News & Politics

Temporary Walls Come Down: Roommates in Converted Apartments Are About to Get Cozier

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Apartment hunting may be the second worst experience endured by city dwellers, only to be beat by subsequent furniture moving. Throughout it all, “building a wall” has been a longtime saving grace for cash-strapped New Yorkers in need of a place to sleep. The case used to be: Can’t afford a two bedroom? Convert and squeeze. Now this situation is becoming more and more unfeasible as the city is tearing down walls that violate building codes, according to the New York Times.

“It is a cataclysmic change and is the future of Manhattan share situations,” one woman told the Times. I might think that was an exaggeration if I didn’t bunk in a fake-wall-enclosed mini-boudoir myself.

Currently, renters are being told that walls installed without the approval of the Department of Buildings must be removed, and apartment hunters are facing more difficult housing prospects as real estate brokers explain that partial walls or bookshelves might be the best options to legally divide shared spaces. That’s basically the same as saying, “Get the hell out of New York City unless you work in finance.” If people are paying $1,000-plus each to share a room, it’s doubtful they’ll settle for a bookshelf wall. That’s just begging for some embarrassing situations.

This code against temporary walls has been widely ignored for many years, but since 2005, when a Bronx apartment fire killed two firefighters who became disoriented by illegally constructed temporary walls and jumped out of a window when flames engulfed the space, the city has been cracking down, and more recently, complaints in Stuyvesant Town have heightened the witch hunt for fake-room-dwelling renters and their “see no evil” landlords.

Whether a wall meets code or not is largely case-by-case because so many factors apply — they cannot block exit routes, interfere with ventilation or sprinkler systems, and there are minimum size restrictions. Instead of spending so much time and energy on this, how about creating and enforcing laws against brokers who barge into your apartment before it’s on the market, $100 fees for running a credit check, gotcha broker fees in no fee buildings, broker fees at all, and other evils of apartment hunting?

[LM]

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