22 April 2012

My time as Eric Galloway's Tenant - Part 1

This is the first in a six part series of posts which detail my time as a tenant in a building owned by Eric Galloway and his companies.

The Move In

In 2005 I was living in the most deluxe and largest apartment I had ever lived in in NYC at 225 Rector Place. Apartments in Battery Park City that had been damaged in 9/11 had been discounted from the luxury rents they had once commanded. In addition, the state kicked in a monthly subsidy check for two years, to get people back into the buildings. I shared the apartment with my then boyfriend, but it was still an expensive apartment for me.  Now the subsidy was ending and the rents were going back to market level. I had to go.

225 Rector Place (Google Street View)
At around the same time, a friend asked me if I knew anyone who might be interested in renting his "apartment" in Chelsea. He was headed to Greece to study for a year or two and wanted to sublet the unit.

It was not really an apartment, but rather an extremely small (10' x 7') unit in a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) building on 19th Street in Chelsea.  The rent was $322 a month.

336 West 19th Street The single window over the door was my unit. (Google Street View)

The building was at one time a five story, one family town house. Now it was cut up into six rental units on each of five floors for a total of 30 units. Each floor had a shared bathroom.

Having lived in the most expensive apartment that I'd ever lived in for the past two years I decided to sublet the unit, figuring that it would be great to pay the lowest rent I'd ever paid in the 25 years I had lived in NYC.

Fitting my entire life into 70 square feet was an ordeal. I purged many of my possessions and put others in storage. The unit had high ceilings so I built a loft, increasing my square footage to almost 140 sq. feet. I then purchased enough Elfa shelving to shelve the entire inside wall. Living in such a small space requires using every inch of vertical space.

It took some adjusting, but after a while I grew to like my extremely paired down life. There was something freeing about it. It was also a huge relief to not have most of my money going to pay rent.

The building was a mixed bag, a few old men, a few addicts/alcoholics, but mostly it was young men, some trying to find their way in NYC, and others who were living with HIV/AIDS and trying to manage or survive. I fell in the latter category, HIV+ and dealing with a number of complicated, but not life threatening issues.

This was not a Supportive Housing building. It was simply an SRO that provided small units at affordable (rent stabilized) prices.

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