Category Archives: New York City

On the NYC Real Estate Market and Rapid Realty…

I did something a little out of character today. I turned into a nag and put a company on blast for scamming me.

It’s not that I don’t like to stand up for what’s right or whatever, it’s that I don’t like to cause a scene. I weigh my options very carefully when I have to throw a lot of energy behind something. And I hate doing something half-assed. I would rather not do something at all than not give it everything.

So lets rewind to December 2011 when I started a whirlwind adventure called, “So You’ve Landed A Job In New York City.” This midwestern kid was aiming to get her first apartment on her own and had no idea what to expect. I had about two weeks to search for a place, and from what everyone had told me, this didn’t seem like an issue considering how fast the New York City real estate market moves. I spent every free minute I had looking at Craigslist ads, researching neighborhoods, getting advice, trying to be as prepared as possible. And then I had one day to go down to the big, bad city to look at places and find the Prince Charming of apartments.

Possibly one of the most stressful trips of my life up until that point (my LA trip from June still beats it). We worked with one realtor who was a friend of a brother of my boyfriend’s sister’s boyfriend, and she was extremely nice but nothing she showed me was a great option. Especially not the place she showed me in East Harlem.

So a guy from this little company called Rapid Realty had contacted me when I started this search back in Buffalo. He had spent some of his childhood in Buffalo, so I immediately thought he would be trustworthy. I managed to get in touch with him as my mother and I sat exasperated and exhausted in a Starbucks near Penn Station, and he was able to set up an appointment to see an apartment out in Queens. I was relieved to walk around in a neighborhood where I didn’t feel like I was going to die, and to see an apartment that actually worked for me and was within my price range.

I was ready to get paperwork and payments rolling since I needed approval as soon as possible so I could have a place to live once my job started. The realtor was informed of this before he even showed me the place. Rather than getting down to business and applying right then and there, he was all like, “I’ll have our closer call you tomorrow.” I was so tired and happy to have found a place I almost didn’t care.

And then I learned what a nightmare it is to apply for an apartment in New York City, especially when you need to be approved within days. I went back and forth with this closer dude, trying to get bank information to wire over my security deposit, making sure I had all the necessary documents. And of course he would always forget something and we would have to run back to my mom’s office to use the fax machine and send another document over. To say it was draining would be an understatement.

After all this, I still didn’t know if I was approved. I was packing up my Uhaul and didn’t know if I was approved. We made it to Staten Island all the way from Buffalo before I knew I was approved.

My parents and I ate at a local diner that night after finally unpacking the truck. It was a pretty standard diner, and my dad proclaimed that the burger there was the best thing he’s ever eaten. It’s amazing what a lack of sleep and stress can do to your mind.

Fast forward three months, everything seems to be fine with my first apartment. I still feel like a kid living in a dorm given how tiny my little studio was, but overall it was fine. And then a leak developed in the middle of my ceiling and it was never properly fixed. For nine months I dealt with buckets on my coffee table, having my laptop and other electronics get drenched, and not once was I reimbursed for items that were damaged (like the carpet I brought to the apartment) or for rent I was paying in order to live in a place that was uninhabitable.

I learned very quickly how shady my management company was, especially when they switched the building manager without informing us, and then also changed the name of the company altogether without any notice. My superintendent was the only good person who worked for that company and he fought so hard to have my ceiling fixed or to get me reimbursed, and when I would call them to check up on it, they would said he didn’t do any of that.

Needless to say, I knew I was moving when my lease was up. I started looking for a new place four months in advance. I can’t tell you how happy I was to sign the document saying I wouldn’t renew and telling the new building manager that there was nothing he could do to keep me with their company.

I hoped the last contact I had with him would be when I gave him my new address where he could send my security deposit. Three months passed before he told me they were keeping it since I never paid my last month’s rent.

Huh?

Right.

Going back to the initial deposits on the apartment. I was told I needed one month’s security deposit ($1250), first and last month’s rent ($2500) and a one month broker’s fee ($1250). I paid all of these and had the receipts for them. I told the management company this…and they said they only required one month’s security deposit and first month’s rent. So I go back to Rapid Realty and ask if they can provide any documentation showing that they also gave the management company my last month’s rent. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, wasn’t at all on the offense, just stated that I wanted their help in showing that the management company owed me the security deposit. I spoke with an agent there that seemed like she wanted to help me, sent over all the receipts, told this whole story. She said they would get back to me. I check a month later, because why not give them plenty of time, and all she says is that corporate is still looking into it.

