Then & Now

Then & Now: I still love my terrace. The layout & maintenance fees? Not so much.

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When I first moved into my one bedroom, one bathroom pre-war co-op apartment in Midtown West, I loved the apartment—especially the fact that it was a real penthouse. And even with $150k in renovations, I felt the $460K price was a bargain for a unit with a 1,000 square foot terrace. I also liked how private it was. The apartment can only be accessed by a separate staircase leading up one flight from the elevator and there are no neighbors on either side or on top--only below.  It is my own private Idaho!

The thing I disliked most when I first bought it was that it was so ugly--the apartment had a pink carpet--and was bordering on uninhabitable. It had an old bathroom and kitchen that needed to be redone as well as an air conditioner stuck in the frame of a door leading to my terrace.

Now after living here for four years—two of which I spent renovating--I love my huge outdoor space the most, as I’ve decked the whole thing out and planted it with an automatic watering system. I grow roses and peach trees.  I even have a hammock and outdoor shower out there.

I now hate the renovations I made in the hallway, which covered up the skylights and make the halls look like as dark as a funeral parlor. I fixed one problem but in doing so seemed to have created another. Argh! Also,  I didn’t realize until after renovating that I had made my apartment “un-furnishable” –I have a long, thin railroad-style layout and too few walls to put furniture against. I find myself always looking for small furniture that doesn’t have sharp edges to walk around so I don’t get bruises on my legs.  This is harder than you would think.

The other thing that bothers me now is the extremely high maintenance. I pay $1,600 a month and just got a letter saying it's going up another 9 percent. I pay the most in the whole building for the smallest apartment (the 1,000-square-foot two-bedrooms below me only pay $1,000 a month!) and have to walk up an additional flight with no elevator to get here, so I have the least amount of services.  

That would  make me think twice about buying here if I had it to do over again. Instead I would buy a similar top-floor unit in another building, but it would definitely have to be a condominium, not co-op, because I want to be able to rent out my apartment without approval.  

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Then & Now explores how time illuminates the pros and cons of an apartment--and how what draws people to a place isn't necessarily what keeps them there.