Moving Apartments in New York 

The last couple of months have been busy. Partly because summer = more socializing, work stepped up as I moved to a new account, but mainly because I have been getting ready to move house.

My friend and I decided we didn’t want to renew the lease on our apartment in South Slope. The subway stop right outside had been shut for a while, which added an extra 15 minutes and a walk through the summer humidity to our commutes, and the apartment itself is located on a turn off for the BQE.

An otherwise relaxing Sunday morning could be ruined by loud honking and yelling as someone dared to pause before the turn off. We were tired of the commute and tired of the noise, so we started making appointments with real estate agents to find a new two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.

Looking for an Apartment
The first day we looked, we were shown two tiny “two bedroom” – e.g. one bedroom with a big closet – apartments in a building in Clinton Hill. Neither had a living room, the tiny bedroom had no closet, and there was nowhere to store anything in the apartment. The smaller “bedroom” would have fit a bed and nothing else. One had the redeeming quality of a private roof deck but with New York weather as unpredictable and cold as it is, it would have gone to waste.

We were then shown a larger apartment, with uneven floors, an old kitchen, but two big, equal-sized bedrooms. I felt this place was ugly and boring, but my friend was happy to settle for it. I nicely reminded him we had other apartments to see, and would then subtly change the subject when he brought it up after that. When that didn’t work, I said “That place is old and ugly and the neighborhood sucks. No.” The next one we saw – a huge and gorgeous two bedroom in Gowanus – was perfect but since we’d organized awkward meetings with other real estate people, we had to go do that first.

We went back to Clinton Hill to see a fifth floor walk up, which would have been nice had it not been occupied by a woman yelling at us to leave before we’d even gone inside. Our agent thought he had access to the apartment for the whole day but evidently he didn’t. The second he turned the door handle, a woman screamed “WHO IS IT?!”

When he explained he was from the real estate and he thought we had access that day, she screamed through the closed door “NOT ALL DAY! You CANNOT come in here. This is LITERALLY the worst time you could have chosen to come here.” We stood around looking at each other awkwardly while the agent apologized. As we were walking down the stairs, she yelled out that we could come in but “FOR FIVE MINUTES ONLY.” We did one lap and got the fuck out of there.



The next places were in Williamsburg/East Williamsburg/Bushwick and nothing special. The visions I had of myself moving to South Williamsburg with equal distance between the JMZ, G, and L trains were quickly ruined when I realized just how tiny the apartments in our price range were, and how dodgy parts of some of these neighborhoods were.

One place looked like a ski lodge from the 1970s, not in a good way, while another had a tiny bathroom with no cupboards to store anything. The agent who showed us those places ranted about cyclists, Amazon, and Whole Foods while she showed us around the apartments and referred to herself as the “Ranting Real Estate Agent.” I loved her and I feel bad we didn’t want to live in those places. But it would be kind of weird for me to suggest we hang out for a drink sometime… right?

Applying for the Apartment
Once we’d agreed we weren’t going to live in a tiny Williamsburg apartment, or an old and ugly Clinton Hill apartment, we started the application process for the perfect one. We explained we are Australian and do not have a long credit history here. It didn’t help our case – despite the fact we would both afford the rent on our own if we wanted – and we faced problems which were made worse by the lack of communication from our agent, who I now like to call Fuckface McFuckface.

During this process, my friend said he knew someone who knew someone who owns places in Manhattan. We went to see two disgusting, cramped, ugly apartments in FiDi. Right next to a building shaking from drilling, and right above Fulton Street, where we could watch tourists trying to find Ground Zero and heading to that awful white, sterile mall.

The second bedroom wasn’t even a bedroom, just an empty space where they were planning to attach a door, which meant there was no living room. I don’t know anyone dumb enough to pay between $2900 and $3300 to live in a depressing, rattling shoebox in the middle of tourist central, but I’m sure those idiots exist somewhere.

After a lot of emailing, calling, chasing our agent, and a lot of money changing hands, the application was approved.

Moving into the Apartment
This was a comedy of errors I’m sure even Basil Fawlty himself would appreciate.

We asked, over and over, if we could get the keys the day before we officially moved in. They eventually said yes and I went to Williamsburg to find the super and get the keys. Apparently, they have a “very strict policy” to not give keys to anyone without a key release form, something that could have been brought to my attention yesterday.

I had to go to the agent’s office to get the form, then go back to the building to get the keys. I spent $25 on Lyft rides and was two hours late for work. That night, when we decided to move some stuff in, we realized the keys to the building didn’t work, therefore defeating the purpose of having the keys a day early.

I’d organized for a cleaner to come in at 7:30am, so we could leave as soon as she arrived to pick up the UHaul. This plan was ruined when she turned up at 7am as I was walking home from my boxing class and before my friend had even woken up. She stood around awkwardly, waiting for me to make my coffee and for my roommate to finish in the bathroom, reminding me of the importance of never getting a cleaner to come into the house when you’re still there.

Now, if we had the keys, it would have been easy. I could have gone to pick up the van, brought it back to the house, and started loading. But this wasn’t the case. I had to go and meet the super who took pity on me and brought the right keys to the apartment before I set off to get our van.

Now, let me say, I am a confident and mostly good driver, but I am not a confident parker. People tell jokes and stories about my talent to completely fuck up any park I attempt. I have real trouble with my spatial awareness. I’ve hit things on the passenger side of the car more times than I can count, and I often misjudge distances when I turn corners. While walking.

Actual footage of me. 

I walked to the van through a group of men standing around hassling anyone who walked in by asking “YOU NEED HELP? YOU NEED HELP MOVING?!” and completely contradicted my prissy “NO, go AWAY!” by not knowing how to change gears from Park to Drive. I asked an employee to help me and she laughed as she showed me the gear stick next to the steering wheel. I then almost hit the group of men I’d yelled at as I pulled out, and I’m fairly certain I hit a few traffic cones on the right side of the van… though I’ll never know, since I couldn’t see out of that mirror or work out how to adjust it.

When I got to my street, I could see lights flashing out the front of my apartment and a line of cars waiting. I panicked and kept going straight ahead instead of turning, probably hitting more things on the right as I drove. I got up to the top of the street and messaged my friend to come and help – exact words, “I’m going to have a fucking panic attack trying to park this thing,” – and he came and parked it for me.

A funny thing happens when you have to move. You think you have a lot less than you actually do, and that you’re some kind of superhero who can perform really hard tasks like moving beds and furniture down and up three flights of stairs really fast.
It took twice as long to move than we had planned, even taking into account the long lunch break we took after we’d finished moving the second van-load of stuff.


Post Move
We’d done it. All the furniture – except for our poor broken futon we left for dead, and my bookcase that was stolen from the hallway – was inside, and we’d unpacked everything in the kitchen and living room. Even though I had mentioned it multiple times, and our agent Fuckface McFuckface had said it would be fixed before we moved in, I still have a crack in my window and my closet door still does not open properly.

National Grid called me on Sunday to set up our gas connection and I missed one call. I’d been told they would call back a couple of times, but they didn’t. By the time I spoke to someone after the long weekend, the only time they had available to send someone else out is a week from now.

I’m happy at the new apartment. I’m happy my room is twice as big as my old room, I’m happy it’s not overlooking a road where people lose their shit when they have to pause for two seconds, and I’m happy it’s not directly facing the sun, which made my old room feel like a sauna in hell. I’m also really happy I won’t have to go through the stress and inconvenience of moving again for another whole year.

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Justine McNamara

I'm an Australian living in New York. I work in marketing but I write about music, New York, and my own personal experiences.

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