Why I Left NYC

Union Square NYC
My last year in NYC

I’m realizing I never fully  explained why I left NYC. And it’s 7:30 Wednesday morning and I just woke up from a nightmare that reminded me of exactly that.

I dreamt I was back in Brooklyn and had just been told by my landlord we had to leave our apartment. The television was on, I had food cooking on the stove, and I even had my plans for the day to go to Union and work on art projects. The dream was so vividly real. Then suddenly the landlord was at the door.

He came to explain it was too nice of an apartment for us and he’d been offered more money for it. He told me we could move into the studio apartment that was there adjacent to ours, but we had to be out of this one in 2 weeks. So I began moving all the furniture trying to make it fit into a place 1/4 the size.

The dream concluded with me standing in between the two separate living quarters in a cold sweat, realizing there was no way this could work, and I had to tell my roommates. I was asking myself “how did I get myself into this situation again?” I was looking out the window at the city skyline contemplating going out to wander the streets, but instead I had this nightmare to deal with, again!

When I woke up, which was about 20 minutes ago now, I was in that cold sweat and thanking Christ Jesus it was all just a dream. I thought maybe I could go back to sleep, but no dice. I was haunted. So I might as well write what happened.

My last 8 years in NYC (2007 – 2015) is the window of time it took place in. It was in ’07 that I was leaving a loft apartment I had with roommates in Williamsburg and moving to this nice 3 bedroom apartment in Bushwick. I found two new roommates, and over the course of 7 years I made that place a home. It was the first place I’d ever lived where I actually painted the walls, hung cookware above the stove, bought sofas & furniture and really settled in to stay. Business was good, I liked who I was living with, and I had an amazing view out my bedroom window. We were on the 3rd floor of this building, and my window pointed east, looking out over the roofs and steeples of Brooklyn. I loved this place.

Livingroom – Xmas 2010
Livingroom – Xmas 2010

Then in October of 2013, just around Halloween, we were told the building was being sold and we all had to be out by New Years Day. It completely broke my heart. What hurt even more is it wasn’t a typical landlord/tenant relationship. He was a friend who’d hired me to do freelance work for him in the past. He owned this building, which is how & why I moved in in the first place, and now it made being treated like a number even more spirit-breaking.

In NYC you don’t start looking for a place a month or two in advance to weigh your options, then pack, arrange movers, and simply have the normal difficulties that come with moving. No. In New York moving happens in a panic, and you don’t find the place you’re going to live until a week before your move out date. And when you’re packing you’re forced to pare down to the bare minimum because it’s thousands of dollars to hire movers. Flat out, we were told to cancel Christmas and that’s what we had to do. Looking back I now realize this was the beginning of the end for me.

The three of us ended up finding a new place together, deeper into Brooklyn, slightly smaller, same cost. Not long after we moved in we realized we had a terrible landlord. It was a building owned by a place called “Management Solutions” and they had letterhead with a different name on it “Rental Solutions NY,” and their phone number wasn’t included on documents, and other shady warning signs. Being rude to their tenants was a normality, and when we’d complain about anything they had no problem responding “Hey, I forgot. When is your lease up?”

The place started accumulating, at first roaches, then mice, and my last week there we had maggots crawling up through the cracks in the kitchen floor. I discovered later we were literally weeks away from bedbugs when we finally left. We found out talking to a cleanup crew in our building that the neighbors below us had them in the ceilings. In this new environment we started to each get depressed and on each others nerves.

We’d signed a year and a half lease New Years Day 2014. So when June of 2015 rolled around and we were asked to sign another lease, reality hit. My trips to visit my folks in Michigan had increased over the last year and a half to escape these surroundings. I used to come visit 2 or 3 times a year for a week at a time. Then it started to become 4 or 5 times a year for a couple weeks each visit. In 2015 I was visiting every other month with plans to stay for two months this winter. That’s when I realized I no longer loved living in New York and it was time to leave.

I made very good use of that city in the 13 years I was there. I was productive, adventurous, made a name for myself, and accomplished things I never could’ve if I hadn’t. I met some wonderful people and made friends I was lucky to even meet. But fact is I have nightmares about it now. And when I wake up not there I am relieved.

I’m very content here helping out my folks, and building up my Jesus Dressup fridge magnet empire again and prove it can indeed be a thriving business. I’m quite confident I can do that and have the freedom to pick where next I should go when I’m ready. I’m not sure how long it will take me to get over my NYC-PTSD and feel like visiting again, but I know at the moment it’s not in the books.