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?

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.

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