Moving in NYC during coronavirus is more nightmarish than usual

Robert Sosin gave his 8-year-old son Lyric the middle name Woolworth after Sosin’s favorite building in the city, a choice he calls “the cheapest way to get NYC real estate.” But Sosin was finally close to the real thing: home ownership.

The 44-year-old creative director closed on a three-bedroom, 1½ bath apartment in Southbridge Towers, a complex at 80 Beekman St. in the Financial District.

For a purchase price of $1.27 million, he would finally have enough space for his wife and two kids, plus windows that looked out on the actual Woolworth Building.

He’s trying to put down deeper roots in the neighborhood where he’s spent his whole life: His grandmother, Natalie Sosinsky, lives on the same floor of Southbridge Towers as his new co-op.

“I love this city,” Sosin says. “I want to have a part of it. This house represents a lot to us.”

The family started packing boxes and plotting renovations while awaiting final mortgage approval from the bank for an expected April 1 closing. Then the coronavirus pandemic gripped New York, freezing the gears of the economy. People like Sosin — in the middle of scheduling moves, that most arduous of New York tasks — were thrown into uncertainty. Some are still scrambling to figure out backup plans.

New York’s stay-at-home order is hitting the market at the worst time: The city’s busiest moving day is traditionally May 1.

Sosin’s closing is still on hold, but his family is fortunate. They’re able to stay in their current apartment until the lockdown is over.

Other New Yorkers are caught in the vice between an expiring lease and an uncertain new one. Complicating things, many buildings are limiting visits from non-residents, making it harder to show, view, clean or paint apartments; some are prohibiting moves entirely.

Daniel, a 34-year-old who works in advertising, was mid-move when the quarantine hit — and it might cost him as much as $17,500. Daniel — who asked that his last name not be used because he is still negotiating with his old building — and his six-months-pregnant wife moved to Jersey City on March 19. Their two-bedroom apartment in a new high-rise near the Grove Street PATH station is an upgrade for the growing family. But a couple from San Diego, who was supposed to take over their old lease in Downtown Brooklyn, fell through; one of them lost a job thanks to the coronavirus, then both of them were feeling sick, so a cross-country move seemed like a bad idea. Daniel is now scrambling to find a new renter or face paying out his old lease, which would be $3,500/month through August.

Days after his move, the Downtown Brooklyn building put a ban on outsiders, which means no visits from painters, cleaning crews or prospective renters. In the meantime, he’s repainting the apartment himself, taking Ubers between Jersey City and Brooklyn to avoid public transit.

New York’s stay-at-home order is hitting the market at the worst time: The city’s busiest moving day is traditionally May 1.

“The building is making it very difficult for me to make the apartment presentable to somebody,” Daniel says. “They’re not answering calls, all they did was reply ‘You are still liable for paying your lease.’ ”

While Daniel and his wife do have savings, they’d rather spend it on the new baby. Others in the city have less financial stability.

Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents the owners and managers of more than 400,000 rent-stabilized properties, estimates that as many as 2,000 tenants have already asked to break leases to move in with other family members because they can’t afford to keep their apartments. The move comes as a wave of historic unemployment hit the state, affecting many in the service industry and other professions with no work-from-home option.

Thousands more, Martin adds, are asking for lease extensions or delays in rent payment. If the quarantine continues past April, he’s bracing for a much grimmer scenario for the 2 million people in rent-stabilized apartments — and the buildings that rely on their rent payments for outbreak-boosted cleaning, maintenance and security costs.

“Without being hyperbolic, I can tell you the cascading effect of literally 2 million renters in this city who cannot pay their rent,” he says. “It’s going to be a catastrophe.”

It is technically possible to move now: The state has deemed moving companies “essential” businesses, allowing them to stay open during the lockdown. In fact, it’s been full steam ahead for companies like Manhattan-based Imperial Movers, where most of the office staffers are working from home, but crews are still being sent out to jobs. They’re required to wear booties, gloves and face masks, sales manager Adit Thakur says.

The company was slammed around March 15 when Barnard College ordered students to evacuate residence halls as soon as possible — right in the middle of spring break. Imperial communicated with students over FaceTime, signing contracts remotely in some cases. Rates are usually between $500 to $650 for an in-city move or more than $1,000 to ship across the country, Thakur says, but the company gave some students discounts, particularly those paying without parental help.

“It was mass chaos for the most part,” Thakur recalls.

Andrew Beasley, 26, was planning to splurge on movers for the first time as he relocated from one Greenpoint apartment to another on April 1. But as recommendations for distancing and isolation grew more strict, he worried about interacting with movers and exposing his new roommates, whom he found on Craigslist, to strangers coming in and out. He didn’t want to enlist friends to help lug boxes for the same reason.

So he canceled the movers and booked a U-Haul van he can unlock contactlessly with his phone. The U-Haul only cost about $40, compared to $200 for movers, but he expects to spend hours schlepping all his boxes and furniture up to his new place, which is a third-floor walk-up.
“I’m trying to make sure they feel as comfortable as possible letting me move in,” says Beasley, who works for a political firm.

Plus, he’s trying to find someone to take over his old room. A prospective tenant came by on March 24 wearing a full-body blue lab suit and a mask. Adds Beasley, “He walked in and took a look at the room, and didn’t touch anything, and left.”

The 392-unit luxury rental building at 525 W. 52nd St., where prices range from $3,100 for a studio to $6,806 for a three-bedroom, is extending leases and being flexible on move-in dates, according to leasing manager Teresa Chavin. Some residents, she adds, asked to end leases early to flee to the Catskills or Hamptons.

Meanwhile, Justin Truglio got pinched by the quarantine with nowhere to go. The 24-year-old and his current roommate were set to move from Midtown East to a $4,000/month West Village pad on April 1. But the apartment’s current tenants extended their lease due to the lockdown, and the pair’s current landlord would only offer a six-month extension. So instead, he’s decamping to his roommate’s family’s house on the Jersey Shore until they can figure out a game plan.

“It’s just crazy because we can’t move in anywhere,” Truglio says, “and we can’t renew our lease.”

For Truglio, like most people caught in relocation limbo, there’s nothing to do but wait.

“The uncertainty is really hard right now,” says Sosin, whose closing hasn’t yet been rescheduled. “No one said, ‘It’s off’ [or] ‘It’s still on.’ We just know there could be a big shoe that drops any minute now.”

Source: Read Full Article