Can’t Find My Way Home

Ever since I returned from Chicago I’ve been trying to move back to New York. Until now I’ve been staying in Springfield, which has had it’s advantages, but it’s really not a long term solution. However, I’ve been finding that moving back to NY after a few years isn’t as simple as it used to be.
The first obstacles were short term logistical ones. I needed to wait until the job came through and I had an income. Then I was sent out to Seattle and came back just in time to get hit with the hagim.
Most of my time and energy since then has been directed to fighting the old adage that “you can’t go home again.”
Unfortunately, the adage has been winning handily.


I knew from the start things would be different from when I first moved into the heights. Way way back in 1999, I just graduated YU and was starting smikha and Revel. I also got really lucky when my then-to-be roommate stumbled on an inexpensive one bedroom in a really convenient building on Bennet Avenue. Back then it was simple – no one was living in Washington Heights. We even moved in before 182 became 182.
Now of course, it’s much harder to find a place in Washington Heights – or at least a reasonably priced apartment. Actually it’s a problem all over Manhattan, which is compounded by restricting yourself to Jewish areas. Because there are so few open decent apartments, finding that rare lead or apartment opening requires consistent effort on many fronts
I have enlisted the help of friends, called landlords (several times), followed up on the MaalotWashington boards, and expanded my search area to other neighborhoods in Manhattan. I’ve looked for 1 bedrooms, studios, and even open spots in existing apartments.
But probably the most frustrating experience I’ve had has been from online brokers – both those who use their own sites and the ones who leech off of Craig’s List’s devoted community – and their liberal definitions of Manhattan neighborhoods. I’ve always assumed that “Washington Heights” was somewhere between 168th and 200something. I can even grant some of the WH listings I’ve seen which have apartments down in the 150’s. It’s a stretch, but ok. But then I see this a good deal on an apartment in WH – “steps away from Ft. Tryon Park” – which is located in the 130’s and a good 60 blocks from the park. Although to be fair, they also call 185th and Audoboun the Upper West Side – which is at least geographically accurate.
Actually many of these postings on CraigsList come from brokerage sweatshops like www.ManhattanApts.com which have floors full of brokers working independently, but having access to the same database of open apartments. Thus, many postings are duplicated by different people who work there, some of whom clearly have no clue about the city. Not only that, but few of these brokers who put up the ads have actually seen the apartments. A “HUGE STUDIO WITH LOTS OF SUNLIGHT!!!!!!” was actually a glorified jail cell with the sole window facing a brick wall.
Maybe I’m being too selective, but as a friend pointed out, you can’t dread going home every day. Thankfully, I’m not in a dire situation to make a rash decision and I have an income which allows for other options I didn’t have before.
And despite the maddening frustration of the whole thing, I suppose the market could be much worse: Even Avraham paid 400 pieces of silver all he got was a cave (Gen. 23:15-16).
Personally, I’m going to hold out for at least some doors.

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