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Early in the pandemic, Jesus Rodriguez, his girlfriend, Sydney, and dog, Coco, left their Yonkers home to shelter in place in Dallas for several months. Then they heard about incredible deals on amenity-laden rental buildings in the heart of Manhattan. They took the plunge and moved to a luxury studio at 555Ten in Hell’s Kitchen. Here’s their story.
We had been living with my dog Coco—a three-year-old black Lab mix—in a two-family house in Yonkers for about a year. My partner found it via Airbnb. She grew up in Dallas, and I grew up in NYC, and we ended up in Yonkers because it was close to her job in White Plains.
Our apartment was in a residential neighborhood just a block from McLean Avenue, which is very close to bars and restaurants and a community park. Our studio was just about 500 square feet and rent was $1,800 per month. We had no amenities.
We liked the area. I could run in the park and the area was good for Coco. Food shopping was done at ACME and Stew Leonard’s and we loved eating at Rory Dolan's. Things were peaceful and fairly easy in Yonkers. Then the pandemic hit.
[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another—or outside the city. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]
We left our apartment and drove to Dallas in March to be with her family and hunker down to shelter in place. While there, we started thinking about our next move and decided to take advantage of the ample concessions and decreased rents in Manhattan we were hearing about. By summer, we were looking for Manhattan apartments online and touring them virtually.
We were looking for a building that would check all these boxes: Doorman, gym, pool, good views, and a dog park. Anticipating that we would be staying inside or in the immediate neighborhood a lot, we wanted things to do, views, and space.
When we happened upon 555Ten, at 555 10th Avenue, it was clear it offered all that and more. The Hell’s Kitchen/Hudson Yards area attracted us because it is close to the Hudson River where I could run and close to the stores in Hudson Yards’ mall. We also were thrilled to be close to great grocery stores and restaurants.
I work for Major League Soccer and recently joined Keller Williams NYC as a real estate agent, and my girlfriend now works for Major League Baseball. She no longer works in Westchester and her new Rockefeller Center office will be just a quick walk once we stop working from home.
We did all the paperwork online and the management company at 555 did a great job at explaining and showing everything through calls, emails, and Zooms. We actually never saw the property in person until after signing our lease. We were very pleasantly surprised!
Rents had dropped in the city and we took advantage of great concessions: We got a month and a half of free rent on a 14-month lease and paid no broker’s fee. We pay $3,386 per month and an amenity fee of $150 per month. You get what you pay for, and with our increased our rent, we see value in being close to our favorite restaurants in the city and the overall city-living experience.
We now live in a studio that has an eastern exposure, so we can see the Empire State Building, the New Yorker sign, and the New York Times building—all from our living room. At night, we check what colors are lit up on the ESB. We also love spending time on the 56th-floor rooftop watching the sun set.
In Yonkers, we had to walk to the laundromat, but now one of our biggest perks is having an in-unit washing machine and dryer!
Another one of our favorite parts of our building is having a dog park on the 12th floor. It allows us and our dogs to socialize with other people without ever having to leave our building, and the dog park has heat lamps, which came in handy during all the snow we got this winter.
As for the neighborhood, I feel like we have it all: Walk two avenues to the river and it’s nice and peaceful, walk two avenues towards Times Square and we get action, and walk a few blocks south and we can explore the Vessel, the High Line, and the mall. And if you walk up north you are in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen with great food such as Empanada Mama's! In fact, food options do not compare. Manhattan wins over Yonkers. There are just so many great food options to choose from in Hell’s Kitchen: 44th, Pio Pio, Tacuba, Totto Ramen and Mom’s Kitchen & Bar are our favorites so far.
And even though things are a bit strange due to the pandemic, we still feel we can do things. Our building has two gyms, a bowling alley, two swimming pools (indoor and outdoor), and the rooftop deck, which overlooks Manhattan and Jersey. As for the neighborhood, we are exploring new restaurants now that things are starting to open up again, but we don’t go out that much. However, the dog park and outdoor lounge in the building has allowed us to meet several great people right in our own building.
I definitely miss the people we met in Yonkers, but I can't complain because there are incredible people in our new building who have similar stories to ours. Growing up in Texas, my partner sometimes misses being able to drive easily to places.
My partner’s family visited during the holidays and they loved the apartment and building. Since my family is in the Bronx, we are not as near anymore, but they enjoy coming down to the city from time to time.
We plan on staying in Manhattan for a long time and are so glad we took the plunge. It was one of the highlights of this very trying time.