A Couch Surfer Lands His Perfect Apartment

He arrived in New York with no job and a friend’s sofa for a home, but after a few tough months found a spacious three-bedroom in Brooklyn with great roommates.

A Couch Surfer Lands His Perfect Apartment

Rob Boscacci experienced a few awkward, and very New York, living arrangements before moving into an apartment in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

A Couch Surfer Lands His Perfect Apartment

Rob Boscacci arrived in New York two summers ago with no job, very little savings and no backup plan if things didn’t work out, besides returning broke to the Bay Area, where he had been working as a film grip and camera assistant. What he did have was a place to stay: his friend’s couch in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

That couch turned out to be the beginning of a long season of awkward living arrangements, before Mr. Boscacci eventually lucked into what he considers the perfect apartment. But first, more on the couch.

Mr. Boscacci’s Greenpoint friend said that Mr. Boscacci could stay in the railroad apartment the friend shared with his girlfriend for as long as he wanted, and Mr. Boscacci, like many twenty-somethings before him, heard the offer as a siren call.

A few days after he arrived, however, the couple on whose couch he was crashing started breaking up. Under slightly different circumstances, this might have constituted a brief, uncomfortable interlude, but neither Mr. Boscacci nor the girlfriend had the money to move out.

“I felt like a kid whose parents were going through a divorce,” Mr. Boscacci said. “I suspect that she wasn’t thrilled to have me there, but I tried to be as good a guest as possible. I kept their fridge clean.”

He stayed for 58 days — and not all of them bad, he added. The three of them watched a lot of classic movies together, and at times, the couple seemed somewhat relieved to have the emotional buffer of a houseguest. But “I would have stayed in an Airbnb if I were a rich man,” Mr. Boscacci said.

$750 | Prospect-Lefferts Gardens

Occupation: Mr. Boscacci now works at a film-equipment rental shop and soundstage in Gowanus, Brooklyn, after leaving his job as a film colorist because his nighttime schedule made him feel “like a vampire.”
The first couch he crashed on: wasn’t even long enough to sleep on; he had to put a wooden chair at the end to support his feet.
Sometimes he takes the nearby 2 and 5 trains, but he prefers to bike: “I really love this neighborhood. It feels like wherever you need to go, you hop on a bike and you’re there.”
You can tell film people live in the apartment: “because we’re obsessed with nook lighting — we just added an LED strip to the underside of the kitchen cabinets.”

Fortunately, by October, he was working nights as a film colorist — he had arrived in New York with a list of about 30 contacts; the 29th he called led to a job — and was able to afford a sublet. He found a two-bedroom share in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on Craigslist; at $800, it met his budget of “as cheap as possible.”

It did not, however, mark the end of tiptoeing around roommates — in this case, literally. Upon moving in, Mr. Boscacci discovered that while the apartment was a two-bedroom, a third roommate slept on the living room floor.

“She had a mattress in the middle of the floor, like it was a studio apartment. I had to walk past her to get to the bathroom and the kitchen,” said Mr. Boscacci, who came home from work very early in the morning when the living room’s occupant was asleep. That she was good-natured about the situation, and insisted she was a sound sleeper, did little to alleviate his guilt.

“It was just this awkward traverse of this creaky hardwood floor. I was like, ‘I’m definitely waking her up,’” he said.

The awkward traverses soon came to an end.

After one month in the sublet, he heard that a cinematographer he knew through a mutual friend was looking to fill a room in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. As the cinematographer was the kind of guy “a lot of people looked up to,” it didn’t occur to Mr. Boscacci that he should ask to move in. But the mutual friend insisted he reach out.

When he visited, he found a spacious three-bedroom with board games in the living room, film equipment in the closets and a fully equipped kitchen with a Julia Child-style pegboard on one wall. And as the apartment was rent-stabilized and his roommates had moved in shortly after graduating from the film program at New York University in 2012, rent was an affordable $750 a month.

“Now not only do I have these great mentors, they’re also great to hang out with,” said Mr. Boscacci, who, at 26, is a few years younger than his two roommates.

Nor is the mentoring limited to film: The cinematographer has a bedroom wood shop and has been happy to share his carpentry expertise with Mr. Boscacci; he even helped him install hooks to hang his bicycle from his bedroom ceiling.

“I feel like we have a great vibe. At worst, we’re isolationists — everyone is in and out a lot — but at best, we hang out together and host game and movie nights.”

They also hold an annual Halloween party and a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, known as Wreckfest, where shots of Jameson Irish whiskey are served with alcohol-infused foods — think Baileys-infused pancakes with maple-bourbon whipped cream. Last year, 115 people showed up, Mr. Boscacci said.

“I don’t know where I’d go if my roommates up and left,” he said. “It’s like the deal of a lifetime. We’ve made a pact, sort of: The only reason we’d move out is to move in with a girlfriend.”

And while his first few months in New York might be enough to make him question the wisdom of making such a move, that was, in fact, how Mr. Boscacci’s room came to be available.

“And he’s engaged now,” Mr. Boscacci said, referring to the roommate who left. “So that worked out.”

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