Chapter 1 from Who
Gets the Apartment?
who's ever sought a decent apartment at a decent price in a decent Manhattan neighborhood knows that you need only one thing
to find such a place: sheer, unadulterated, God-sent good luck.
With waiting lists for rent-controlled buildings reaching the
15-year mark, some enterprising Manhattanites have developed creative methods of apartment hunting. They rise early to scan
the obituaries, then arrive at the buildings of the recently deceased with pocketfuls of cash, hoping to cajole the building
manager into giving them the recently vacated apartment. They marry or declare domestic partnerships with complete strangers
to get their name on a lease. They chase down every possible lead generated by friends, family, and co-workers. But none of
these methods work unless Lady Luck is firmly on their side. And today, for some happy reason, she smiled on Corinne Jensen.
Corinne had had
a terrible night's sleep—if you could call tossing, turning, sweating, and semiconscious hallucinating a "night's
sleep." It was rumored that her company might be put up for sale, and she wondered if she'd survive yet another horrible
merger or acquisition. Her Mom and Dad, back in Buffalo, seemed to be going downhill, and she knew that sooner or later she'd
have to start sending money. She didn't resent this (it was only fair, since her sister had the far more onerous task of actually
caring for their parents), but it wasn't as though New York book editors had a lot of extra cash lying around.
But these worries
paled in comparison to the prospect of being thrown out of her apartment, which was imminent. The building was going co-op
and she didn't have the money for a down payment. She should have saved more. But it's impossible to save money when you live
in Manhattan. Everyone knows that.
She'd spent the last three months in a fruitless quest for something she could
afford and feel safe in. All she wanted was a simple one-room apartment, like her current place, but even small studios on
the Upper West Side were renting for eight or nine hundred dollars more than her small, pleasant apartment on 88th Street.
her problems would have been solved if she'd been willing to relocate to, say, Yorkville. But the Upper West Side, where she'd
lived since coming to New York after college, was her home. She knew the cashiers at Zabar's by name. The brothers who ran
the newsstand Amsterdam Avenue taught her a new Russian word each time she picked up the new Vogue. She even had "her"
table at Café 82, a small diner on Broadway.
She looked at the clock: 5:09 a.m. She uttered a mild profanity and gave up any
hope of sleep. She might as well get up and go for a run.
The morning was crisp and chilly. She felt invigorated
as she stepped out of the building and began a slow jog. As she ran, she tried to block out the feelings of envy she felt
for the residents of each and every apartment building on West End Avenue. All those people, she thought, torturing herself,
cuddled up cozy in their beds, sleeping like babies, not about to be kicked out onto the street.
As she ran in place,
waiting for a traffic signal to change, a delivery truck for The Clarion pulled alongside her. A burly man tossed two bundles
of the new issue onto the curb, then climbed out to stuff the newspapers into the yellow box from which neighborhood residents
could retrieve their free copies.
Corinne loved The Clarion. It billed itself, somewhat pretentiously, as "the
voice of the Upper West Side." Full of attitude and opinions, the paper was heavy on coverage of cultural events and
local politics. Since the paper had gone from a subscription base to free circulation a few years ago, she'd noticed many
more ads for prostitutes, escorts, and "hot chat" lines in the paper’s back pages, but these were easy to
When the driver pulled away, she opened the box and took out a copy. The driver had stuffed the papers into
the box upside down, so the first thing she saw was the "Clarion Bulletin Board" on the back page.
The ad leapt off
Central Park West & 72nd Street. Luxurious 3000 sq ft. duplex penthouse: 2 bedrooms, fireplaces in LR
& master BR, 3 baths, cathedral ceilings, all modern kitchen with DW & all new appliances, dining room, balcony overlooking
the park, doorman bldg with full security features, basement parking included. $600/month. Two-year lease. Available first
of the month. Call 212-555-2997.
$600 a month? Impossible. Surely they meant $6,000? But…what if she really
could get an apartment ten times the size of her current place for a third of what she was currently paying?
She looked at her
watch: 5:36. It was probably too early to call the number, but she didn't care. She ran to the public phone at the other end
of the block, praying that, just once, some stupid kid hadn't smashed the receiver or used his pocketknife to cut the wires.
Miracle of miracles—she picked up the receiver and got a dial tone. She punched in her calling card number and the number
listed in the ad. After two rings, a male voice said "Hello."
"Hi, I hope I'm not calling too early?
My name's Corinne Jensen. I'm calling about the ad in The Clarion. Is the apartment on 72nd and Central Park West still available?"
"Yes, it is."
The man sounded quite pleasant.
"Is the rent $600 a month?"
"Yes, that's correct."
"I'll take it."
There was a light
chuckle. "Don't you want to see it first?"
"No. I'll take it."
"Miss--Jensen, did you say?--I can't rent
an apartment to you over the phone. We need to meet in person. Plus, I have to do credit checks, background checks, et cetera."
give it to anyone else. I'll be right over. It's not too early to come, is it?"
"You can stop by any time.
I'll be here all day, until about six. Let me give you the address." And he did.
"Please, please, don't give
it to anyone else before I get there."
"Listen, I can’t promise you anything. I'm only the rental agent. Just
get here as soon as you can. And bring three months' rent and two months' security in cash, just in case."
"I'll be there
within half an hour. Even if I have to steal a car. Who should I ask for at the building?"
Weisch. Have the doorman send you to Apartment 18D."
"I'm Corinne Jensen. Wait, I told you that already.
