One-Bedroom Apartment in Pre-War Six-Story Building


Location Fordham (northwest Bronx)

Rent $651.17 (rent stabilized)

Square feet 550

Occupant Keisha Farmer (artist; Web site designer, Ford Models)

You have a rabbit! But he doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. Nor is he looking for his fan and gloves. You live a block from the 182-foot-wide, 11-lane Grand Concourse, which was designed in the early 1890s for carriage access to new parkland in the northern Bronx. How grand it was! So many art deco buildings. I read that originally Jews, Irish, and Italians moved here from crowded sections of Manhattan. Milton Berle, Babe Ruth, and Eydie Gorme lived here. In the 1950s, early generations went on to the suburbs; people came from the Caribbean and Africa. How did you come to be in the Bronx? I moved here because of the rent. It took me a year to find this. I was looking in Brooklyn, Harlem. The rents in Brooklyn were just getting outrageous—$650 or $700 for a tiny studio. What I have now for $650 in the Bronx would cost $1000 in Harlem. I also looked in Forest Hills and Flushing. A lot of families rent out studios in their houses for $800. They’re small. Then I found a broker in the paper. She advertised “$550 to $700 apartments in Washington Heights, the Bronx.” The deal was, she’d find you a $600 apartment, her fee would be $900. Every time I met with her, it was always, “I gotta stop and get gas. I gotta go get this.” She was doing errands and stuff. I’d never see any apartments with her. We’d go to the buildings and the supers wouldn’t let her in. They’d say, “Oh, the apartment’s taken.” She brought me here. She was looking for the super. He lives in the basement. He’d just disappear or something. He was avoiding her. His radio was on. It was like chaos. Then she called the owner of the building in Scarsdale—Finkelstein, Morgan—to let them know we were in the building. I told her I really have to get back to work. This was the second time I took off. I came back by myself. No, I didn’t give her a fee. She didn’t earn it. Before this, I was living in Bed-Stuy with a roommate. I graduated from Pratt in 2000. I lived in dorms the first two years. I don’t know anybody around here. I’m like the only artist around. People see me with my portfolio and it’s like, “Whoa—where the hell is she going with that?” It’s mostly people with families, kids. In the summer there are 100 people on the street. As you can see, it’s midday, everybody’s walking around. These guys in the house across the street, they’re always outside, night and day, rain or shine. They sell weed. You hear them say, “Smoke, smoke. What do you need? What do you want?” The other thing is I get harassed on a daily basis. They say lewd stuff. It’s because they don’t see me hanging out—like a new woman on the block. It’s getting better. Last summer they started posting cop cars on the corners every day.

Your living room’s so graphic, all black-and-white. Where did you grow up? Maryland, the suburbs. The only crime was car theft. My mother’s a bank teller, my father was a steelworker. My mother doesn’t like me living here. My sisters-in-law don’t like it. They want me in Manhattan. I can afford $700 for rent but no more. Roommates? I’ve had five of them already. I’m 23.

Do you talk to the rabbit? I usually just yell at her. She likes to chew. I let her out every night when I get home. Usually she’ll be friendly, or sometimes she just wants to be left alone, like me.

Is the rabbit trained? She’s not. I had two others. They were. They died. One stopped eating. I took him to the doctor. His teeth had grown together. He couldn’t open his mouth.

Your rabbit’s ears kind of stick out. Are rabbits expensive? This one cost $20. The lopped-ear bunnies are more expensive, about $10 more. Rabbits can’t eat iceberg lettuce, but they can eat romaine lettuce.

I never knew anyone with a rabbit before.

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