Saturday, June 30, 2007

Stirred by Stew in Passing Strange

After seeing Passing Strange, the buzz-iest play going (and soon closing) at the Public Theater, I was dumbstruck. Lord have mercy, our main man Stew puts on a show. Perhaps the best of the slew of rock musicals going (Tony-bestowed Spring Awakening among them) this jamming journey follows the artistic self-discovery of a bored middle class African American, simply called Youth. Traveling from Los Angeles to Amsterdam to Berlin, art becomes life for Stew's alter-ego (played with doe-eyed glee by Daniel Breaker) and love nothin' but a means to a muse. Powerful lessons here, delivered with heavy bass and stomp-your-feet rhythm. Overheard among ticket hopefuls were rumors that the play, written by Stew and co-composed with Heide Rodewald, might be headed to B'way. If so, grab your seat quick before it too sweeps the Tonys and becomes part of theatrical legend.

Bonus: Spike Lee gave a cool thumbs up for Passing Strange when asked for his opinion, as he attended the 7pm show accompanied by Wesley Snipes (researching for that James Brown biopic, perhaps?) Liev Schreiber was at the 11pm performance, and I believe I also spotted Public artistic director Oskar Eustis.

How to Get Tix: The word-of-mouth on this play has been unbelievable so the rest of the run was sold out. Arriving too late for tix to the 7pm Friday show, I stuck around and waited in line for over two hours to get $20 rush tickets for the 11pm show. When trying for rush tickets, which go on sale an hour before curtain, get to the theater early with reading material and bottled water handy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Celebrity Studded Fundraiser for Afghan Hands

Last night, I attended my first New York City velvet-rope party, a celebration of the high-impact non-profit Afghan Hands at the Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Gallery in Chelsea. This gorgeous gathering was a classic example of a chic NYC crowd rallied around a cause, with a silent auction packed with services-to-the-stars and fashion-forward, celebrity worn gowns. Talk about beautiful people, both inside and out, as many were using their status to make a difference through this charity and others.

Afghan Hands is dedicated to empowering and educating widows in Afghanistan. By teaching the textile skills needed to create exquisitely realized embroidered scarves and shawls, these talented women gain independence both financially and personally. Above all, Afghan Hands pays for their artisans to educate themselves, and with this new found literacy and knowledge of basic human rights, provides a solid base of empowerment.

In addition to being take-your-breath-away stunning, these colorful, chic cloths are also profoundly moving, as each has a small bit of burqa material sewn into the corner. By deconstructing such a strong symbol of oppression, this dull blue patch of fabric symbolizes freedom from brutality, dependence and fear.

Founder Matin Maulawizada, a joyous, generous and genuine soul recently named a CNN Hero, launched the project with a clutch of savings and a determined dream to help those in his native country. A renowned celebrity makeup artist, his clientele immediately fell in love with the embroidery and started wearing them on set. The exposure and subsequent sales help pay for this important educational project, but the ordinary citizen can purchase items or donate too.

Bonus: Interviewing actress and Afghan Hands supporter Claire Danes (looking luminous) regarding her involvement. She explained to me that she enthusiastically gave these exquisite scarves to all her friends as holiday presents, and what a joy it was to help humanity by indulging in such beautiful fabrics. She was accompanied by her handsome (and sweet) British boyfriend, actor Hugh Dancy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Australian Play 'Beautiful Souls' Lands in NYC

Last night, I had the full-throttle thrill of being part of an enthusiastic audience for the U.S. premier of Sven Swenson's Beautiful Souls, presented by the Springboard Theater Company. Set in a Thai prison, this gripping, daring and uncomfortable play spotlights the inner demons of three Australian prisoners as they await execution for drug smuggling.

Throughout this 55-minute piece, the 'beautifully souled' and brain damaged Justin and his handsome, brooding brother David do verbal battle between prison walls regarding the nature of love, family and guilt. Fellow prisoner Beth acts as the moral center of the play, comforting the often terrified Justin and demanding accountability from the ever-combative David. As their execution draws near, the jailhouse confessions of each reveal profound regret, primarily over the life-long failure to connect to fellow human beings with deep love and compassion. The tragedy here is that despite the dawning realization that death is near, each prisoner falls deeper and deeper into the hurtful human traits of anger, selfishness and cruelty, and any 'foxhole conversion' among these tortured souls is minor at best.

