The Hunt: A Broadway Actor Has a Heart-to-Heart About Life and Laundry

The Hunt: A Broadway Actor Has a Heart-to-Heart About Life and Laundry

- in Real Estate

The Hunt

Embracing ‘the craziest, most inconvenient way of living,’ a Salt Lake City native and his family negotiate the laundromats and pests of Manhattan.

Chase and Janessa Ramsey with their sons, Jude, 5, and Beckett, 2, in their new Manhattan rental.CreditCreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

Last summer, Chase Ramsey — an actor known to tourists as the California Dream Eater, eating his way through the Golden State — landed a role in “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway.

He and his wife, Janessa Ramsey, had been splitting their time between Salt Lake City, their hometown, and Los Angeles, where Mr. Ramsey often worked, so they knew little of what to expect of their first New York apartment. “We are kind of outsiders,” Mr. Ramsey said.

They did know where they wanted to live. “The Upper West Side has a ring to it,” he said. It was a quintessential New York neighborhood offering quick access to Broadway.

The Ramseys, who are both 29 and met through a high school drama program, set a budget of up to $3,000 a month for a two-bedroom. They were alarmed when their web searches came up empty, but when they emailed agents about listings, they were surprised to find so many eager to help them. They thought agents were for buying houses, not for renting apartments.

The Ramseys’ Columbus Avenue apartment came with good storage, an eat-in kitchen and two bathrooms.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

They felt most comfortable with Jennifer McClaren, a licensed saleswoman at Keller Williams TriBeCa, who agreed to take on the challenge: As Mr. Ramsey traveled often and Ms. Ramsey was occupied with the couple’s two young sons out west, they would have to choose a place sight unseen.

They envisioned a living room big enough for the children to play in. Without a yard or a car, they figured they might be spending plenty of time indoors, at least when the weather was bad. And they hoped for a washer-dryer and an elevator.

“Those things were shot down fairly quickly,” Mr. Ramsey said.

With their budget, Ms. McClaren told them, apartments with those amenities would be one-bedrooms, if not studios, or would have serious drawbacks. “Listings that I thought would fit their budget would not fit their life,” she said. “I tried to guide them to a higher price point.”

“It was better that we had somebody who knew what to expect,” Ms. Ramsey said.

Ms. McClaren sent pictures and videos — helpfully narrated — of options on the Upper West Side and its neighbors, Morningside Heights and Manhattan Valley. Spaces often looked big in still photos, but videos were far more revealing. At a five-story walk-up building in Manhattan Valley, three two-bedrooms were vacant, all newly renovated and with plenty of stairs. The rent was $3,300 or $3,400.

“These are student shares with virtually no living space, and the bedrooms are small,” Ms. McClaren said. Each kitchen included an odd amenity item: a wine fridge.

“The living space where I thought you could put a small couch and TV was actually maybe a foot between one of the bedrooms and the kitchen appliances,” Ms. Ramsey said. “It was just a hallway.”

She also worried about the stairs. “There’s no way I could walk up with two kids and a stroller,” she said. “That’s an uncomfortable way for me to live — but is that a normal way for people to live in the city?”

At a five-story walkup on 103rd Street, there were several renovated two-bedrooms available, but too many stairs to climb.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

On 95th Street, a two-bedroom in an elevator building was asking a reasonable $3,000. By now, the Ramseys knew they were unlikely to get a washer-dryer, but they at least expected a laundry room in the building.

“If I’m home with the kids, I can just run downstairs,” said Ms. Ramsey, who prefers to do the laundry herself, to get the clothes sufficiently clean. “I don’t want to worry about running to a laundromat if there’s a blizzard.”

This building, however, had no laundry facilities, and the closest self-service laundromat was across Broadway, up a small hill and two long blocks away.

“Chase and I had to have a heart-to-heart about laundry,” Ms. Ramsey said. “It would be difficult for me to get laundry done, having to drag kids and a laundry basket everywhere.”

By the time Ms. McClaren sent them a video of a three-bedroom with a long hallway on Columbus Avenue, close to Morningside and Central parks, the Ramseys had increased their budget.

“How can you pass up an extra room?” Ms. Ramsey said. This apartment, for $3,500, had good storage, an eat-in kitchen and even two bathrooms. The rooms weren’t huge, but they were big enough.

Still out west, they took a leap of faith and rented the apartment for a year, despite the building’s lack of a laundry room. They sent the signed lease in the mail, along with certified checks for the rent, security deposit and broker’s fee, and waited anxiously until everything was received.

The rent was reasonable in an elevator building on West 95th Street, but the closest laundromat was up a small hill and two long blocks away.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

“It was a big commitment to move into an apartment I had never seen,” Mr. Ramsey said. He arrived a few weeks before the rest of the family, with Ms. McClaren picking him up at the airport the day before his first Broadway rehearsal.

Three months later, the Ramseys are adjusting to New York life.

“It is totally different from living any place we have lived,” Ms. Ramsey said.

They keep a fan in the windowless bathroom for ventilation. Their cookie sheet doesn’t fit in the scaled-down oven. They sleep with white-noise machines, which they did previously, but here it blunts the loud music that rumbles out of neighboring apartments.

“Bugs are different here,” Mr. Ramsey said. “We only had spiders where we were before, and the cockroach thing is something new, although this building does a good job. But we still get them, for sure.”

Though there is a laundromat nearby, the Ramseys decided to use a laundry service that picks up and delivers. Ms. Ramsey still pretreats the children’s clothes.

The Ramseys found a reasonable price — but still no laundry — farther up Columbus Avenue, and rented the place sight unseen.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

“I would suggest that this, in New York, is the craziest, most inconvenient way of living,” Mr. Ramsey said. “But people do it, and we’re doing it.”

And to their bewilderment, visitors — at least local ones — gush over how big their apartment is.

The $3,500 rent “constantly blows my mind,” Mr. Ramsey said. “Goodness gracious. It is amazing because anyone in New York who comes over says, ‘How did you get it for that cheap?’ All of our babysitters and friends say this is an amazing apartment.”


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