I have emailed at least once a month since this started in April, and that is the only response I’ve ever received from them. There is $1250 missing that belongs to me, and they couldn’t care less and have probably pocketed it as some undocumented profit.

I wish I could tell you I don’t need that money, but I live in New York City where prices constantly go up and where my paycheck is sucked dry before it even hits my bank account. I don’t even live anything close to an extravagant lifestyle, but that is money I most certainly need.

Today I decided I had had enough of them ignoring me. I wrote a Yelp review exposing what they did to me, and it sits alongside many other poor reviews of others getting swindled out of money and baited. I have emailed that agent again and copied the guy who closed the deal for me back in December 2011. He conveniently no longer works for them. She has yet to respond to my email. I emailed their generic email address asking how I can get in touch with corporate, given that the number listed on their site has led me nowhere. I sent them a Facebook message asking the same thing.

Where do I go next? I’m sure Gothamist has covered this more than enough times for it not to be newsworthy. I could probably submit a list to Buzzfeed of why you should never work with either of these companies. I think NY1 has more important stories to cover than a young girl from Buffalo getting scammed by Rapid Realty. I need to do something to get their attention though, and legal action might be too expensive if it’s not worth it. God knows they probably wrote some loophole into something I signed that allows them to keep my money.

As I sit here typing this, I can’t believe it’s allowed to happen. But these types of things just go unnoticed in a city as big as New York that has much larger problems. In Buffalo, all I would have to do is call up my local TV news station or get in touch with my newspaper contacts, and as a community we would bring these crooks to their knees. In New York City, no one cares. They’ve probably also been scammed and dragged through something much worse than I have.

I’m hoping that something I’ve done today will get their attention and convince them to get in touch with me before I start screaming louder. I know many people don’t read my blog, but perhaps it will show up in someone’s Google search and they won’t make the same $1250 mistake that I did.

Or hey, maybe someone in that company will have a heart and give me my money back. Doubtful.

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On What Happened 12 Years Ago…

I was in 7th grade. It was kind of a big year for me. My school didn’t have a modified field hockey team, so during the summer I had to pass a physical test in order to try out for the JV team as a 7th grader. By some miracle of god, I passed what seemed to be impossible tests, including a bent arm hang (with palms facing outward) and a mile and a half run (which at the time seemed like a marathon). After passing the test, I still had to try out for the team, and I made it.

I had maybe one or two high school games under my belt by the time September 11th came about in 2001. The team had decided we would wear our uniforms to school that day since we had another game on our home field, and even though me and my middle school friends who were also on the team wouldn’t be around all our teammates that day, we still wore ours. When you’re in middle school wearing a high school uniform, people view you as kind of a badass.

One of my early morning classes was chorus. Being that I’m not a morning person, I was still sleepy and not quite comprehending what was being communicated to me. And then I heard my teacher say, “two planes flew into the Twin Towers.”

I didn’t really know what the Twin Towers were at that time. I had heard their name before, I knew they were in New York City, but I couldn’t point to them on a map or even draw a picture of them if you asked me to. I also didn’t understand how planes could fly into buildings. In my decaffeinated morning mind, I saw the planes bounce off the towers and go off on their merry way. I made it through that class and possibly another before the announcement was made.

“All after school activities are cancelled across the district.” What? How could they be cancelled? I had a game to play! I had goals to score! What is even happening??

My mom worked in the district so I was able to call her from a classroom phone. I expressed my anger at my game being cancelled and she calmly said, “Brianne, the Twin Towers are gone.” All I could say was, “Oh…” The rest of the day was kind of a blur. Apparently middle schoolers were too young to be shown the footage of what happened that day, so we were kept in the dark.

Upon entering my house, I plopped myself in front of the TV to get a better understanding of what was going on. I watched the footage played over and over and over again. Planes crashing into towers. Gigantic buildings falling to the ground as if they were made of paper-mache. People literally running for their lives through the streets of New York, some covered in dust and debris. I had not been to New York City at this point in my life, but I knew what I was seeing before me was the thing horror movies were made of.

Thinking back to these moments, I remember how scared I was. It wasn’t something that happened just in New York City. A plane had hit the Pentagon and one went down in Pennsylvania, too. As an American kid, you’re brought up to believe that nothing bad can ever happen to us, because we live in the US…and that day every shred of security I had here was stolen from me.

