Friday, April 6, 2018

I Am a Rent-Stabilized Tenant

East Village resident Susan Schiffman documents 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: ilyse, since 1977

Why did you move to the East Village?

In 1977, a friend from my hometown asked me if I wanted to share a sublet with her for the summer in NYC. Within a month, I knew that I wanted to stay. I didn’t like the first neighborhood I moved into but then discovered the East Village. It felt like I finally discovered a place where I could fit in. I’ve been in this apartment since December 1977.

How did you find your apartment?

I was actually in another apartment down the street near Phebe’s restaurant, which used to be a kind of wild off-off Broadway scene. I worked there. That was the job I had found. There was a customer in the restaurant who noticed me when I was eating in the Binibon on the corner of Fifth Street. Manhattan Plaza had just been built. It was for actors and he was an actor and he got an apartment there.

He recognized me from my work in the restaurant. He asked me if I was interested in taking over his apartment for what we used to call “key money.” Which meant that you pay the previous tenant a couple hundred bucks and they make the arrangements with the management of the building. It was very old school and you could actually talk with the manager of the building. I got my first lease for $135. That was the rent not the key money. It doesn’t work like that anymore.

What do you love about your apartment?

First of all I love that I feel a connection in this apartment to the immigrant past of this neighborhood. I don’t like to call them ghosts because that sounds unhappy. But I feel that there has been a continuous spirit of something here since this neighborhood was built as a refuge for people coming from other places. People who worked very hard when they got here and made the life that my generation has possible.

Second of all, I love this apartment because it has low rent and where it is located it has been a platform for a really unstructured, exploratory and unconventional lifestyle — where I was able to take acting classes for a little while, photography classes for awhile. I had so many different jobs in 4 or 5 very different industries and have met so many interesting people. I was able to raise two daughters completely on my own in this place.

Because of the milieu that existed in the neighborhood, when my daughters became school age I was able to send them to amazing public schools that were started by parents and teachers. I was able to get involved with community gardening and composting.

I’ve had such a rich life. That doesn’t mean I have a dime in my bank account because I barely do. It doesn’t mean that I take vacations because I don’t. Or that my clothes don’t come from curbside finds because they do. It just means that I’m rich. It has been a very rich existence. I have so many memories tied to this location.

If you're interested in inviting Susan in to photograph your apartment for an upcoming post, then you may contact her via this email.


Anonymous said...

HELL YES. what a fantastic story and terrific photos! long may ilyse enjoy her apartment and her wealth! <3!

Anonymous said...

Right on! People are jealous and don't want you to have this. Freedom and beauty, a rich life. The apartment is so beautiful. I t looks like a country house.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic Story !
The apartment is so cozy - and love the umbrella ceiling shade.

Doggie all comfy is a bonus !

Brian said...

There is one photo with a cat, one with a dog, and one with both a dog and cat. Can you find them?

Anonymous said...

I love this feature. Telling the stories of rent regulated residents, illustrating the lives they have created for themselves and the lives they continue to live despite the sentiment that they shouldn't be able to have those lives because they don't have wealth is a form of activism in my opinion. Rent regulated tenants are more often than not referred to as shut-ins, or lazy or worse, yet they are more likely to put down roots, support local businesses, engage in community activism, send their kids to local schools, etc.: the things that build a community. Everyone deserves an affordable place to live and that should be the goal, not taking away affordable housing from those who have it.

Anonymous said...

I see a photo with 1 cat, a photo with 1 dog, and a photo with 2 cats.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous place!

Brian said...

That looks like a dog's hind quarters to me, not a cat.

Gojira said...

One thing I am struck by in all of the apartments shown so far in this feature is the bright, vivid, warm coloring that these long-time tenants surround themselves with. Their walls are gem-hued, their possessions run the rainbow gamut - such a stark contrast to the bland, washed-out white/bleached oak/stainless steel palette all of the new "luxury" buildings are pushing as the ne plus ultra. Life versus sterility, glory versus - meh.

Giovanni said...

This looks like the home of the character on Game of Thrones who played the actress in the theatre troupe. Welcome to Westeros.

Pat said...

Yes Phebe's was the Sardi's of Off-Off Broadway. Best hamburgers ever. There were some guys in my building (East 20's) in the 70's involved with a theater on Bond Street, Phebe's was their hang.

Scuba Diva said...

I love the working transoms; mine are painted shut.

Sarah said...

Sounds like you're doing a lot better than a lot of people making more money in this city, ilyse.