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Drawing the line: Just how much is too much to keep cheap rent??

 Ah, Bushwick

All photos by Cat Agonis

 Ah, Bushwick...A sea of creative ingenuity, fabulous new restaurants and what else? Slumlords!

Let's be real here. It’s no secret that New York transplants pile up in loft apartments in Bushwick, splitting their rent while still staying within a beer can’s throw of Williamsburg and Manhattan. With Bushwick as the new dubstep rave, rents are definitely on the rise to Zeus and his heavens. So it’s no surprise that those who have a deal on a place want to keep it really badly, despite a lack of pharmacies, noisy car lots and the occasional street rat. The thing about cash-loving landlords who still actually give out “deals,” is they don’t want you to know their name or number. They want quiet tenants who they can collect regular dinero from and basically never hear from again...even if their building is far from being up to code. This is the catch with these places. You keep quiet. You keep your cheap rent. One hand washes the other, right?

But as more and more horror stories of janky locks, crumbling infrastructure and questionable traces of vermin are shared, we have to wonder, just how much are we willing to put up with before we pick up the phone and just make a complaint? Just how many inconveniences of an apartment are worth the convenient location of Bushwick and a few extra $$?

Like many BK dwellers, Amma A., a former resident on Greene Ave, had problems from the get-go at her prior dwelling. “We had no heat or hot water for the first few weeks because it got shut off due to previous tenants, and they didn’t work to fix it.” Amma and her roommate went on to complain again after her landlord visited the apartment for an inspection. While there he was spooked by her cat and then literally backed right into her bedroom door and took it off the hinge Dumb & Dumber style. (True story). Despite the landlord’s promises and apologies, the door was never fixed.Amma also requested that bars be installed on the windows after a couple of neighborhood mooks attempted a robbery. It took two months to finally get the bars. And after all this, when time came to renew the lease the landlord raised their rent from $1525 a month to a whopping $2000. While he gave no direct reason, Amma felt it was a result of her making complaints and believing something should actually been done to live a decent life in this town.These scare stories we’ve all heard are what keep people with cheap rent super silent.

Andrea M. of Starr Street said that leaking radiators have stalked her through two Bushwick apartments, and she’s learned to deal with it. In her first place off Morgan Ave, where she paid only $630, the landlord made clear from day one that he was not the available sort of brother. Last winter Andrea and her roommates put bowls out underneath the leaking radiators and did daily dumps like it was a bucket line for some rural fire. “It was ridiculous. We made a complaint but after the landlord said if the super couldn’t fix it nothing could be done, we knew we should just keep quiet. I mean, I was only paying $600 to live off Morgan Ave.”In her second apartment she pays $200 more, so she feels the right to complain but, even so, her and her roommate just aren’t heard. “While the radiators in my new place aren’t as leaky, they still haven’t been fixed all winter.” She said throughout her time in Bushwick, she can’t even remember everything she put up with, but some additional offenses were a broken oven, wooden sink that had to be cleaned weekly to avoid collecting mold, and a general lack of basic things, like a buzzer. “But I’m not home that much, so as long as the heat and electricity is on and I can watch Netflix before falling asleep, it’s really no big deal.” But there’s one thing that will cause her to call a landlord no matter what, and that’s pests. “I can’t deal with them. If I ever seem them, I’ll call. Cockroaches are just rude and out of line.

”Eli K. got the feeling his prior Porter Ave apt was a questionable "deal" when he first scoped it. But he said as his first place in the city, and for only $1950 a month for a three bedroom, he was very lenient on what he would put up with. "I took it mainly for the price, and the convenience. It was only two blocks away from the train. And when I saw it, I knew it wasn't ideal, but for three guys it worked." What began as a starter apartment, turned into a four-year stay. "I stayed there for so long I adapted to the situation." Eli said he got the feeling that as long as he was quiet, his landlord wouldn't price him out. Complaints he held back included a broken window in the kitchen, mold in the bathroom, and no door handle on the front door. He said he never really cared about those things because of the price and location, but now that's he's in a nicer place he doesn't think he could revert back to being about that kind of life.

So after all this, what was found? Just where do we draw the line when it comes to our stability? Just what won’t we put up with to keep some extra money in our pockets and proximity to Union Square? “No heat, hot water or electricity” was everyone’s general consensus. Everything else is negotiable.


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