The City Trade-Off – The New York Times

The City Trade-Off – The New York Times

“We had a huge checklist,” he said. Outdoor space was a must, as Mr. Shanbog, now 28, wanted to be able to step outside to smoke.

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The apartment is so small that “if I play a video game, it turns into a bachelor pad,” Mr. Shanbog said. “When we have a conversation, it turns into a couple’s bedroom. When we cook, it turns into a kitchen.”

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Katherine Marks for The New York Times

“Without a balcony, I feel like we are stuck within the four walls of a house,” Ms. Siddappa, 33, said.

She would be working from home much of the time, so she wanted a building that had a business center or some kind of common work space. And they were hoping for other amenities as well.

Ms. Bloomfield’s response? In that price range, “there are no amenities,” she said. “Their expectations were way off-base. I sent them pictures of what they could expect. I tried to tell them, but I don’t think they could believe the reality until they saw it.”

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YORKVILLE There was a sleeping loft over the kitchen, and the backyard was boxed in by tall buildings.

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Katherine Marks for The New York Times

The kind of place they envisioned didn’t exist within their budget, she told them. “But they had StreetEasy evidence to prove me wrong,” she said, referring to the listings they had found in northern Manhattan. “If you don’t live in New York, you don’t grasp what a long time it takes to go a short distance.”

The couple, who were staying in a Midtown hotel, settled on a budget of around $1,800. Ms. Bloomfield suggested Yorkville, on the far Upper East Side, which they explored and discovered they liked.

Ms. Bloomfield started by showing them a studio with a backyard on East 81st Street, for $1,890. Hearing that it had outdoor space “triggered the imagination for me,” Ms. Siddappa said. But the yard turned out to be unappealing, and surrounded by tall buildings. And the apartment had a sleeping loft, with a ladder, over the kitchen. “It was just not meant for us,” she said.

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YORKVILLE A small one-bedroom, on the sixth floor of a walk-up, was over their budget.

Credit
Katherine Marks for The New York Times

They also saw a small one-bedroom, on the sixth floor of a walk-up, on East 80th Street. But the rent was $2,325 a month — way over their budget, which had now risen to $2,250 “and not a penny more,” Ms. Siddappa said.

Though they liked this small apartment, there was no outdoor space. “We realized that a one-bedroom budget is going to be really high, so we stuck to a studio,” Mr. Shanbog said.

Most of the places they saw seemed small, and some were dark or lacked ventilation. Ms. Siddappa, who cooks a lot, found the kitchens barely serviceable.

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YORKVILLE At $1,945, it was by far the nicest apartment they had seen — and in the best location.

Credit
Katherine Marks for The New York Times

“I was quite sad that we were going to have so many adjustments,” she said. “We did not know anything about the city, and we had lots of questions.”

By the time they visited a studio in a seven-story building in the high East 80s — the nicest apartment they had seen by far, at $1,945 — they were ready to settle on something.

“When it comes to house-hunting, I’m not really the guy for that,” Mr. Shanbog said.

For the location and the price, they felt, they would not find anything better. The couple signed the lease last summer, paying a broker’s fee of 15 percent of a year’s rent, or around $3,500.

“I am still recovering from that shock,” Ms. Siddappa said. “In the city, that’s how it works. If you can’t afford it, don’t come.”

One-room living for two is a challenge, though “it has its advantages,” Mr. Shanbog said. “It is easier to clean than a one-bedroom. The price is the biggest thing.”

And the nature of the apartment changes completely, depending on what they’re doing. “If I play a video game, it turns into a bachelor pad. When we have a conversation, it turns into a couple’s bedroom. When we cook, it turns into a kitchen.”

With no outdoor space, he goes out to the sidewalk to smoke, a trip bothersome enough that it is helping him toward his goal of quitting.

Any compromises they have made, however, seem to have been worth it. They have made new friends, and joined Asphalt Green, a nearby sports club where they work out. They also make occasional trips to museums.

And the city is every bit as crowded and exciting as they imagined it would be. “We’re having a blast,” Mr. Shanbog said.

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