Two-bedroom Apartment in Middle-income Development

 Location Fort Greene
Rent $1500/mo. (subsidized)
Square feet 600
Occupants Anja Behm (project coordinator, Berlitz); Brad Campbell (audio-visual technician, New York Public Library)

What's this fierce breeze from the balcony? It's like being on a ship. [Brad] We can rock the couch for you. The balcony's not really functional, too small to hang out on, more for giving a benediction. [Anja] He gets high-sick. [Brad] I feel really open out there—a lot of wide-open space. In warm weather, this apartment is so permeable. You can hear conversations on the street. [Anja] When we moved here in December, it was cold, really quiet. [Brad] Since spring, we've had two kinds of religious experiences. The center on the corner—they must have gotten a new amp—has this Sunday-morning fire-and-brimstone revival service. [Anja] We've also heard Hare Krishnas. [Brad] No, we haven't. Our other religious experience is the Islamic call to prayer, the muezzin. It's on the other side of Flatbush and it comes through at 5 a.m., comes into your subconscious but only on cool nights; otherwise the air doesn't carry.

The breeze brings you higher awareness. [Brad] Spiritual pollen. [Anja] It gets very dirty here. I'm from Rostock, what was East Germany. [Brad] Is the breeze bothering you?

Brad Campbell and Anja Behm in Fort Greene
photo: Jay Muhlin
Brad Campbell and Anja Behm in Fort Greene

No, it's just blowing the pages of Escape to Life by Erika and Klaus Mann on the table. How did you find this one-year-old, 39-unit, moderate-income development in a former clinic where, to rent a one-bedroom for about $1150, a person has to make between $38,000 and $78,800? [Anja] I'd looked at about 50 apartments, in all the boroughs, in Harlem for a long time, but we decided it's still too dangerous there. [Brad] That's just in pockets. [Anja] I found this when I was at my lowest point. I saw a phone number on the building. I only had a lipstick to write with.

Like in Pearl Harbor. Wait, I can't hear you. We have to stop until the sirens go by. Where did you meet? [Anja] In a faraway place, University of Georgia, in the South. [Brad] That part we should just abbreviate. Just know we moved up here away from the terrible, horrible, hot, slimy, backward humidity that seeps into the mind . . . [Anja] We both wanted to come to New York. I came to go to Stony Brook, then NYU. We got an apartment a few blocks from here through NYU housing. We met this nice woman who was subletting. [Brad] She was going to Africa to help the starving children. [Anja] Five months later we got an eviction notice. The nice young woman had already had a rental debt of $10,000. [Brad] And we didn't really have a legal sublease. What was creepy was that she arranged it through NYU housing.

You're sitting there looking so distressed, squirming around in a brown plaid wing chair. It looks more like it's meant for a man with a pipe. [Brad] I want to talk about the next apartment we had on 13th. [Anja] It was always our dream to move to the East Village. [Brad] Don't say dream like we're kids just up from Georgia. [Anja] It was our dream. But the apartment was 250 square feet, almost as expensive as this. [Brad] We have to talk about the guy in the building. [Anja] No, we don't. [Brad] He was pure skank. He beat his little dog. He never cooked. He always ordered food. By the way, we want people to know we're against the BAM-ification of Fort Greene—millions in taxpayer dollars to develop a cultural district. We're concerned BAM will displace local art groups. Cultural imperialism!

Your laundry room is only open from nine to five? That's a piece of news. [Anja] On Saturdays, people almost beat each other up. But I'm glad there is a laundry room. [Brad] It could be worse. [Anja] I really love this apartment, but Brad is not as taken by it as I am. He wants something with plaster moldings. This is the nicest of all the apartments in this building. The others have dark corners.