I Don't Wanna Go To Brooklyn!

Who was it who said that you can only live in a tiny studio apartment for so long? Oh right, that was Jen, probably starting about three or four years ago before we finally bought our own place last April.

It's not as hard as you think to make yourself believe that a tiny studio apartment is a viable option in perpetuity. How much space do you need anyway? Think about how good the rent is, especially after six years! And besides, there's no way we could find something this close to the subway. Do you really need a sink in the bathroom? Of course you could put a baby in the living room. It goes on and on.

I was hesitant to buy something. We'd be on the hook for water, heat, property taxes and whatever other costs came with home ownership. Cooperative or condominium living sounded miserable, and the idea of paying maintenance fees that easily surpassed our monthly rent sounded absurd.

But then Goober and Jen started talking. Goober's lease was coming due and he was tired of living in a studio apartment with no natural light to speak of in a building managed by one of the worst real estate mega corporations, one known for harassing rent-stabilized tenants and generally fucking people over. Which is to say, the idea was formed to buy a two-family house. Neither of us could afford our own place and a two-family house was sort of like a co-op, except without the maintenance fees. Jen argued that a mortgage was kind of like permanent rent control. This could work.

So where to live? Where would be in our price range? We were flexible, but for our price range, online prospects looked hairy: "Interesting but it's in a very remote corner of Ridgewood," "This one doesn't look like the picture, though if we had an accurate view, I'd look at it," "This is too close to the elevated tracks," "I'd consider this one but I want to see that it actually exists," "I'm skeptical of stuff north of Myrtle Avenue — too far from the subway and too sketchy," "This is being very generous calling this 'Clinton Hill' — it's .4 miles from the subway," "I'm skeptical of this but I'd look at it — a little more Bed-Stuy than Clinton Hill, I'd say," and "This is more 'Prospect Heights' than 'Lefferts Gardens' — it's a house we already knew about, the infamous men-on-bicycles street view."

That last one was wedged between some auto parts places and when you plugged in the address on Google Street View, you saw a bunch of guys riding around on dirt bikes. Now it could be just an accident that these guys happened to be hanging out on the street at the particular moment when the Google Street View car zoomed by, but in a way I kind of don't think so. We scratched that off the list.

A friend of Goober's recommended a broker. He was sympathetic to our admittedly constricted price range and pointed us toward a few open houses. We were thinking "Yay, the outer reaches of Williamsburg!" or "Exciting, the up-and-coming areas around Bushwick and Ridgewood!" or "A real-life brownstone!"

The two places we saw in Bed-Stuy were OK. One was a third of a mile from the C train and the other was a half-mile from the J. It's funny — open houses, probably by necessity, are done early in the afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday, which is probably the very best time to see a neighborhood. People are coming home from church. The neighborhood is quiet. It's as close to an ideal time as possible and even then I wasn't excited about living in a remote neighborhood with no foot traffic to speak of a half-mile from the J train. On our way to the train we passed what looked to be a NYPD stop-and-frisk.

A week or two later, the broker sent two more open house listings: The first property in Bed-Stuy was in our price range and only a block or so from the subway but the broker thought it was probably too cheap to be habitable. A second in Crown Heights had bars on the windows and was a half-mile from the subway. But there was a Chinese restaurant just across the street . . . we decided that none of us had spent enough time in Bed-Stuy to feel like we should be buying property there.

And just when we were getting ready to write off Brooklyn altogether, we found a house in our price range only a quarter-mile from the Grand Street stop on the L, just four stops into Brooklyn. We had an appointment for 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday. We got there early and checked out the street. Sure, there was an active meat supplier right across the street, and yes, this wasn't exactly a "residential" block, but come on, it was four stops from Manhattan!

The owner lived next door with several large dogs. She had been renting it out to some post-collegiate kids who the realtor had to rouse out of bed. There was a laundry hookup in the basement. There was large backyard. There was a front door! There was an apparent roof! In short, it was perfect.

We decamped to a very popular pizza establishment just eight-tenths of a mile from our new house to discuss it. We were going to put down an offer. We were definitely going to put down an offer. This was going to be fantastic. We went to our respective homes and settled in for the evening.

"So about that house," Jen said sometime later after she had been clicking around on her computer.


"I'm not so sure about it."

But why? I am stubbornly oriented toward the status quo, and sometimes once I settle on an idea I tend to cling to it.

"I don't know that I'd feel safe walking home from the subway."

But it was less than a quarter-mile from the subway! If you can't feel safe walking a quarter-mile, then . . .

"Did you see those dogs that lady had?"

But there is that lovely hipster art space just down the block! Did you see the events they have there?

We went back and forth like this for a while. Eventually I called Goober and we talked about it.

Which is to say, after thinking about it some, here are some immutable facts about the house that emerged:

1) It was one block from a very large housing project. Then again, it was buttressed from said housing project by a large public high school.

2) It was a half a block from a high school. No one wants to live half a block from a high school.

3) It was in an Industrial Business Zone, the City's attempt to preserve its dwindling manufacturing base, which basically ensures that you will have no new neighbors, no high-end condos, no cute streets, etc. But there will be a meat supplier right across the street.

4) I can't handle reading the Brooklyn Paper crime blotters. I don't like to think about how much petty crime still exists in Fort Greene. Crime blotters are depressing. And useful. Which is to say, perhaps you don't want to live on a street where assailants beat on pedestrians with baseball bats or where apartments are broken into in the middle of the afternoon.

5) Last but not least, the two stories in the 22-by-26 foot building footprint meant that we'd have two units of approximately 572 square feet each, excluding the basement. 572 square feet is not something to grow into, you know? The studio apartment was roughly 21-by-22, or about 462 square feet. A mortgage for 110 more square feet? I guess there's that backyard, but jeez . . .

An axiom developed: Sometimes you can either get a crappy place in a nice neighborhood or a great place in a less-nice neighborhood. And thus ended our abbreviated search for places in Brooklyn.

Posted: November 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.