I remember sitting huddled up in the recliner of my family room, still in my field hockey uniform with my hair in two French braids, my backpack haphazardly tossed beside me, and my eyes staring wide at the TV as tears began to fall. My mom was upstairs and the rest of my family wasn’t home yet, and I sat there in my family room silently crying at something that to this day, I can’t fully understand.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always made sure I had a plan to get myself out of dangerous situations as quickly as possible. I call it my “GTFO plan.” Suddenly, I was aware that there could be situations I wouldn’t anticipate where I couldn’t get out alive. Every time I heard someone’s story of a loved one calling them from one of the top floors to say goodbye, I became more scared of being in a situation like that in my life, and what would I do?

I think everyone can agree that all of our lives changed that day. The US was no longer invincible. Security was heightened everywhere. We couldn’t just go after a country that was attacking us. It was a group that was hidden throughout many countries.

I know what I went through that day was nothing compared to what those in the New York City area went through. I try to put myself in their places when I walk around the southern tip of the city where the streets are narrow, and you’re bordered by water on all sides and a wall of skyscrapers to the north.

I try to imagine what the World Trade Center was like when the buildings stood there. I go there now and see beautiful reflecting pools in their places, and it puts into perspective how big these buildings were, even though I’ll never get the chance to see them in person.

I’ve never felt the need to post my “never forget” sentiments on social media, and I don’t have any disdain for those that do. At age 24, 12 years after my world was changed at just 12 years old, I just felt it was time to get my feelings and memories about it out on the internet.

[photo by Bri]

On Finances…

Super boring, yeah? Totally. Finances are the most stressful part of my life and I credit New York City for that (no pun intended).

You can get a job in New York City that pays a good salary – a salary that would be enviable in your hometown – but then you get here and realize that one paycheck doesn’t even cover all of your rent. Unless you have a roommate, and then maybe it does. You’re a smart one for doing that, but I didn’t have that kind of luck (and secretly-but-not-so-secretly, I love living alone with my cat).

Then you say, it doesn’t matter how much I get paid or how much my rent is, I live in the greatest city of all time! There’s so much to do here! Who needs money when you’re surrounded by EVERYTHING!

Wrong.

Everything here costs money, aside from sitting in a park and people watching. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a very awesome and entertaining thing to do. You might even see a woman bring her big fluffy white cat to the park to play. Or see a man in a white tuxedo playing a flute extremely off-key. And then it gets old after about an hour.

The biggest struggle I’ve found in living in New York isn’t planning my weeks and days around the subway or managing the stress of a “real person” job (I think I’ve handled that one pretty well), it’s been managing money. I’ve done a decent job of this only because I stress out about it. A LOT.

Having worked at a bank call center right out of college (if you’re desperate for a job, do it. If you want to keep your sanity, don’t), I have kept a check register like an 80-year-old. You can knock it all you want, but I always know exactly how much money is in my account regardless of what has or hasn’t cleared. Take that, online banking.

So I’m good at not overdrawing my account. That’s definitely the worst feeling. I used to do it all the time in high school and college because obviously debit cards equaled free money, and when you get to the register and your card is denied, you’re beyond embarrassed. It happened a couple times when I was serving unpaid internships in New York as well while buying groceries. It broke my heart to put those Hint of Lime Tostitos back every time, but milk and cereal and lunch items were far more important.

Things I’m not so great at? Trying to balance spending money on having a life and doing things with friends that cost money, while also being able to pay for all my bills. Don’t worry, the bills win out every time, but what a drag to pay over a thousand dollars a month to live in a city that I can’t even take advantage of?

But if I’m paying that much for rent, shouldn’t I take advantage of my apartment? How do I get my money’s worth out of that? Stay inside whenever I can? Because I tend to do that a lot. And then because I do that, I pay for cable because what the hell else am I supposed to do while inside? I like reading, but I can’t read all day. My eyes do not do that.

One tool I’ve found that’s helpful in managing this issue is this software called You Need A Budget. You enter in all the expenses you know you’ll have for the month (rent, utilities, loan, etc) and then allot money for other areas of your life (groceries, restaurants, household goods, medical expenses), and then you add in all the purchases you’ve made that month – which I recommend doing as you go. I was doing great with this until I started going out to lunch everyday because I haven’t had time to go grocery shopping, and when I do have time I don’t have the money for it (end-of-the-month-I-have-to-pay-rent-soon woes). I plan on using it more as a way to stop myself from going out to lunch everyday, but I also kind of like getting out of the office once a day to clear my head as well as the social aspect that goes along with it. I also love bringing a homemade lunch – particularly if it’s delicious leftovers – but eating at your desk is depressing. And then I don’t end up taking a break at all.

