It’s the peak of the pandemic, and I’m on the lookout for an condominium for the primary time in 17 years. Some issues by no means change: Discovering a spot in Decrease Manhattan is tough in the event you’re not fabulously rich.
I’ve simply seen a 150-square-foot studio on West Fourth Avenue for $2,000 a month, and am advised that I might save area by hanging my winter coat within the constructing’s stairwell. “It’d most likely be secure there,” the agent reassures me.
He then takes me to a “duplex” across the nook, a ground-floor cell with a menacingly steep spiral staircase that empties right into a windowless basement. “$2,300,” he tells me. “Higher snap it up. Received’t final.”
I really like my sunny Greenwich Village condominium, however Covid has gotten in the way in which: My theater and educating work have dried up, my lease is expiring, and the owner is elevating my hire whereas costs plummet all through the town. The considered transferring throughout a pandemic is daunting, and the probability of my associates risking an infection to assist me haul furnishings down 4 flights of stairs is low. On the plus aspect, for the primary time for the reason that Clinton administration, I might be able to afford a good condominium with out leaving the comforts of Decrease Manhattan.
In late 2020, I see a tremendous condominium on Carmine Avenue. Superb is a relative time period, in fact. This condominium is uncooked, the designer cherished stucco, and the hardwood flooring are painted a Brutalist grey. However it’s enormous: a real two-bedroom, with hovering ceilings, large mild and unobstructed views of Greenwich Village, all for $1,995 a month. Now that I earn a living from home, the additional area appears positively luxurious. I’m able to make a proposal.
The agent, who has described each closet as if he have been seeing the Grand Canyon for the primary time, pulls me apart on the finish of the tour. “Did you discover something concerning the toilet?”
I’m intrigued by his sense of thriller. Was there a bidet I missed? A Jacuzzi tub?
“No rest room.”
Earlier than telling me this, he holds my gaze for a number of seconds, as if to say, “A much less scrupulous agent wouldn’t disclose this, however I’m leveling with you as a result of that’s the type of agent I’m.” He’s happy with himself.
I had really peeked into the toilet and observed the ample tub and sink. I missed the obvious omission, although, as one doesn’t normally discover the dearth of issues till one wants them. (See: lifeboats/Titanic.)
“No, um, rest room?” is all I can handle. If I weren’t sporting a masks, this could have been an excellent time for a spit take.
“Lots of people really want it this manner,” he assures me. “It’s cleaner.”
I discover it onerous to consider that there are individuals who want not to have a rest room of their condominium. For the document, that is the one toilet within the condominium. And the bathroom isn’t damaged. It merely isn’t there. It by no means has been. The itemizing, which mentions that the condominium is close to an Equinox and a Starbucks, neglects to say this.
“So what occurs when, um, one wants to make use of the toilet?” I ask.
He leads me to a single rest room stall within the hallway and tells me it’s shared by the residences on the ground. No sink, only a rest room.
That is an previous constructing, and a communal toilet was widespread on the time it was constructed, greater than a century in the past. I like previous issues, and respect seeing this residing historical past; on the identical time, I’m unsure I wish to be this intimate with historical past.
It is a deal-breaker, in fact. Or is it? Monumental arched home windows. Coronary heart of Greenwich Village. Below $2,000. No storing my garments within the hallway.
After I get residence, I name associates for recommendation.
My civic-minded buddy is in favor of it: “Individuals are too remoted of their little bubbles. I assist communal endeavors. Moreover, most individuals share loos with household or roommates. You’d solely be sharing the bathroom.”
One other buddy wonders how a romantic curiosity may react when she asks the place the toilet is and is advised to line up within the corridor and wait her flip. My buddy within the throes of potty coaching her kids presents the additional plastic rest room they hold within the toilet.
One other buddy votes towards it, saying earnestly, “You don’t wish to be generally known as the no-toilet-in-his-apartment man.”
And there are questions: Who cleans the toilet? How many individuals dwell on the ground? Are you sharing it with one different particular person or 11? If the toilet is occupied, can you employ one other flooring’s toilet? Why has this constructing held out on the in-apartment toilet conversion, which each different constructing in New York undertook in, roughly, the F.D.R. administration?
I seek the advice of Google on putting in my very own rest room and be taught that that is no easy repair: Not solely would I want to attach pipes to the primary sewer line — which might require tearing up flooring and partitions — it could probably must be performed on each flooring, per New York Metropolis constructing codes.
There are a number of unorthodox choices — there’s one thing known as a macerating rest room that may apparently be hooked as much as a daily line — however I determine I don’t wish to run an unlawful rest room out of my condominium.
I’m tempted to hire the condominium anyway. The communal pool in my childhood neighborhood in Texas made associates of all of the neighbors — may this have an identical impact? Imperfect indoor plumbing was ok for each human being on Earth till about 100 years in the past — certainly I might get by. I used to be an historical historical past main — this can join me to the previous. I’m an artist — this can hold me humble.
Plus, and that is no small factor, the condominium is twice as giant as something I’ve seen in my value vary, and it’s vivid and ethereal, a canvas upon which I might make a terrific residence.
Ultimately, I determine towards it. Two weeks go by, and I’ve seen 10 extra miserable residences, all smaller, with decrease ceilings, fewer home windows. I test on-line. The Carmine condominium is now right down to $1,850 a month. I give it some thought. I give it some thought some extra. I test once more two days later, and it’s in contract. Too late.
I’m beginning to notice that almost all Decrease Manhattan locations in my value vary have a flaw. They’d be marked “irregular,” if such a factor existed for residences.
Whereas a nontraditional area appeals to me — an previous warehouse or transformed church sounds beautiful — the quirks show extra mundane: The engaging condominium on East twelfth Avenue has a stand-alone bathe in the lounge, promising to make parental visits awkward; the penthouse on West twenty first is lit primarily by skylight, with slender bunker-style home windows at eye stage, excellent for survivalists or bats. I start to despair.
However the giant two-bedroom on Avenue B is ideal. A nook condominium, drenched in daylight, it comes with a house workplace, for a more-than-reasonable $1,895 a month.
I can’t discover any faults, so I assume it have to be haunted. At this level in my search, I’m wonderful with that. The road noise can resemble Rio de Janeiro at Carnival, and I totally count on the hire to skyrocket when the lease expires post-pandemic, however I signal on the dotted line.
Not earlier than double-checking the toilet, although.
Stephen Ruddy, a New York-based author, can typically be discovered at The Moth and McSweeney’s, and is a creator of the forthcoming scripted podcast, “The Rubber Room.”
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