• Ms. Demeanor's Sex, Laundry & Vertical Etiquette

    Dear Ms. Demeanor: What are the rules for housesitters?

    Dear Ms. Demeanor,

    We bought a beach house in Massachusetts over the winter and we are taking the bold step of spending the ENTIRE summer there.  A college student who is the niece of a friend will be taking care of our apartment, plants, and fish while we are away. 

    What is usual long-term housesitter protocol?  The student is staying at our apartment rent-free.  Do I give her a list of rules?  Does she bring her own sheets?  Does she pay the cable bill?  

    We kind of jumped in to this thing without thinking through the nitty gritty details.

    Please help!


    Sweating the Summer

  • Your celebrity neighbors: Michael Douglas and Catherine-Zeta Jones

    WHO: A-list Hollywood power couple Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas continue to prove that age ain't nothing but a number (though in case you're wondering, Zeta-Jones is 42, and Douglas is 67).

    WHERE: The Douglas-Zeta-Joneses reside on a very Gordon Gekko-style stretch of Central Park West in the West 70s. The median price for a condo/co-op on the Upper West Side is $949k, according to StreetEasy, but the median price on the neighborhood's snazziest avenue is no-doubt much higher.

    Your Celebrity Neighbor is a weekly heads-up on the A-listers who call your neighborhood home and (in theory) shop the same Duane Reade as you.

  • Unraveling NYC real estate spin, one white lie at a time

    Here at BrickUnderground, we have lots of first-person columns to peruse, from Farm to City--chronicling a rental rookie's adventures in NYC real estate--to My Big Fat Board Interview--where New Yorkers relate what really happens in a co-op board interview--to Transitions, first-hand accounts of cross-neighborhood moves.

    For this week's SurvivalList--a thematic curation of some of our favorite posts--we draw your attention to our only slightly tongue-in-cheek NYC Real(i)ty Speak series dedicated to separating real estate spin from reality.

    There are posts on decoding neighbor "niceties" in the laundry room ("Wow, that is a lot of laundry!" actually means "Which one of your kids has lice this time?")  and in the elevator ("Look at her - growing up so fast!"  = "I think it is disgusting that a 6-year-old has her own iPhone.").

    There's also brokerspeak for sellers  ("Are there any personal items that you want to remove before we start doing open houses?" = "No one wants to see the framed pictures of your three children exiting your ungroomed va-jay-jay, even if this is Park Slope.")...

    ...for buyers ("They had three children who all graduated from Horace Mann" = "With the right parenting, the drug deals going on in the park across the street will not have an adverse effect on your children.")...

    ...and open-house attendees ("The Second Avenue subway will really bring up this apartment's value!"  roughly translates as "I am a sucker for getting in to a bidding war for this place in 2006, I'll go crazy if I see another rat, and the soot is starting to cloud my brain. Please buy it and put me out of my misery.)

  • Then & Now

    My Murray Hill walk-up is still perfect--if only the neighborhood would shut up

    When I found my three-bedroom apartment in Murray Hill almost two years ago with two friends from college, I knew I was lucky.

    It had everything I wanted, especially the location. It was one block from the 6 train; the M101, M102, M103 stop outside our apartment. It was in walking distance from Grand Central one way and Union Square the other.

    It was also very close to Madison Square Park, offering a convenient escape from the apartment, which has a tiny living room and kitchen.

    The three bedrooms, however, were surprisingly equally huge--three square rooms which fit a full -to-queen size bed and a dresser and each one had a window--whereas many of the three-bedroom apartments I encountered had disproportionately sized rooms. One apartment, a duplex, had one triangular-shaped room, a regular square room and a third room that took up the entire lower floor.

    On top of that, it was a rent-stabilized apartment. Paying $3,150 a month to live in a great area where I can see the Empire State Building seemed like a great deal. 

    This place is--well, was--perfect.

  • Ask an Expert

    Ask an Expert: Do I need co-op board approval to leave my 19-year-old in my apartment?

    Q. I'm moving to London for work and planning to leave my 19-year-old son in my co-op apartment. He will take in a roommate to cover some of the costs. Do I need to get the approval of the co-op board?

    A.  You might, say our experts. The answer depends on what your proprietary lease says.

    "Some proprietary leases provide that an apartment may be used by a shareholder and family members, usually including a spouse, children and parents," says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich of Wolf Haldenstein Alder Freeman & Herz.  Courts typically interpret the "and" to mean that the shareholder (you) must be residing there at the same time--meaning you would need to get the board's approval to leave your son on his own.

    If your proprietary lease says that you or a family member may reside in the apartment, you don't need to clear it with the board.

    That said, if your son is collecting rent from his roommate, there is another issue.

