The One That Got Away

Forced out by a rent hike, Chelsea fan still longs for her little studio

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Sometimes in life, everything just falls into place. 

In 2003, when Florida transplant Holly found out the lease for her three-bedroom share on East 75th Street and York was expiring in a month, she desperately wanted to find a place of her own, preferrably downtown. She had just started a new job as a real estate agent at a brokerage in Chelsea and, lo and behold, her boss had a new listing: a perfect studio in a doorman, elevator building on West 13th Street and Seventh Avenue.

“What was even more incredible was that, at $1,450, I could afford it," she says. "It was only a ten-block walk to my office and in the middle of everything my little Floridian heart had been dreaming about for years."

She knew that in New York City real estate, if you snooze, you lose. 

“I actually took it sight unseen,” she explains. “Another girl from my office lived in the unit above mine and she let me look at hers. I knew I needed to look no further.”

Holly paid a 14 percent fee to the listing broker without even asking to co-broke it. She was that excited to finally have her own apartment.

“I used to walk in every day after work and say, ‘Hello apartment, I love you. I paid for you and you are mine!’”

She adored its thick pre-war walls, miles of closet space, separate kitchen and small dressing area; it even fit a queen-sized bed and a couch.

“I grew up in that little studio,” she says of the seven years she lived there. “I went from being a very green girl from Florida to a real New York City woman. I had infamous, multiple-course dinner parties where the guests ate on every surface--including my bed.  I fell truly in love for the first time, and ... was heartbroken there when he got married to someone else three years later.”

But in 2008, the building was sold, and Holly received a notice that her rent would jump to $2,450 a month from $1,750. Soon after, Lehman Brothers collapsed, bringing the economy with it. 

“I still calculate the collapse of the financial markets—and subsequently the booming real estate market—to the day I walked out of 56 Seventh Avenue for the last time," she says.

But if she had to move, Holly wanted to get a bigger place. She rented a large one-bedroom with a wood-burning fireplace in an East Village walk-up for $1,900 a month. She hated it. 

“It also had thin walls, no elevator, the hallways smelled like weed and sound from the jazz club below wafted up at late hours. I also realized that I hated living on the East side because it is a completely different vibe,” she laments. "I'm definitely  more of a West Village/Chelsea girl and enjoy those restaurants and quaint shops to the loudness and tourtists of the St. Marks Place area."

Holly has since moved back to the Chelsea area—this time with a roommate in a walk-up tenement. But even though she is back in the neighborhood she loves, she still misses her little room on West 13th like she would a now-married first love.

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