Moving to the city with a double dose of dogs and aren’t sure what buildings will welcome you and which will turn you away at the door? BOND agent William MacLeod can help. As the proud papa to a dog (“a Maltese who thinks she’s a rhinoceros”), an indeterminate number of cats, as well as 15 birds (including show doves, “problem” parrots and Indian Fantail pigeons), MacLeod knows exactly how hard it can be to buy a place with pets in tow.
In this week’s Buy Curious, this latter-day Dr. Doolittle tells you the right questions to ask and the best places to look if you’re in the market for a dog-friendly dwelling in NYC.
THE WISH LIST:
I have two dogs and am moving to the city for the first time. What should I keep in mind? And can you give me some examples of two-bedrooms around the city that don’t have dog restrictions?
Even NYC buildings that consider themselves pet-friendly usually have some restrictions when it comes to dogs. Some prefer small dogs under 25 pounds. Others only allow certain breeds. Some demand that you use the service elevators if you have your pooch with you. And still others will limit the number of canine companions an occupant can have. With that in mind, you’re right to be concerned that you might run into some trouble finding a suitable space for you and your doggy duo.
“Dogs are in public spaces on a regular basis as they go in and out from walks and/or daycare,” explains MacLeod, “so [the landlord or co-op board has] to find the best line between the dog owners and the rest of the building. The requirements usually come about from experience with previous pets, so, unfortunately, you’re at the mercy of previous pet owners’ actions, and sometimes, simply a board member’s bias.”
And, he adds, “co-op boards can change the restrictions based on problems that arise," so it’s important to make sure you're getting the most accurate, updated intel on the building’s pet policies. "The worst thing for a pet owner is to fall in love with a home that won’t let them have their dogs (or cats or birds, etc.),” he says.
So how can you be sure to find a space where you and your two best friends are accepted with open arms? First, you need to answer a few questions:
How big are your dogs?
You don’t mention the size or breed of your pups, but those factors will certainly play a role, says MacLeod. “I’ve noticed over the years that smaller dogs do seem to have an easier time [being accepted into a building], and I think a large part of that is it’s easier to carry your Yorkie in the common areas than it is for you to control your Labradoodle.”
Do you have your heart set on a condo or a co-op?
You’ll probably have an easier go of it if you buy a condo, says MacLeod “because you’re not dealing with a board that can change, and change [existing] rules.” Although, he notes that most of the time, these modifications come with clauses to grandfather in existing pets.
Condos are different because “you own real property… [so] it’s a little bit harder to place major restrictions other than in common areas,” says MacLeod. “That being said, any time, in any building, a gross disregard of the rules by one tenant can affect everyone in the building.”
If, however, you’ve fallen head over heels for a co-op, rest assured that there are things you can do to help your dogs get past a board. MacLeod advises bringing in photos of your furry friends interacting peacefully with people, as well as reference letters from folks who’ve spent time with your dogs (dog walkers, roommates, etc.). Letters from previous landlords or boards will obviously hold the most weight, though, so definitely try to include those in your package.
MacLeod has even seen boards test dogs for reactions to different stimuli (will he sit on command for a doorman? what does he do when a doorbell rings?). “Usually, they have the owner go through simple commands, and at some point make a noise to see if the dog barks,” he says. “There are boards that will have a trainer come in and assess the dog,” but that’s pretty rare. “Your best bet is simple training. Your dog should never be jumping on strangers, or barking all day because he misses you.”
In addition, MacLeod recommends writing out a pet resume, which is exactly what it sounds like, basically an accounting of your animal and what he or she does all day. These typically include pictures, a description of the dog, preferred activities, any training, as well as health care and grooming regimens. It may sound silly, but MacLeod thinks they're great since “they really show how responsible you are as a pet owner, as well as what [building residents] can expect if your dog moves in.”
How much space will you need for you and your dogs to truly live comfortably?
“That’s really an individual decision,” says MacLeod. “While 700 square feet can be more than enough space for a couple with two Shih-Tzus, [it] probably won’t work for someone with a Shepherd or Labrador… You do need to remember that larger dogs need more time outside to exercise, so location becomes more important for bigger dogs.”
And yes, co-op boards do take apartment size into account when deciding whether or not to approve your pup… even though some larger dogs can be perfectly happy in small spaces. “[It's] the same way the average person assumes that a small dog is easier and friendlier than a big one,” says MacLeod.
Which neighborhoods are best for dogs?
According to MacLeod, the Village and its environs seem to have the most dog runs (including the West Village Dog Run, a public run at Little West 12th Street), but there are quite a few good runs on the Upper East and Upper West Sides, too. His personal favorite run is in Peter Detmold Park on East 51st Street in Midtown. “It’s a great, well-maintained space that not everyone knows about.”
MacLeod also advises exploring a prospective nabe with your four-legged friends before committing to a move. “Check out [a local] dog run to see what kinds of dogs are in the area, and be sure to chat up a dog walker. They’re the best people to let you know the ins and outs of the dog community in the area.”
Here are some decidedly dog-friendly domiciles:
Chelsea two-bedroom, one-bath co-op, $1,350,000: This 1,100-square-foot apartment is located on the parlor floor of a pre-war building at 253 West 16th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, and features high ceilings, an eat-in kitchen, in-unit laundry and CitiQuiet windows in the bedrooms. The co-op building has an elevator and a live-in super who accepts packages. Pets are permitted upon approval.
Noho two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath co-op, $1,985,000: Located at 10 Bleecker Street between Elizabeth Street and Bowery, this pet-friendly loft has been gut-renovated, but still includes traces of its history. There’s a ballroom-sized living room (29 feet long!), exposed brick, 11-foot ceilings, as well as modern conveniences, such as a new kitchen and bathrooms, central air and a washer/dryer.
Midtown East two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath co-op, $565,000: This 1,300-square-foot two-bedroom at 303 East 57th Street between First and Second Avenues needs a little TLC, but it's also close to a couple of dog runs (including the aforementioned one in Peter Detmold Park). The apartment offers a large windowed kitchen, washer-dryer hook-ups, central a/c, tons of closets, and a terrace. It’s located in a full-service pet-friendly building with doormen, concierges, and even elevator operators. There’s also a gym and a 24-hour garage.
Midtown East two-bedroom, one-bath condo, $999,000: This just-renovated unit at 865 United Nations Plaza between East 48th and East 49th Streets has a mix of pre-war and modern touches. There are beamed ceilings, hardwood floors, through-wall a/cs and a washer and dryer. The master bedroom has a huge walk-in closet, and the second bedroom can easily serve as either a home office, a nursery or a guest room. The building offers a 24-hour doorman, a live-in super, a package room, and a pet-friendly attitude.