The charms of Bushwick, Brooklyn, had already started to wear thin for Ryan Cheal when the L train shutdown was announced in 2016. So he started looking for a new place last summer, about six months before repairs were scheduled to begin.
His girlfriend, Kelly Godzik, lived a few blocks away and was also dreading the looming shutdown, but had no plans to move, as her lease wasn’t up soon and she really liked her roommate.
But subway and real estate realities often can lead couples down unanticipated paths. Ms. Godzik was browsing listings on Mr. Cheal’s behalf when she came across a one-bedroom in a new building by the Broadway Triangle — an area where Bushwick, Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant meet — a short walk from the J, M and G trains. And she decided to accompany him when he went to see it.
“Our jaws were dropping when they showed us this place,” said Mr. Cheal, whose previous apartment had been a rough-around-the-edges three-bedroom share that rented for $3,000 a month.
Ms. Godzik felt her resolve to stay at her current place — also shabby and soon to be in the boondocks of Brooklyn — melt away.
“Coming in, everything was so shiny; no one has lived here before. All the places we’d lived before were pretty beat up, walls not repainted between tenants,” Ms. Godzik said. “We were like, ‘Get us out of the Bushwick dingy hole.’”
$3,000 | South Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Kelly Godzik, 27, and Ryan Cheal, 32
Occupations: Ms. Godzik is a freelance marketing operations and project manager at Condé Nast; Mr. Cheal is a property manager for a family-owned residential real estate company.
Apartment aesthetics: The big windows, high ceilings and light gray cabinets caught the couple’s attention when they first toured the apartment. “We really like the California aesthetic. The first trip we took together as a couple was to Malibu,” Ms. Godzik said. “We’re obsessed with light, airy, macramé.”
Keeping the apartment light and airy: “We didn’t want it to be too crowded. Living with roommates, we realized how easily things could get cluttered,” Ms. Godzik said. “We were like, ‘Let’s only bring in things that have a purpose.’”
Moving in together was a big step, but after seeing the building’s rooftop, which would be outfitted with a number of barbecues come spring, the couple conferred for only a few minutes before deciding that they wanted the apartment. But only if there wasn’t a broker’s fee.
“I feel like if you’ve lived in New York long enough you can figure out how to find a nice place that doesn’t charge a fee,” Ms. Godzik said.
“If there had been a broker’s fee here, we probably would have passed, on principle,” said Mr. Cheal, who works as a property manager for a residential real estate company in Manhattan, and had recently walked away from a well-priced apartment in Williamsburg after the broker told him the fee was a whopping 20 percent.
Not only was this apartment no-fee, but when they sat down to talk about how much money they would need to provide up front, the broker said the building was partnering with a new company, Obligo, that covered the cost of the security deposit for financially qualified tenants in exchange for a small monthly fee for the duration of the lease, in their case $15. (Through the company, they also authorized the landlord to charge up to the full deposit if there were damages to the apartment.) All they needed to put down was the first month’s rent of $3,000.
“We used the money we would have paid for a security deposit to furnish the apartment,” said Mr. Cheal, who was more than happy to leave behind his apartment and also his broken-down Ikea furniture — “college-kid-like junk” — on the curb in Bushwick.
The couple had been living in their apartment for about four months when it was announced in January that the L train wouldn’t be shutting down after all.
“When we found out, we were like, ‘What? We’ve been lied to,’” Mr. Cheal said.
“One of my friends on the L train had been able to negotiate her rent down $300 a month,” Ms. Godzik said.
Once they recovered from their surprise, however, they agreed that although the shutdown had been a major factor in their decision, they were happy they made the move. Their new neighborhood, populated by many Orthodox Jewish families, is much quieter than the previous one, where drunken arguments often spilled out from the bars into the streets.
And after years of living in scuffed-up shares, they love having an apartment where the only issue has been the pilot light in the oven going out.
“We both made a big step up, apartment-wise,” Mr. Cheal said.
“And we both like living together,” Ms. Godzik added.
The only problem is the transit situation. Before they moved in, Ms. Godzik thought she could take the J train to Fulton Street — a smooth commute to her job at the World Trade Center, where she works in marketing for Condé Nast. But the nearby Lorimer J train stop is local, and the J train doesn’t always run local.
“So depending on whether it’s running local or not, getting to work every morning is kind of a crapshoot,” she said.