Basement Apartment - Penthouse of the Future.
February 25, 2004 1:51 PM   Subscribe

The vertical nature of New York City has long helped define its image, with families stacked on top of each other and penthouse apartments reaching the clouds. But for generations, tens of thousands of people have made do with another New York reality - the basement apartment - and they literally climb out of the ground to enter the city that is always on top of them. As mentioned in literature, personal ads--and soon to be the penthouse of urban worker housing everywhere.
posted by y2karl (11 comments total)
Oh, my God, I missed my period!

Now, that is a novel thought for me.
posted by y2karl at 1:55 PM on February 25, 2004

Boy, you sure like your Bulgakov, huh karl? :)

The father of a friend of mine bought a refinished basement apartment in NYC after divorcing her mother, but I doubt very much it was illegal. Actually, basement apartments offer a pretty nice solution to blocking outside noise (car alarms, firetrucks, ambulances, loud New Yorkers, etc.). I guess it bothers some people more than others.

I remember it was one of the first apartments I'd ever seen in the city, and at the time I was astonished that someone would ever pay $200,000 for such a small amount of space (ah... suburban ignorance) . He was in West Village. Lucky bastard.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:50 PM on February 25, 2004

one word: bugs
posted by amberglow at 7:01 PM on February 25, 2004

One of my best friends was born and raised in one of these basement apartments in Washington Heights. She lived there for 20+ years until she moved into her own apartment in the next building over -- on the 1st floor! LOL, now she's on the 3rd floor, she's moving up...

Anyhow, her parents still live in the selfsame apartment they've been in for over 35 years. Her father is indeed a superintendent of the building she grew up in.

Her bedroom growing up was about 5' wide by 10' long, just big enough for a twin bed and a dresser. She had a tiny window high up at the end of the room looking out at a brick wall a few feet away. How depressing, I always think, but this is where she spent 18+ years of her life every night.

One of the perks of living in the basement is that her family had use of the entire boiler-room/common/storage area and it was like they had their own outdoor space, but indoors.
posted by PigAlien at 9:10 PM on February 25, 2004

Oh heck, Bert and Ernie have been living in the same basement apartment at 123 Sesame Street for over 30 years!

And it's a one-bedroom unit!
posted by ilsa at 9:34 PM on February 25, 2004

I just knew the gay marriage thing would get worked in here, too--what a meme!
posted by y2karl at 10:19 PM on February 25, 2004

The guy makes soap carvings for a so-called living, and he laments his subterranian living conditions? For heaven's sake, get a real job.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:52 PM on February 25, 2004

The fact remains that this is New York City, land of opportunity, so if you have to live in the basement, then you have to do it.

There's some logic for ya.
posted by justgary at 12:10 AM on February 26, 2004

I lived in a basement when I first moved to NYC. It was cheap, it was dank, I was glad to find it and gladder to move out of it. I must confess my reaction when I saw this story on the front page of the Times was "Gosh, they've discovered some people live in basements in New York! Next they'll learn that there are people who don't make minimum wage! I smell a Pulitzer..." But hey, it's not like there's anything else going on in the world they should be paying attention to instead.

"As mentioned in literature..."
posted by languagehat at 7:47 AM on February 26, 2004

If you are living in a basement apartment in NYC -- wake up! You are a sucker! The United States is an immense country filled with fabulous places for you to live -- and probably for about what you're paying for your basement. (By the way, great post, y2karl. "Master and Margarita" is one of my favorite books, and the maglev train one of my favorite fantasies. Who else could conceive of a FPP that would find an affinity between the two?)
posted by Faze at 8:02 AM on February 26, 2004

thanks faze, i now feel free.
posted by clavdivs at 8:48 AM on February 26, 2004

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