First Stop: Second Avenue – The New York Times

Last fall, Carmina Albaladejo Ochogavia came to New York to work in her family’s growing business, Carmina Shoemaker. She represents the sixth generation of cobblers in the family, which is from Majorca, Spain. The business was named for her grandmother, and so was she.

After graduating from Kingston University London last spring, Ms. Albaladejo, an only child, worked at the company’s factory and headquarters on Majorca. Then, with her father, she headed to New York for a week of apartment hunting before starting work at the family’s new store, just north of Grand Central Terminal. Their mission was to find her a home — preferably a spacious one-bedroom where visiting relatives could stay — for $2,400 a month or less.

They found a few listings and visited some crowded open houses. One agent suggested that Ms. Albaladejo hunt downtown, figuring her social life would be there. But the inventory was disappointing.

“In the East Village and West Village, maybe the streets were cute, but the apartments were super-small,” said Ms. Albaladejo, 22. “I thought that in such a city there would be a lot of supply. And there was, actually, but they weren’t right.”

One agent she contacted was Zain Chamoun, a licensed salesman at Citi Habitats. “He sent me a huge message asking what I was looking for and how he could help me,” she said. “I was coming here alone. I wanted to feel I was in the right place.”

Mr. Chamoun told her she would find better values elsewhere in Manhattan. “Everyone wants to live downtown,” he said. “Those apartments are smaller, and they demand top dollar.”

He lined up places ready for immediate occupancy. The first was in a 1930 midrise rental building in Murray Hill. Two large one-bedrooms were available, one on the top floor for $2,695 and another, on a lower floor, for $2,595. Each had a little foyer, a small but windowed bathroom and a kitchen in a nook off the living room.

Mr. Chamoun thought the building would be a good match. “But for Carmina to feel comfortable, she needed to see for herself what the market had to offer,” he said. Besides, Ms. Albaladejo wanted a backup plan.

As she learned the Manhattan grid, she also realized that Midtown East was better for her than downtown because she preferred to be within walking distance of the store. “During the week I work a lot,” she said. “I want to come home and rest instead of going out on weekdays.”

In another Murray Hill building, built in 1963, she learned what a large and sunny alcove studio was like.

“There was no clear definition of space,” Mr. Chamoun said. “She wanted a bedroom and a living room — two separate spaces.” This one was $2,825. By now, her budget had climbed into the high $2,000s.

In a 1963 building on East 36th Street, Ms. Albaladejo learned what a large and sunny alcove studio was like. “There was no clear definition of space,” said Zain Chamoun, her broker. “She wanted a bedroom and a living room — two separate spaces.”CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

“It was a pretty building, more modern,” she said. “But I didn’t feel I would have my privacy when I had visitors.”

They took a detour to the 10-building Manhattan East complex on East 66th Street, but Ms. Albaladejo wasn’t keen on the area. “I needed something more lively,” she said. “The neighborhood was too calm.”

It was also a 25-minute walk to work, and now that she knew she liked Murray Hill, it felt unnecessarily far.

The clear choice was the first Murray Hill building, which she had liked from the start. Now, a few days later, the higher-floor unit was rented, but she was happy to go with the lower floor, where the bedroom looked up Second Avenue and the living room looked west toward the Empire State Building.

Mr. Chamoun warned Ms. Albaladejo that because she was a foreigner with no credit history in the United States, any landlord would likely require a great deal of rent in advance.

“Carmina wanted to present a bank statement from Spain,” Mr. Chamoun said. “I had to explain that landlords in New York will not even look at bank statements from Spain.” A large upfront outlay “was pretty much the only way these apartments would be willing to consider her,” he said.

Ms. Albaladejo visited the 10-building Manhattan East complex on East 66th Street, but wasn’t keen on the area. “I needed something more lively,” she said.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

The family offered a year’s rent, but the building preferred six months of rent and six months of security deposit. They rushed to assemble her application.

“I wasn’t aware of the amount of paperwork, because I thought if I had the money, that was it,” Ms. Albaladejo said. “But no — it was problem after problem. I needed a bank account, but to open a bank account I needed something else.”

Finally, she was able to sign a lease. The broker’s fee was 15 percent of the annual rent, or almost $4,700.

A day before her father returned to Spain, the two went to Ikea to buy furniture, including a sleeper sofa for her to use overnight when guests take the bedroom.

She especially likes having a doorman. “The fact that someone wishes me a good day whenever I go out the door — that makes my day,” Ms. Albaladejo said. “The apartment is not the newest place ever, but it is well maintained. Everything is clean.”

She is learning to navigate the Midtown crowds and adjusting to the sirens that wail down Second Avenue. At first they woke her up, but no longer. “It gives me a feeling of life around me, and something happening, even though I am in an apartment living alone,” she said.

From her living room, she gazes at the Empire State Building, with its crown of ever-changing colored lights.

“The view is what got me,” she said. “I follow it on Instagram. Even if I had the worst day ever, sitting on my sofa, it makes me feel at home.”


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