Desperation in New York City

By Mike Colpitts

condo rentalsDesperate times cause people to do desperate things. We encountered one of these unfortunate souls on our trip last week to New York City, Marina Berkovich is an insurance agent in Brooklyn, 

who owns the apartment we rented. She said business has been lousy with the ailing real estate market. Marina was nice enough to meet the two of us at her office in Brooklyn and give us a ride to the apartment in Staten Island. the city that never sleeps. All we wanted to do was rent an apartment in New York for the week. We booked the place through an online service and it turned into a living nightmare.

The pictures online showed a small adequate one bedroom unit with a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline equipped with necessities for the week’s stay, including a sofa, coffee table, end tables, one small TV and queen size bed. It would be a tight fit for the week, but the price beat high Manhattan hotel prices.

After we schlepped our bags upstairs being a normal guy I laid on the bed to check it out. It was so hard that I immediately pulled up the bedspread and sheets to find the bed was only a box spring on top of a piece of plywood with no mattress. I knew then that we were doomed. This lady couldn’t even afford a complete bed for the unit.

However, we only had a little more than two hours to get to Yankee Stadium to see one of the last games the Bronx Bombers would play in Yankee Stadium. It was their last home stand in baseball’s historic shrine, which has featured 26 World championships. We had to deal with the apartment problem later.

We quickly changed, got a glass of water and took off for the Staten Island Ferry to make the game on time. I hadn’t been to Yankee Stadium before and it was a priority for our trip. The Yanks won the game 3-2 over the Baltimore Orioles.

When we got back to the apartment after the game it was nearing midnight and it was too late to call Marina. We didn’t get much sleep at all even though we used every blanket, sheet, pillow and bedcover in the place we could find to pad the hard as a rock “bed”.

The next morning I waited for a reasonable hour to call Marina on the telephone, but before I even called, Marina called to check on us. She asked, “Is everything OK?” I responded, “You’ve got a problem. You got to get over here. Someone stole your bed.”

From our conservation in the car on the way to the apartment I knew Marina, who immigrated from Russia 10 years ago well enough to know she would be alarmed to hear my response. “What do you mean?” she exclaimed. I told her the bed had no mattress, only the box spring. After a short talk Marina offered to return our money for the week except for the one night’s stay. It was a major inconvenience and we would have to find another place to stay. After hours searching we finally found a hotel.

A few hours later Marina showed up at the door with our check. I figured she was afraid we’d cancel the check. She wanted $250 in cash for the one night stay, which included a cleaning fee of $75 and we had to clean the place ourselves. Oh, did I mention the place was filthy and smelled of dirt lingering in the air. The extremely stained gray carpet could have possibly been blue at one time and the marked up dingy white walls were badly in need of a fresh coat of paint.

Marina is one of those people who apparently bought too much real estate during the housing boom. She told me in the car that she was unable to refinance her own personal home even though it currently has 20% equity because she’s self-employed. Quick qualifiers or so-called liar loans are history in this new era of mortgage lending as foreclosures mount and housing markets worsen.

A condo she also purchased was rented more often, she said. Why Marina doesn’t rent out the apartment we stayed in for one night long term is anyone’s guess. It’s obvious Marina, who spoke with a thick Russian accent is just trying to pay the mortgage.

Sure, we got most of our money back but our time and inconvenience is worth a whole lot more. We had to take a taxi to the hotel after we repacked our bags, and we still feel ripped-off.

Next time we’ll just book a hotel direct.