    "Under the Roommate Law, he can have a roommate but not a subtenant," says Stuart Saft, a real estate lawyer at Holland & Knight. "The fact that the roommate is paying your son to reside in the apartment could bring him under the definition of a subtenant, requiring board approval."

  • StreetEasy Hot Dozen

    The StreetEasy Hot Dozen: 12 rentals that may or may not be available by the time you read this

    This first-floor $1,895/month Chelsea jr-one-bed at 28th and Seventh Avenue was among the top 12 most-clicked on rentals on StreetEasy.com this past week.

    Affordable pads in the enviable and notoriously expensive East Village hit the top of this week's Hot Dozen -- meaning more StreetEasy.com visitors clicked on these rental listings over the past seven days than any others. But beware, spaces in the EV are usually small, and if the price tag is too-good-to-be-true we're probably talking shoebox-sized.

    Take, for instance, a studio at 621 East 11th Street and Avenue B that's listed at $1,500/month. Hardwood floor and exposed brick walls offer a counterpoint to the fire escape window-gate and barebones kitchenette-style kitchen.The apartment is pet-friendly and comes with a shared backyard, meaning your pooch will enjoy the new  place too.

    A block south and a bit more centrally located, a two-bedroom apartment at 242 East 10th Street and First Avenue is listed at $1,900/month and the listing doesn’t come with any pictures of the apartment itself -- a potential red flag (perhaps this “great little space” is smaller than a normal two bedroom apartment, or it may only be that the current tenant wouldn't let the broker in to snap some photos).

  • Get ready for what may be the buggiest summer ever

    Those of you who've never bothered to put window screens in your apartment--or apply flea and tick repellent to your urban dog--may want to re-think that.  

    NYC's pest control experts agree that as a consequence of our mild winter, you can expect to see more insects inside as well as out--including mosquitoes, ants and water bugs.

    Here's what to expect:

    Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes won't be here early because they never left. New Yorkers from East Harlem to the Village have seen mosquitoes and reported horrific bites all winter long.

    According to Gil Bloom, entomologist and president of Standard Pest Management, some mosquitos “wintered” in New York in underground steam tunnels and building basements.

    The problem is already so bad on the Upper West Side that, the West Side Rag reports, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal are convening a Town Hall meeting this Thursday on “The Upper West Side Mosquito Infestation.”

  • Featured Partner

    The Board Room: What co-op boards should ask (and tell) buyers at the interview

    As a lawyer representing co-op boards for nearly two decades, I’ve spent a fair amount of time explaining what not to ask buyers at a co-op board interview in order to avoid discrimination claims by rejected buyers. 

    For the same reason, I also suggest that boards resolve all concerns or questions over a buyer’s financials prior to scheduling an interview, as a post-interview turndown based on finances can trigger allegations of discrimination. (“You had my finances all along but didn’t reject me until you found out I was [gay/Asian/Jewish/etc].”) 

    So what should a board ask—and tell—prospective buyers? 

  • Tips From a Doorman

    Tips from a Greenwich Village Doorman: My $1,000 tip; the best Chinese takeout, and more

    Leonora Desar

    Our West Village doorman loves the pork fried rice at Suzie's, and judging from how popular it is for deliveries, his building's tenants do too.

    We recently chatted with a 52-year-old doorman who works in a Greenwich Village rental complex surrounded by some of the best restaurants and nightlife in the city. He's been a doorman for 30 years, having worked in Chelsea, on Central Park South and on Sutton Place before moving to the Village about four years ago.

    Here’s what he had to tell us about his favorite (and less lavish) neighborhood staples, and what he once did to walk away with a $1,000 tip. 

    Best thing about the neighborhood: The people.  It’s diverse, with a lot of different nationalities.  It’s a great place to be.

    Worst thing about the neighborhood: I don’t think there’s anything I would change.

    Best quick bite: I like Tre Giovani (Laguardia Place between 3rd Street and Bleecker) – I really like Italian.  I usually get pasta or chicken parmesan. 

    Best restaurant: Suzie’s Chinese Restaurant (on Bleecker Street between Thompson and Sullivan). I love their pork fried rice. 

  • 9 signs your co-op board interview is in the bag


    Sure, you've prepped your financials, practiced your answers and prepared for the worst case scenario in your co-op board interview, but sometimes the best case scenario occurs, and they're bending over backward for you instead of the other way around. (This must happen sometimes, right?)

    Here are 9 signs you've got this whole co-op board interview in the bag...

    1. You are team doctor for the Knicks and the board president's kid is wearing a Jeremy Lin t-shirt.
    2. The meeting ends with the board members telling you which dry-cleaner is the best in the neighborhood.
    3. You are the admissions director for a coveted nursery school and one of the board members has 2-year-old triplets.
    4. You own a neighborhood restaurant and the board asks to have the interview there.