Renters: An Upper West Side Share Where Roommates Are the Selling Point

Renters: An Upper West Side Share Where Roommates Are the Selling Point

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Sharone Waldman, 36, a learning specialist, arrived two and a half years ago. Moving from New Jersey, she didn’t want to live in a shoe box and “every place I looked at had a cold chill in the air, or was too expensive, or something. But when I came here, they were like, ‘This is a very supportive apartment.’”

A bedroom.

Credit
Liz Barclay for The New York Times

The statement was unexpected, but also nice. “A huge downside is I’m sharing a bedroom, but it’s worth it,” Ms. Waldman said.

The other two roommates are Hannah Rosen, 36, who moved in last year, and Temima Loeb, 25, who arrived in May. Ms. Loeb met Ms. Schon at a religious retreat in the Berkshires — they caught each other’s eye because they’re both a hair under 4-foot-11. “And now we share clothes!” exclaimed Ms. Schon.

“She shares all my clothes,” corrected Ms. Loeb, who is known in the apartment for her enviable Anthropologie wardrobe.

The monthly rent is $3,820, which the women divide equally. They post room openings on Bang It Out, a Jewish website, and occasionally on housing websites for N.Y.U. and Columbia University, which is how they met their first non-Jewish roommate, Genevieve Curtis.

When Ms. Curtis responded to their ad, they told her that it probably wouldn’t be a good fit, as they keep a kosher kitchen (no ham sandwiches) and are Sabbath-observant (no laptop in the living room on Friday nights). She surprised them by being up for the challenge of the house rules, though it took her a while to get the hang of them.

Names: Temima Loeb, Hannah Rosen, Anna Schon, Sharone Waldman

Ages: 25, 36, 31 and 36 Rent: $3,820, split four ways. Occupation: Ms. Schon, a dancer, is now studying to become a genetic counselor. Ms. Waldman is a learning specialist, Ms. Loeb is a nurse and Ms. Rosen works in the grants department of a charity. When the roommates are away: Ms. Rosen, who had lived alone before moving in, said that on the rare occasions when she comes home to an empty apartment, she feels only disappointment. “In other apartments, people are happy when their roommates go away for the weekend. Here we’re sad.” Chores: Once a week Ms. Rosen does the floors, Ms. Loeb tends to the recycling or the kitchen, Ms. Schon usually takes on the bathroom and Ms. Waldman provides “moral support.” Ms. Schon nodded. “She talks and distracts us from the chore.” What makes it work: “Being yourself in the apartment,” according to Ms. Schon. This means, for her, “wearing crazy hippie clothes with my hair in a topknot, watching documentaries, talking in funny voices — I believe there’s a little bit of that in everyone, and to make this apartment work that has to come out.”

A former roommate gave her two books on Jewish dietary laws, she said. “I also had the rabbi’s number and would call him from the grocery store and take photos of kosher symbols and text for approval.”

“We threw out a lot of dishes,” Ms. Waldman said. A system of Post-it notes eventually did the trick, and during Passover the three other roommates covered the higher cost of groceries.

Ms. Curtis, who now lives in Florida, compared living in the apartment to her time in the Peace Corps in Mali.

“Even though you’re living in a culture that’s somewhat alien to you, you’re part of the family and part of a tradition,” she said over the phone. “I didn’t know when I moved in that it would become one of the best apartments I ever lived in. In the U.S., it’s considered shameful if you live with roommates, like you haven’t been successful. But it’s nice to come home to people. The two years that I lived there, I had academic difficulties, personal difficulties, health problems. It felt good to know that you weren’t by yourself.”

There have, naturally, been some disagreements. Notably, over a wall that several roommates wanted to build in the living room to create an extra bedroom for a fifth roommate, which would have reduced everyone’s share of the rent. But the women concluded that a spacious living room, which lends itself to hanging out and holding 20-person Sabbath dinners, is part of what makes the apartment special and sharing a bedroom a worthwhile trade-off.

The living room.

Credit
Liz Barclay for The New York Times

Decorating is a more frequent source of contention.

“When I first moved in, we had hours and hours of conversations about what color to paint the walls,” said Ms. Waldman. “Notice the walls are still white.”

Consensus is often reached by a house rule: Everyone has to feel comfortable. If one person strongly dislikes something, out it goes, as was the case with a whimsically painted, purely decorative French door that only three of them adored.

A pair of signs protesting “The Death of Klinghoffer,” an opera about a cruise ship seized by members of the Palestinian Liberation Front in 1985 — considered anti-Semitic by some for what they assert is a sympathetic portrayal of the hijackers — serve as a reminder that the apartment can accommodate weightier differences, too.

When the Metropolitan Opera staged the production in 2014, a former roommate protested daily against it. Meanwhile Ms. Schon, who was an understudy dancer in the production, had watched hundreds of performances, and did not consider it anti-Semitic.

After the opera’s run and protests ended, Ms. Schon had the signs framed. They now hang in the living room, with all four roommates’ approval.

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