You Make the Call: Manhattanites Trade Studio for ‘a Wall and a Door’

You Make the Call: Manhattanites Trade Studio for ‘a Wall and a Door’

Nichole Waldman and Vincenzo Lombardi were high school sweethearts in their native New Jersey. They later rented an alcove studio in a co-op near Union Square, paying in the low $3,000s for almost 600 square feet.

They were happy with their lively neighborhood and their building, with its helpful staff. But after nearly four years, they grew tired of living in one room.

Both work long hours — she in accounting, he in finance — and their schedules were out of sync. Ms. Waldman sometimes arrived home after midnight, and Mr. Lombardi rose before dawn. If the click of the door didn’t wake him up, the lights did.

“It was affecting his sleep,” Ms. Waldman said. “I felt bad about that.”

The couple, who plan to get married in the fall, often discussed upgrading to a one-bedroom. Last winter, two catalysts emerged: They got a noisy new neighbor upstairs who wore heels and partied at night. And an extensive renovation began next door, where two studios were being combined. Sawdust coated their apartment, apparently entering through the vents.

The couple, both 29, decided it was time to “create a new home for ourselves that really felt like a home,” Ms. Waldman said.

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Last winter they went looking for a doorman building in Lower Manhattan. “We weren’t necessarily looking for more square footage,” Ms. Waldman said. “We wanted a wall and a door.”

Their price range was up to $3,800 a month, preferably in a midsize building with a responsive staff. They contacted Loftey, the brokerage they had used to find their Union Square rental, and were matched with Marc Simons, a licensed salesman there.

The couple learned that the apartment they envisioned didn’t exist. One place in Chelsea was tempting, but it cost more than $4,000 a month. Hudson Yards was within their budget, but it felt like a transit hub rather than a neighborhood.

“A lot of people want to live downtown and find they are not getting much for their dollar,” Mr. Simons said. “We steered them toward the Upper East Side.”

Among the places they considered there, all in buildings dating to the late 1980s:

At the massive, four-tower Normandie Court complex on East 95th Street, the couple toured three similar units on high floors. Each had a great view and around 675 square feet.

The laundry machines were available 24 hours a day, and the rooftop health club included a pool.

Rent was in the low $3,000s.

At this condo in the East 70s, a one-bedroom of around 725 square feet was going for $3,495. The building “felt similar to where we were living, with friendly doormen who know you,” Ms. Waldman said.

The apartment got northern light and had plenty of closet space. The kitchen was renovated, but the bathroom was worn, although they could negotiate for an upgrade. A laundry room was on the same floor.

This unit, also in the East 70s, was on a high floor with southern sun and almost 650 square feet.

It included a stacked washer-dryer in the kitchen and a small balcony, along with custom finishings: built-in shelving and cabinets, motorized window shades and lighting with dimmers.

The rent was $3,395.

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