Notable are the actors, especially Luke Wright whose subtly-realized performance as the brain injured Justin never falls into caricature or patronization. Jake Robards work as the angry and conflicted David could easily have been one-note, but he gives us a powerful and nuanced portrayal of a man on the edge. And Emma Dean's work as Beth is both tense and moving.

Bonus: Hearing those gorgeous Australian accents, meeting the cast members, crew and director Jeremy Dobrish afterwards, and hanging with some fascinating audience members from all over the globe. The show is in limited run at the Samuel Beckett Theater at 410 W. 42nd, June 28-30 at 7:30 pm, and tix are a supersweet low $18.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Save the Hotel Chelsea

There are few places in New York City that have the quirky charisma of the Hotel Chelsea, primarily known for its long-term artist, musician and writer residents. As a wannabe '80s punk rocker, I considered it a dark-side tourist destination as it housed many a famous alt-bohemian (and was where, tragically, Sid Vicious killed his gal Nancy). Adding to its alternative charm, Andy Warhol filmed the very arthouse The Chelsea Girls there, and the revolutionary writers Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg and even Mark Twain called the hotel home. With influential musicians such as Dylan, Patti Smith, Dee Dee Ramone and Joni Mitchell having stayed there, surely there was a genius serum that seeped from its walls?

Concerns for the Hotel Chelsea: On my friend Robin's blog Hoover Factory, I was made aware that management had recently changed and many were fearful that this historic creative outpost would be in for some drastic, corporate-cruel changes. New management company BD Hotels NY LLC has firmly brought to a close the unique rental pay system instituted by beloved former manager Stanley Bard, meant to nurture the gallery of artists residing there. Perhaps even more worrisome is that even with its historic landmark status, only the exterior of the hotel is protected, leaving the interior vulnerable to drastic renovation.

Given all the development (and destruction of older properties) that has been a mainstay of the city over the past few years, fears for the hotel's future may be justified. Rumors are that Andre Balazs (Uma Thurman's hotelier-hottie-ex) may play a role in any renovation action. Keep an eye out for the Chelsea that it doesn't turn into another boring boutique hotel with a sanitized, spa-like interior. Sometimes, chaos and a frenetic design are worth preserving.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Buddist Center Garden Bash

Another great thing about New York City? The multitudinous spiritual practices offered to its millions of residents, challenging us to seek out a connection with the world (and beyond) that most accurately speaks to our individual beliefs. While I am still sampling from this buffet, it has been enlightening to learn more about Kadampa Buddhism through the teachings of my friend Julia, as well as last night's garden party held by the Chakrasambara Buddhist Center.

Taking place at the 6th and B Community Garden in the East Village, the night included camaraderie and an inventive performance of Buddhist-lyriced Beatles songs with a talented NYC cast. The wacky dharma jokes may have gone over my head, but I admired and envied the sense of community there.

Bonus: Seeing up close the impressively mammoth and odd 65-foot-high art-tower created by the recently deceased Eddie Boros that looms over this charming urban community garden.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cheap Art & Laughs: Affordable Art Fair & ASSSSCAT

I had a hankering for art on Sunday afternoon, so I headed down to Chelsea for the last day of the Affordable Art Fair at 125 W. 18th. St. The show had received a lot of good promo press, but I'll confess my expectations were pretty low. Quality canvases for under $10,000? Unlikely. Perhaps my experience at Sotheby's had tainted my love for the cheap artiste. Fortunately, the mammoth art extravaganza restored my faith that there is exceptional contemporary art available to collectors on a budget. The work displayed was all over the map - traditional, decorative, provocative - and more than 70 galleries were represented. Shows are held in New York City annually in June, and there are upcoming shows in the UK and Australia.

