In New York City, the type of building you live in can have just as much of an impact on your well-being as the condition of your apartment. I only lived in my previous apartment in a large building for four and a half years—but I really got used to the perks.
Now I am living in a small, mom-and-pop building with six units and I have to say—I miss having a live-in super and a laundry room in the basement. As strange as it may be, I miss having garbage chutes on every floor—it’s certainly not a luxury—but it was a nice convenience. Small buildings do have their pluses but it takes a little more effort to get some things done—like taking your own garbage outside.
Don’t get me wrong, my new apartment is a lot better. I have zero regrets. But six months later, there are still certain things about being in a small building that are a pain.
Here are the five things I miss most about living in a large apartment building—and how I’ve learned to make do without them.
1) Laundry room
Having a laundry room was a must-have for me and my boyfriend because we were used to having one in our last building—but we had to compromise. We decided it was worth the sacrifice after seeing the apartment in person. We were looking for the perfect apartment—not the perfect building.
So now I schlep a bag of laundry to the closest laundromat, which is a five-minute walk (but feels longer with a heavy bag of dirty laundry). We make it work by alternating weeks so neither of us have to do laundry two weeks in a row. We also split the folding to make it more bearable. I recommend you do the same if you live with someone who you trust to do laundry. Otherwise it might be worth paying extra for a laundry pick-up service.
2) Trash rooms and garbage chutes
If you’re a clean freak like me, not having quick access to a garbage chute or recycling bin is a challenge. In my last building, the trash room was two doors down, so I could easily throw out recycling or garbage. The trash room certainly wasn’t very clean all of the time, but I’d happily deal with that mess now. Am I being lazy? Maybe—but in NYC, convenience is everything, and I like my place clean.
Now I have to go down two flights of stairs and outside to take out the trash or recycling. My tip is to use an extra bag or bin (and hide it under a counter or sink if possible) for your recycling. This certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but six months later, I’m still annoyed when I take out the recycling, just for my boyfriend to put his empty Pellegrino can in a new bag.
3) An elevator
Having an elevator is a big convenience—but apartment buildings are only required to have one if they have more than six floors. To be fair, our last apartment was on the third floor and I typically only used the elevator when I had to carry groceries, laundry, or luggage. So when my boyfriend and I saw this apartment, the lack of an elevator wasn’t a deal breaker—because the new apartment is also on the third floor.
A few months into living here, not having an elevator isn’t a huge deal on a day-to-day basis. After all, I still work from home and need all the steps I can get. However when it comes to carrying groceries—or visiting guests with a surplus of luggage (shout out to my mom)—it can be annoying. My boyfriend and I get around this by doing weekly grocery trips to limit the bags we have to carry. And we give our guests fair warning—so they need to pack light or shorten their stay (just kidding).
4) Live-in super
It might come as a surprise, but buildings in New York City aren’t required to have a live-in super if there are less than nine apartments. And my building only has six. If you’re used to having a live-in super, or want to make sure a small building is maintained well, research the landlord and building before you move in. (Here’s how you can research a landlord and avoid living in a poorly managed building.) My last building wasn’t the best, but there was a live-in super that responded quickly for tasks both big and small (even if he had an attitude while doing it).
I lucked out with my new landlord because he is very responsive and quick to have things fixed in the apartment or building. Still, it’s not quite as easy as texting the super who lives two floors down and can usually do the work within a few hours. Even with a superb landlord like mine, getting a handyman to get a job done can take a few days. A little patience helps.
5) Some house rules
Every rental building has rules and restrictions and they’re usually outlined in your lease—like quiet hours and smoking rules. But most mom-and-pop buildings are much more relaxed than buildings with big management companies.
Case in point: My last building didn’t allow you to hang a wreath on your apartment door. For the most part, these strict rules helped keep the building tidy. My new building is much more lax—our neighbors (the only other apartment on the floor) have two paintings hanging at the end of the hall between our doors. They were either done by a child or a tipsy adult at a sip-and-paint party. They annoy me every time I have to look at them. And it’s not just the paintings—they also store bikes (and occasionally clothes, shoes, and pans) out there.
How do we deal with it? My boyfriend stores his bike in the hall so we’re also getting to use the space. My tip: If it’s a safety hazard, reach out to your landlord, and if it’s not, try to figure out a way to also get use of the space.
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