• Hell's Bitchen

    A sign from above (the shower)

    Weeks after an unsightly 'melanoma' appeared on Kelly Kreth's bathroom ceiling, it's now in full remission.

    About a month ago I noticed an odd wet spot on my bathroom ceiling. By the following day it had grown by 100 percent and become progressively darker. By the third day it was even bigger.

    I contacted my landlord about the melanoma spreading across my bathroom ceilng, but being that he was out on leave getting a hip replaced, his colleague answered. He assured me he’d get a handyman to look at it but that it may take a while. 

    Days passed and I was becoming sure that the image of Jesus would appear in my bathroom. [An image of the Virgin Mary just appeared in a tree in the little town in New Jersey where I grew up so this is not so farfetched. Although to me, that looked more like a vagina. I’m actually quoted in that town’s paper as saying that.] 

    Finally Jesus came. And by Jesus, I mean our handyman, ironically named Jesus (but pronounced hay-Zoose). Jesus climbed a short ladder and touched the ceiling, whereupon he observed aloud that it was wet.

    Inspector Clouseau has nothing on Jesus.

  • Sell your apt for its potential, shut your windows Friday night if you live on UWS, and more

  • Ms. Demeanor's Sex, Laundry & Vertical Etiquette

    Dear Ms. Demeanor: My housekeeper is a homophobe

    Dear Ms. D,

    I referred my lovely housekeeper to a dear friend.  The three of us are equally obsessive about spotless grout!  My housekeeper, whom I have know for over six years, worked for him for about a month and then she suddenly quit.  She told me that she figured out that he is gay and cannot work for someone whose lifestyle so offends her. 

    My friend is completely taken aback and wondering what could have happened.  I honestly don't know what to say to either of them.  I do not want to hurt my friend's feelings and I do not want to punish (aka fire) my housekeeper for her beliefs.


    Sweepless in Soho

    Dear Sweepless,

    A few years ago, my nanny recounted with amusement her pastor saying, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." 

    I was quick to tell her that she knew and had playdates with one half of gay couples and their children all the time.  This information didn't exactly make her a candidate for a GLAAD award, but it did open her eyes and her heart. 

  • Your Celebrity Neighbor

    Your Celebrity Neighbor: Kelly Killoren Bensimon


    WHO:  Kelly Killoren Bensimon, model, author and former Real New York housewife. Ever notice how the “real” housewives don’t really do any housework?

    WHERE:  The author of “I Can Make you Hot! The Supermodel Diet”  lives in Soho, where the median price sales price is $2.75 million and the median rental price is $6,250 (wowza!), according to StreetEasy.

    Your Celebrity Neighbor is a weekly heads-up on the A-listers who call your neighborhood home and (in theory) shop the same Duane Reade as you.

  • About that bed bug insurance bill....

    Flickr photo by Matt Jiggins

    In 2010, in the heat of public panic over New York's bed bug epidemic, State Assemblyman Dov Hikind sponsored a bill that would require insurance providers to cover costs associated with bed bug infestation (for an additional premium). 

    If you chose the additional coverage, costs like cleanup, extermination fees, and replacing damaged property would be covered.

    So whatever happened to that bill?

    We checked the New York State Assembly website, which says the latest update was in January 2012 when the bill was referred back to the insurance companies, and has not yet been passed. Calls to Mr. Hikind's office, which represents Borough Park and Flatbush neighborhoods of Brooklyn, were not returned.

    That leaves bed bug victims who've shelled out thousands--or tens of thousands--of dollars to get rid of the pests pretty much empty handed.

    "There is no insurance coverage under any policy that you are reasonably going to buy that covers bed bugs," says Jeff Schneider, president of NYC apartment insurance brokerage Gotham Brokerage. "Even termites or rodents are typically excluded on all insurance policies."


  • Renting advice from the master

    Flickr photo by edenpictures

    Believe it or not, it's still rental high season here in New York City (it doesn't end until around October), and we suspect many of our readers may be finding that they're facing stiff competition for rentals whose prices are through the roof.

    So we decided to dedicate this week's SurvivalList roundup to our Rent Coach column, which helps readers navigate the ins and outs of this crazy city, where renting is the norm, and buyers are in the minority.

    Rent Coach is penned by Mike Akerly, a real estate attorney, mom-and-pop landlord, and a very busy real estate broker.

