—not the huge, gross kind, but the small ones that pop up everywhere are more palatable to kill. Also, I shared a wall with a family of four who were very loud and yelled a lot around bath time every night. While I lived here, a new building went up next door and ended up completely blocking one of my windows.
This was my first time living alone in the city, so I saw it through rose-tinted glasses. In retrospect, it was kind of a dump, but I liked it because it had a lot of light when I first moved in. There was a parking lot on one side of the building managed by my neighbor, an older Puerto Rican man. He also sold electronics out of a trailer he kept at the back of the lot—I bought an AC unit from him during my first summer in the apartment. We talked every day, especially in the mornings before work when I went for a run. He had diabetes and disappeared one day. I never got to say goodbye to him, but wrote a short story about it. Later, the owner of the lot sold it and built a row of fancy townhouses that covered up my kitchen window.
I spent my late twenties here, and it was a change of pace from living in Williamsburg and partying all the time. I still went out nearly every weekend, but I had a space of my own and started to get more comfortable with the occasional Friday night in. When my friends stayed over at this apartment, they slept under my desk in sleeping bags. The whole apartment was also kind of slanted.
By the time I was ready to leave, I had changed jobs twice (once with a new job lined up, the second after I was fired), doubled my income, gotten to know Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Brooklyn Heights really well, and watched most of my friends leave NYC or get married and have kids.
Occupation: Audience editor at a digital publication
Moved In: February 2017
Moved Out: August 2019
Rental Type: One bed, one bath apartment in a four-story townhouse
Monthly Rent: $2,300 when I moved in, raised to $2,350
Highlights: Without a doubt, the best part of this apartment was the dishwasher. I'd lived in New York for about nine years without one, and I think the dishwasher may have single-handedly extended my patience for the city by another five years.
Lowlights: The building was really old and, although the unit had a renovated kitchen, the bathroom was kind of dingy. It was equipped with an industrial toilet, and the flushometer had a lot of problems. The management company was pretty hands-off, so they'd connect me with a plumber who ended up being… less than responsive.
This apartment was technically a one bedroom, but the bedroom was only separated from the main living space by a pair of French doors. Plus, it wasn’t very big—even with a double bed, there wasn’t much room to maneuver around the mattress to get to the bathroom. That said, the kitchen was totally separate from the living room and made the space feel more substantial. The front windows also looked out onto a tall tree, so when the weather was nice it really felt like you were living in a treehouse.
Besides the dishwasher, the best thing about this apartment was the location. It’s no exaggeration to say that I was within walking distance from nearly every train line in the city. I could walk seven minutes in any direction and get to the A, B, C, D, G, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains. I doubt I will ever live in a more convenient apartment in New York City.
In the two years I lived here, I started making the most money I’d ever made as a professional (and, to be honest, more money than I ever expected to make). But it came after two or three years of funneling most of my time and energy into building a digital publication that people enjoyed reading, even admired. I also fell in love with someone from work and learned a lot about being a good partner and a better listener.
Eventually, my girlfriend helped me curb the amount of time I spent thinking about work. I stopped doing sketch comedy in my free time and refocused myself on writing fiction and revising a novel I’d been pitching to agents with little success for years. I did two full rewrites of the novel and got feedback and nice notes from agents, but no responses. I also applied for MFAs in two different application cycles and was admitted to a few schools, but nothing compelling enough to make me leave my job or leave New York. Meanwhile, my relationship continued to evolve and deepen until my girlfriend and I decided to move in together.
Occupation: Director of audience strategy at a digital publication
Moved In: September 2019
Rental Type: Two bed, one bath in a three-story townhouse
Monthly Rent: $4,000 in total; I pay $2,600 and my girlfriend pays $1,400 based on our respective salaries
Highlights: There’s a lot to like. And there should be! We’re paying $4,000 for the place. The best tangible parts (e.g. the actual physical parts and not “vibes” or anything the apartment makes me daydream about) are, in no particular order: having a washer/dryer and a dishwasher; the luxuriousness of having a second bedroom to nap in, work in, and just stand in to enjoy the sheer fact of having a second bedroom in New York; the high-end, stainless steel appliances and finishes to the kitchen from a recent renovation; the light that we get on the third floor.
Lowlights: We live across the street from a school, so every morning our bedroom is filled with the joyful and oh-so-irritating sounds of students screaming with abandon. Seriously, you’d be shocked at how many recesses a school can have in a single day.
We only moved in two months ago, but here are some things I think I'll remember once we inevitably move: the fact that the back of our apartment overlooks a bunch of lush backyards where every night since we’ve moved in the sound of crickets is so loud and present that you would think you were living in upstate New York or Vermont or a dacha outside of Moscow; the sound of the rain hitting our skylight; the fact that we live around the corner from a movie theater and a chocolate shop so it feels like we are living in Starr’s Hollow or a children’s cartoon and not in Brooklyn in 2019 as nuance, sincerity, and the future of the world are all slowly dying; and the fact that this is the first apartment where it feels like I am making an actual home for myself.
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