From Midtown West to the Lower East Side: I left a pricey shared rental to buy a luxury waterfront condo

  • Her search took her to over 90 places before landing at One Manhattan Square
  • She paid $1.4 million for a 723-square-foot one bedroom with a tax abatement
By Kelly Kreth  |
December 16, 2022 - 9:30AM

Living in a pet-friendly condo building was a must for Emporia Meng, as was finding a new development. She got both wishes. 

Tired of splitting $4,000 a month for a shared one-bedroom rental in Midtown West, Emporia Meng decides to invest in her own apartment in a Downtown neighborhood close to friends. Besides landing a dream home, she discovers a new career path. Here's her story. 

I was born in Malaysia and lived there until my family moved to China when I was six years old. I came to the U.S. at age 14 to attend boarding school in New England. After that, I attended Syracuse University in Upstate New York for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I’ve worked in New York City every summer since starting college and that’s how I knew I wanted to live here full-time after I graduated. I finished my last semester of grad school remotely while working in NYC.

New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world. I have always lived in cities. I like being kept on my toes, and I feel like this city constantly keeps me mentally stimulated.

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

Most recently I lived in Emerald Green in Midtown West with a roommate. Thanks to a Covid deal, we paid around $4,000 a month for a one-bedroom, two-bath unit with a converted office. It is approximately 900 square feet and has an in-unit washer and dryer, which was a huge reason I signed the lease in the first place, because having my own laundry machines is a non-negotiable. I also really liked the building amenities, including a hot tub, sauna, business lounge, pool, and terrace, and the view from the rooftop space.

However, I didn’t like that the unit was north-facing and on a lower level—there was no light, and it was very noisy at times. The area also didn’t feel very safe at night.

But I liked being close to Hudson Yards and enjoyed walking by the water and going to the shops there, especially during the holiday season. I also loved all the food options in nearby Hell’s Kitchen, where I had lived before moving to Emerald Green. I enjoy going back there every now and then.

Thankfully my apartment was a short walk to multiple subway stations, making my commute to the East 50s where I work in advertising and marketing accessible and convenient. Having two transportation hubs—Penn Station and the Port Authority—in the immediate neighborhood made it easy for friends to visit me.

There are also lots of restaurants and recreational options within the area, as it is so centrally located. Some places I enjoyed eating at include L’ADRESSE, Oceana, Boqueria, Socarrat Paella Bar, Planta Queen (vegetarian), Ikebana Zen, Five Senses (Korean), and Da Andrea.

I’d get groceries from Trader Joe's or order online from Fresh Direct.

Leaving Midtown for Downtown

In October 2021 I began to think about moving. Rents were soaring and it didn’t make sense to keep throwing money away every month, so I decided it was time for me to buy instead. And I noticed I was always heading Downtown, where many of my friends lived and it felt more peaceful. So I directed my apartment search in that direction.

Ideally I wanted a one-bedroom apartment within a five-minute walk to a subway station that had some type of outdoor space at the unit or building, in-unit laundry, and unobstructed Southern views for ample natural light. It needed to be in a pet-friendly building, preferably a new development with low monthly carrying costs. My maximum budget was $1.5 million.

I reached out to Fabrizio Uberti-Bona, a broker at Corcoran via StreetEasy. We connected and he introduced me to Elliott Park, an agent at Corcoran. Elliott and I saw around 90 properties! By March 2022 I had found my home.

I now live in a brand new one-bedroom, one-bath unit at One Manhattan Square on the Lower East Side by the South Street Seaport. I paid $1.4 million for the 723-square-foot apartment. In addition to having beautiful finishes, my southwest-facing unit has a lovely view of the East River, which is very peaceful. I also have my own washer/dryer in the unit, which is incredible.

When looking at One Manhattan Square, I was immediately attracted to the amenities and the lifestyle—everything I could ever possibly need was all under one roof. The waterfront building offers the city’s largest private outdoor garden, definitely satisfying my desire for outdoor space! It also features a spa, indoor pool, yoga studio, movie theater, bowling alley, basketball court, wine room, and so much more.

From renting to owning

Buying here made sense to me given the excessive rents across the city. I was particularly attracted to the investment opportunity that came with buying at One Manhattan Square and the savings from the building’s 421-a tax abatement. The tax abatement was a huge selling point for me because it meant I would have low monthly common charges.

Buying also changed my life in another way: While going through the process with Fabrizio and Elliott, I fell in love with the real estate industry in NYC. Around the time I closed on my apartment, I started a new job at Brown Harris Stevens leading advertising initiatives there. So not only did my home search turn up an amazing apartment and building that I love, but I also gained a new passion for real estate and am now in a job I absolutely adore!

Discovering the Lower East Side

Previously, I had never really ventured into the Lower East Side. Now that I live here, I’ve spent my weekends exploring the neighborhood and even going to Brooklyn, as it’s only a short (and super nice) walk across the bridge.

My building is a five-minute walk to the F train, which can get me anywhere directly or via one subway transfer. It’s a 10- to 15-minute walk to Trader Joe’s, where I sometimes shop. Mostly I order all my groceries via Fresh Direct or Amazon Fresh.

I love all the nearby restaurants, especially Hwa Yuan (Chinese) and Canary Club (Southern). I've gone to a Subject a few times—it's a great bar with amazing drinks and popcorn. One of my favorite shops within walking distance is HBX, which just opened this summer, spans multiple floors, and has wonderful selections. I also love walking to the South Street Seaport for Sunday brunch and just strolling along the East River, which I try to do as much as possible.

After working all day in Midtown, I love being able to come home to the LES and have a change of scenery from corporate America.

Socially, living in the LES has been super convenient. Most of my friends live Downtown so it’s been easy getting around to see them. Also, I can host a ton of gatherings and holiday events. All my friends love coming over to One Manhattan Square because of the amazing view and the abundant amenities. I could never be bored here.



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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