When the N.B.A. came calling, a Vancouver physiotherapist took a shot in Brooklyn.
Stefania Rizzo in her new apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. (Her dog, Bodhi, pictured in the background, is still in Vancouver — as is her husband.)Credit…Robert Wright for The New York Times
When Stefania Rizzo started hunting for a place in Brooklyn, she wasn’t even sure she was moving to New York.
On an otherwise ordinary day last winter, Ms. Rizzo had received a phone call from the Brooklyn Nets. The team was interested in hiring her as a physiotherapist.
“Basketball is a pretty tough sport for injuries,” said Ms. Rizzo, who has worked with many sports teams, including Canada’s Olympic alpine ski squad, and whose age is a well-kept secret from her players. “There are a lot of quick movements, jumpings and landings. Ankle sprains and soft-tissue injuries are common.”
The idea seemed far-fetched. Relocation was a big deal, and Ms. Rizzo was settled 3,000 miles away in her native Vancouver with her husband, Dan Pavich, a hockey referee and retired firefighter. They owned a house and a dog, Bodhi.
But they were willing to listen, so the Nets flew the couple to New York. On their third and final day, they met Josh Lieberman, an associate broker at Douglas Elliman who works with the team on relocation. He took them to view some options. Ms. Rizzo had been to Brooklyn only once before, when she ran the New York City Marathon two years ago.
She thought a one-bedroom — with a nice kitchen, a washer-dryer and plenty of natural light — could work. The budget started at $3,000 to $4,000 a month.
“I had no idea how expensive renting was in New York,” she said. “We had an idea of what it would cost, and everything was a little bit more than that.”
Location was key. The neighborhood needed to be walkable, with places to eat and shop, and convenient to Ms. Rizzo’s two workplaces. Barclays Center, the Nets’s home arena, is at the junction of three neighborhoods — Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Park Slope — and their practice facility is in Industry City, in Sunset Park.
If she took the job, she and her husband decided, they would not uproot their lives. Instead, they would rent an apartment for Ms. Rizzo, and Mr. Pavich would visit as often as possible.
“All our friends and family are in Vancouver, and it is a pretty hot market,” Ms. Rizzo said. “If you sell and try to come back, you can never re-enter the market.”
Mr. Lieberman was prepared with a lineup of buildings. A few were in Dumbo, including 220 Water Street, a converted shoe factory. A lofty, sunny one-bedroom there with almost 700 square feet had plenty of character. The rent was $3,825. But the location wasn’t sufficiently Nets-friendly, with a long, drab walk to the arena that would lead her under a highway overpass.
A one-bedroom unit at 220 Water Street, a converted 19th-century shoe factory, had plenty of character. But it would have made for an inconvenient commute. Credit…Robert Wright for The New York Times
For $4,000, a charming two-bedroom in a Brooklyn Heights brownstone occupied an entire floor, with around 1,200 square feet. Such a building, run by a small-property owner, can work well for international clients, Mr. Lieberman said: “The owner is more willing to have flexibility if the tenant doesn’t have U.S. credit.”
Inside, however, it seemed more quirky than charming, with an uninviting kitchen, and it couldn’t compete with the area’s gleaming, amenity-filled new buildings.
The two-year-old rental tower at 300 Ashland Place, with almost 400 units, was ideal: steps from both Barclays Center and Atlantic Terminal. From there, it was one express stop or an easy bicycle ride to Industry City.
“There’s a subway hub, tons of restaurants, people everywhere, a Whole Foods, an Apple store,” Mr. Lieberman said. “Most people moving to New York from other markets like to be in the action.”
Mr. Pavich was impressed right away. “I wanted Stef to be on top of her workplace,” he said. “I wanted this to be really easy for her.”
After Ms. Rizzo accepted the job, the couple continued checking listings online, but couldn’t glean much information. “You see the inside but have no idea what the neighborhood is like,” she said.
A two-bedroom in a Brooklyn Heights brownstone occupied an entire floor, but it couldn’t compete with the newer, amenity-filled buildings in the area.Credit…Robert Wright for The New York Times
So 300 Ashland Place was the obvious choice — except by then, no one-bedrooms were available.
“We had set our sights on this building, but the vacancies were two or three months before we actually needed them,” Ms. Rizzo said. “I thought I would go crazy in a studio.”
So they splurged on a two-bedroom, sight unseen, with almost 1,000 square feet, floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony, for a monthly rent of $6,225. (One month free on a 13-month lease made it closer to $5,750.) The amenity fee was waived.
“It was always on my mind that we wanted two bedrooms,” Mr. Pavich said, so “our friends don’t have to stay in hotels.”
Ms. Rizzo, who has a renewable two-year contract with the Nets, arrived in late summer. “As far as the convenience of everything I need, it’s all here,” she said. “It’s not a quaint neighborhood feeling, but I am a short walk away from neighborhoods I like to hang out in.”
Ms. Rizzo’s new building, on the western edge of Fort Greene, has an Apple Store and a Whole Foods on the ground level.Credit…Robert Wright for The New York Times
Living on Flatbush Avenue means plenty of traffic outside. (“People in New York really like to honk,” she observed.) So she sleeps with a white-noise machine, a strategy recommended by her Nets colleagues, many of whom are also new to the city.
Overall, the apartment is much nicer than she anticipated having in New York. “I thought I would have something with more of a raw, rough edge,” she said. “It is brand-spanking new.”
Not that she is home all that often. The Nets are currently in the playoff hunt, and she travels with the team to most road games.
“I view this whole thing as this crazy, unexpected adventure, and want to share that with my friends and family,” Ms. Rizzo said. “New York is on everyone’s bucket list. The reality is, I haven’t had the opportunity to do much in New York. It’s not a lot of New York in my life; it’s a lot of basketball.”
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