Leaving Manhattan After 48 Years!

When I took my friend Debbi to see the house I’m buying in Brooklyn, NY, she said: “I don’t know why you’re making such a big move at 69!”

I’ll tell you what I told Debbi in a moment, but first let me give you the details: I’ve owned a wonderful, 1,300-square-foot apartment (plus outdoor area) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan since 1992. I’ve loved living here, and if the walls had ears and mouths, they would tell you some pretty wild and wooly things.

On the less racy side, I remember the Christmas dinner buffet party I threw for about 100 employees. The weather was especially mild that year, which allowed guests to gather in the outdoor space, where the bar was set up. I hosted my own 50th birthday party at the apartment, surrounded by the people in my life who were the “most fun.” I vividly recall returning home late one evening from an exhausting European business trip and locking myself out within minutes. I remember welcoming a never-ending stream of my son’s friends, who would often gather here since it was close to their school. I loved making them meals. To this day, they call me “Godmother Brin.”

I always thought this would be where I’d live for the rest of my life, but I started to change my mind a couple of years ago, for two major reasons:

First, the maintenance on my apartment keeps rising, and is now $3,500 a month, which is pretty steep for a co-op of this size. The maintenance covers costs including the doormen salaries (I could care less if I have a doorman); redecorating the lobby and the hallways when the “board” decides they need to be redecorated (even if they don’t need to be decorated); replacing two elevators for $250,000 each that should have been replaced 15 years ago (for far less); Christmas parties with absolutely horrible food; Thanksgiving decorations for the lobby (usually tacky). These monthly costs rise every year.

When you live in a co-op, you don’t actually “own” the apartment; instead, you own shares in the co-op, which is set up as a corporation with a board. Co-op boards also have to approve most every single thing a tenant wants to do in his or her apartment, from painting to installing a new bathroom sink, from putting up a new wall to tearing down an old one. When I wanted to install central air and heating four years ago, my entreaty was flat-out rejected because two other tenants were fighting over a noisy air conditioner one of them had installed. It didn’t matter that my proposal had nothing whatsoever to do with the neighbors’ argument. In fact, the central AC/heating unit I wanted to install is far quieter than traditional ACs. (BTW, I installed the unit anyway, which eventually caused me grief, but I’ve enjoyed having a superior AC and heating system). Oh, and when you sell your apartment, you also have to turn over 2% of the sale to the building. That’s called a flip tax.

Co-op boards have horrible reputations throughout Manhattan. Most board members get all mixed up and actually start to believe they’re powerful and important people because they have some “control” over their neighbors’ welfare. Thankfully, new buildings rising all over the city now are condominiums, which are far less restrictive.   

Reason #2 I’m leaving: Although I’ve loved being a Manhattan resident for the past 48 years, I crave a new adventure. Becoming a Brookynite will indeed be an adventure. I’ll be the owner of a real home, with back and front yards; gas and electric meters, and a enormous heating unit in the cellar, not to mention my own laundry equipment. I’ve never owned a washing machine or dryer; I’ve only used communal equipment in the buildings where I lived.  

The 1899 house has a cellar and three floors.

I’m converting the garden level into an apartment that I plan to rent, and using the two levels above it as my home and office. That will make me a landlord, another new adventure. I’ll have a spacious deck right outside my kitchen, where I’ll be able to barbecue, which is verboten on my Manhattan outdoor space. I’ll also be able to do my exercise sessions outdoors, when the weather is nice. Never did that before!  And, it will be a treat to look at the charming old tin ceilings before I retire at night and when I wake in the morning.

Although the area in Brooklyn to which I’m moving–it’s called Bedford Stuyvesant–is thriving with restaurants, shops and services, I won’t have everything practically right outside my door, as I do on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I’ll actually have to walk about three blocks to the drug store and drive to get to the kind of grocery stores I like. That’s another adventure. I haven’t owned a car since my college days. I’m also looking forward to taking excursions around the different neighborhoods of Brooklyn, which all are metamorphosing. My parents wouldn’t recognize the Brooklyn where they were born and raised.

Yet, Manhattan is only a 15-minute subway ride away. It actually will take the same time to reach downtown Manhattan from my new home as it does to get there from uptown.

My last day as a Manhattanite is next Wednesday, but I won’t actually be moving into the house that day.

I’ll be subletting an apartment nearby for six weeks, so I’ll be able to see how the renovation is moving along. I look forward to sharing news about my new old home with you as it shapes up. And, if you plan to visit New York, please stop by!

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  • rebeccabasset

    Ohh good luck with the move, it sounds exciting and wonderful, I think you will love owning you’re own Washer and Dryer too, mine really make the difference, between having to go to the communal Washing place and just walking to another Area of my Home. Good luck and best wishes!

  • Nancy Goodman

    congratulations from a fellow brooklynite 🙂

    • Geri Brin

      Thank you, Nancy. Where do you live? Would love to meet you when I’m settled! Hoping to start a Brooklyn book/dinner group. Fondly,
      Geri

  • Cathy McIvor

    Geri, I really enjoyed this article! Congrats on your “downsizing.” Is this what a row house is called? I live in Arizona and we have stand alone houses. I absolutely love NYC, and will have to meet you next time I am there.