    Among the issues Rent Coach has tackled, sorted, and duly disposed of are security deposit woes, the downsides of renting a fully furnished apartment and the dark side of a no-fee listing

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the problems Rent Coach helps solve involve renters' rights -- like the aforementioned security deposit woes, as well as whether it's legal for a landlord to ask for two months security deposit, whether a renter has a right to legal action after a landlord lied about bed bugs and much, much more.

  • Ask an Expert

    Ask an Expert: What to do about condo common charges that are higher than advertised

    Q. I live in a two-year old condo building that's still controlled by the sponsor. My common charges are already about a third higher than the developer said they were going to be.  

    What are my rights?

    A.   First, you need determine what is behind the spike in costs, say our experts, so that you can gauge whether the sponsor's estimate may have been deliberately low or whether the increase is reasonable.

    "Since the sponsor has to pay their proportionate share of the common charges, the sponsor, like other owners, would not want to increase common charges unless necessary," says asset manager Roberta Axelrod of Time Equities.

    "Fuel and water costs have increased greatly due to recent political disruptions and governmental policy changes beyond the control of the board," notes Axelrod.

    Emergency or extraordinary repairs might also be responsible, or perhaps services have been added. Moreoever, says Axelrod, in order to qualify the building for Fannie Mae financing, boards have had to kick in an additional 10% of the operating budget to the reserve fund. 


  • StreetEasy Hot Dozen

    The StreetEasy Hot Dozen: 12 rentals that may or may not be available by the time you read this

    This very shareable, $2,895 two-bedroom apartment in a prime Upper West Side location (Columbus & 78th) is freshly renovated and includes a washer/dryer.

    The Upper West Side offers a wide array of surprisingly (by Manhattan standards) affordable apartments and this week's Hot Dozen--the 12 rental apartments Streeteasy.com visitors clicked on most often over the past seven days--mixes comfort and affordability.

    Among the choicest options this week: A two-bedroom apartment at 370 Columbus Avenue and 78th Street is listed at $2,895/month. The freshly renovated apartment is at the top floor of an elevator building with a live-in super and is across the street from the Natural History Museum. The apartment also has a new granite kitchen (though it's tiny), its own washer and dryer, and a skylight in the living room adding significant natural light.

    A few blocks away, a furnished studio apartment at 340 Amsterdam Avenue and West 76th Street is listed at $1,250/month. The downside? The apartment has its own sink, but lacks its own private bathroom. The unit shares a communal bathroom with another apartment, which seriously detracts from the pad's free furnishings and minute-long walk to Broadway.

  • The 8 most common feng shui screwups in NYC

    Flickr photos by Fernanda Mancini

    Bedrooms that look like home offices are not exactly feng shui copacetic.

    For 12 years, Nicole Citrin-Koch has been helping New Yorkers re-arrange their living space to conform with the principals of the ancient art of feng shui. 

    Feng shui dates from China’s Tang Dynasty in 618AD and began as a method for finding the most auspicious site for a loved one’s tomb. Eventually the art was applied to gardens and then to...living spaces.

    Citrin-Koch says that applying feng shui's basics of color, numerology and astrology to her clients’ New York apartments has resulted in  positive changes in all aspects of their lives—career, romance and family.  Here are the mistakes she sees most often in New York apartments, and her advice on how to fix them.

    1. A bedroom that looks like an office

    Ideally, a bedroom is for sleeping and sex, not a place for work. Practically, this is not always possible in a New York apartment, but be very careful about where you put your work space.

  • StreetEasy Open House Scorecard

    The Open House Scorecard: Two new-to-market co-ops and one price drop

    This sweet-looking one-bedroom co-op in Chelsea has been made even sweeter thanks to a $25k price drop. The apartment, available for $500k, is located in the six-story, 60-unit Chelsea Arms on West 18th between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. 

    At the top of this week’s Open House Scorecard -- the 10 open houses StreetEasy users saved to their open-house planners more often than any others this weekend -- are three interesting co-ops: two that are new-to-market and one that had its price reduced by $25k just a few days ago.

    $539k one-bedroom co-op on East 36th and Third Avenue in Murray Hill is new-to-market and offers views of the Empire State Building. The unit has been renovated and includes an open kitchen with granite counters, a breakfast bar and new wood cabinets. The full-service building has a garden with a peach tree, a roof deck and a gym. Maintenance is $1,065. 

    Another new-to-market co-op is a two-bedroom going for $749k on Ninth Street and Seventh Avenue in Park Slope. The townhouse has a private terrace, a windowed, eat-in kitchen and a brand-new washer and dryer. South, west and north exposures let in plenty of natural light.