Buying real estate in New York in always interesting. It seems like it should be a straight forward process, but often it comes with a lot of creative compromise and favors.
My apartment today is probably worth 2 million dollars. I bought it for $175,000 back in 1989. Sounds like a bargain for New York City, but you would not believe what I had to do besides pay for it!
It is 1100 sq. feet and it’s on the Upper West Side. The first time I was in this building was when I was working as an architect. I was redesigning the layouts of the apartments and breaking one bathroom into two bathrooms. I was basically bringing up the value of all of the apartments.
So while this was happening I was trying to buy an apartment in another building. The owner ended up selling it out from under me to someone else. Of course, I had already agreed to sell the apartment I was in to someone else and had signed a contract! So I was in a pickle. My dear friend Margaret had her own real estate firm. She was the one who hired me to do all of the architectural work. She felt very badly I’d lost the apartment, so she helped me find this one. It hadn’t been renovated yet.
The owner of the building said he would pay for the construction of my apartment in exchange for me designing 78 kitchens for him.It was a great deal from my perspective, but actually he got me for a song.
So then he said he wanted me to do his Rabbi’s Kosher kitchen in Great Neck. I said, “I don’t do Great Neck.” And he said he would have his chauffeur take me back and forth. So I got roped into doing that kitchen too.
Two years later, everything was done including the renovations in my apartment. Today I am faced with the ability to sell this apartment and maybe travel a bit with the money. Find a smaller place to live in somewhere and have some fun! But it’s hard to leave a place where so much of my history in embedded in the walls.
Don lived here with me. He was a Brooklyn guy and used to say, “Uptown” quietly in my ear is something was happening he didn’t relate to or understand. He was uncomfortable for him to live in more affluent circumstances. But we made our second bedroom into his writing office, and he loved it there. There was more space in this apartment and we needed it. We loved each other but let’s face it, both had huge personalities and very specific needs. Don loved to shop in the local garbage piles. He would bring home books, art, lamps…anything he thought we could use or had value. So as fast as he would bring home this stuff I would negotiate sending it back out to the trash.
This reminds me of when my family moved from Henry Street and moved to Bayside Queens. It was very sad for me. I was so attached to my home, and I feel the same way about this apartment. My whole middle life was here. I don’t think I’ll ever leave, but maybe I have 10 years left. So now what? I’ve never had to deal with my age before. It’s really crazy. It’s crazy when it should be exciting. So who knows?
New York City makes you work hard for it. To live here, you have to be string and resourceful. Everyone is attached to their apartments because they had to just through hoops to get them. And it ‘aint cheap!
So if you ever find yourself wanting to live in NYC, just keep in mind it’s a forever place and you will have a very hard time leaving.