    • Geri Brin

      Hi Cathy,

      So happy you enjoyed it.

      I actually am “upsizing” since I now live in 1,300 feet on one floor and am moving to 1,500 feet on two floors, not counting the floor I’ll be renting. When you come to NY, Cathy, please get in touch with me so we can meet! Fondly, Geri

  • Jean Griffin

    Hi Geri, We spent good times chatting while we were at Fairchild Publications. Congrats on your move, Brooklyn is wonderful!!
    Jean

    • Geri Brin

      Hi Jean, How wonderful to hear from you. While I was having breakfast out this morning, with my daughter, a woman at the next table turned around because she recognized my dulcet tones 🙂 It was Bobbi Queen. Needless to say, we caught up on the last two decades in minutes. So today is Fairchild Day. Are you still in Brooklyn? Love, Geri

  • Karen Smith

    Having moved regularly over the years, I know how much work and joy are part of the process. Have a ball and much good luck in your new home!!!

    • Geri Brin

      Thank you for your lovely wishes, Karen.

      Geri

  • NancVill126

    How exciting!!! Best wishes!!!

    • Geri Brin

      Thanks, NsncVill126 🙂

      Geri

  • Corinne Garrett

    How fascinating this story of co-op living is. So different than living in a stand-alone home. New neighborhood, new friends…it will be good life adventure. Just don’t watch the movie Pacific Heights!!! LOL

    • Geri Brin

      LOL, Corinne. I already did.

      Geri

      • Corinne Garrett

        Oh, no…too late. Just get a hefty security deposit and a good “throw the bums out clause” in your lease then. LOL!!!!

  • Cheryl Lee

    Congratulations on your new adventure! It’s really fun isn’t it? My husband and I retired about 9 years ago and moved from California’s Central Coast to the Texas Hill Country. We’ve always lived in the city, however, both of us love the country. We bought a small 33 acre ranch and built our dream home! We’ve been here since 2007 and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made. The closest town to us is about 24 miles away, only 15/20 minutes down the freeway! Love living in the country!

    • Geri Brin

      Hi Cheryl,

      Love the sound (and look) of your life. Continued health and joy to you and your husband. Thank you for your wishes.

      Fondly,
      Geri

      • Cheryl Lee

        Thanks Geri! I hope you are enjoying your new adventure.! Hang in there during the remodel and moving process it’ll be worth it!

  • Jill Hanson

    It sounds like an exciting adventure, I think you will love.

    • Geri Brin

      Hi Jill,

      I think I will, too. Thank you for your encouraging words.

      Fondly, Geri

  • Good luck with the move. It really will be a new adventure for you and it looks lovely! Of course if it doesn’t work out you can always move to Californina lol xo

    • Geri Brin

      Hi Beautiful Friend PD,

      Alex is moving to LA, so I plan to be there more in 2017!!!!!!!

      Love you,
      G.

      • I will look forward to seeing you more often. I love you too my friend xo

  • Godsdancer523

    Geri, I wish you nothing less than joy and peace as you enter into your new surroundings. This is a your season of newness, enjoy! 🙂

    • geribrin

      Thank you for your heartwarming comment, Godsdancer523

      Love, Geri

  • chevy shimanowitz

    Good luck- and good for you. I was born in NYC, but live in brooklyn-my house is similar to yours, but is detached, & has a basement, & 3 floors. Like you, I rent out my first floor.( Just be aware construction will probably take longer than 6 weeks, regardless of what they tell u.)Be VERY picky, and take your time finding the right tenant.As for leaving, u r smart to do it- It’s absurd to pay such crazy maintenance fees. You will have more freedom & control over your life now. Congratulations!

    • geribrin

      Hi Chevy,

      Wise comment. Thank you greatly. Fondly, Geri

  • marge201

    Sounds wonderful. I really enjoyed reading your story and seeing the pictures. Lots of good luck.

    • geribrin

      Thanks for your kind words marge201.

      oxo Geri

  • Mimi L

    Congratulations! Way to go…because you are not afraid to take risk and evolve, you will forever stay young…from a FOF to another…proud of you. May your new home brings you everything that you desire and more.

    • geribrin

      Hi Mimi,

      I LOVE YOUR COMMENT. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

      LOVE, GERI

  • B. Lerner

    When we were looking at the house we eventually bought, I thought “It needs about 50% improvements,” & my husband also thought “needs about 50% fixing up.” We didn’t realize until we moved in that they weren’t the same 50%…..quite a lot of negotiation went on after that! Hope your new home is comfortable & peaceful, but also fun.

    • geribrin

      HAHA!

      Peaceful is the operative word.

      oxo Geri

  • Pamela Wood

    Congratulations on your new home!! Its Beautiful!

    • geribrin

      Oh, Pamela, thank you!

      Geri