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I want to see your weird New York apartments

14 Dec

My friend no longer lives in this Kips Bay apartment, but it’s an image I’ll never forget taking. The story went that a plumber used to live there, and this bathroom didn’t have room for a sink…so he brushed his teeth in the kitchen for awhile, and then did this.

Send me shots of the quirky places you live:


Three years in Manhattan: the ‘What I’ve Learned’ list

16 Nov

Recently I wrote a response to this post, which appeared on NYC Recession Diary, giving my own spin to a list of must-knows about life in the city. As you all know, when asked for advice from my readers, I’m always going to come down on the side of non-jadedness, spending wisely and bucking every cliché New York City has ever seen. Because why not?

So…how’d I do?

1. Walk fast. On the right, preferably. Bonus points for doing it without simultaneously texting.

2. This is a very expensive city, but what you spend and save is all about choices. The misery of credit card debt isn’t worth the fancy stuff we tell ourselves we deserve.

3. When you’ve been well-treated by anyone in customer service, the post office, the DMV or the drug store, a simple “Thank you. You’ve been very helpful” will make their day.

4. Get tested. Momma didn’t raise no fool.

5. Tempting as it may be, don’t talk back to cat-callers, rude pedestrians or anyone not acting the way you think they should. First of all, they don’t care what you think. Second of all, you never know who’s crazy, on drugs or carrying a weapon.

6. People here tell amazing stories. “How long have you lived here, and where are you from originally?” are great questions to get to know neighbors, new friends and coworkers.

7. Bike messengers and cabs appear to feel exempt from traffic laws. Never assume they will yield, see you or stop when the light turns red.

8. If you get into a livery cab, the only place you’re going is Rip-Off Central.

9. The bus is a great way to go crosstown, get your bearings and see the city — and the perfect way to escape the sweltering subway in August. Metrocard transfers are free between the bus and subway within two hours of when you first swiped.

10. Invest in a good pair of rain boots, and keep shoes at your desk to change into.

11. Hand sanitizer and public transportation are a match made in heaven.

12. Genuine is the new snarky. You don’t have to be a stereotype to make it here. I promise!

13. When you go out for group meals, ask for individual checks. The inevitable “If everyone paid, how are we still $100 short?” is a recipe for awkwardness among friends.

14. Look up, and look around — often. This is advice everyone gives, because it’s the best.

15. Don’t give money to anyone who stands there and shakes a cup. Do give to the singers, dancers and instrumentalists.

16. It’s OK to ignore the guilt-inducing folks with clipboards. You don’t have to talk to them to prove you care about the environment and education.

17. Don’t throw yourself between the closing doors to make the subway. It pisses people off, plus it hurts a lot.

18. Protect your hearing with earplugs at concerts and in those extra-screechy subway stations. (6 train at Union Square and Spring Street, I’m looking at you.)

19. Give a copy of your keys to someone you trust. Being locked out at 3 a.m. in the dead of winter is not smiles times.

20. Pay attention to your fixed costs. Having a super-swank apartment isn’t as much fun as having money to go out.

21. Don’t wear shoes in your apartment. Do you really want dog pee, poop and loogies on your hardwood?

22. Strongly encourage out-of-town guests to come with a to-do list. In the age of Google, no one you’ve agreed to let sleep on your couch should be allowed to show up and ask, “So, what are we doing today?”

What’s on your list?

Reader mail: “I have zero savings.”

22 Sep

I got the sender’s permission to repost this; I hope it’s helpful to you all. I know a LOT of you are worried about whether you have, or will have, enough money to move to New York, and what roof will be over your head once you arrive. Read on to see our exchange — his predicament, then my advice.

“So I just got a job in Times Square, and I’m moving to NYC ASAP. I’ll have an income starting October, but I have zero savings.  I have a friend who is looking to move out of his apartment in the next few months, and is willing to contribute a decent chunk of change to our rent if we move into a two-bedroom. The problem is: I cannot afford the security deposit/fees. He is considering taking out a loan. (AHHH! Stop. Please. Alejandro.) I have two options: Crash at my uncle’s (for as long as he allows) and friends’ places for as long as I can take the awkwardness, and try to save $3000+ or live in a room rental place for six months to save up enough. Thanks for your consideration and awesome blog!”

Hi Diego*,

Here’s what: Stay at your uncle’s. Watch your pennies like a hawk. You can’t go out every night in New York right away, so discipline yourself fast and know that not going into debt is the absolute best reward you can give yourself for following your New York dream. Racking up debt on account of “But I deserve it!” is cliché.

There’s no shame in easing into your new life slowly and doing the right thing.

I’d be careful about moving in with anyone — especially a friend — who’s promising to float your share of the rent to a disproportionate degree, let alone someone who needs a loan (!!) to do so in the first place. Things tend to get out of round quickly in situations like that. A better option is to move in with someone you don’t know via rooms/shares on Craigslist, show proof you WILL have income, and see if it’s OK to post-date your security deposit check until you have the funds. It can’t hurt to ask.

I would never advise someone with no savings to pay a broker’s fee. That $2,000 you’re giving them to open the front door? Better saved or spent elsewhere. Also, do your math: if your rent would have you treading near or above 45 percent of your income,  look around: A studio on a train line but a little farther uptown might save you a lot of dough. Ipso facto, more going-out money.

Cheers, mate, and good luck.
Sarah Protzman

*Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.