Business of Rooms


Location Kensington

Price $175,000 in 2003 ($503.25 maintenance)

Square feet 1,200 (two-bedroom in 1930s building)

Occupant Cindy Whiteside (real estate agent, Corcoran)

[We walk into what looks like a home office with a wall of cabinets. She opens them. We start screaming.] Barbie rooms—miniature kitchens, living rooms, Eames chairs! You never said anything on the phone. I keep them behind closed doors. If you have a boyfriend come over, you don’t want him to know you collect Barbies. My current boyfriend collects airplane parts, so he’s OK about it. This is Midge, who comes with wigs. One is fluorescent. These are the Barbie bedrooms. She needs wallpaper. She needs a door. She needs a whole world of help downstairs.This is the Barbie nightclub. Mattel used to be up in arms about Barbie drinking. I have to keep the shades in here closed. Light is Barbie’s number one enemy. [We go into the real-life living room and calm down.]

You were saying that people move to Park Slope as a couple and then break up. I meet them in my business. My office is in Park Slope. It’s kind of couple heaven. It doesn’t make sense to move there as a single person. Prices are the same for single occupancy as in the city—$1,200 for studios, $1,800 for one-bedrooms. But they move as a couple and then, sadly, there are people who get divorced, separate.

The dream does not always hold—a gaslit twosome with a parlor. They’re looking for space and a sense of community.

Huddling around Blue Ribbon Sushi. My boyfriend and I broke up. On 9-11, we watched the towers burn from the roof of our beautiful $2,100 apartment on President Street. Right after that, the market crashed. He was working on Wall Street. We had to downsize. We moved to this crappy garden apartment on St. Mark’s Avenue. We were both in and out of unemployment so long that I think it broke us up.

Eventually I decided to go into real estate. Both my parents are in it. They’re in Dallas. I went to Sarah Lawrence and then I was in fashion PR in Manhattan and I didn’t want to let go of glamour. I thought, What job can I do and stay in Park Slope all day? I wanted to work at like the Community Book Store. Obviously I couldn’t pay my rent. I started doing rentals at Corcoran. My friend Tim moved to this building. Tim’s an agent at Corcoran, too. I thought Kensington was like the edge of the earth. But when I saw his apartment, I decided I had to move here—deco lobby, curvy archways, you know, those Turkish arches. Tim has four closets in his hall alone. Kensington is the last frontier of what’s affordable. The whole area used to be Hasidic. It’s always been working-class. It is kind of boring. It seems like somebody new and cute is moving in all the time. My mother came up for Thanksgiving. She’s like my real estate helper. She’d helped me buy a studio in the East Village a few years ago, which I sold when I moved to Park Slope. When you have a bad landlord, you realize that you have to own something. The landlords were stomping above, treating me like I was an exchange student. [In a wide-ranging discussion about real estate, she says, “We just had our annual meeting this morning. Barbara Corcoran said, ‘Get ready, the tidal wave of the greatest seller’s market in history is coming upon us.’ “]

I found my old boyfriend a garden apartment down the street. It’s very amicable. In Park Slope, we had started talking about getting married and we started fighting like maniacs. I have a new boyfriend now. He’s the cutest thing ever. He lives on Long Island. I can only see him on weekends because of the commute. He makes mine-sweeping equipment for the navy and he skateboards. I met him on the Internet.