After gazing at great visuals there, I wandered around the block and happened upon the Chelsea Antique & Collectible Flea Market at 17th St. & 6th Ave. A different kind of aesthetic on the cheap, these booths were home to vintage jewelry, beads, clothing, collectibles and the requisite cast of thrift shop junkies. The wares were of a consistently good quality, as were the prices. Though smaller than many of NYC's more famous flea markets, this is definitely worth a visit.

To top off the evening, I headed to 307 W. 26th St. to check out the Upright Citizens Brigade's improv/sketch comedy act ASSSSCAT, hosted by Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live fame. On this particular night, fellow cast members included SNL's Seth Meyers, Colbert's Peter Gwinn, Old School screenwriter Scot Armstrong, and others from hot & humorous media. This comedic experience is wildly popular and had popped up on my cultural event radar with too much consistency to ignore. Besides, the 7:30pm show cost a mere $8 and the 9:30pm show is free. Lines formed around the block, however, so get there well in advance.

Bonus: Standing in line for the show and having an elderly gentleman ask me to hold his pet parrot Ed while he went into Gristedes to get a soda. Happy to say that Ed was talkative but exceptionally well behaved.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Big Blowout Bloomberg Party

At the invitation of my dear friend Judy and her 4-and-three-quarters-year-old son Adam, I witnessed first hand the high-end corporate extravaganza that is the Bloomberg Summer Party. A celebration for the kids of the company's employees, this Saturday business blowout catered to every conceivable childhood whim-and then some.

Arriving at Randall's Island, we were greeted by dancing trees, dragons and dinosaurs, butterflies on stilts and talking plants. Guests were offered an overwhelming assortment of kid-friendly activities, including carnival rides, puppet shows, ice skating, jewelry making and catapult water balloon fights. A wide array of sumptuous summer food was on hand to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. No surprise, the candy tent was the most popular with nearly 100 jars of sweet goodies and a make-your-own chocolate bar station. If you needed to vegetate after your sugar rush, you could nap at the hammock station, relax while getting a henna tattoo, gaze at belly dancers, listen to a live rock band, sit in a Nascar-type race car or admire one of the many human 'sculptures' that startlingly sprang to life.

Obviously, this Saturday soiree took excess to extravagant heights. I realized I wasn't at any ordinary corporate get-together when I spotted a baby black bear being led among the guests, followed closely by a kangaroo, chimpanzee, camel, yak, and few llamas thrown in for good measure. The reptile pen and petting zoo housed slightly less exotic beasties that the kids loved just as much. In fact, some of the biggest hits of the party were classics like pony rides, tree forts and carousel horses. The pièce de résistance was the glorious wooden pirate ship complete with (foam) swords, fire pole, pirate queen and a spot-on Jack Sparrow impersonator (whose doubloonin' charm was not lost on the mommies in the crowd, let me tell you!)

I overheard that this full-throttle gala was produced by R Cano Events. With thousands of attendees and hundreds of staff, performers, artisans and musicians, the company wisely took advantage of the top-notch theatrical talent residing around New York City. Truly a jaw-dropping shin dig I will not soon forget.

Bonus: Spending the afternoon with Judy and the adorable, giggly Adam, and the evening with my friend Ann, her many friends and her inspiring spit-fire of a mom Edna. My face hurt from a full day of smiling (or was that eating?)

Friday, June 15, 2007

No Marathon for Mary

There will be no running in the 2007 ING New York City Marathon for moi, as I did not gain a slot in this coveted 26.2 mile race on November 4. Given that while walking the other day I blew out my knee at the exact moment I was thinking how cute my 5 inch heeled, strappy platform sandals were (and they say the universe doesn't have a sense of humor!) I'm not too heartbroken. But still *sniff* the New York City Marathon is a dream of mine. Here is how I (and thousands of others) will get there one day.

