Then & Now

Five years later, my UES rent-stabilized luxury studio is still a 'hot' deal—especially when the AC is out

By Kelly Kreth  |
August 15, 2019 - 4:00PM

The author's studio apartment, where she converted an alcove into a bedroom.

Ted Rodriguez

This month I celebrated my fifth anniversary of living in an Upper East Side, rent-stabilized studio. I first moved here out of necessity: I was in the throes of debilitating illnesses—Lyme disease and a peripheral auto-immune disorder—and could no longer handle my Hell's Kitchen building's stairs and lack of laundry facilities. 

Thankfully I found a unicorn: a rent-stabilized studio in a luxury doorman building, complete with a shocking amount of storage space: four spacious closets. It is pet-friendly and the lobby has a slot for outgoing mail, which would come in handy when I couldn't get outside to pay bills. And all for $1,000 under market value! 

When I found it, there were already about 10 applications for it, but I threw mine into the mix knowing I have a perfect credit rating, the right income and great references. When I got the go-ahead from the management company to move in, I felt like a big winner.

Editor's Note: Brick Underground's Then & Now features first-person accounts of what attracts New Yorkers to their apartment or house, and how their initial impressions evolve over time. Have a story to share in your own words or with the help of our writers? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity. This article was first published in July 2018. We are presenting it again in case you missed it.

I was really excited that I would finally have a dishwasher! I’ve always joked that I will truly know I have made it when I have a fridge that makes its own ice, but who am I kidding? Success also comes in the form of an apartment with a dishwasher, especially a stainless steel one. Out of my six NYC apartments, this would be the first with one. Ah, the glamour!

An alcove becomes a real bedroom

Also on the “pro” list: The building allowed me to create genuine one bedroom out of the alcove studio, complete with two windows and a central air unit. 

I do a ton of laundry so having a laundry room in the basement not only saved me money but tons of time and energy.

And after settling in, I realized how amazing it is to have a building with doormen and a top-notch staff. When I was feeling so sick, it was nice to have a friendly face to see daily and know that packages could easily be delivered straight to my door.

While I had been sad to move to a less central location—I loved living in Hell’s Kitchen and being able to walk by the Hudson, take the dog to the dog run on Eleventh Avenue and the general upbeat flavor of the area. In my new neighborhood, I like walking along the East River and Carl Schurz Park, not to mention the free John Jay Park pool every summer. 

The Q train changed everything

When the Second Avenue Q station arrived just two blocks away last year it was a real game changer. No longer did I have to hike all the way up to Lexington to catch the subway or take a slow crosstown bus. I could get pretty much anywhere I needed to go via subway super easily. And oh, the money I saved on cabs! 

While the pros still far outweigh the cons, after a while one notices a building’s quirks to the point of frustration.

The current and major ones include the addition of a restaurant opening in the ground floor commercial space, which in addition to causing nasty odors, has flooded the basement three times with knee-high smelly sewage. I used to love Vietnamese food and now that appreciation is ruined forever.

While there are two elevators in the building, it seems one is always out of service.

The neighbors are generally very nice—I’ve actually made a few good girlfriends in the building—but into every life a little rain must fall. 

My neighbor hates my dog

My next door neighbor who has lived here for around 35 years used to occasionally complain about my dachshund Mini barking around dinner time. But when Mini passed away this year and I got a new puppy, her head just about exploded. New puppies tend to bark—especially little ones that have horrible separation anxiety. 

She and I are the only ones home during the day, and any little noise seems to upset her. And neither of us are ever moving out so it is basically a battle to the death. We’ve both gotten hot under the collar more times than either of us would probably like to admit.

And speaking of heat, one thing the whole building can agree about is that our building’s policy of waiting to turn on the central AC until June 1st every year—even though there are always 90-degree-plus days in May—has everyone steaming.

Unbearably hot after the AC goes down

Last year it was so bad, I had to stay in a hotel for two nights over the Memorial Day vacation because it was so severely hot in my apartment my nurse would not come to do my monthly medical treatment (thanks again, Lyme disease) unless the infusion could take place in a well-cooled place.

We all thought we were over the hump of complaining about hot apartments once June 1st came but this summer the whole building’s cooling system is on the fritz almost daily. During the recent heat wave of nearly 100-degree temps, the AC was down nearly the whole time, including a brief visit from the NYFD at the witching hour when the unit's motor was causing a cloud of smoke. 

I’ve woken so many times in the last two months in a hot sweat because the AC stopped working. Still, there is something to be said for the camaraderie one feels living in a huge NYC apartment building: we’ve all taken to griping about the issue on the building’s secret Facebook page, trying to one-up each other with wit and sass.

My "hot" deal now feels like more of a literal one than a figurative one. Still, if I had to do it all again I’d snatch up that unicorn in a NYC minute. In fact, neither flood, heat, the occasional nasty neighbor, or locusts would prevent me from staying here for life—or at least until an even better rent-stabilized deal comes along. 



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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