1980s: Summer sublet, huge loft, an ever-changing cast of characters
“My first NYC apartment was in ‘Tribeca,’ back in the mid-eighties when that sounded like a weird word. This dusty loft, with its constant throng of visitors, almost cost me my first job….” Read more »
1970s: My first apartment, guiltily remembered
“It was with apartment 2C I learned how to circumvent the rent laws and that when it comes to housing in New York, even a friend will stab you in the back….” Read more »
1980s: Astoria burglars, mice, and Greek food
“My first NYC apartment was on Steinway Street—party central of Astoria, Queens. I have very fond memories of my bachelor days there, but there are a lot of strange memories, too….” Read more »
1980s: Armless mannequins, double futons, and strange old men
“I moved to NYC in 1987, and found my first apartment through an ad in The Village Voice. I had to be told what the “village” was; I was from Michigan for god’s sake….” Read more »
1960s: Nice Catholic girls, lava lamps, and small claims court
“Even on bright sunny days, the apartment was gloomy. I began to fear that we would wind up like those fish who live their entire lives in caves, the ones become blind from lack of light….” Read more »
1970s & ’80s: The Village—NYU, elevator men, and famous playwrights
“These were my wild NYU days and I had lots of romantic encounters. My interactions with men in my building, however, were not always so romantic….” Read more »
Late 1960s: Escape from Queens, zeppole feasts, and rent control laws
“The rent was $105 a month, which my mother considered exorbitant. Her comment after much hand-wringing: ‘Oh, why don’t you get yourself a nice studio in Lefrak City.’ I ignored that suggestion….” Read more »
The 1960s: Cafe Wha?, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Bruce Springsteen
“I was in the center of the scene there—all you had to do was carry an empty guitar case and girls would follow you. I did my share of drugs, I had my long hair. Every day was an adventure….” Read more »
Mid 1970s: Rocking cars, red lights... too far north?
“To this day, if I am walking near Broadway and I see a parked car moving and shaking, my heart races and I will quickly cross the street….” Read more »
Late 1980s: Pungent vesibule puddles, roach garnishes, and letting go of things
“The mice, oh, those mice. They were true New Yorkers with a dry sense of humor, showing up at the most inopportune times. I lost more girlfriends that way….” Read more »
1980s: East River floaters, apathetic cops, and sachertorte
“We went away one weekend. I don’t remember where we went but I do remember we left the windows open so our apartment wouldn’t be too stifling when we got back. And I’ll never forget the sight we saw when we returned…” Read more »
Early 1990s: Transient hotel, the Apology Line, and a general cacophony
“The walls were as thin as the saltines on which I spread Potted Meat Food Product for dinner. I was privy to every sound of one neighbor’s bed squeaking and creaking in response to his nocturnal movements. His incoherent mumblings almost made sense to me some nights. Another neighbor was an opera singer. He was a horrible opera singer.” Read more »
1980s: Dumping ground, dissed at Elaine’s, and an eviction
“The couple cautioned me, ‘Don’t draw attention to yourself. The landlord can’t know that we left!’ The wife even left her furniture in the place, and so I discreetly moved in my own stuff in small bags and suitcases, making many trips. And then…” Read more »
2007: From L.A. to NYC = apartment shock
“The first apartment I saw in my budget almost made me cry. There was some term for the place, like “junior four,” which is the NYC way of saying $3,500/month for four tiny useless rooms.” Read more »
The 1980s: Kitchen bathtub, gaping floorboards, and an AMAZING view
“The apartment was so rundown that the floorboards had spread apart and you could clearly see into the apartment below through the wide cracks. They could literally see up my skirt when I walked around above them.” Read more »
Early 1980s: From sleeping in a closet to having a walk-in closet—at a stupidly cheap rent
I always think of my first years in the city as being somewhat fraught—but looking back, I was pretty lucky! Read more »
Early 1970s: NWBFP, bathroom bugs, and amorous neighbors
With a sense of dread I followed Jo and Randy up the block to a beat-up old car parked beside stinking garbage bags. I prayed we weren’t being taken to some dire fate—murder, or slavery…. Read more »
Late 1980s: Sweaty nights, soap opera priorities, and a tennis-playing grandma
“When we had people over that hot summer, to take a break we’d walk across the street to the Food Emporium to stand in the frozen food aisle…” Read more »
Late 1970s: Laundry room plumbing, toaster fire, and only a “small gun”
“My super told me that she found what remained of the electric oven/toaster in the courtyard but the tenant refused to admit he had thrown it out the window. All I could think was how awful it would be to go out with friends and come back three to four hours later and your life is upside down. To this day I will not buy a toaster oven…” Read more »
Early 1980s: Blackened planks and broken bags of soup
“This poem describes my first apartment on Union Square. I always had to live near a vacant lot or ruined building. Couldn’t stand that finished feeling. Rent? A prayer I prayed each month.” Read more »
First Apartment Storyteller Stats
- Storytellers who use the word “tiny” 85%
- Storytellers who use the word “dark” 75%
- Storytellers who use the word “fun” 60%
- The site’s storytellers who lived in Manhattan 90%
What’s on the site?
Find lots of entertaining “first apartment” stories contributed by all sorts of former (and current) New Yorkers, plus related NYC articles, photos, videos, and book/movie/music lists that will take you back in time. For instance, read about Madonna and Debbie Harry’s early days in NYC…
Did you have a First Apartment NYC but are wondering what to write about it? Your “story” can be as simple as “The top 5 things I remember about my place.” These prompts might help spark some memories for you.
Writing & layout help
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Featured FANYC Stories ↓
Yukie Ohta, a 46-year-old New York–based archivist, is an old-school fan of SoHo, having grown up there in the 1970s. Now she has a created a mobile mini-museum to preserve her memories of the early days of Soho.
This poem describes my first apartment on Union Square. I always had to live near a vacant lot or ruined building. Couldn’t stand that finished feeling. Rent? A prayer I prayed each month.
With a sense of dread I followed Jo and Randy up the block to a beat-up old car parked beside stinking garbage bags. I prayed we weren’t being taken to some dire fate—murder, or slavery. But no. We drove eight blocks south and…
The apartment was so rundown that the floorboards had spread apart and you could clearly see into the apartment below through the wide cracks. They could literally see up my skirt when I walked around above them.
Nothing is easy in NYC—and getting an apartment is really not easy, as I found out when I moved from my beach place in California to downtown New York. I had one day to find my place—a day of lowering my expectations and mentally downsizing.
We moved into the apartment in early June of what was one of the hottest summer’s in New York history. And we didn’t have an air conditioner. When we had people over that summer, to take a break we’d walk across the street to the Food Emporium to stand in the frozen food aisle. After a visit from…
The walls were as thin as the saltines on which I spread Potted Meat Food Product for dinner. I was privy to every sound of one neighbor’s bed squeaking and creaking in response to his nocturnal movements. His incoherent mumblings almost made sense to me some nights. Another neighbor was an opera singer. He was a horrible opera singer.
A man came running up to us screaming, “Did you see the person who just drove off in that station wagon? My car was just stolen!” This was an eye-opening experience, and as I started to pay more attention to my new neighborhood, I realized that ten blocks made a big difference in 1976, and I was not in “Kansas” anymore.