I just returned from a Memorial Day weekend trip to New York, which, like Miami, is vastly different from the New York I met six years ago (due to, in large part, gentrification).
I’d planned the trip to New York with my friends, Grace and Brigitte, to celebrate our friend Claudia’s recent 24th birthday. In planning our trip, we looked for the cheapest option on Airbnb that looked decent enough to sleep in and not get burglarized (not a good strategy). Upon arriving to our Brooklyn apartment rental, we were pleasantly surprised to see a class of about 20 schoolchildren, singing in Hebrew, lined abreast on the sidewalk in front of what looked like a Jewish day school next to our apartment’s building. Our host was a hasid with a thick accent and a kind demeanor. He gave us a tour of our first floor rental (one of three apartments on the floor) and some basic instructions on keeping things tidy while we were there.
Everything about this place was exceeding our expectations when the host mentions that the apartment has a basement, which was not mentioned on the listing, that we were not to wander into because there are “many many sharp objects” in it and we “may get hurt” and that we should only enter if for whatever reason he “requested it” of us. He left us two sets of keys and we didn’t care much about the basement thing at the time. We were excited that the apartment had cable TV, a kitchen, natural light, and seemed to be in a safe neighborhood. We left Brooklyn and headed to Times Square to see The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (our first time forming a part of a live studio audience). Side note: Stephen Colbert in person looks exactly like Stephen Colbert on TV.
Upon our return to our Airbnb, we found that the door to our apartment was unlocked, the window to the bathroom was open, and the lights that I had turned off before leaving were now on. Shortly after, we heard a group of guys, who did not live in the building, shouting and stampeding into the corridor right outside of our apartment door before we made the final decision to call the host. At this point, we were in calm-demeanor-but-internal-panic mode. We called our host, told him about what we walked into, and found that there were zero traces of the kind hasid we had met earlier. He told us that we were imaging things, that the lights were on when we left, the window was already open, and everything was left unlocked–as if he was there with us when we left the apartment, which he was not. This was not the response we expected and certainly not one that would convince us to stay when we were feeling unsafe. Was he actually expecting us to shrug and say, “yeah, you’re right! We’re totally imagining this. We’re just being crazy, silly girls!” At this point, we didn’t care what else he said, we were spooked by the unforced entry of our rental when we were not there and the mysterious, and now ominous and insidious presence of a basement that had a pair of shoes and socks sitting in front of the basement side of the door (which we could see because of the light atop the basement stairwell from the gap underneath the door). As soon as I got off the phone with the host, I called Airbnb to file a complaint, cancel our stay, and get a full refund in the process. Customer Service at Airbnb was SO helpful. Not only did they give us a full refund, but they offered a $100 reimbursement for whatever hotel we found to stay in that night (it was nearly midnight when we found a place that would take us so late into the night).
When we arrived at the hotel, it was 12:30AM. As we were checking in, we read a sign that indicated that hotel guests were not allowed any visitors and that prostitution was not allowed on the premises– indicating that we were probably staying in a hotel that had a hooker problem. We took the elevator to the second floor, walked the cannabis-scented hallway, and as we slid the key card to open our room, we heard a soundboard moan from across the hall that we suspected came from a prostitute (it felt like a scene from a comedy movie). Putting aside the hooker problem and weed-laden aroma of the building, the clean sheets, silent-noise air conditioning, and mid-century modern interior design of the hotel was enough for us to forget that we were sleeping in a room that was likely across one engaging in criminal activity, and look forward to what the next day had in store. After that night, the remainder of our stay was at the Hilton near Grand Central Station, which was only slightly more expensive than our Airbnb but well worth the extra money. Like my mom always says, “lo barato sale caro,” meaning that cheap things often turn out to be more costly (not only financially).
I had a great time overall, and this anecdote makes me laugh in retrospect.
Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip:
Video I took outside the station designed by “starchitect” Santiago Calatrava.
Video of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at the MoMA.
My big takeaways from this latest trip to NY: it’s a great place to be vegan, Chelsea is extremely touristy now, Chinatown has changed a lot, and for every jerk in NY there’s a good samaritan for balance.