East Village resident Susan Schiffman has been photographing the apartments of rent-stabilized tenants living in the East Village for her Instagram account, I Am a Rent Stabilized Tenant. She will share some of the photos here for this ongoing EVG feature.
Photos and text by Susan Schiffman
Tenant: June, since 1979
June came to NYC from Chicago in 1964.
Why did you move to the East Village?
I had been married. We moved to a three-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side from a rent-controlled brownstone also on the Upper West Side. I was unhappy in that apartment. When we got divorced I got the apartment. I hated that apartment. I did love that it had been all musicians and artists when I moved in. There were a lot of musicians because it was close to Julliard.
When the building and the neighborhood started changing the people who were moving in were not musicians or artists and they had day jobs. The landlord approached me and offered me a buyout. I got myself a lawyer. She got me not a huge amount of money but I was able to stay in the apartment for up to a year until I could find a new place. It covered my moving expenses, plus I got some cash.
How did you find your East Village apartment?
I had a boyfriend who was living on Seventh Street and I was working downtown. I had to be at my job at 11 a.m. Every day, from 9-10:30 a.m., I walked around the neighborhood and talked to people. I rang the doorbell at a storefront looking for the super. A woman answered. She was living there, but was not a super. She wrote for Al Goldstein’s Screw magazine. Her husband was a lighting designer. She had been in the neighborhood for years. She gave me a cup of tea and a joint. She told me if she heard of anything she would give me a call.
A week later she called me and said the girl on the top floor is moving. I went to look at the apartment. There were walls with interior windows. Because of the slope the rooms were all rhomboids, in other words you got dizzy just standing here because they were all so askew. The boyfriend of the woman living there must have gotten paid in supplies because there was sheetrock stacked up and boxes of supplies everywhere. But I looked at the height of the ceilings and the view. And I just knew this was it.
The landlord, Arthur Brown, owned most of the block. He was a wonderful guy. His deal for all of his tenants was if you supplied the labor and included the receipts for supplies for work done, you could take that amount off of your rent.
I still say to people who are looking for an apartment: Choose your neighborhood and then spend time there walking around and talking to people. You will find something.
What do you love about your apartment?
When I moved in I worked with a guy who lived in another building. We took all the plaster off of the walls. Something, actually, that I’m sorry I did. The brick dust is just endless. We took down the interior walls. I like the openness. We took all of the closets out, they were useless, terrible closets. We took down the walls in between the rooms. My other apartment had so many rooms and doors and walls so I wanted something open.
I love that this is open, I love the high ceilings, I love the 19th-century details like the tin ceilings. I used to have that old kind of toilet with the oak box. It had a little leak and I told the super. I thought he could just glue it. He ripped it out and put in a regular toilet. I was heartbroken.
More than anything else I love the view. Notice how the chair is turned. I’m retired. I spend a lot of time sitting at this window. I love the view but not just the view — I love the activity that goes on. I’m not just watching leaves fall.
If you're interested in inviting Susan in to photograph your apartment for an upcoming post, then you may contact her via this email.