Five-Room Apartment in Brownstone


Location Downtown Brooklyn

Rent $1800 (market)

Square feet 1200

Occupants Alex Stimmel (musician in St. Felix Station and Lonehawk, writer), Erica Rosenfeld (jewelry designer, glass artist)

The building exploded? [Erica] You know, the summer before last. It was three blocks from our old apartment. I was watching The Simpsons. Alex came running in. He said, “You gotta see this.” Thirty fire trucks. It was a gas thing. The people had lived there for years. Everyone loved them. A month later, Alex was working near Times Square. A building fell down around there. It was during a shitty time in our lives. We were still coming off the shock of moving to New York from San Francisco. [Alex] First, we were in Boerum Hill, a very nice Cosby Show kind of block. Now we’re near Third Avenue, a little scummy. I loved the family-oriented feeling of our old neighborhood. [Erica] But it was still difficult moving. We were really uncomfortable individually and with one another. It was sticky to come back to memories. [Alex] Erica and I both grew up in Manhattan. I’m from the Upper East Side. She’s from the Upper West Side. We met at Kenyon College in Ohio. Neither of us had lived alone in New York. In San Francisco we had a two-bedroom apartment for $1300. Of course it was in the Mission, a pretty hip area. When we first moved there from college in ’97, the Internet was coming into its own. [Erica] There were all these really rich people our age, which was a dividing point. [Alex] When we left, people were paying $1000 just to get a room in a house. A lot of people were saying they were going to move to Brooklyn.

Hmmm, not New York, but Brooklyn, a state unto itself? [Erica] I remember we were telling everybody we didn’t want to move. I fainted the night before we left. Our friends had a dinner at a Thai restaurant. Alex and I were both really nervous. We went to the bathroom to have a pep talk. We’re like, everything’s going to be fine. We don’t have to stay in Brooklyn forever and we have each other and we hugged and the last thing I remember is sliding down the door and looking up at Alex. [Alex] It’s not like we were drunk or stoned.

Isn’t moving less traumatic when you have each other? [Erica] No, not if you’re both going through a tumultuous time—you’re feeding off each other. [Alex] I would not have been in such a good state if not for you. Though when we came back here, I had high school friends, family. [Erica] None of my best girlfriends live here anymore. They’re in Bali, Baton Rouge. [Alex] Brattleboro. [Erica] When we both moved to San Francisco—I was there first—Alex was seeing someone else. That ended. I moved into an empty room in his apartment. [Alex] I was most apprehensive about my other roommate, this guy. [Erica] He was obsessed with me. [Alex] One day, he turned to me and said, “I know you’re sleeping with Erica.” [Erica] He hated us for a year. Now we’re good friends.

The intrigue of the household. [Alex] Our last landlord, the one in Fort Greene, was a real nutcase. [Erica] She was a corrections officer. She could only yell. She didn’t know how to talk. She and I did not get along. She loved Alex. The last week we were there, she hated Alex and loved me. All of a sudden, Alex was the bad guy. I played along with it because it made it psychologically easy for me. Her family all went along with her tyranny. Oh, and the upstairs neighbor would say to her, “Have you been going to the gym? You look so great.” [Alex] A real brownnoser. [Erica] The landlord would say, “Oh, yes, I am going to the gym.” I could have killed her. Her husband was the nicest guy ever. [Alex] She was fucking nuts. Erica put a candle on the window, the wax dripped out. She gave us 30 days to get out. [Erica] This is after the landlord in San Francisco tried to kiss me. We’ve always loved our landlords. [Alex] Our landlord here owns 40 buildings around Brooklyn. He’s a really nice guy. He’s Hasidic. [Erica] He loves that we’re Jewish. [Alex] He’s wheeling and dealing. [Erica] He doesn’t want to kiss us.

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