Houses, Houses Everywhere, and Not a Place to Live

SUDDENLY, I AM A HOMELESS PERSON. A month ago today, I signed a two-year rental lease on a spacious, sunny garden floor-through a few blocks away from my present home in Boerum Hill. My move date is Thursday, April 30; the movers are due to arrive at 8:30 that morning, and I have been packing for weeks in preparation.

The only problem is, I have no place to move to.

Yesterday morning, April 24, with six days to go, my would-be landlord told me “I can’t let you have the apartment.” Whaaa??? Can a person DO that??!! He said he was on the verge of bankruptcy and had decided to sell the house, and that he had just found out the house is only a legal one-family, and with a tenant in it, he wouldn’t be able to sell.

The place I'm not moving to

The place I won't be living

I don’t know how much of this true or accurate. I suspect I have grounds for a lawsuit. I do know I’m not going to be living there, and I don’t know right now where I am going to be living.

I had some misgivings from the beginning, as the planned renovation was going way too slowly and my security deposit check was never cashed. I had avoided changing my address with the post office or transferring my phone and utilities. Even though the landlord seemed unconventional, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, because I knew I could be happy in that particular space.

Staying here at Dean Street is not an option. New tenants arrive the day I leave. I have spent the past day-and-a-half scouring brownstone Brooklyn for another rental apartment and seen only one, possibly two,  I could possibly live in and not want to slit my throat.

Bay-windowed living room, 1 BR at busy Park Slope intersection, $2,600

One was overpriced with an unfortunate, central kitchen, above (1BR, Park Slope, $2,600) and the other, below (top floor, Henry between Kane and DeGraw, $1,950) was sensational for a young couple but not for me. (I saw both with Marie Schloeder of Halstead Properties, 718 613 2031.)

Top floor, Henry between Kane and DeGraw, $1,950


The end of the month is a lousy time to look. Anything available immediately is more or less the dregs. Perhaps after May 1, for June 1 occupancy, more will open up. If I don’t find something in the next four days, I’ll put my stuff (not an insignificant amount — 35 cartons of books alone) in storage, and couch-surf.

I’m going to keep looking and not make a hasty decision. I’m trying to get my closing date on the Springs cottage moved up from the week of May 10 to a sooner date, and go there. The timing could be worse than early May for a stay in the Hamptons. But I hadn’t planned to live there full-time, even for the summer. I need a Brooklyn base. I need a HOME.

I learned a lot today about what’s out there on the rental market. With a target monthly rent of $2,200-2,300, I looked at places ranging from $1,800-2,600 (I’m working with agents as well as Craigslist, word-of-mouth, “for rent” signs on windows, etc.). I looked at brownstones and pre-war apartment buildings in Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill West. Clinton Hill or Prospect Heights would be fine, too. (I don’t want new construction.)

And what did I see? Dark, claustrophobic garden floors. Once-elegant parlor floors stripped of detail and chopped up into small, illogical rooms. A preponderance of BAD RENOVATIONS. Give me an old funky kitchen over a brand new, cheapo kitchen any day. I’ve never seen so many overly shiny polyurethaned floors and ugly lighting fixtures.

Space is the most important thing to me, I decided — not in the sense of hugeness, necessarily, but appropriate, proportionate, harmonious use of. Light is the next most important. I did see a few bright top floors today, but they felt low-ceilinged and small.

Know of anything? Something like this would be perfect (on Ashland Place in Fort Greene for $1,875, it was gone in 2 hours, as I found out when I arrived yesterday morning at the open house).


About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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11 Responses to Houses, Houses Everywhere, and Not a Place to Live

  1. Melissa says:

    Oh no!

    What a curious incident to happen on the eve of a new moon.

    I trust that you will find something you will approve of, without having to settle.

    Something exciting will come your way!

  2. cara says:

    thanks for the vote of confidence, Melissa! I believe this upheaval has to do with Saturn returning to its position at my birth (for the second time – it happens every 29.5 years) – the closest it comes is May 21 so events are building. Saturn’s return is supposed to bring major readjustments for better or worse (depending on how you laid the groundwork) – and I’m holding out hope for better!

  3. Yikes, Cara! I have to assume this is in the stars and you will find a fabulous place in the end. That happens. Okay, prayers and incantations coming your way!


  4. JC says:

    Cara, I’m so sorry to hear this! I can’t believe that the landlord strung you along like this, and I certainly think you have a good case against him. After all, if you had been the one to suddenly pull out days before the move-in, he would probably insist on keeping your security deposit, at the very least.

    I don’t have any details on the place, but I saw an “apartment for rent” sign in a brownstone window on Union Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues. If you’re passing by, you might look for it and see what’s what.

  5. brooklyngreene says:

    How is it going? We are concerned for you. How are you able to manage posting these great articles while meanwhile you must be running around helter skelter looking at places?

  6. cara says:

    Thanks for your concern, but no need – I won’t be sleeping under bridges just yet. Haven’t found an apartment and have decided not to rush it. I’m holding out for a parlor floor – I’ve realized I’ve never lived in anything BUT a parlor floor since coming to Bklyn in late ’77 and I crave that quality of space. I’ll be closing on the Springs cottage soon and will spend most of the summer there fixing it up. The blog posts may get a bit less frequent and shorter, but I’ll keep them coming if I have to post from Starbucks!

  7. brooklyngreene says:

    Good news! I hope you find a great parlor floor! It’s good to do this over the summer and not rush.

    I’ll keep my eyes open for you in Fort Greene!

  8. cara says:

    All leads welcome — I’d love to live in Fort Greene. Thank to y’all for your words of encouragement!

  9. brooklyngreene says:

    We would love to have you in our neck of the woods. You’re an asset! I’ll keep my ears and eyes open for a decent parlor floor-thru in Fort Greene. Good luck with everything!

  10. MazeDancer says:

    Stop looking for a new apartment.

    Get a temporary – or stay with friends. Go to your new East End house. Not rushing is exactly right. Mercury goes retrograde on the 12th, while your Second Saturn Return is exact. That is not lease signing alignment. And, the Second Saturn Return can have up to 3 hits and last all year.

    This is the gift of freedom. You won’t have to do nesting in two places at once. You have no idea how you’ll feel after you start fixing up your beach place. And what if you can’t rent it out? What if you don’t want to? How great you’ll only be paying one housing.

    Any of the small group who’s thinking of renting for the summer has no motivation to do so until Memorial Day. And then they’re going to be bargain shopping. It rains all June anyway, so they might not start until July 4th.

    There are way worse things than having to Jitney in and out when you feel like it. Enjoy your new beach home. Worry about Brooklyn at the end of the summer. (Or if something juicy simply appears.) Rents will be down then, too. Because no crop of new kids coming to Wall Street. And all those unsaleable condos turned to rentals bringing down the market.

  11. brooklyngreene says:

    Geez, thanks MazeDancer! Just when I had Cara thinking about Fort Greene!

    Anyway, yes, your ideas make sense…although, I do certainly hope Cara can rent the house out when and if. You’re rather doom and gloom but maybe it’s a sign of the times…

    I would only fear for her sake that storage fees could get to be a real drag…Been there. Done that. And then wondered why we spent all that money.

    Does the Jitney still come right into Brooklyn? At least the LIRR is “right there” at Atlantic and Flatbush. Such an easy walk down to the train and then you’re on your way to the East End.

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