Unicorn hunt? Finding a Village pad for $2K

Yes, finding an apartment renting for $2,000 in the Village actually is possible. This studio was recently listed by Citi Habitats, although it’s not rent-regulated — that would be a rainbow-colored unicorn.

BY MARTHA WILKIE | My first post-grad-school apartment was a sweet little rent-stabilized two-bedroom (with an eat-in-kitchen, no less) at 29 Charles St. in the West Village. The rent was $1,500, which I split with a roommate.

This was 1994. Could someone just starting out in today’s Manhattan find anything remotely comparable?

My friend Michelle and I had just got the boot from our (unbeknownst to us) illegal sublet on W. Fourth St. and needed to find a new place — fast. We went to a small real estate company (since long gone) and were shown a pre-war two-bedroom with a nice-sized living room and the largest kitchen I’ve had in my 26 years in Manhattan.

This place got little light, but the tall ceilings, lovely original moldings, and glass-fronted kitchen cabinets were charming. The friendly agent even gave us a break on the fee.

I lived there for 15 years, but with rent increases and building improvements, it slowly reached the point where the landlord could deregulate it — taking it out of rent stabilization.

My income from my job at an architectural preservation nonprofit was low enough that I could have challenged it and stayed. But coincidentally around this time, I fell in love with someone who owned a beautiful Edwardian apartment in Midtown. So I said goodbye to my beloved West Village.

I still think about that apartment. My departure took yet another apartment out of rent stabilization and it now rents for much more.

Are there still deals like that in Manhattan? Searching online shows a few (theoretically) rent-stabilized pre-war two-bedrooms.

One that I found on craigslist, in East Harlem at 111th St. near Lexington Ave., is nice and sunny, with gleaming wood floors and high ceilings, and is relatively spacious. A bargain at $1,350 — but with a strict pre-tax income cap of $45,800 per year for a two-person household.

Another, in Hudson Heights (between Washington Heights and Inwood) is a quite large, 1,000-square-foot, pre-war unit with an eat-in-kitchen for $2,250. It even has access to a large garden just for building residents. My 20-something self would want to live Downtown, but my middle-aged self could be happy here. In 2018, The New York Times called this area a “hidden gem, gaining popularity.”

In Harlem, there’s a newly renovated two-bedroom around 140th St., with shiny steel appliances for $2,050; dogs and cats welcome.

There are others listed as “rent stabilized” but with rents well above the legal rent-stabilized maximum of $2,700. These might be new buildings (or completely rebuilt ones) where the developer made a special deal with the city; these units will eventually become market rate.

As for the West Village, there’s exactly one place for $2,000 and — you guessed it — it’s a studio. Charming, though, with a fireplace (albeit, you’re not allowed to use it) and garden. Just listed yesterday and when I called the agent, someone had dibs on it already. Not rent-stabilized.

But someone had found their mythical unicorn, at least for now, that is — until the landlord raises the rent.

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