My First Apartment In…Brooklyn Heights

Welcome back to my feature, My First Apartment! In this piece, I interview New Yorkers on their experiences in their very first apartment here in NYC. They give the lowdown on the good and the bad plus some tips to help you along with your own home search.

Now let’s introduce our next interviewee…

Cynthia Pong, JD
Feminist Career Coach
Connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram

In what neighborhood was your first apartment located?
Brooklyn Heights! I moved to NYC to go to law school and one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to pay a ton of money to live on campus and be in the law school world 24/7. I wanted to be sure that I had some separation between the massive amounts of time I’d be spending in class and in the library and the rest of my life.

What size was it? (i.e. studio, one bedroom, two bedroom, etc)
It was a 2-bedroom sublet situation in a co-op, actually. So this wasn’t exactly your typical NYC renter situation. My roommate had been subletting this apartment from the woman who owned the apartment (or, technically, the shares for the apartment). She posted on craigslist looking for a roommate and she ended up choosing me to move in! I had the smaller of the two bedrooms. The apartment had a pretty spacious living room and a nice kitchen, so I felt like I lucked out!

What did you absolutely love and/or hate about your first apartment?
I loved that there was an elevator in the building! I have never lived in an elevator building since and although I am grateful that walking up 6 flights of stairs to my current apartment gives me a tiny bit of exercise (which I desperately need), it makes carrying groceries, my bike, or anything heavy a real drag! As for what I didn’t like about that first apartment, it was a bit of a challenge to share the one bathroom with my roommate because she really spent a lot of time in there getting ready in the mornings. Also, she had two cats and I’m a dog person.

What did you love about your first neighborhood?
I loved that it wasn’t smack in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city! Even though it was really close to Manhattan (just one stop into Brooklyn on the A), it had a totally different feel to it – at least back then. I also loved that there were some people who had lived for decades in that neighborhood, so it really felt like a cohesive neighborhood with a lot of history.

Any words of wisdom to share with first timers looking in the city?
Yes! 1. Get to know your neighbors and it can really pay off (not to mention that it’s a neighborly thing to do 🙂 )! About seven years ago, I moved into my current apartment, which I love and is in a neighborhood I’ve grown really attached to. It was rented to us as a market-rate apartment and the rent was affordable (and even cheaper than average) when we first moved in. But then the landlord kept trying to jack up the rent. After the second year of that nonsense, I was talking, er, complaining, to my neighbors about it and one of them suggested that I look into whether my apartment should actually be rent-stabilized. I did and after suing my landlord for 3 years (yep), we won!

Now, our apartment is rent-stabilized (which means we can afford to stay here for at least the next decade and we have more rights as renters, among other things) and we got back the amount of money they had been overcharging us over the years!

2. On a related note, don’t rent from terrible landlords! You might be tempted by a really sweet apartment, but if you google the landlord or management company and find that they have lots of negative reviews or have been sued a bunch before, stay away!!! You’re going to have to deal with them countless times for repairs, negotiating rent increases, inadequate heat/hot water/living conditions, and who knows what else, so do your future self a favor and avoid landlords with bad reputations.