• Casie Dionne

Straight Out Of Brooklyn


We are just about settled into our new apartment in… Harlem! I had been holding my breath for over a month and now I can breathe again. We did it! We finally moved out of Brooklyn.

It’s funny, when we would tell people that we wanted to move, we’d get crazy looks as if we said we hadn’t seen Black Panther yet. Because Brooklyn is the hottest neighborhood right now, hipsters far and wide have descended on the borough and made it their own. Move over Biggie, Jay-Z, Spike Lee because Asher and Saffron have taken over. And while I enjoy their man buns, artisanal mayo and deconstructed avocado sandwiches as much as the next person - Brooklyn just wasn’t right for me and my husband. We yearned to be closer to the city, the energy, excitement and all the variety that it has to offer. But I was not looking forward to the process of moving. And so we kept dragging our feet on pulling the trigger.

But sometimes God has a way of lighting not just a fire in us, but a whole burning bush to get us moving

Two months ago my husband and I were in Harlem eating at Seasoned Vegan, you know, the restaurant I mentioned in My Adventures as a Part-Time Vegan post and we were having those deep discussions about the future that couples have and we were talking about how much we didn’t like our current apartment anymore and we decided right there that we would get off our butts and start the process of looking for a place in Harlem.

I kid you not, in the middle of our conversation my husband got a call from a friend who lives in Harlem and he said the apartment in his brownstone was going to be vacant May 1st, it’s a big space, it hadn’t been listed yet so we’d have first dibs and we could even take a look at it that day. We thought this must be a sign, this was going to be so easy, look at the perfect timing and we didn’t have to put in any work - an apartment just fell into our laps.

Well, surprise, surprise, it was too good to be true. The landlord was using a broker whose fees were more than what we wanted to pay – especially since they didn’t put in any work to find us. So we ended up passing on it.

But this experience did get us going, we set a date to keep us motivated and to seal the deal my husband spoke to our landlord asked to be let out early from our lease and told her we’d be out by March, April at the latest. Thankfully she agreed without any push back.

WHAT DID WE GET OURSELVES INTO?

New York makes finding the perfect apartment especially difficult. You may have the income and credit score to qualify for a certain building and still not get it. Welcome to the world of gentrification and “legal” housing discrimination.

We literally pounded the pavement walking all over Harlem every Saturday and Sunday for an entire month looking at apartments.

A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER IS ALSO A MAGICIAN

Monday through Friday we would look through the website StreetEasy searching through all the apartments available for rent, then contact the listing agent to schedule weekend showings of the places we were interested in. My hopes were high, there seemed to be so many great looking apartments to choose from.

One particular Saturday we were scheduled to see about 6 apartments scattered all over Harlem – our appointments were back to back to back.

We were walking to our third appointment and the route to get there kept getting sketchier and sketchier and we were walking so far out of what I know of as Harlem that I was unsure that we were even still in Harlem. As we approached the building, I thought surely I put in the wrong address. This had to be a mistake because we were led to these humongous brick buildings that probably house at least 1,000 people... they go by a lot of other names, but I call these types of buildings, Affordable Housing. We didn’t even go inside, I called the agent, cancelled and kept it moving.

My husband was so gracious and didn’t give me any grief for this. He warned me multiple times at the start of our search that in NYC, no matter what the pictures look like, if the price looks too good to be true, it 100% is. But my frugality took over and I thought my 1.5 years of experience living in NY would teach his 11+ years something new… but I got schooled that day.

Two weeks into our search we settled on applying for 2 apartments that we liked. And when I say "we liked", I mean my husband liked one and I liked the other. So we decided that we’d let God be the deciding factor, throw our hat in the ring for both and whichever apartment we got, would be the one He wanted us to have.

The apartment my husband liked was in a brand new building, no one had ever lived there, it had two balconies and a roof deck and the approval process was quick and relatively easy. So quick, that we got rejected in less than a week. My husband was bummed but in my mind I thought God was going to give us the apartment that I preferred.

My preferred apartment was on the perfect block on West 117th just off Frederick Douglass Blvd a “sexy” section of Harlem. But the approval process was a beast. The application packet was thicker than a dictionary and required hard copy proof of everything from our birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, 6 months of bank statements and everything in between. I even had to sign a release for them to get an appraisal on the Florida townhouse we own. But, I wanted this place so bad, that I dug my heels in and got to work. It took me so many hours to get all the documents together then I submitted the thick packet on a Friday and we were leaving for Dubai on the Sunday.

It was cutting it close because we would be returning February 18th and we needed to move out before March 1st. But no problem right? We surely would get approved for this apartment while we were in Dubai, leaving us a bit of time to move when we returned.

But we got back from Dubai and there was still no word on whether we got approved. It was another 4 days – on February 22nd when we found out that we were rejected. I was officially in panic mode and it was a struggle to hold on to the assurance that God was going to come through.

We had less than 6 days to get approved and move into another apartment and we had zero prospects. What had been taking us over a month had to be instantly sped up because word from our landlord is that she had found another tenant to move in March 1st.

IN THE END

Despite seeing over 20 disappointing apartments, three rejections and 4 sore feet. I got such a great sense of Harlem over that month and it stole my heart. I’m a person who is led by the spirit and my spirit vibed with Harlem with every mile walked and every restaurant and bodega visited, there was confirmation that Harlem is where we belong.

We ended up seeing another apartment that we liked on February 24th, applied for it and got approved on the 26th - with two days to spare! And this place is perfect - for both of us. It's much better than the others that we thought we wanted. God came through, as he always does. And I know he has big plans for us here.

Stay tuned for future posts as I continue to explore.

What places do you recommend I visit in Harlem next?

#StreetEasy #Harlem #movinginNYC #Brooklyn

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