We have not lived in an apartment for 42 years. It takes us back……and takes some adjustment.
Space. We have a galley kitchen, one combo living room/dining area/study, a bathroom with one sink and a tub/shower, and a bedroom. Our furnished apartment is small, but that is not necessarily bad because we did not bring too many of our own things to New York! It is quick to clean. The decor is not of our choosing but is ok….it is a corporate apartment right from IKEA….all tan and black. It is apparent from the kitchen contents that the apartment was intended for a single person who eats every single meal out; i.e., there are no measuring spoons, no bowls, only 1 pan, 3 drinking glasses, and 11 wine glasses!
Neighbors. There are over 300 apartments in our 33-story high rise. Everyone seems to be pretty friendly; however, we do not know anyone. The residents are of all ages and nationalities. Many wear blue UN badges and others seem to be business people. There are a few families with babies. We have talked to a couple of residents on the elevator who have lived here more than 20 years! We do not think we have ever seen the same resident twice in the building.
Doorman. Our building, like most in NY, has doormen. They are on duty 24/7 and are happy to assist when needed. Some speak English. We had a Doorman 101 lesson from Julian, our favorite, and learned a lot. First, most doormen are retired from other jobs and are just looking for some extra income. Some, like Julian, are students or young guys looking for a way to earn money while pursuing another career. Starting salary is $17-18 per hour and after a few months you join the doorman union. Then salary increases regularly. To be a doorman you do not have to go to school or be licensed. The only way to be hired as a doorman is to know someone….this applies for a doorman at any building in any area of the city. It is most desirable to be a doorman in a luxury apartment complex as the tips can be in the thousands at the holidays and are in cash. On a daily basis, the tips can be in the hundreds in a plush residence. Julian knew of one doorwoman. A residential doorman is not qualified to be a doorman at a retail store like Prada or Tiffany….that is a separate union. For anyone entering our apartment grounds or building he/she must pass the doorman…..and they are particular about who they admit. The visitor or delivery person must identify themselves and then the doorman calls the resident on the intercom telephone to announce him/her. Only if the doorman receives permission is that person allowed onto the elevator, another safety precaution that we appreciate.
Porters. Porters are the men who keep the building running…….vacuuming the hallway, emptying the trash, sending out the recycling, hosing off the patios and walkways, etc. Doormen are not porters and vice versa.
We empty our trash and our recycling into a little closet in the hallway near the elevators on our floor. It gets picked up several times a day and is a great service. New Yorkers seem to be adamant about recycling. We often see poor people digging into garbage sacks on the sidewalks in front of office buildings or restaurants, and they are looking for cans and bottles. They often carry their multiple full bags on poles across their shoulders (like coolies) on their way to the redemption centers. We are convinced that not a single can nor bottle escapes recycling.
Handyman. This is another class of workmen in apartment buildings. Our handyman is Juan and we know him well, as he has rescued us from various bad situations: stopped up sink, broken dishwasher, burned out light bulbs. Juan is beloved by the residents! He is also the father of Julian, our delightful doorman described above.
Mail. Ours is being forwarded from Denver. That means we get only first-class mail, so we get no catalogues. It is ironic that the one time in my life when I actually have time to peruse catalogues, I do not receive any at all! We get a lot of mail for former residents of our apartment…we think it is a revolving door at 9D! Some days we get no mail at all….talk about simplifying your life!
Laundry. No one in NY apartments seems to have a washer or dryer. These machines are typically located in the lower levels of the buildings. Ours is on B1 and consists of one large room with about 15 washers and 15 dryers, all fairly large in size and, fortunately, all very new. One has to first buy a laundry card for $5 from a machine in the laundry room. Then you have to add $ to the card in increments of $10 and use the card to wash and dry. One load of laundry costs $4.75 to wash and dry. Most of the people I have run into in the laundry room do not speak English. A lot of tenants use the building laundry service where a laundry employee, Adam or his dad, will do the laundry for a fee based upon the weight. The minimum charge is $13.50 and then it is increased by $1.50 per pound after that. Also, there is at least one, if not two, laundries/cleaners on every block, and they all seem to be super busy day and night. They have signs in the window stating “Wash and Fold.” We often see individuals trudging into their local cleaners lugging a stuffed duffle bag full of that week’s dirty clothes, sheets, and towels. Having your laundry done by someone else is a way of life here.
Groceries. This has been an adjustment in a couple of ways. There are no large supermarkets in Manhattan. There are a few small chains like D’Agostino and Food Emporium but no Safeways or King Soopers.
Every block has at least one small “deli” market that sells basic groceries, beer, and fresh flowers. We typically do not frequent these tiny 7-11-like stores, as the quality of the food is not so great and prices are high. However, we stopped this past weekend for a six pack of beer (Brooklyn Ale) purely for convenience so that we did not have to walk another block to the wine/liquor shop. The clerk rang up the beer and said to Dennis, “Fifteen dollars, Mister!”
That might be our last purchase there!
On every block there is a fruit/vegetable stand sellling all the same produce one would typically see in a grocery store. These stands are extremely popular as the prices are competitive, often lower than store prices, and the quality is good. We have seen people buy a single banana and others load up with a week’s worth of produce. The produce delivery trucks pull up right to the cart and bring fresh merchandise frequently. We have not figured out exactly how these carts work as they seem to be open every day and all night and do not move or seem to close up at night. One evening we saw a customer buying a plum well after midnight. Do the vendors ever sleep? Where? Another New York mystery.
Without a car we have no way to transport a load of groceries to our apartment. Like most New Yorkers, we buy in small quantities and buy only a few types of things at a time. I am now convinced that the tote bag was invented in NY for grocery shoppers. There is no way one can haul a plastic bag full of groceries when walking a few blocks home from a store….it kills your hands! Every New Yorker always takes a tote bag with substantial handles for shopping. If I were going to live here for a while, I would buy one of those little shopping carts that little old ladies seem to favor….and now I know why! We could use it for those really heavy items we take for granted at home: milk, juice, bubble water, beer, wine.
Day-to-day apartment life also means that whenever we leave the apartment, which is often a couple of times a day, we have learned to take with us all of the following: phone, keys, subway pass, tote bag, subway map, bus map, tour guide, jacket, scarf, snack. So far it is working well……and we are so very happy to be here in such a new environment in so many ways.