A couple of years ago, getting ourselves set up again in New York after a couple of years out of it, we took the first apartment we were shown, a one-bedroom with den and garden for the ridiculously low price (for Carroll Gardens) of $1,100 a month. The catch? It was next to the Gowanus Houses projects. But we walked through the projects and they looked tidy enough, so in we moved.
The strangeness of our little pocket of the neighborhood took a while to register. After all, just three blocks up is the Boerum Hill Historic District, while two blocks to the west is stylish Smith Street, and this is the neighborhood we thought we were moving into. But we were in Gowanus (click for great pictures of the area), the light-industrial fringe, with a parking lot across the street, a garbage truck repair station up the block, and mysterious semi-derelict lots all up and down Bond Street. Bass throbs at all hours from the car stereos of people who like to park in front of the projects, or the C-Town around the corner, or the couple of other apartment buildings on the block. The sidewalks were broken when we moved in and have stayed that way despite a couple of years of calls to the city. A cobbled-together building across the street is graced with rooftop speakers that point at our building and blast Spanish radio. We once found a syringe in a trash heap next to our building, and I think I saw a neighbor pull a gun once.
This might all have been bearable if our apartment were in better condition. But we haven’t got enough electricity to run two air conditioners at once, there are often hot water shortages, we had a major mouse infestation, for a while our ceilings were leaking regularly, and our entryway has been under renovations since we moved in, with the only signs of progress in two years being the replacement of four rotting stairs and the piling up of successively more of our super’s junk. The apartment is drafty, and the landlord won’t keep the heat on in early fall or late spring, as is required by New York law. Our backyard has a mysterious pile of debris at the back and an infinite supply of broken glass embedded in the soil.
Two years and a few pay raises later, the time has come for us to move. We don’t plan to go far. We want to live in Carroll Gardens, just like we did two years ago when we rented this place. And we want a dishwasher. We’re hoping to get all this at the end of July. Wish us luck.