But YOU should totally use You Need A Budget. If you do in fact need a budget.

Where’s all this ranting and rambling going? Nowhere really. Don’t worry, I’m not starting a “Bri Needs Money to Live!” Kickstarter. I’m not taking on a second job, because running basically is my second job (and the best way to clear my mind. It’s necessary for mental health). And I already got a small raise so there’s no use asking for another. If you happen to have tips and tricks of how to make it in the city that don’t include eating ramen everyday or shutting yourself in at all hours, there’s a comment section, and you should use it.

On Getting Out On the Weekends…

The internet is sad today. Trial outcomes, untimely celebrity deaths, a lot of ignorance…I had to get out of my apartment. Aside from a run yesterday, I stayed in all day and didn’t regret it. But I can’t handle too many weepy social media posts, so I needed some air.

I didn’t really find any air outside considering the heat advisory in New York City that’s in place until midnight tonight, but I did see some fun sights.

Like the woman walking around Queens Boulevard in her robe and slippers. She was completely coherent. Didn’t seem crazy aside from her attire. I would say she looked in her mirror before leaving her home and thought, “yes, this is acceptable,” but the odds of her having looked in the mirror at all are slim. If there’s one thing that’s for sure in New York City, it’s that you can express yourself freely. Things like this are so common that no one questions it.

My first stop was at Duane Reade where I saw one of the best employee-customer exchanges ever. Apparently batteries are kept behind the counter there, and an employee had to go get them for this guy. They talked a bit, he told her what kind of batteries he needed, then I heard this:

Customer: “What’s your name?”
Employee: “Theresa.”
Customer: “Thanks, Theresa. Loved the eye roll, by the way. Sorry for making you do your job!”

Theresa clearly was still not really doing her job, because even though this man said it loud and clear and all of us waiting in line looked at each other like someone just got called down to the Principal’s office in elementary school, she turned to everyone and cluelessly asked, “what did he say?” I wasn’t about to tell her. It was too awesome to repeat. Bottom line: Some jobs suck. Make yours better by not being miserable all the time. I’ve worked in retail, Theresa. It’s not fun unless you make it fun.

I then headed to Starbucks to get an iced coffee where not much happened except for a child getting too close to me the whole time I was in line. I was carrying about three big Duane Reade bags (because I bought economy packs of paper towels and toilet paper) and was trying to stay out of the way. Then while I was waiting for my drink she practically plowed through my bags. I let out a, “seriously?”

The highlight of the trip was the Wafels & Dinges truck, as per usual. I opted for the special “De S’mores Wafel,” which came with speculoos, marshmallows and chocolate fudge. It was everything I’d hoped for and more. The guy taking my order suggested a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the wafel, and normally I couldn’t resist that, but heat advisories are no joke and neither is soupy ice cream.

By the time I got back the internet had become a slightly better place. At least the political rants weren’t clogging my feed anymore. Twitter is a different story, but I’m only going to visit that place to see what shenanigans Amanda Bynes is up to for now.

Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made of…

Hey there.

I’m Brianne (Bri) and you’ve stumbled upon my personal blog.

I’ve blogged about food for the past three or so years, and am currently in the process of revamping my food blog, and while brainstorming improvements, I decided to separate my random musings from my food revelations to keep the future food blog more focused.

And so, And What Would Bri Say? was born. You may be thinking, “what’s with the name?” I had this pretty annoying tendency as a young child to ask too many questions. I would go to climb some unstable tower of toys or going running around our house’s wooden floors wearing socks, and my parents would say something like, “Brianne stop! You’re gonna fall and crack your head open!” And so the questions began: “And then what would you say? And what would Dad say? And what would my sisters say? And what would the dog say?” I figured by now it’s time to hear what I would say.

A little about myself for those that don’t know: I’m from Buffalo and have more hometown pride than I ever thought I would. I’ve lived in New York City for a year now. I have a bit of an obsession with music and am constantly thinking of what will be in my next meal. I run regularly for at least half the year while training for half marathons, the other half of the year is too cold, too dark and too consumed with work to really take it too seriously.

I suppose you’ll learn more about me as this blog gets updated. It likely won’t be on a regular basis, but we’ll see what happens!

Thanks for reading this somewhat pointless intro, and stay tuned for more 🙂