One-Bedroom Apartment in Prewar Building

Location Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Price $950 (sublet)
Square feet 500
OccupantVanessa Domico (photographer; director of distribution and marketing, Women Make Movies)

You just moved to Crown Heights the other week with your "dildo-cam," a pinhole camera made out of a prosthetic penis. On the way over, I saw two of your neighbors in their front yard getting their food carts ready to take out, hot dogs and snow cones. Lots of people have gardens in front of their houses—one has all pink garden accessories. You're four long blocks north of Prospect Park. The street is all kids, families outside, everybody's cooking. I feel very safe. It's pretty much Caribbean. It's kind of a party block. Last night my neighbor was trying to pick up Anke. Anke is here visiting me this weekend. [Anke] I visit Vanessa every weekend. A five-hour drive from Gettysburg College. I teach math. [Vanessa] Anke's originally from Berlin.

Vanessa, you've had two sublets since last May, after graduate school at Cornell. It didn't take you long to find this renovated apartment with two squarish rooms. Most of my friends ended up going to brokers after spending two, three months looking on their own. I thought I'd cut through that and go right to a broker. But brokers don't really return phone calls—you have to go in person. I drove around the neighborhoods I liked and registered with 12 different brokers. They think you're more serious if you do. Of course, everyone laughed at me when I said I wanted to spend $1000 for a one-bedroom in Park Slope. I went to one broker who said, I have something, but it's just east of Prospect Park. This was the third apartment I looked at. I'm from Pittsburgh, which has great affordable housing, huge mansions for $80,000.

The Martha Stewart of Crown Heights: photographer Vanessa Domico
photo: Michael Sofronski
The Martha Stewart of Crown Heights: photographer Vanessa Domico

Not everybody is aching to live in Pittsburgh.True. I grew up in a two-bedroom flat with my single mom. She's a working-class gal, Westinghouse, 43 years. I went to the University of Pittsburgh. In 1997 I moved to Ithaca with my partner Amy, who'd just gotten a faculty position at Cornell. I had quit my job, school. I'd been running the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. We promptly broke up seven months after we moved. For some mad reason we had decided to buy a house together. I'm pretty active,but without a job or school, I fell into despair. Amy was just starting her career. I basically sold off my share of the house to her. It was a nightmare breakup, though we're actually good friends now. The house really complicated things. We're both collectors of '50s furniture. It came down to—I bought this red formica table before I met you so it's mine. Then I bought her this Heywood-Wakefield bedroom suite for her graduation present. I had to leave that. I took half our collection of old fans. In retrospect, I'm sure I took as much as I did because I was trying to get even with her. The story is, she ended up with the house with no furniture and I ended up with the furniture and no house. I've had some guilt over the years. I still rent storage space in Ithaca. Ten by 15 is only $75. I'm still storing my prints in her house. We would always go shopping together. That's what we did. . . .

I see all these IKEA bags here.Anke and I went shopping yesterday. [Anke] We looked and our buggy was full of stainless steel. [Vanessa] I'm always trying to be Martha Stewart. In Ithaca I watched her religiously from 12 to 12:30 every day. Amy aspired to be Martha Stewart, too. She's just not as good at it as I am. In Ithaca, my Halloween meal would consist of orange and black linguini. I made little cheddar poppy-seed-cracker moons. Then I'd make mashed potatoes in the shape of ghosts. I usually use black peppercorns for eyes. Then I make a mean devil's food cake with a chocolate spider over the cake. [Anke] I'd definitely appreciate a cake with a spider on top.

 
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