Living Next To

Living next to the FDR: It's isolated, it's noisy, it's dirty, "it's where we want to be"

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I always thought of myself as a 72nd & Broadway kind of guy because I lived in the West 70's when I was single. But soon after I got married in 1986, my wife and I ended up moving to San Diego. I promised myself then that I'd be back, and two years ago we figured the time was right.

We set out to find a place we could use whenever we visit the city, usually about four times a year for two weeks at a time. By 2009 there was no way that we could afford something on the Upper West Side.

No more Mr. 72nd & Broadway — now we're back in the city but living about as far from the Upper West Side as you can be and still be in Manhattan. 

The one bedroom co-op we bought is on Grand Street and the FDR Drive, one of hundreds of apartments built for the members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union. People who live here call it “the secret borough.”

We're a 20-minute walk from the nearest subway and the last stop on the M14 and M22. The good part for us: we're just a $25 car service ride away from LaGuardia.

There's no place to shop nearby but plenty of nostalgia — right around the corner from my apartment is the tenement where my parents lived when they first got married in the 1920s.

We got a great price on this place and we love it but there is one feature that might — and probably did  — turn lots of potential buyers off.  We're practically in the middle of the FDR Drive and our bedroom and living room windows are smack up against the Williamsburg Bridge.  

That means noise, lots of it,  24/7. Noise from the traffic on the highway, noise from the traffic on the bridge but what is especially intense — some might say deafening — the noise from two subway trains passing each other on the bridge. And let's not forget to mention the dirt we get from the exhaust — our windows are always filthy.   

But for us, none of that's a big problem. We're the glass-half-full types. We've convinced ourselves to think of the traffic and train sounds as our own white noise. People have suggested soundproofing the windows. We're not interested.

Look, we have 802 square feet and a small terrace (that's just big enough for a quick coffee or to store our bikes) and our maintenance is $630 per month.  We've had up to nine friends and relatives sleeping here at one time. How great is that?

The previous owner renovated the entire apartment in order to sell — the stove and refrigerator were still in wrapping paper when we moved in.

We lucked out because the person who was going to buy was flunked by the board and the owner wanted to make a quick sale.The co-op board hired someone in California to come to our house and check out whether we were on the up and up about owning a house there. The actual board interview took five minutes.

So, it's isolated. So, it's noisy.  So the windows are dirty. It's our own piece of Manhattan and for now it's where we want to be. 


Living Next to....explores the good, the bad, and the memorable of living near someplace other would rather not.  Have a story to share? Let us know--we'd love to hear!

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