5 reasons to be grateful you can't afford a new condo

By Virginia K. Smith  | May 6, 2015 - 8:59AM

Can't afford an apartment in a shiny, new construction tower? Join the club. But instead of pining over that tricked out roof deck you're missing out on—or dwelling on the unpleasant hike to your fifth-floor walk-up and its cramped, dishwasher-less kitchen—we thought we'd take time to focus on the positive. Namely, the features that make New York apartments feel like, well, New York apartments. Below, five features we wouldn't trade for a spot in a cookie-cutter new development, even if it does mean life without central air-conditioning:

Brown Harris Stevens


Yes, not many New Yorkers actually use their fireplaces, and not many of those fireplaces are legitimately functional, but what city fireplaces lack in firepower, they more than make up for as a decorative statement. (And, if they're clean and empty, storage space). Plus, absolutely everyone looks better leaning against a mantel and mysteriously propping themselves up sipping a drink. Trust.

Local Louisville


Admittedly, a lot of historic apartment features aren't necessarily what you'd call convenient for most aspects of 2015 living. (Ancient boilers and creaky hardwood floors, we're looking at you.) Enter the Victorian-style pressed-tin ceiling, which looks a whole lot better than a generic batch of plaster, and evokes an era where everyone still got around the city by horse-drawn carriage (and rents were, presumably, much cheaper).

Town Residential


We're not exactly alone in our principles on this one; buyers and renters alike seem to be clamoring for exposed brick, particularly if they're on the hunt in Brooklyn. (There's a reason brokers find a way to mention "exposed brick" in every listing that even has a single brick on view.) Even if it isn't ideal for insulation—or for hanging much of anything—brick walls  are a decorative statement unto themselves, immediately giving an apartment character before you even lift a finger decorating.

Chris Rubberdragon


Yes, most new apartments these days come with hardwood floors, but are those hardwood floors gently battered by generations of previous tenants, and laid down in soothing, decorative patterns? We think not.



We saved the best one for last. Much ink has been spilled over the years about the virtues of the fire escape, particularly as it starts to go the way of the dodo in the face of new fire safety standards. While backyard or roofdeck access is an undeniably precious thing, the fire escape holds a special place in our hearts as the ideal spot to take a coffee (or something a little stronger, depending on the kind of day you've had), perch, and people watch. (They're as solid a place as any to break out into romantic song, too.) Depending on your predilections, fire escapes are also an ideal place to start up a window box, or relegate the smokers at your next house party.

Oh, and if there's ever an actual fire, they tend to come in pretty handy.


5 ways renting in NYC is unlike anywhere else

The 8 best websites for finding a no-fee apartment in New York City

My exasperating, enlightening, ultimately successful search for rent-stabilized digs

7 things you didn't know about exposed brick walls

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.