Two years ago Cesar and I started our search for an apartment together where we would start to raise our family. It broke my heart to have to move from Bushwick after nearly seven years there, but there was really no way we could afford to pay the rents there with the way they were rising. It would have been doable if I hadn’t been pregnant with the intention of taking 3 months off work (and there is no paid maternity leave in the service industry… I was lucky that my job was being kept open). Anyway, I wrote about how we ended up in Flushing here. And it ended up for the best because I didn’t go back to my job and ended up working on building up my freelance writing career while being a stay at home mum with Luna.
I’ve grown to love Flushing tremendously. It took me a while, but now that we are really settled and have found “our” little places, like our two favourite diners, our bagel shop, our preferred supermarkets I’ve really started to consider our neighbourhood home. We’ve made friends at our different locations and I always stop in to different places for a quick chat when we are out and about. Through trial and error we found the best take-out places and I still have some Indian places to try out. I also love our apartment. It has been both Luna’s and Aurora’s first home, the place where Luna said her first word and took her first steps. The apartment is a good size, and while exorbitant for a 1 bedroom in most places in the US, very good rent-wise for NYC. It’s not all perfect, it’s an old building and we’ve had issues with cockroaches coming through the pipes and I’m sure there is a mould problem in one of the walls (even though the super assures me there isn’t). Our upstairs neighbours have no regard whatsoever for the fact that they live above someone and they sound like a herd of elephants screaming at each other 24/7. (Seeing as I can hear them screaming and throwing things at each other all the time I sometimes really wonder if I should call the cops, but I don’t want to be that annoying neighbour). I’m being serious though – I understand the sounds of their kid running around during the day and maybe early evening, but the stomping, screaming and throwing things after midnight? Not cool. Especially after he came to complain about our music at 4pm one day (it wasn’t even loud). Also I think he may be a little evil and treats his wife terribly. But anyway, apart from a few issues we have been perfectly happy here. We are on the first floor which is great for getting the stroller in and out of the apartment, especially with groceries, and our windows look out onto the courtyard so we don’t really get any street noise coming in. That also means that the apartment can be a little dark, especially in the winter which does bother me a little, but nothing a few well-placed lamps can’t fix.
So, anyway, our lovely neighbours moved away in the spring and the landlord spent about 3 months completely renovating their old apartment. Around the same time that they started showing it to prospective tenants (October) we received our lease renewal form. Our lease isn’t up until January 31st so I was a bit surprised and when I actually read it I thought I was having a nightmare, or at least in sudden need of glasses. They were raising the rent by over 40%!! Granted this place is great value but definitely not worth just under 2 grand. The apartment is old, the appliances are on their way to being ancient, the kitchen floor is peeling off and the bathtub is probably from when the apartments were first built. Our apartment is rent stabilized, but we have what is called a preferential rent agreement, where the landlord provides the “market rate” for the apartment and then halves it for this “preferential rate”. Now, if I hadn’t been 7 months pregnant and we weren’t in dire need of an apartment when we signed the lease I would have researched it a little better. I guess hindsight is a bitch sometimes, but anyway, moving on. According to certain information I found thanks to some of my and my friend Meg’s research, we could actually fight it, but neither Cesar nor I had the energy. (Something to keep in mind if you are presented with a preferential rent agreement in your lease).
So we decided that we were going to find a better place, maybe two rooms. There aren’t very many affordable places in NYC anymore… Cesar went to look at a couple of areas in the Bronx and we were pretty sure that was where we were heading, and we already knew we were going to have to pay more for anything we looked at. And there was the eternal issue of having to save enough to move… At least one month’s rent and one month security, which is fine if you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck, not so much when you are struggling. But then our building manager asked us if we would like to stay in the building as a few apartments were being vacated, would be gut renovated and then put on the market again for $300 more a month. My initial thought was “eff off!!”, but once we actually discussed it we realised that it would be cheaper than getting a new place elsewhere, because an extra $300 every month for a year would be equal or less than all of the initial moving costs!
So, in January we will be moving 4 floors up to a place full of light and no upstairs neighbours! I’m well aware that we are now going to become the annoying neighbours upstairs with stomping kids so we shall be putting rugs down in the hope that it will help somewhat! I’m excited – they have done a great job on the finished apartments… New electricity set up, new bathroom, new kitchen, new floors. I’m excited for the light and the view over this part of Flushing, and also for the little fire escape where we can start a little herb garden. And no need to change doctors and routines. It may be a little annoying trekking up and down 4 flights of stairs with 2 small kids but we will deal with that. I’m planning on locking the stroller under the stairs – I don’t see how it could be a problem as it won’t be a fire hazard or in the way. I’m looking forward to moving into a place that is going to be brand new and clean and light and bright! No need to scrub the bathtub and tiles with bleach just to see the black mould return within a few days. (I had a bit of a moment back when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Aurora and decided to scrub the entire bathroom with pure bleach. It wasn’t very smart).
So we are good for another year, but how much more feasible is living here anymore? When I weigh the pros and cons of moving elsewhere, like Northern California, the pros have begun to outweigh the cons. Yes, I wanted our kids to grow up in the city I have learnt to call home, but now it’s become more important to me that we can afford to rent a little house with a back garden and enough space for us all to have space. Room for Cesar to work on his construction stuff and artwork, room for me to work comfortably on my writing and room for the girls to run around and play freely. We would also love to adopt a dog. As I’ve said before, as long as we are altogether it doesn’t really matter where we are anymore. And I’m so used to missing places that it should make missing NYC easier! Loving living here hasn’t stopped me from missing France every single day.
So that’s where we are now. Moving and saving and making plans for the future. A lot has changed in less than 3 years! Still in our castle-like building for the next year, but who knows what will be home after that!