Hey, did you know I currently live in Manhattan? Shocking, I know. Everyone I tell is always like "... Manhattan? But I thought, well, I just assumed ..." Yup. But that is about to change. I have my own little piece of the American pie in Williamsburg on South 2nd. Hey, it's on the other side of the BQE, the un-cool (ungentrified) side. But it's a seven minute walk from the L Bedford stop, a 15 minute walk from the main drag in Williamsburg (where I spend all my time anyway), and a 25 minute walk from any warehouse party in Bushwick. The street is quiet. And most importantly, there are windows in every single room of this humble little one-bedroom. The southern windows spill golden light into the living room and bedroom. A small window is in the bathroom, and another window lets me chop my vegetables by natural light instead of fluorescents. There is a view over the rooftops, with nary a brick wall to keep me from seeing the lights at night. I can sneak out on the fire escape and up to the roof to see the Freedom Tower across the East River. It will be my heaven. But I need to acknowledge something. I'm going to be perfectly real with you guys. I am a gentrifier. This slice of Williamsburg has held out against gentrification so far. There are a couple bars, a few little restaurants. But no boutiques. There are men and women who chill in their fold-up chairs on the street, lazily patrolling the neighborhood while they sip on sodas. The other night my boyfriend and I on a whim got our palms read by a nice woman named Tracy a block over. The list of tenants in my walkup are almost all Hispanic, and judging by how the last names repeat several times, many of them are families that have colonized almost entire floors. I met a nice mother and her adorable toddler one day on my floor, and she told me her mother lived next door. And that I had moved into her brother's old apartment. Am I allowed to say, as the gentrifier, that I like all of this? I like how cozy the neighborhood feels, that many of the people know each other in the building, even though I don't speak their language. (I'll be leaning on my boyfriend to help me. Maybe I should just take Spanish lessons ...) I like the idea of waving hello to the old guys chilling at the bodega on the corner. I love that I can actually line dry my clothes, like everyone else does in the building, by clothespinning them to a line out my window. Oh yeah, and the low price of my apartment was a perk. It allowed me to get a humble little space, with money left over to make it mine. I realize the downside to all of this. That as a gentrifier, developers might include me in their calculations for the return on knocking down a building and putting in a condo. That landlords might think of me when deciding to raise the rents. But that is the calculus of buying in New York. I'm in the second wave, right after the starving artists. Not starving, but not flush enough to afford an apartment in Manhattan or Williamsburg. I want to park myself here for a long time, get to know the neighborhood, instead of flipping the apartment for a profit. That's certainly not in my plan. I hope I can be forgiven for being the other. So, how am I going to make this apartment mine? My reno includes:
- Ripping out and putting in a brand new kitchen.
- Ripping out and putting in a new bathroom.
- Ripping out and putting in new hardwood floors.
- Putting a closet in the bedroom.
- Soundproofing the living room.