  • Enter the lottery. You must fill out an application on the marathon's Web site. With more than 98,000 applicants, luck of the draw will determine if you get to run among the nearly 38,000 participants.
  • Run for charity. If you join a fundraising charity team you will automatically get entry into the marathon. I would do this if my knee were in better shape. No, really.
  • Complete at least nine New York Road Runners-scored, qualifying races during the calendar year.
  • Be an entrant in the prior year's New York City Marathon. If you cancel before race day, you get a slot in the next year's marathon.
  • Complete 15 or more New York City Marathons (yikes!)
  • Apply but be denied entry for the last three years in a row. After all that waiting, you will be guaranteed a spot.
  • Volunteer. Okay, so this doesn't mean you get to run. But it does get you in on the action of the race. Hand out water, Gatorade or blankets, clip chips, or direct marathoners onto buses. Visit the marathon Web site for more info.
  • Be a Spectator. Stand among 2 million spectators on the sidelines of the course and scream like crazy for the runners. Trust me, this noisemaking is inspiring to those sweating it out and a vital motivator.

Sure, I've heard of sneaky, manipulative, underground methods of gaining an entry bib, but I figure it pays to play legit. Here's to cheering the runners on November 4!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One Woman Show: Lisa Ramirez in Exit Cuckoo

Deep in the nooks and crannies of New York City, groundbreaking new theater is being created. Need proof? See the one-woman show Exit Cuckoo, written and performed by powerhouse Lisa Ramirez and based on her experiences as a Manhattan nanny. Her gut-wrenching, side-splitting, tragi-comic look at nannies, their employers and the children they raise will challenge your preconceived notions of the childcare-givers life.

With a quick flick of an admirably versatile hairstyle, Ramirez transforms herself from immigrant nanny to single-ma employer to frightened charge to celebrity caregiver. Anchoring it all is Ramirez herself, her struggles with her lack of maternal desire and her flamboyant, frustrated artiste of a mom. Never self-aggrandizing, never patronizing or preachy, Ramirez wows us with her versatility, spot-on depictions of diverse New York City women, and humor rooted in humanity. We laugh at the blatant truths she exposes, and what we recognize in ourselves.

Note: The influential playwright, activist and performer Eve Ensler has called Exit Cuckoo an important piece of work, and it is. It is also damn entertaining. I caught it in a one-night showing at the 14th St. Y and it has played at other theaters around, but surely there is an NYC theater available for a long-time run? Besides, I want to see it again. And take all my friends.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tony Tony Tonys!!!

Tonight was my first experience with the Tony Awards as a New York City resident, so I hightailed it down to Radio City Music Hall to see the stars arrive in all their finery, including Melina Kanakaredes, David Hyde Pierce (Tony winner!), Donny Osmond, most-awarded-play-Spring Awakening's Jonathan Groff, Florance Henderson, Zack Braff, Tommy Tune, Jane Krakowski, Robert Sean Leonard, Christine Ebersole (Tony winner!), Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, Liev Schriber, Naomi Watts, Audra McDonald, Angela Lansbury, Felicity Huffman, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch, Cynthia Nixon, Frank Langella (Tony winner!), Billy Crudup (Tony winner!), Marcia Gay Harden and the cast of A Chorus Line.

You can always buy a ticket to the event but it will run you a couple hundred bucks, not including the black tie attire. So taking the no-cost approach, I got in on the excitement by standing by the police barricades and screaming out play titles like an uber drama groupie. See full coverage of winners here, along with earlier Newbie NYC posts on Frank Langella's winning turn in Frost/Nixon and the award nominees.

Bonus: Going to a real-live NYC Tony Awards viewing party at the amazing Ann and Rick's, being fed Ann's food worthy of Gourmet mag, and hanging with a group of cultured, interesting & artistic souls-including the kids! I love this town!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Marathon MoMA Day

Yesterday, I spent most of the day at the Museum of Modern Art, and the artsy offerings proved why the place is consistently one of my favorite NYC destinations:

