Two-Bedroom Converted Loft in Factory Building


Location Long Island City

Rent $1200 (market)

Square feet 1000

Occupants Tom Aulino (actor); Robert I. Rubinsky (writer; producer; personal trainer)

You’re so pleased now that you’re living in a great big loft. [Tom] We finally have enough kitchen counter space for our Ron Popeil rotisserie chicken maker.

Though I must say it is a little industrial. The factory stairway is so fierce. There are water puddles in front of the doors in the hall. Your neighbors are all auto transmission installers. I knew you didn’t like the apartment when you walked in.

I do, I do. It’s so nicely renovated. But I have some thoughts about all this living in places that were not designed for intimate domestic life. In the 1970s, people would be so excited: Oh, we live in a converted bowling alley, or, This used to be a Laundromat and we sleep where the dryers used to be. It’s not easy in New York, but it would be nice to live in a place made for a human. In your case, you’re sort of grateful. Especially since before this, you and Robert had to move every year. Why are you showing me a black-and-white photo of a woman in a chiffon garden hat cutting a wedding cake? That’s Joanna, who married a rich pig farmer from England. If she hadn’t fucked it up with the real estate agent in 1990, Robert and I would still be in this great apartment in an ex-convent in Chelsea, but Joanna was the leaseholder’s girlfriend and she moved in for a while, and everybody lost the apartment. So then we moved into what’s-his-name’s house, who was on the road with Les Miz. He used to call all the time for his phone messages. It was so intrusive. I put the answering machine in a drawer and it blew up because it overheated. Then Robert and I looked at 98 apartments, no exaggeration, before we found the perfect one, 103rd and Riverside, a co-op. The owner said, I’ll rent to you for a long time, though when my mother dies, I’ll have to sell. So we begin keeping track of the mother’s health. We hear she’s going to the dentist. We think, Oh great, you don’t go to the dentist if you’re on your last legs. She lives. The guy decides to sell it anyway. Then Amsterdam and 101st, which I liked but Robert didn’t—the gunshots at five in the morning. We never agree on anything. I can’t remember where we went after that.

I’m not surprised. What about the dumpy Midtown place? Yes, the dumpy one rented by Robert’s ex, who got it in the ’70s and was living elsewhere but wanted to hold on to the lease. The rent was $230. The place was so small you could make breakfast, scrub the bathroom, vacuum the entire apartment, and never get out of bed. That apartment drove us to California.

But the minute you move, then you get the part in a Broadway play. Wouldn’t you know it. So Robert stays, house-sits for people in every California hill and canyon. I’m back here. Then both of us are back in the dumpy apartment. But we have no furniture. Our friend says, Don’t buy chairs. I’ve got two Billy Baldwins. They’re at an upholsterer’s in Long Island City. Go get them. Well, we think this neighborhood is interesting. We see this apartment advertised. There were 12 people competing but we go to Kinko’s at midnight, fax the papers, and we get it.

You’re from New Jersey. Robert, who was in the cast of Hair in 1968 and whose father was Mr. Miami Beach in Annie Hall, is from Brooklyn. Here’s Robert now. He just rushed in the door, breathless. [Robert] I just heard you can get grants for a Harlem brownstone. [Tom] Then there’s always Forest Hills. . . .

But you’re so happy here. A rolling stone gathers no moss! After you’ve looked at 98 apartments, you’re always looking. Even if you don’t want to move.