The torturous ordeal of finding an apartment in New York City has been thoroughly documented. But, just when it seems like things can't possibly get any worse, we discover a new sulfurous level of the already Dantesque market. There's no bottom to this pit. And even if there was, you still might consider moving in, depending on how close it is to the train.
, for example, found a mere 1.64 percent vacancy rate in Manhattan in September of this year. The average rent across Manhattan for a two bedroom apartment, the study found, is at a high of just over $4,000 per month. If you're a New Yorker, you're probably right now wondering where you can even find such a steal.
Thousands of newcomers flock to the city every day, their humble belongings wrapped in a bindle on the end of a hobo stick, hoping to carve out their own slice of the New York dream, and maybe land a job at an up and coming content farm. And when they arrive, they might find an ad for a share in the East Village that will either crush their spirits or provide them a perverted glimmer of hope.
One such ad, offering a vacancy in a four-bedroom apartment in the East Village on a month-by-month basis for a mere $1325, sounds like a dream come true (we're not going to link to it, but you can find it). Only in New York, baby! It's furnished, it's a short walk to the F and 6 subways, and it has a doorman, a gym, and a laundry on every floor!
What's the catch?
Well, there are quite a few, actually. For one, the bedroom measures approximately 11 x 6 feet, which is about the size of the smallest U-haul truck available. when sharing the listing, "Worst apartment in NYC? $1325, 70ft^2, worst roommates alive." He wasn't alone in that assessment.
Let's dig deeper into the listing:
"We are all in our late 20's - early 30's here in NYC to live it up, take advantage of the sweet neighborhood, and have as much fun as possible while still managing to make it to work on time!"
So far, nothing too out of the ordinary, right?
"We all play in bands, love live music, and entertain guests on a regular basis along with the occasional open jam session at random hours of the night."
"If you are the type of person whose main source of entertainment is sitting at home, watching Netflix on your laptop, this apartment is definitely not for you.
"The neighborhood is loud, people in the building make a ton of noise, once in while, you may even want to pop in some ear-plugs... but we love it here!! There is a drum-kit in the common room along with guitars & amplifiers, where we jam out on a regular basis, create art, and engage in stimulating conversations with other tenants in the building. If this is something you would enjoy, please join us!"
A drum kit?
Conversations with the other tenants?
What kind of deranged psychopaths are we dealing with here?
"Remember, this is the East Village in NYC... if you want peace and quiet, go look for a place at a retirement community somewhere in the Upper East Side:)"
The author of the post, a fella by the name of Haffro—"it's like half an afro"—has been running the same listing off and on for about seven years, he told me by phone yesterday.
Strangely, even after talking to the uncanny Haffro, a world-traveling backpacker and musician who runs a pizza catering business and speaks with an animated southern stoner drawl, I'm still not sure if this sounds like Hell on Earth or the sort of eye-opening experience that people new to a city should be having.
When did you move to the city?
2004. I started in the Upper East Side and then moved to this place. In 2008, my roommates were going to move out with their girlfriends, and I was like, "Maybe I'll try renting it out to strangers." The first few people who answered were international people, an Italian girl and guy. Then I got guys from Australia, all over Ireland, French, Canadians. I've had about 30 to 40 different countries represented here in the seven years I've been doing it.
That's a lot of people. How big is that place? It seems pretty small from the description.
It's a four-bedroom. Actually, a three-bedroom apartment, but I moved into the utility closet. It's a pretty big closet, 6 x 5. I live in there, and I just rent out the rooms. The biggest bedroom is 12 x 11, the middle is 12 x 10, the smallest is 11 x 6. They're all fully furnished, so when people come in, I don't have them bring their own shit. The ideal roommate would be someone moving in, coming to NYC with a suitcase and a backpack. The entire place costs $3800.
What reactions have you gotten to the Craigslist ad?
We don't really get that many responses. I probably get five or six each time I repost it. You can repost it every 48 hours. When I do get a response, I have another response I cut and paste in there, and the main thing is, I'm like, "All right, I just want you to know, in our apartment I think of it like a living, breathing art space. We have one golden rule, and the one rule is that no one else can tell anyone else to be quiet."
What is your deal anyway? You're in a band but also have some sort of pizza business?