Richard Serra: Sculpture: Forty Years
By far, this is the best sculptural exhibit I've seen in years. You can't help but be awed by the grandeur of Richard Serra's massive circular steel structures. There is an almost gravitational pull between the sloping metal walls of these immense constructions, and the physical energy is delightful and horrifying at the same time. Serra's earlier work with lead, rubber and fiberglass is also on display, just as stark and gripping though less grand in scale. All of it is art you can feel, deep inside your chest.
Bonus: Richard Serra will be live and in person at MoMA on September 6 at 6pm for a discussion of his work and the exhibition with curator Lynne Cooke.
Andy Warhol's The Chelsea Girls
After eating some seriously strange lime mint gelato in MoMA's sculpture garden and gazing at more Serra sculptures, I soon headed back inside to take in the screening of Andy Warhol's The Chelsea Girls. In a supreme stroke of luck for this Warhol film newbie, the movie was introduced by Douglas Crimp, art critic and curator, who eased us into this avant-garde cinematic extravaganza with personal insights into Warhol's New York City art scene.
Set in numerous rooms at the infamous Chelsea Hotel and featuring a seriously disturbed and chemically altered cast of underground characters, The Chelsea Girls is a triumph for societal outcasts. As Crimp noted, 'Warhol certifies depravity' by putting these charismatic misfits on screen with all their drug-induced screeching, scratching and rant-a-maroles. At times excruciating, at times meditative, at times hysterically funny, poignant and heartbreaking, this is one serious cinematic experience for those unafraid to venture into a split-screen purgatory. At a whopping 195 minutes, don't dare enter without a trail of breadcrumbs to lead you safely back to normal.
Double Bonus: The screening was free due to Target Free Friday Nights, which allows no-cost admission to the museum from 4-8pm each Friday. However, tickets to films must be obtained at the information desk before 4pm or at the Film & Media desk after that. Screenings often sell out, so get tix earlier rather than later.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Einstein Talk Down the Block

One of the best things about living in New York City for any lit chick is the plethora of book events on any given night. Usually, these talks featuring the often famous & usually bestselling author are free (or at the very least, major-cheap.) Tonight, my love of science coupled with the draw of a well-crafted biography led me to shell out 15 bucks to hear Walter Isaacson speak about the famous subject for his book Einstein: His Life and Universe. This enlightening talk briefly explained Einstein's evolution into a radical physicist, focusing on high points in his mammoth scientific career and impact on historical events in the 20th Century. Isaacson's biography is the first to utilize all of Einstein's papers since they have become available, so there are new insights to be had.

We all feel we know everything there is to know about Einstein, so rather than rehash all that Isaacson wisely followed a succinct theme - the imperative nature of creativity in both Einstein's scientific output and in the development of any revolutionary thought. Einstein's quote of "Imagination is more important than knowledge" and his practice of "thought experiments" (which Isaacson explained as daydreaming to you and me) reinforce the philosophy that creativity and a certain non-conformity are what spur advancement in a thinking society.

Bonus: Learning more about Einstein's spiritual belief that god is manifest in the laws of the universe and the harmony of all that exists. Also seeing live-and-in-person journalist extraordinaire Walter Isaacson, former chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time (what a career!)

Major Bonus: Isaacson's observation that New York City has the electricity of a town filled with people who think creatively and differently, affirming my belief that I am in the right place. Also, the fact that this event took place just a block from my apartment, at the NY Historical Society. Easy walk!!!

First Lincoln Center Experience: New York Philharmonic

I'm a sucker for iconic, architecturally-inspiring performance venues. So it was an emotional thrill to go to Lincoln Center last night, at the invitation of my season-ticket-holding friend Mary, to see my very first performance there of the New York Philharmonic. Walking into the awe-inspiring Avery Fisher Hall, watching all the gorgeous music-loving attendees, I actually felt a shiver go up my spine and my eyes got all misty-like. It's LINCOLN CENTER for goodness sake, one of the grandest cultural institutions in the world and home to the Metropolitan Opera, Film Society at Lincoln Center, New York City Ballet and more.

Beloved musical director Lorin Maazel conducted a delightful program of Brahms, including Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a and Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), Op. 45. Now in his late 70's, Maazel miraculously conducts his orchestra without notes or music, and the musicians respond with gloriously seamless sounds. The second half of the program included a choral component, and we were treated to soprano Celena Shafter, baritone Matthias Goerne and the New York Choral Artists.

