Please Explain: Apartments

Friday, April 08, 2011

Apartments are a hallmark of city living, and on today’s Please Explain, we’ll take a look at how they’ve evolved. New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson and architect and writer James Sanders talk about the variety of New York apartments—from co-ops and condos to tenements and railroad flats to lofts and the classic six—and about how rent control and co-op boards function.

We want to hear your apartment stories! Tell us about the kinds of apartments you’ve lived in, and what you think the pros and cons of apartment living are!  


Justin Davidson and James Sanders

Comments [21]

M.POTHIAPPAN from chennai

Dear sir.,
i know very small detais of appartment buildins.,i want more details, please sent me that details.i know some details, i write it down.,

1. more houses make one building, living room, bed room, kitchen, study room, pooja room, Toilet & bath room, corridor,large, number house making,and large number floor also,its called Appartments.,

Feb. 23 2012 09:57 AM

The Romans had apartments! Also weren't brownstones middle class housing? Good things about apt. living: a small kitchen makes an efficient cook - you really come to appreciate use of space that's aesthetic AND efficient - I think I might be creeped-out living in a house for awhile, it has been so long since I lived in one. Of course with land and animals I could be persuaded...

Apr. 08 2011 02:48 PM

The Empress Eugenie had apartments in Imperial palaces in France... - isn't the word also appartemento in Italian and Spanish? And in French it is appartement, not flat!

Apr. 08 2011 02:41 PM
Deborah Purcell from Bedford Corners, NY

I'd like to speak to the "intimacy" of apartment living. I once rented a miniscule but charming studio in a brownstone on West 69th St. When some Montana-based friends arrived (in their truck) for a visit, I organized our sleeping arrangements as follows: Elizabeth on the couch (not a pull-out), Rick on the floor in a sleeping bag, me on the floor in a bedroll on a mat, and my friends' two hounds wedged between us all in the remaining floor space. When I awoke the first morning after their arrival, one of the hounds was snoozing peacefully, head on my stomach. It is one of my favorite New York apartment-living memories.

Apr. 08 2011 02:08 PM
Nick from UWS

Food delivery? Don't be ridiculous. Dumbwaiters were used to send garbage down from your apartment to the basement where the janitor would collect it. I have lived all my life in a 12 story building built in 1915 and have learned much about it from the old timers.

The dumbwaiter went out of use when incinerators were installed in the building in the 1920s.

Apr. 08 2011 01:57 PM
michele from new york, ny

Sound like Frances Kotkov lives ina rent control apt.
What is the history of rent control

Apr. 08 2011 01:57 PM
Olivia Koppell from New York,NY

Do you know about the old Gimbels dept. store on 86th St. It was converted into apartments but they retained the basic architecture - the lobby is amazing and the ceilings are sooooo tall. It's great.

Apr. 08 2011 01:56 PM
A listener

Was there a plan for the major boulevards of the city or did they develop organically based on whomever had the money to build buildings?

Apr. 08 2011 01:51 PM
Fran from Manhattan

I live in the same apartment in which I grew up. It's a tenement apartment with bathtub in the kitchen. I lived here with 4 siblings, 2 parents and a dog as I grew up. Now I live here with a husband and a daughter. When my daughter was a young child, the bathtub in the kitchen was a great advantage...I could cook and watch her taking a bath at the same time. Now, not so much of an advantage. One wonderful thing about our 3 little rooms, railroad apartment: it's in a corner building so there are windows along the entire length of it!

Apr. 08 2011 01:50 PM
Lisa from Brooklyn NY

My 35-unit building in Brooklyn was built in the 1920s and all the apartments had dumbwaiters. What would they have been used for?

Apr. 08 2011 01:49 PM
Adam from Sunset Park Brooklyn

Can you explain the history of "Finnish Co-ops"? Especially in Sunset Park.a

Apr. 08 2011 01:49 PM
Adam from Sunset Park Brooklyn

Can you explain the history of "Finnish Co-ops"? Especially in Sunset Park.a

Apr. 08 2011 01:49 PM
Erica from New York City

My husband and I live in a hotel in nyc and pay next to nothing. It's a program that was set up post Regan trying to get people off the streets and into affordable housing. You get one room and a bathroom but no kitchen. What is the history of this sort of living and subsidized housing? We struggle with the lack of space but it has allowed us to pursue our creative endeavors without worrying too much about rent.

Apr. 08 2011 01:48 PM
Adam from Sunset Park Brooklyn

Can you explain the history of "Finnish Co-ops"? Especially in Sunset Park.a

Apr. 08 2011 01:48 PM
antonio from park slope

I grew up in a tenement on 50th and 9th avenue in Hell's kitchen. I noticed that my mother's apartment has a wall that was added later, that runs through the middle of it. Which means that they were subdivided to make the owner more money. Does that mean tenements were bigger and more spacious? Also there is a mantle in my mom's apt, which means there once was a fireplace! This makes me think originally these apartments must have been nice!

Apr. 08 2011 01:47 PM
Margaret from Brooklyn

I lived in an apartment (built in 1929) that was on the first floor. The bedroom had a window on the (dark, dank) air shaft, but there was also a window that looked out on the living room! What's up with that? The window was real, like there was apparatus for sashes, although it had no glass when I lived there.

Apr. 08 2011 01:39 PM
Uptown Gal from Harlem

Please discuss rent stabilized vs. market rent.

I live in a formerly rent-stabilized apartment that has been renovated and is now market rent. The previous tenant was paying around $600/mo and I am paying around $1400/mo.

This is not a J-51 (?) bldg.

What determines when the apt can be moved from rent stabilized to market rent?

Can the landlord raise the rent to any amount they want in a market rent apt?

thank you.

Apr. 08 2011 12:46 PM
Conie from Westchester

I grew up in a prewar apt. bldg. on Riverside Drive. It had a river view and was great. But I must say that it was a pain to have to tote everything up in the elevator (bike, doll-cariage, groceries etc.)..We knew our neighbors but rarely socialized. We worked hard to respect everyone's privacy. I miss that in the suburbs where it is hard to retain one's anonymity.

Apr. 08 2011 11:39 AM
Eric from Manhattan

I didn't live in this apartment, but several years ago, when I was apartment hunting, I got a tour of a makeshift apartment that was created from a garage. The owner purchased the standalone garage several years ago and setup drywall to partition off the space. He had a tub in the "bathroom", a small electric stove in the "kitchen", and 2 bedrooms. There were no windows in the entire "apartment", save for the 2 at the back of the garage that were for the owner's bedroom. I was in awe at his ingenuity, but horrified at the thought of living in the space. This was in Williamsburg.

Apr. 08 2011 09:40 AM
rj from Short Hills, NJ

In Europe and much of Asia, they call apartments 'Flat'. what is the etymology of both these words and what the difference. Does it have anything to do with which class if people occupy the space.

Apr. 08 2011 07:04 AM
George from Bay Ridge

How do apartments differ in other nations?

Apr. 08 2011 01:54 AM

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