Studio in Pre-War Bing & Bing Building


Location West Village

Rent $2500 (market)

Square feet 300

Occupant Smith Watkins (eighth-grade math teacher)

You just wrote a check for $59,000. To live in the most highly threatened city in the world and make it my home! Can you believe it? I’m buying a one-bedroom co-op, not in this building, but in another pre-war nearby. The $59,000 check is 10 percent of the purchase price—the biggest check I ever wrote. I didn’t know—do I write five nine thousand or fifty-nine?

You do look a little flushed. I was just coming back in the cab from the lawyer and I thought, I’m officially a resident of New York for the next 10 years. I’m going to get a 15-year mortgage, but to get the return on my investment, I have to wait 10 years. I found the apartment last Monday. I walked in and the lady showed it to me, 850 square feet. With the economy the way it is, I decided it would be best to invest in real estate, which turns out to be what everybody’s doing now. Because people are afraid of the stock market, real estate prices have gone through the roof.

You’ve been paying a lot for this tiny room—$2500. Before, I was paying $3000. In January I renegotiated the lease. I tried to go in at $2100 and the owner came back at me with $2500. I told her I rented the apartment at a really high time, October 2000, and now rents are lower. The owner’s Molly Shannon. She was on Saturday Night Live. She lives in L.A. now. I always wanted to live in the Village. I came to New York in May 2000. I stayed at my cousin’s, 8th and Sixth, near Gray’s Papaya. I used to be a computer technology consultant, designing the front end of business software applications—things like, is there a drop down or a scroll down? When you click submit, what database do you hit? They shut down their New York office in mid February. Then I was spending every day in the apartment. It was driving me crazy. I started to run like Forrest Gump along the Hudson. Then I’d walk a little. Then there’d be no reason to go home. Then I’d start running again. I’d be up to eight miles a day, and there are only so many résumés a day you can send out.

This is one of the Bing & Bing buildings, which they say are among the city’s finest pre-war properties. I sound like a real estate agent or something. But I read that Alexander Bing was one of the great socially conscious developers. He created Sunnyside in Queens, modeled on an English garden city. Profits from his Manhattan buildings subsidized the experimental communities. Now, are you in the mood to say, how, at 28, you can afford to buy an apartment with your current teacher’s salary? My family helped me. My father and his brother have a company, Watkins Trucking. My grandfather started it in Thomasville, Georgia.

With a pickup truck delivering chickens in the Depression. Yes! Now he ships Gap, Sony, Clinique. I’m the only family member, out of 17, who could work in the company who doesn’t. I’m the only one who lives above the Mason-Dixon line. I grew up in Tampa, where the headquarters are. My dad has a farm in Thomasville. He raises pointers. My boyfriend’s getting one from my dad. [Her boyfriend, Rob, lives on Avenue A, is a digital retoucher, used to be a bartender, and met Smith in late September. He arrived later with a bag of pork chops and Coca-Cola.] My dad raises the pointers for hunting. The farm used to be owned by the Whitneys. My dad’s a wonderful businessman. Yes, he advises me. He told me that when you buy an apartment, you can write off a percentage of—wait, I’m not sure. I’ll call him. [She dials.] Hey Dad, how’s it going? Is the interest expense write-off the incentive for home ownership? Yes, OK. I wrote the $59,000 check today. Dad, you’re going to be proud of me. Last night I went to feed the homeless on the Upper East Side. I’m going into overdrive here. I’m going to be a math teacher, feed the homeless. I made 50 pounds of mashed potatoes. We served it with chicken and corn. Daddy, I love you. Thank you for all your help with everything. [She hangs up the phone.]