Two-Room Apartment in Nine-Unit Building Over Copy Shop


Location Greenwich Village

Price $0 (family-owned building)

Square feet 400

Occupant Zoe Schonfeld (NYU law student)

You live over your family’s copy shop for free!

I feel immense guilt. When people ask me how I managed to score the apartment—NYU law students usually live in school housing, $1000 a month—I’m evasive, or I mutter, But they bought real estate in the ’70s. It’s like I’m outing myself now. Their first Village Copier was down the street. Aunt Rowena decorated the downstairs of this shop. My mother did the Internet section, the “Cyberfeld” on the second floor—Schonfeld, Cyberfeld, get it?

I get it! Twenty-four-hour copy shops are like casinos or newspaper offices. They never stop, never shut you out, no isolation. How fortunate to live above perpetual replication. It’s like a hatchery or something.

I know, and my apartment is very splendid. I had a party here, so glam, filled the tub with chicken feathers, kind of barnyard David Bowie. A rather important person in a certain limited circle came—Speed, the tour guide. You know, there was that documentary about him. I felt like Mrs. Dalloway in Virginia Woolf. At last, my party is a success! Though my apartment interior has become slightly troubling. It previously had a crack den aesthetic, but now it’s sort of Pottery Barn, like a wooden cradle, because my mother infiltrated during the summer when I was visiting my boyfriend, Zvi, in Berkeley. He used to be in yeshiva in Israel. Now he’s studying Near Eastern jazz dance. We met when I was doing a legal internship in Berkeley. Whenever I go there, I have an initial period where I battle trying to feel at ease with the people there who are not driven by mad and sightless ambitions like people in New York are. Because there’s definitely a sense in New York and in Jewish communities like the one in which I was brought up—Flatbush, yeshiva—that the more difficult things are, the more worthwhile. In Berkeley, I feel it’s understood that you’ll get there eventually, and if you don’t, you will enjoy your way there. I was trying to work on a paper and I was in a copy shop, of course, and I found myself accosted by old hippie types who were very excited to find out I was from New York because, in some form or other, they all originated there. They’d quickly launch into an apology for their existence in Berkeley and how less edgy they’ve become.

But the apartment situation there is . . .

dog eat dog. I actually worked on landlord-tenant stuff this past summer. People are evicted solely because there are no protective laws in certain jurisdictions—definitely not a mellow vibe. People are pretty desperate. I have a friend, Bonnie, who was looking for a housemate situation. When the boy showing her the room broke out a bottle of wine, his grandfather’s vineyard, 100 years old, she drank three glasses—she doesn’t even drink—in the hope he’d like her the best of prospective housemates. They smooched. There might have been some necking. In the end, when he offered her the room, she said, I don’t feel comfortable living with people who are interested in me. He said, if you don’t want to rent the room, I’d still like to date you. She didn’t do either. But then she went to see another housemate situation. The man called later and said he couldn’t rent to her for fear his girlfriend might feel threatened. Then Bonnie looked at another apartment and there was a man sprawled on the bed and Bonnie motioned to him—does he come with the place? Bonnie was just joking. But it was the woman’s boyfriend. The woman refused to give her the room.

Poor Bonnie! She’s like Lily in House of Mirth but without the laudanum.

I know, sigh, but Bonnie wasn’t born under a lucky copy shop star like me.