Trading a Walk-up for a Brand-New Studio

She wanted a well-maintained building without bugs. The pool was a bonus.

Trading a Walk-up for a Brand-New Studio

Jade Osei-Osafo moved from a prewar walk-up to a brand-new building and hasn’t looked back.Credit…Regan Wood for The New York Times

Trading a Walk-up for a Brand-New Studio

This summer, Jade Osei-Osafo moved into a studio apartment that is so sleek and modern compared to where she has lived before that she is still getting used to it.

“This is definitely not my vibe of apartment — I love the style of homes in brownstone Brooklyn,” Ms. Osei-Osafo, 28, said of her home in a brand-new building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

“I’m afraid to put anything on the walls, it’s so pristine,” she continued, pointing out the numerous pictures propped up along the floor. “I’m kind of leaning everything up against them instead.”

But while the space may not be entirely to her taste, after a bad experience of living in a prewar walk-up in East Williamsburg, Ms. Osei-Osafo was willing to sacrifice character, a separate bedroom and a bigger share of her paycheck to live in a well-maintained building.

A Londoner who was transferred to New York in 2017 by the large asset manager she works for as a portfolio manager, Ms. Osei-Osafo shared a two-bedroom in the East Village her first year in the city, and she had been eager to move into her own apartment in Brooklyn.

“Everyone said, ‘You have to live in the East Village!’ But I really did not like the East Village. Or Manhattan,” she said. She found that East Williamsburg and Greenpoint were more her speed: less hectic but still very urban, with a variety of bars and restaurants catering to a slightly older crowd. They were also close to C3 NYC, the nondenominational church she attends in Williamsburg.

$2,500 | Greenpoint

Occupation: Asset portfolio manager
The building’s marketing: initially put her off. “They were really pushing the community vibe,” she said. “I was like, ‘I have a community.’ But it’s actually been really nice. A lot of people in the building are from different countries. It’s like the U.N. when we’re on the rooftop.”
The building’s gym: is right next to her apartment. “It’s noisy even before I get up at 5:30 or 6 to exercise,” she said. “I don’t mind the noise of the treadmill, but the weight dropping …”
The G train: is great. “Other people don’t think so, but it’s so easy to take the G to the E to get to work.”

Her first Brooklyn apartment seemed to be a great deal: a cute one-bedroom in East Williamsburg that rented for $1,750 a month — less than she paid for her room in the East Village.

But she soon discovered that the apartment was cheap for a reason. The building was older and poorly maintained, with stairs that shook so much when she walked up them that she thought they might collapse. There were water bugs, which unnerved her. And when she asked about the fire-safety situation — alarms, extinguishers and exits — the landlord seemed taken aback.

“She was like, ‘Are you planning to light candles or something?’” said Ms. Osei-Osafo, who wasn’t satisfied after a fire extinguisher was hauled up from the basement and hung in the stairwell, especially as her conversation with the landlord had ended with a warning never to go out on the fire escape. Not even in the event of a fire.

Some renters might be willing to put up with such things for low rent, but Ms. Osei-Osafo decided she wasn’t one of them.

“I feel like my work is very stressful, even though I love it. I don’t want to have to come home and worry that my heater isn’t working or there’s a water bug in my apartment,” she said. “I want a peaceful environment where everything is secure and safe.”

Shortly before her lease ended, she reached out to a friend from church, Stephanie Larsen, who is a real estate agent for Citi Habitats. “I told her I really needed a doorman building nearby,” said Ms. Osei-Osafo, who was willing to downsize from a one-bedroom to a studio to live in a new building.

She took the first apartment she saw with Ms. Larsen. It was bright and decently sized for a studio, and there would be no broker’s fee. She also liked that it had a gym with two Peloton bikes, which meant she could cancel her Equinox membership. But it was the rooftop pool that really sold her.

“I learned to swim this year,” Ms. Osei-Osafo said. “I had lessons growing up, but there was never anywhere to practice, so I would learn a little, but by the next time I went swimming I’d forget and feel like I was drowning.”

After attending a swimming school for adults in the basement of St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue, she finally felt confident in the water. But once the class ended, finding places to practice was difficult. Pools tend to be open for either laps — she wasn’t quite there yet — or recreational swimming, largely for families and children.

“I was like, ‘There’s a pool I can swim in without paying to use it? It’s open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday, and there’s a lifeguard?” she said. She even managed to negotiate having the pool fee waived because she had moved in after the season started.

She was less successful at negotiating a rent discount and pays $2,995 a month, although the building was offering two months free, so it works out to about $2,500 a month.

It has been a relief to live in a bug-free, structurally sound, fully staffed building, Ms. Osei-Osafo said, where she can call down to the lobby if any issues arise. And the pool, which was supposed to close for the season after Labor Day, stayed open until November because of the warm weather.

“It’s mostly empty,” she said. “I do slow laps and breath work, practice different strokes. I’m not trying to get strong at distances; I’m just trying to get strong.”

She hasn’t regretted downsizing to a studio. “It’s a good apartment for one person,” she said. “I just didn’t want to go back to living with roommates. Living alone is the best. If there’s a mess, it’s your mess.”

And while she is still trying to square the austere aesthetic with her love of color and texture, she has come to appreciate one design element of new construction: “It looks clean without trying,” she said. “Everything looks stark against the walls, in a good way.”

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