Bonus: You can listen to a recording of this performance on The New York Philharmonic This Week on WFMT Radio Network. It will be broadcast in the NYC area on June 14 on 96.3 FM WQXR.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart!!!

Out of all the coveted, lusted-over, super-sought-out tickets in New York City, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart reigns supreme. Sold out months in advance due to charismatic host Jon Stewart and his masterful skewering of political idiots du jour, the show is also overbooked to ensure a packed house -making it doubly difficult to get in. If lightening strikes and the entertainment heavens rain online reservations down upon you, there is still no guarantee you'll be granted entry. So I was beyond grateful when, after standing in line for nearly 2 hours, I was awarded the VERY LAST TICKET to tonight's taping. Even that did not put me in the clear, as when I finally made it to the studio door the security guards blocked my entry (not the first time that has happened, mind you) and explained there were no more open seats. I don't know if it was my crestfallen face, my sudden inability to breath or my overt offers of bribery, but the guards eventually relented and ushered me to the last remaining chair. A similar scenario unfolded at the Saturday Night Live taping, so I'm sensing a karmic pattern here perhaps? As far as the guests go, they were Congressman Ron Paul, a bit of an alternative candidate for prez, and Larry Flynt via string phone (you had to be there).

How to Get Tix: Go to The Daily Show Web site and check availability. They are usually sold out months in advance, but you never know as I got the one remaining ticket for June a mere week and a half in advance. You can also attempt to get standby tickets by going to the studio at 733 11th Ave. (btw. 51st & 52nd) but entry is not guaranteed. Unfortunately, the women standing in line behind me made it up to the door, but were ultimately denied. Entry into the studio is on a first come, first serve basis, so arrive by 3:30pm or earlier (the show recommends by 4:00pm, I got there at 3:45pm, but since I was the last ticket holder standing, obviously the earlier the better). Have your ID with you, wait until the doors open at 5:15pm & keep your fingers crossed you'll get in. Taping ends around 7:15pm.
Bonus: Seeing all the political junkies in line, as well as the campaign workers handing out stickers and literature, reminded me a tiny bit of my old haunt Washington, D.C.

Renting a New York City Apartment: Financial Requirements

When first investigating my NYC move, one of the most intimidating things I ran into was the peculiar reality of renting an apartment here. Talking with others who had made the NYC leap, I became convinced I'd never pass the strict financial rigmarole that landlords demand. Icing on my NYC rental rejection cake was the fact that I was moving to the big city without a job. Landlords don't like that. But through careful preparation and extraordinary blessings from the apartment gods above, I landed a loft studio on the Upper West Side. Here is how I did it, what is usually recommended and what to avoid:

Finances: New York City's rental market is the most expensive in the country, with one bedrooms averaging $2,567 a month (and much higher in trendy, hipster neighborhoods). As a result, landlords want major guarantees that you aren't going to stiff them at the first of the month. Apartments in Manhattan are extremely coveted and since the market is so tight (current rental vacancy is at a measly 3.7 percent) they can-and do-get away with extensive financial documentation demands. The standard requirements are:

  • Salary must be 40 times the monthly rent (for example, make $102,680 for a $2,567 one bedroom rental).
  • If you don't make those kinds of bucks, a guarantor can co-sign the lease. They must make 80 times the rent (that would be $205,360 for that $2,567 rental). Often, landlords want the guarantor to live in the tri-state area.
  • A deposit will be required, usually first & last months' rent plus a security deposit equal to one month's rent (that would be $7,701 for a $2,567 rental). Sometimes additional money might be required for things like pet deposits, credit check, etc.
  • Deposits must be made in cold hard cash, via debit card, traveler's check, certified check, money order, wire transfer or dollar bills. That means no credit cards or personal checks.

Documentation: The thing that probably helped me the MOST to get rental approval was my tidy little packet of financial information and recommendation letters. These showed that I was financially solid, employable, reliable and a good tenant.

