All that I had ever wanted out of life besides writing a bestseller so that maybe I could be a guest on Letterman was a coop on the Upper West Side
The housing market began its long road to Titaniumville in 1994. By 1996 when I was ready to buy an apartment, owners had heard and were beginning to test the waters. Every Sunday Lucia and I would go to open houses and during the week I would meet with brokers.
Lucia was a girl contractor. She knew plaster, and almost everything that there is to know except for plumbing. We would go to open houses and want to puke. People would make a 500 foot one bedroom look even smaller by not clearing out the clutter, cleaning or washing the windows.
No matter how large the one bedroom was, it always had one small bathroom with a standard issue tub and no windows.
When I would meet with brokers I would give a specific geographic location and they would insist on showing me apartments outside the parameter. I was serious when I said that I wanted to live as far West of Broadway between but not including West 86th and West 73rd. My mother was blind; she didn’t understand that the early West 100’s has some of the best apartments and had the best buys in town. It’s lovely, there’s a true park on Broadway, French seeming cafes. She would never have slept at night and my life would have been one giant guilt attack. Well anyway.
I didn’t want to see an apartment in Lincoln Towers. I had moved from my pre-war studio on East 63rd near Fifth, to Riverdale, the Bronx, hated it, and spent my life feeling as if I were living in a second rate motel with an ugly Miami Beach 60’s lobby.
I’m an apartment snob. I like prewar in good buildings. The ones that I saw all needed gut rehab. There was an apartment in the Beresford that was going for 175K, I could have gotten it for less, and it needed a hundred K or more worth of work. Seemed like way too much work. It was on Central Park West and had the tree view. I’m allergic to most trees and grasses in the New York area. I can’t imagine how much it’s worth now. When Seinfeld passed the coop board, he reportedly became very excited and repeated “I’m a Beresford boy, I’m a Beresford boy.” I didn’t want to be a Beresford girl. If I couldn’t have the ocean I wanted the Hudson River.
Lucia and I saw condos where we would be the only non Asians. They only went to certain buildings because of the feng shui, but I wouldn’t want to live on the first floor floor facing the street when the buildings across the street contained both a public housing project and a school.
Okay I’m a snob. And I had been living across from NY’s noisiest middle school, in Riverdale, and there was constant activity from six AM to Midnight during spring to summer, and fall. If I was going to buy an apartment, technically shares in the building, it was going to be on my terms
Yes this is NY and one sacrifices to live here. But we don’t have to sacrifice everything. July came. I had been looking for a year, and looking seriously, with financing in place, the bank of Pia, for six months. I had planned to spend 150K but upped it to 180K, because anything less was truly horrible. I knew that if I didn’t find an apartment within the next month I would be priced out of the market. Prices were rising rapidly.
On my birthday, Saturday, July 19, remember that date, I circled 21 ads. I couldn’t go to open houses the next day because my family was coming in, so I called the brokers. Seven out of 21 got back to me.
One apartment sounded promising,”open city views, gut renovated, north and east exposures, steps from park.” Whenever they say park in NY ads they mean Riverside because most people want Central Park. I had lived off Central Park for fifteen wonderful years, and was ready for a new experience.. Actually I lived near the Hudson in Riverdale and had an incredible view of the Trade Center, river and George Washington Bridge. But there was no access to the Hudson itself which was sick.
Lucia and I went to the building, that had been listed in the West 70’s section but had a Riverside Drive address. As soon as I looked at the building I knew that I had found my home. The lobby was shabby chic elegant with a marble floor, and something intangible that made my heart pound. I so hoped on the elevator ride up I would love the apartment.
The wing on the ninth floor had truly gross wallpaper; I didn’t like it at all. But when the broker opened the apartment door to a granite floor, which wasn’t that common then, my heart pounded more. The kitchen was on the side, and the octagaonal sink made up for a lot.
The walls were all even, the apartment was freshly painted, and had two large windows in the living room facing East and West End Avenue, and two large windows, facing North and the West 80’s in what appeared to be the tiniest bedroom in the world. Everything was modern yet adhered to the integrity of a prewar apartment. I loved it.
Most of all I loved the tiny half bath in the bedroom with room for a toilet on one side, a sink on the other, and a window in the middle. It’s all white tiled with a subway tile floor. I loved it.
I didn’t love it half as much as I loved the bathroom off the living room: 12′ by six feet with a marble floor, marble double shower, separate large bath, and window.
They were asking $189,000. In 1997, you could still bid lower so I took $9,000 off the price. I still think I bought one of the biggest bargains in New York. I have 600 prime square feet, six windows, and two of them are in the bathrooms. Whatever I accomplish in life will pale against buying this apartment.
It is true that passing a New York Coop board, in a knew it was going to get hotter than hot building, surpasses most of life’s great achievements. Kind of sad, but I’m proud.
I did the board package by myself; I prepared for the board interview like nobody has ever done before. I’m ready to leave NY, but I’m not ready to leave my apartment though it’s way too small, has the cutest most impractical kitchen in the history of kitchens, a dishwasher can’t be hooked up the sink, I learned that the hard way, and there’s absolutely no room for a washer dryer.
People tell me to make the bedroom bath into washer dryer room. Never. I know what my priorities are.