Monday, September 27, 2010

An Apartment Is A Home, But It Is Not A House

Recent news revealed that the average American yearly income is $49,500.00.  In order to be "middle class" in Manhattan, one has to earn twice that.  At least.  For a single person.  I am no longer middle class, I am comfortable.  I have few complaints, no debt, and a roof over my head.  I am a single woman with two small dogs.  I live in a rent-stabilized one-bedroom apartment on the Upper Westside of Manhattan.  According to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board:  New York City has a system of rent regulation known as "rent stabilization." The system was enacted in 1969 when rents were rising sharply in many post-war buildings. The system has been extended and amended frequently, and now about 1 million apartments in the City are covered by rent stabilization. Rent stabilized tenants are protected from sharp increases in rent and have the right to renew their leases. The Rent Guidelines Board sets the allowable percentage increase for renewal leases each year. This has been my home since January 1991, nearly 20 years. While I realize how very fortunate I am to have this apartment, still I do pine for a few amenities which "normal" American households --or wealthy New Yorkers--have. 

First, there are desk attendants in the lobby.  They do not open the door for me, but I have security, and packages can be delivered to them while I'm out.  Visitors are announced.  There are elevators, so I do not have to climb floors of stairs, the old "walk-up."  When you enter my apartment, there is a "galley" kitchen, in which I often feel like a galley slave.  There are plenty of cabinets, but only one drawer in which I keep my flatware.  There is only one countertop, and half of that is occupied by my microwave oven.  I purchased a wood-block-topped cart in order to have one more drawer, and room to prepare meals.  The stove is vintage.  There is a four-burner electric range but only the front right burner is large enough on which to cook.  The oven is a fairly good size, meaning I can roast a chicken but not a turkey.  "Self-cleaning oven" means I, myself, clean the oven.  The kitchen sink is deep enough, but the water pressure isn't very strong.  I know this because I wash all the dishes.  How I long a kitchen faucet hose!  There is no dishwasher; where would there be room for one?  When I prepare, cook and clean up after a meal, I am doing as much work as my grandmothers did in their homes fifty years ago.  Oh, "poor you!"  No, not poor me.  I simply find it amusing, as I rub cream on my dishpan hands, that my housework is so "retro."

The building has a laundry room in the basement.  You need to purchase a laundry card, and I like clean clothes and linens, so I spend a lot of money on laundry.  I'm grateful I don't have to haul a cart of dirty clothes to a laundry mat and sit and wait while the clothes are in the washers, and then the dryers.  I can set a timer and run back up to my apartment while the machines do their work.  Other tenants usually aren't thoughtful about removing laundry from machines in a timely manner.  Or they arrive ten seconds before I do, and pull my clean laundry out and place it on the dusty, too short folding table.  Most don't empty the lint from the catchers.  It's an inconvenience not a hardship.  I do dream of the day when I have my own laundry room with a washer and dryer which are large enough that I can fit enough clothes in to be economical with water.  I would have to have a long folding table because I "hand iron," pressing the clothes into shape with my nimble .  You see--and my Irish grandmothers are rolling over in their graves at this admission--I don't iron.

The bathroom is fine but small and basic.  It features a bathtub/shower enclosed by frosted glass doors.  The tub is so deep that it is hard for me to take a bath for fear of  doing serious injury to myself while climbing out.  Thank goodness the shower pressure is powerful.  The bathroom sink basin is not deep, and water ends up everywhere whenever I wash my face.  I believe the medicine cabinet was found at a flea market featuring home fixtures from the 1964 World's Fair.

Both the living room and the bedroom are large and roomy, with high ceilings.  This is excellent because the living room must double as a dining room, and my home office takes up about a third of the bedroom.  The apartment has fine wood floors which are the worse for wear after two decades, but they are wood floors.  

Every morning I wake up and go sit on the "veranda" (my radiator cover) by one of the two large windows in the living room.  The apartment faces the street, and faces north, so the morning sunlight streams in and lights up the place.  I sip my tea, look down on my street, and count my blessings.  I do live in a lovely neighborhood and in Manhattan.  I have a home; it's just not a house.  Central Park is my garden. 

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