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Coming Home to a New Upper West Side, Which Apartment Did She Choose?

By: Joyce Cohen
Published: 2/6/2020Source: The New York Times

Featuring Ronen Agadi:

Coming Home to a New Upper West Side, Which Apartment Did She Choose?

After 30 years in the Pacific Northwest, a born-and-bred New Yorker searches for a rental in her old neighborhood. Here’s where she landed.

A year ago, Marilyn Alterman found herself trapped in her Seattle home by a snowstorm, fearing she would slip on the ice. That’s when she decided it was time to leave town.
“They had to reroute the buses because they couldn’t get up the hill,” said Ms. Alterman, a born-and-raised New Yorker from the Bronx. “In New York, even if we have a blizzard, I can always get outside.”
Before heading west in the early 1990s, she spent years on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She was robbed at gunpoint near her West 74th Street apartment and later bought a two-bedroom co-op on West 84th. But by then she was thinking of leaving New York, and in 1992 she bought a house in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle, where she had friends.
Her co-op limited sublets to two years, so she had to sell the apartment “when New York was on the down,” she said. “Had I been able to keep that apartment, I would be a millionaire by now.”
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Over the years, her 1920s house in Seattle became a burden to maintain, so she moved to a two-bedroom duplex in the Queen Anne neighborhood, paying $3,850 a month. All the while, she yearned to return home.
“I had been coming to New York once or twice a year, and always longing in my heart,” she said. “The snow was the clincher.”
For slightly less than she was paying in Seattle, she thought, she could get a much smaller apartment in New York: “I knew I would have to trade down and give something up.”
Ms. Alterman — who spent her career in sales and marketing, but most recently worked in the facilities department of a child-welfare agency — retired and went on the hunt for a one-bedroom in a prewar elevator building in her beloved former neighborhood, the Upper West Side.
Her requirements included ample sunlight and, because she is an avid cook and baker, a big kitchen with a dishwasher and gas for cooking. Her budget was up to $3,500 a month.
Last summer she visited a handful of places and came away disheartened — they were small, dark or dirty. “I was devastated,” Ms. Alterman said. “Kitchens were in the living room up against the wall.”
She was referred to Ronen Agadi, an associate broker at the Corcoran Group. For Ms. Alterman’s budget, he said, “you are not getting a large, fancy one-bedroom, though it depends on what kind of building you are in. People say they want to spend no more than X amount, and they end up spending a little more.”
Among her options:
No. 1
West End Avenue One-Bedroom
This sunny apartment in the West 100s overlooked Straus Park. The layout included a long hallway and a “magnificent-size kitchen,” Ms. Alterman said. “It was more than eat-in — you could have had a whole party in there.”
The rent was $3,000.
No. 2
West 80s One-Bedroom
This apartment, on a high floor in the West 80s, had an extra half bathroom and a renovated kitchen with a window and a back door leading to a stairwell. The view included Midtown’s skyscrapers. Because of Con Edison work, the building had no gas and would not for several months.
The rent was $3,795.
No. 3
West 90s One-Bedroom
This spacious apartment, near Central Park West in the 90s, had two exposures, although one faced a wall. There was a walk-in closet in the bedroom.
The tenant was given a choice of price: $3,500 with the current kitchen or $3,750 with a renovated kitchen.
Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:
Which Would You Choose?
West End Avenue One-Bedroom
West 80s One-Bedroom
West 90s One-Bedroom
Which Did She Choose?
West End Avenue One-Bedroom
West 80s One-Bedroom
West 90s One-Bedroom
West 80s One-Bedroom
Ms. Alterman didn’t love the layout in the West End Avenue apartment. A middle-of-the-night bathroom trip would mean leaving the bedroom, crossing the kitchen and walking down the hall.
And in the lobby, boxes for delivery were piled on the floor near the mailboxes. “That sort of turned me off,” she said.
[Neighborhood Guide: Upper West Side real estate prices, trends and insights]
She opted not to live near Central Park West, which struck her as inconvenient and lacking in street life. The walk to Broadway was three long blocks.
“I wanted to be in the middle of everything,” she said.
The West 80s apartment was ideal, apart from the gas situation. Although the unit was vacant, Mr. Agadi negotiated a later move-in date. The broker’s fee was 15 percent of a year’s rent, nearly $7,000. Ms. Alterman sold her car and arrived with Callie the calico cat in late summer.
She knew she could get by with a hot plate, toaster oven and microwave until the gas was restored. When that finally happened four months later, she celebrated. “Wherever I was going, I brought cookies for everyone,” she said.
The kitchen door is a great convenience. “To get rid of my garbage, I open the door and they take it away,” Ms. Alterman said.
The apartment is flooded with light. “I need sunglasses when the sun is out,” she said. “I have never in my whole life lived in a place as bright as this. It was serendipitous that I was able to be in my old ’hood.”
Her only disappointment is the ’hood’s dearth of food markets and the many vacant storefronts. Manhattan is safer than it was when she left, but in her decades away, a wave of big-box stores took the place of mom-and-pops. “Fairway,” she said. “I would be bereft if they closed.”
Copyright © 2020 The New York Times Company. Reprinted with Permission. Joyce Cohen/The New York Times.