The city so nice, they named it twice is America’s greatest concept. New York, the ultimate lottery machine where you add time and money to win big. Each year, 250,000 aspiring New Yorkers come looking for a safe, affordable place to live. You’ll soon realize that it is half as safe and cost twice as much to live there. I was one of them. However, you should consider your roommate and neighborhood carefully.
I first moved to the city of dreams with a suitcase full of them. A retail job took me from Georgetown to Midtown in three weeks. I settled on a place on the Upper East Side, around the corner from Barney’s. The Craigslist ad read: $585 to rent a room, including wifi and utilities! Or so I thought. It was $585 to split the room on the fifth-floor walk-up. Three people crammed in a tiny two bedroom apartment was missing from the ad.
But a place overlooking the park in Manhattan’s most exclusive neighborhood was the ultimate designer drug.
While unable to afford the highlife on the Upper East Side, I considered Brooklyn. My Sex and the City fantasy descended to Boyz in the Hood when I moved to East New York two months later.
Back to Craigslist for another room to rent, I met with Thomas. New York Undercover had nothing on this undercover cop, who seduced in his suit and tie. One hand-gun and a flash of his badge later, he assured my safety in his neighborhood. He was my new roommate and landlord for a year.
There was a stranger in my house, selling everything on Craigslist. He told more lies than the criminals he arrested. Thomas contained a mutant strain of OCD that emerged whenever anything was out of place. Then he opened our home to strangers. He moved in Ms. Parks, a loud senior citizen, with special needs.
Two weeks later, Thomas relocated downtown but visited each month to collect rent. Jose, Thomas’ uncle, told us that he was our new landlord, because Thomas got fired last year, and owed him over 11,000 in unpaid rent.
For whom the bell tolls when the marshals come marching in? Jose brought reinforcements, his brother Mike. I had more landlords than roommates. I told Thomas that Mike and Jose were changing the locks and providing us new leases. Thomas disappeared. Thus, I signed a new lease with Jose and Mike.
Thomas called from Atlanta, apparently, he took a midnight train to Georgia, demanding money through the Western Union at month’s end. I laughed and hung up the phone. While born and raised middle class in DC, we weren’t accustomed to opening our homes to strangers—much less shared rooms. But the tide has turned and our nation’s capital became more expensive, and again ain’t nothing going on but the rent.