Required Documents:
  • Bank Statement: Provide copy of most recent bank statement, showing all assets.
  • Pay Stubs: Provide pay stubs for the last month.
  • Employment Letter: On company letterhead and signed by a superior, provide information on position, length of employment and salary (including bonuses). If accepting a new job in the city, you can show an acceptance letter from that company. Personally, I fudged it a little and signed a lease while still employed (in a job in a different city, but it worked).
  • Tax Returns: To be on the safe side, provide returns for the last 2 years, both federal and state. Many landlords only require last year's federal return.
  • Valid photo identification: Driver's license, passport or employment ID may be used.
  • Self-employed documents: Provide most recent tax return and a letter from your certified public accountant verifying annual income from the last tax year.
  • Guarantor documents: Must provide an employment letter, copy of federal tax return and/or a document from a certified public accountant verifying annual income.
Additional documentation might be required, including:
  • Landlord Letter of Recommendation: This document from your current landlord should attest to the fact that you are an awesome tenant, on time with payments, a courteous neighbor, etc.
  • Employer Letter of Recommendation: This letter should say that you are a reliable employee.
As I was moving without employment, I also added the following to my 'please approve me' rental packet.
  • Personal Letters of Recommendation: These letters attest to your character. It helps if one of these is from a New York City resident.
  • Financial Portfolio Documentation: This showed all my investments, 401K's and savings.
  • Credit Score: This Free Credit Report document showed that my credit was excellent.

Other tips: If all of this scares the financial beegeezes out of you (and it should) then consider other options.

  • Roommates: Fellow apartment dwellers (especially the independently wealthy kind) are an excellent option as it lends financial credibility and heft. New York City is known for cramming multiple roommies into petite one-bedrooms. Those that shack up with others aren't just post-college grads, but also professionals, actors, artists and those that need a pied-a-terre for business.
  • Live-in Love: Romantic partners are an easy and highly sought after NYC roommate situation, but you run the risk of staying together for the sake of the apartment. It is true that some marry for love, others for money, and in New York some say vows for a two bedroom loft in Tribeca.
  • Subletting: This form of NYC apartment-getting is an art unto itself. Often, the same financial requirements listed above are expected, but there may be more flexibility. Consider it if you are just trying to get your foot in the door. Summer sublets are highly coveted so best to search for them at other times of the year.
  • Crashing with Friends: Many do it. Many love it. Again, this alternative is embraced by professionals and artists alike. Usually, this is a temporary solution and the amount you pay for couch privileges depends on the generosity of your friends.
  • BEWARE BEWARE BEWARE! There are some scams floating about as well as some desperate and unsavory brokers, so unless you are super wealthy or really, really feel comfortable with it, do NOT pay months and months of rent upfront to get approval. This may be asked of you if you are trying to get into a co-op building, but it ain't worth it. Get seasoned NYC renters' opinions on any suspicious deal before signing papers or forking over any dough.

Check back to this blog for more tips on how tackle the unique demands of moving to New York City, including how to find an apartment, brokers, unusual aspects of NYC apartment design, etc.!

Friday, June 1, 2007

First NYC Yoga Experience

Ask most people what they think of yoga and the answer is all zenlike and ethereal. But for this girl with major monkeymind, the mildness of it all takes me straight to clockwatching. Despite my yoga discomfort, I do adore my friend (and yoga teacher) Ann Megyas, so I took in her New York Kripalu Center class tonight down in Chelsea. Thank goodness she is gifted and her style empowering yet gentle, because for the first time ever I actually enjoyed all the bending, breathing, stretching and kneeling that is yoga. As a runner, the series of poses helped release some hard-to-tackle, super-tight hamstrings and hip flexors. Blissed out is a term I can now use with authority.

Ann is Kripalu certified and has a real knack for making the class fun yet centering. At $12 for a 2 hour session it is the best yoga bargain in the city. Check out the series on Fridays at 6:30pm at the Feldenkrais Institute at 134 W. 26th St, or see her for private lessons.

Bonus: Eating exotic burgers afterwards at Brgr at 287 7th ave., where you can actually order a goat cheese veggie burger on whole wheat bun. Luscious!