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Remembering My Years in a Small, $550/Month Chelsea SRO

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  • Remembering My Years in a Small, $550/Month Chelsea SRO

    I found this on Curbed NY...

    During the summer of 1995, I was living in a brown Chevy Caprice Classic that was 16 years old. I was not destitute. I had a job as a waiter, and a P.O. box, and a pager if someone needed to reach me, and access to a university gym for showering. The back seat of the Caprice was basically like a couch—it wasn't quite full-stretch-out length, but it wasn't uncomfortable. I had the bases covered, at least for the summer. But then autumn came. The Caprice left most of its exhaust system somewhere on I-95 in Connecticut, and pretty much all of its vital fluids just past the first toll booth heading into Massachusetts. But by then I had a back-up plan that was also an upgrade: a Manhattan address on 15th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues—in an SRO. It was about 80 square feet, and it would be home.

    [The green door on the left is 133 West 15th Street, the setting for this essay.]

    I would drive into the city on Tuesday nights to get a jump on the new apartment listings that came out every Wednesday in the Village Voice. I don't remember if the ad for my new place said it was an SRO apartment, or if it just said the rent: $550 a month. So many people showed up to see it that the landlord ran out of application forms. Luckily, I had nowhere to be, so I hung around while he went to the corner to make copies. He showed me the place somewhat defensively, as if to say, "This is it." There was no room to walk around, nothing to tour. It was what it was. I imagine that, out of the many applications he handed out, not many came back complete.... for rest of story click here