In response to Edie Spencer‘s comment, today I will reveal why I chose this particular 421a yuppie spaceship in this historic neighborhood. I’m starting in the middle because that’s when the story is the most relevant.
It would be inaccurate to say I had never heard of Bedford-Stuyvesant, I am a Billy Joel fan after all. I had even stayed here with a friend right off the Kinston-Throop stop for a few days in 2006. Even so I was only dimly aware of the history in this neighborhood. The beginnings of urbanism, the civil rights movement and hip hop were all things that had to do with New York, Robert Kennedy and Jay Z as far as I was concerned. Little did I know they all had the common thread of Bed-Stuy, a place I would come to call home for a year.
No, when I was standing there in Williamsburg, right off the train after finding out I had my job, I had no preference of where in New York I wanted to live. I just knew I needed to find a place fast. So I wandered into the aptsandlofts office on Bedford and asked for a place to rent.
The lady at the counter informed me I was in the wrong place and directed me to the rental office on Driggs. I entered and confirmed with the receptionist that I was in the right place. After filling out my basic information an agent came and began talking to me about places to stay.
I said, “I’d like to spend no more than $1500 per month if I can help it.” This really is the upper limit of what I could afford with my new job and, in retrospect, I should have said something like $1200 per month. You first live and and then learn. He told me he had the perfect place for me, a new construction right on the subway. That was great for me because the subway is my primary means of transportation. He told me that I could set up an appointment and view the place the next day. Perfect!
I found my way to the Myrtle-Willoughby stop and then to the intersection of Myrtle and Nostrand. I finally gathered that the building I was looking for was behind the scaffold and the broken sidewalk. I went in and met my leasing agent. I told him what I was looking for and he showed me my future apartment. Once I saw it I knew it was going to work. I was going to be able to live here and ease into the New York City way of life.
But there was urgency! The agent had shown the apartment to someone else who seemed very interested! No time to waste, I had to put down a deposit as soon as possible. I hurriedly walked to the Bank of America between Waverly and Mary Pinkett on Myrtle, withdrew the deposit and got back to the building as soon as possible. With the deposits ready the agent began the rest of the paperwork. I filled out a credit check form and was done for the day. The agent mentioned to me that Jay Z grew up right across the street. “That’s very interesting,” I said thinking back to a friend in my hometown who really loved Jay Z. I wasn’t very familiar with him, but any connection with fame interests most people.
The monthly rent is $1700 which, again, is at the very edge of what I can afford. As with all the initial renters I got a free month which brings the total averaged rent per month to $1558. When you look at it that way it isn’t so bad. But after that freebie when you’re still paying $1700 per month it’s easy to forget that free month ever happened.
But what did I care? I got the first apartment I looked at! Huzzah! What’s this about the NYC real estate market being tough? It didn’t phase me much then. What were other people complaining about?
The next week I read how my building was supposed to be the next “hipster enclave.” I thought, “What’s a hipster?” Then I started searching around teh internetz for other news and views. Next I queried, “What’s gentrification?” And standing there, facing the pure horrifying precision, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth. “How did I end up personifying and living in one of the more controversial manifestations of gentrification?”
And that is where we began.