I play in an '80s rock and roll karaoke band, and I have a catering business as well, Hott Carl's Pizza. We cater private parties with a portable wood fire oven. Are we busy? Dude, we were booked every weekend from May to October. We've been jam packed, man. It's been great. Sometimes we combine the two and do the karaoke and the pizza at the same time.
That sounds pretty cool. And you actually have jam sessions in the living room?
I used to have this foldout couch in the living room, but then all the time these people would come and crash on your couch. And people are like, "Oh man, is it cool if I crash?" Yeah, but then it's like, "When are you going to leave? You're not paying rent!" My solution was to get rid of the couch itself. If I don't have the couch, no one can crash on it. Instead, I set up the drum kit, bass, amp, guitars, vocals, and I just keep the jam session set up. And it kind of keeps the apartment open. People are like, "Why don't you have any couches?" Well, I don't want people laying around here. Go out! This is New York City! You don't need to be sitting here watching Netflix. If you want to hang out, stand up and we'll drink. But the apartment is still cool. I have a lot of friends who are artists, painters.
What do you think about the price for apartments in New York in general?
It's pretty insane. But luckily in my position, I'm reaping the benefits of it. It's always a thing for me: I bring some girls home, and they're like, "What's up with this? You have a closet for a room and you're almost 40 years old." I say, "Well, I play in a band, I'm an entrepreneur, I don't have a ton of cash." But I like to be able to go out, spend some money, buy booze, go on Tinder, and bring girls out. I gotta cut corners somewhere, so I gotta cut corners on rent.
Where are you from?
I was brought up in the northeast, went to high school in Connecticut, and then my parents moved down to North Carolina. I went to college there, met all my buddies, then went backpacking for two years. I went through Western Europe, lived in the Czech Republic, spent three months in Andora. Then Spain, then came back to Charlotte. Then I went to southeast Asia backpacking around Thailand, Cambodia, New Zealand. So I was all over the place. I pretty much came back because I was like, 10 grand in debt. My cheapest flight back to the States from Bangkok was to New York, so I flew to New York City, and then I ended up going to a wedding. And my old roommate in college, he was on the Upper East Side, and he was like, "Come hang for a few weeks." I was like, "All right." I saw a kid I went to high school with at the wedding, and he was like, "I'll get you a job as a waiter," and he got me a job in 2004.
Has that been a problem for roommates in the past? I've seen a bunch of people online today saying it sounds like the worst living situation ever.
If you don't like live music, what do you like? What're you gonna watch, Netflix? It pisses me off. We're trying to create a creative environment; people can bring their guitars, smoke weed. It's a very progressive building. Some people will walk by and say, "I saw the door open, I heard some music, I thought I'd stop in." I mean, you know the East Village, you know the idea. It used to be very punk rock. It's not like that now, kind of boutique a little bit, fancy cocktail bars. For me, I just live at dive bars, just mop bucket, disgusting-smelling bars. Those are the places I like, because girls still hang out there at the dive bars.
If someone was like, "I don't like that," well, what the hell do you like? We don't have a TV. We don't encourage people to watch TV. We want people to do something creative: music, art. One of my roommates now is a stand-up comedian, so we're always trying to help him out with material. I'm just trying to create an environment like that. One buddy's girlfriend was like, "Why is there no TV?" Why, so we could all sit and watch brainless episodes of Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad or whatever the latest show is? I couldn't give a shit about that. That's not something I want to talk about, what's the cool new TV show. How fucking old are we? When I meet girls, they say, "What shows do you watch? What books do your read?" Well, I don't watch shows. And I don't really read books because I'm too busy writing. I write songs. I have 14 nieces and nephews. I'm busy writing a kids album for them.
And do the people who come stay there seem to be on board with that? To be honest, the jam sessions sound like a deal breaker for me.
Like I said, I don't get a whole lot of responses, but the ones I do, people are like, "Hey, this sounds awesome. It's like nothing I've ever heard about." I think if people tried it, got to experience what the jam sessions are like—they're not always at four in the morning. That's a rare occasion. If it happens, it's when you meet a bunch of people on the street coming out of the bar and say, "Hey, what're you doing? Come back to my place, we'll jam." The guys upstairs have an outdoor terrace and hot tub. Who can say no to that?