One-Bedroom Co-op Apartment in 1938 Building

Location Jackson Heights, Queens
Price $52,000 ($540 maintenance)
Square feet 900
Occupants Liz Boyle (picture researcher, the Bridgeman Art Library); Kim Walter (teacher, Pratt Institute; manager, Robert Altman Antiques)

This is a moment of high excitement, though you look kind of pooped and you're holding your head in your hands. You've just purchased your first piece of real estate! [Kim] We had to put down 20 percent, that's $10,400! We just moved in. I keep thinking, OK, it's not that much money, but the apartment's not that pretty either, though we just redid the floors.

It is pretty, so big, prewar, rounded arches. I can hear the radio now: "Prime Minister Churchill has just declared . . . " This whole neighborhood and a lot of Queens are full of these pale red brick buildings. [Liz] We're thinking of the down payment as the price of a car. If we crash, we'll survive. We're only going to be spending $80 more a month than when we were renting our old apartment. Though Kim's decided he's going to be a corpse before we move from this building. [Kim] What we had to go through for eight months . . . [Liz] We moved from Boston 10 years ago, found a one-bedroom in Park Slope, $800. Our landlady lived downstairs. She was from Lebanon. We were the only tenants. We had a beautiful relationship for nine years. She cooked us food. We did a lot of the super work—garbage, snow removal. Her sons were never there. Last year she had a stroke and passed away. Her children sold the building, record-breaking price, over a half-million, I heard. We had to get out. Also, the neighborhood had gotten so mean and unfriendly. [Kim] A combination of very rich professionals moving in and these clumps of 23-year-olds, parents paying their rent, no connection to the neighborhood. [Liz] We had lived in that neighborhood 10 years. A lot of the people we knew had died. We started looking and very quickly figured out we couldn't afford Park Slope or Windsor Terrace. One realtor tried to show us an area with garbage trucks, prostitutes. She told me safety was a state of mind. Another concern was that it's a real priority for us to live in a neighborhood that's diverse. We had a hard time finding that. As mixed as New York is, there still seems to be this polarization. We always found we were displacing someone else. We'd go in an apartment, see a terrified family of five in a one-bedroom. We didn't want to put somebody else on the street. As spoiled as it sounds, we found places with not enough room for us, yet a family of five was living there. We looked at this one place in Jersey City, more than five in the apartment, an Indian family. Plus, we couldn't even afford it. We realized we needed at least 700 square feet to not kill each other. We stopped looking at rentals.

It would take another column to discuss the mortgage and the co-op board approval that followed. So dragged out. Also, we thought we'd have to be married to get the mortgage. We've been together 20 years but we don't want to be married.[Kim] Marriage is rooted in property rights, and that really upsets me. We have a commitment to each other and it's not about owning things. [Liz] Another interesting thing: We're going to have wills made for the first time. Not that we're facing our mortality or anything. We both just turned 41. This is the first thing we've owned that members of our family would know what to do with if we died. Like our '50s and '60s Italian and French movie poster collection. They wouldn't know . . . [Kim] Or my rusty French toy cars. [Liz] Kim and I met in Pittsburgh. I went to Carnegie Mellon. [Kim] I grew up there. We met at the start of the punk scene, '77. We were a tight community. I was in the first punk band in Pittsburgh. [Liz] The Puke. They were on TV and analyzed by all these psychiatrists. This one said punks can't have stable relationships.

 
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