OK, I'm hanging up now. I'll be there in half an hour. Bye."
She slammed the phone down and ran back to her apartment
at cheetah-like speed. Thank God she’d decided to hide a substantial wad of hundred-dollar bills in her cookie jar!
Manhattan landlords usually require security deposits in cash, and she hadn’t want to find an unacceptable apartment
on an evening or weekend, then lose it to a rival because the banks were closed and ATM machines have a ridiculously small
cash limit. She smashed into the apartment, grabbed her nest egg, and ran back out the door without locking it. Back on Broadway,
she hailed a taxi like a woman possessed.
She gave the address and held a twenty-dollar bill through the security window.
"Get me there in under 10 minutes and this is your tip," she said, as if the cabbie needed an excuse to race through
the streets of upper Manhattan like Jeff Gordon at the Indy 500.
When the cab pulled up outside the building, a pristine
pre-war high-rise on the corner of Central Park West, Corinne threw the money at the driver and raced into the lobby. She
gave her name to the doorman, who sent her up to apartment 18D.
From the elevator, she could see Andrew Weisch waiting
at the apartment door. He was tall, slender, and goodlooking, with a fashionable haircut and expensive designer eyeglasses
and shoes. She forced herself to calm down and walk slowly.
"Mr. Weisch? Corinne Jensen. Sorry about the way
I'm dressed. I was out jogging when I saw the ad, and I didn’t want to waste any time. I really am a presentable person—I'm
a book editor at Clarendon & Shaw."
Weisch smiled. "I don't usually look my best first thing in the morning,
either. Come on in."
Corinne crossed the threshold and entered-—a palace. She gasped as she surveyed the first
floor, a huge, open, L-shaped living room/dining room combination surrounded on three sides by floor-to-ceiling windows and
a wraparound balcony. A baby grand piano sat majestically off to one side. She stared in slack-jawed amazement as Mr. Weisch
led her through the dining room into the large eat-in kitchen, which was filled with expensive appliances and every modern
She continued to make small noises of wonder and astonishment as she followed him up the stairs to the two
bedrooms, both of which were larger than her entire apartment. The master bath had separate bathtub and shower stalls, a double
sink, a skylight, a toilet, and a bidet. The second bedroom was only marginally smaller; the current resident seemed to use
it as some sort of office. Both rooms had the same magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights.
Corinne was shaking
with excitement. At the completion of the tour, she said with as much sang froid as she could muster, "This is certainly
a lovely place. I'll take it."
"It is a wonderful apartment," Weisch admitted. "Let's head back
downstairs and get the applications taken care of." Corinne followed like an obedient puppy.
"I need to make
a few calls to check your employment status, credit rating, et cetera," Weisch said as she signed her name dozens of
times. "Would you excuse me for a few minutes?"
"Of course," Corinne replied, fighting back
a surge of optimism—as, she’d found, it never does pay to get one’s hopes up. Still, she thought with some
satisfaction, her credit was excellent, and she'd been with the same company for more than ten years.
She glanced at her
watch. It was just after 6:30. "Isn't it too early to make business calls?" she asked.
are open 24/7," Weisch replied, handing her a box of donuts. "Help yourself. I'll be back in a few."
She slowly munched
on a half-stale cruller, practically shaking with excitement and joy. She envisioned the many fabulous wine-and-cheese parties
she'd be hosting. And the thrill of having that second bedroom, for guests and for her computer…! She came close to
having a real estate orgasm, a phenomenon known only to those few on whom the Real Estate God (in cahoots with Lady Luck)
has bestowed his largesse.
Weisch returned ten minutes later.
"Congratulations. The apartment's yours. As soon
as you give me the first three months' rent and two months' security, of course.
"Just a few rules," Mr.
Weisch continued amiably as Corinne counted out the cash. "The apartment is rented unfurnished, so everything you see
will be gone by the time you move in. The building has a zero-tolerance policy for pets, so I strongly advise you not to even
consider sneaking one in. There's additional storage in the basement, in the cage marked 18D. The rent includes all utilities;
we also arrange for your phone service, so you don’t need to contact the phone company. Parties are allowed, but the
building has strict policies about loudness after midnight.
"Do you have a car? No? OK, we'll rent the parking
spot in the garage to someone else then. If you ever do get a car, let us know, and we'll see what we can do. But we can't
guarantee a place in the garage.
"We do expect the rent to be paid promptly on the first of each month. You
can leave a check with the doorman, or I’ll give you an address to send the check to.
"All these rules are spelled
out in the rental agreement," Weisch concluded, handing her three copies of that document to sign. "And that's the
end of my lawyer spiel. Do you have any questions I can answer?"
"Just one. I don't mean to look a gift
horse in the mouth, but why are you renting this place for such a…um….reasonable price?"
Weisch shrugged his
shoulders. "I wish I knew. This apartment's owned by the man I work for, John Blackmore. I just do what he tells me to
do. He doesn't like his underlings asking him questions."
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I was
"The wealthy have their own way of doing things. I just go with the flow. Mine is not
to question why, mine is just to do or die, blah blah blah. You know how it is."
She read over the terms of the
rental agreement carefully. Nothing out of the ordinary. She'd never been happier to sign a document in her life.
Andrew Weisch also
signed the agreement, then reached into his pocket and pulled out three sets of keys, which he dropped into Corinne's hand.
will countersign the agreement, and we'll FedEx a fully executed copy to your current address," Weisch said. "Give
it a couple of days. Welcome to the building. You move in on the first."