Affordable duplex apartment suitable for dogs and drums

Sometimes New Yorkers frustrated with all the traditional canals of finding an apartment decide to appeal directly to their neighbors.

This fall, fliers popped up showing a white, fluffy Bichon Frize and a drum kit around the Upper West Side: “Hi! My name is Sasha! I’m three years old, bringing joy to humans everywhere I go, looking for an apartment here on the Upper West Side, for me and my only human friend !”

Sasha’s human friend, Daniel Podolsky, 28, a research engineer at the New York Center for Structural Biology in West Harlem, said he posted the posts after he had exhausted all other options.

“I tried StreetEasy, Craigslist, and all the Facebook groups: Columbia Housing, Gypsy Housing, Gypsy Housing NYC, Ghostlight Housing, NYU Housing and Upper West Side Housing. Trying to escape from a small, dark studio apartment on the Upper West Side, Mr. Podolsky said: All the different brokerage sites, Zillow, are “powered by artificial intelligence” that send you text messages.

“It was very small and had two windows—one looked at the wall and the other had only sunshine for an hour or two a day,” he said. “And then the epidemic started and I couldn’t go anywhere.” The apartment price was also counterintuitive at $2,200 per month.

With rents plummeting in Manhattan, he thought he could turn his head around when it came to renewing his lease last July. But it wasn’t easy meeting his standards: He hoped to find an apartment of at least 700 square feet and good natural light for as little as $1,800 a month. And it should be dog-and-drum-friendly.

“I was very picky,” he admitted.

An avid drummer, Mr. Podolsky broke up his drum kit when he moved into the studio. There wasn’t even room for a regular bed in the apartment – he bought a Murphy bed and installed it – not to mention several three-piece drums. But with the pandemic still under siege, being able to drum at home was a top priority.

He thought his best bet would be to rent a duplex apartment on the ground floor or upstairs, using the additional floor as a buffer between his barrels and the rest of the building, “spatially isolated from the neighbours.” Of course, this was not guaranteed: in his former apartment, in Williamsburg, it was not the landlord who lives in the basement, but the residents of the building next door who cared about the drumbeat.

When the neighbors complained, the owner would urge him to drum more quietly, and hit the ceiling with a broom. “I’ve been getting these comments a lot,” Mr. Podolsky said.

But even with pandemic rent lows, he’s had trouble finding many Upper West Side duplexes for less than $2,000 a month.

When it came time to renew the lease last summer, Mr. Podolsky negotiated the rent to $1,800 a month and asked the landlord to add a clause allowing him to break the lease within 30 days if he could find another tenant, and 60 days if he couldn’t.

The rent reduction made the situation more bearable, but by October the prospect of spending the winter in his dark, cramped studio prompted him to try something new. Hence, publications.

Did they already work?

“I got five to ten nice responses,” Mr. Podolsky said. “The dog was the bait and the drums were the hook. But I was looking for something very specific. I think it rained a few days after putting it on.”

$3,025 | Upper West Side

works: Mr. Podolsky is a research engineer at the Center for Structural Biology in New York.
home search: “I’ve spent most of 2020 looking for an apartment. I’ve been looking after work every night and sometimes on lunch break. Once I’m done, this whole memory – I was like ‘straight to the trash.’ It was a terrible experience.”
work permits: “I got a new drum kit when I moved here. I have a programming job where I think about math all day, so it’s good that when I’m bored or need a minute I can play the drums.”
his music: “Everything from rock to jazz to hip-hop. Music you can groove on. Anything with a good rhythm.”

In the end, he found his new apartment in a traditional way: responding to a Craigslist ad.

An Upper West Side duplex apartment was at the top of an old pre-war building, with two bedrooms, a third room lacking a door and located off the upper floor bedroom, plus two bathrooms, two balconies and two skylights.

Best of all, it was located next to an active construction site, which meant it wouldn’t be the noisiest thing in the area.

The rent, $3,025, is much higher than what he was looking to pay, but also well below the roughly $4,000 the landlord had charged prior to the pandemic. The construction site likely played a role as well. Mr. Podolsky reasoned that it would be even less than the rent for his studio apartment if he found a roommate to share the cost.

Moved in mid-December. His drum – bought a larger four-piece set – went into the open room which isn’t quite a third bedroom, so far, no complaints.

“It wasn’t a problem,” he said. “Even when I was confused with other people, no one knocked.”

The apartment has everything that was not in its old life: a lot of space and light. At this time of year, his bedroom, which is also his office, basks in the bright sun all day. He’s been collecting houseplants to take advantage of.

“When you live in the city, you can feel completely disconnected from nature,” said Mr. Podolsky. “This feels like a little house on top of the building. The patio is like a backyard. I lie in bed and sometimes I can see the moon. When it rains, the skylight is like a drum of its own. It’s especially high and I love it.”

Still looking for a roommate. “I wasn’t looking too seriously,” he said, “to be honest.” “But I need to find one so I can buy the apartment. I would like to find a roommate who somewhat shares my interests: math, programming and music.”

“And certainly tolerant of the drums,” he added. “This is a must.”

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