Only one person could fit in the kitchen, which was tiny, with a refrigerator to match. The dish rack consumed the counter, so they improvised, balancing a cutting board on the stovetop.
“I eat a lot of food, which means I need a lot of counter space and a full-size refrigerator,” said Mr. Le, 27, a personal trainer and a competitive powerlifter in the 220-pound weight class. Ms. Le, who works as a corporate recruiter in the fashion industry, is also a competitive powerlifter.
Ms. Le, 26, made her grocery purchases according to how much she could carry, limiting soda to one bottle at a time. Food shopping “was one of the biggest headaches or stress points for me,” she said.
The many flights of stairs annoyed them both. “Just because I can handle it doesn’t mean it makes my life any easier or adds value to my life,” Mr. Le said. “I would prefer to leave my fitness activities to when they are planned and measurable.”
As their lease approached expiration last fall, the couple went on the hunt for someplace bigger and better. They budgeted about $2,500 a month.
Meanwhile, last summer, they started training at a new gym in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Squats and Science Barbell, one of the few in the city suitable for competitive powerlifters, they say. The trip there took an hour each way.
“In order to perform at my best, I need to use equipment that would best simulate competition conditions,” Mr. Le said. “Because the equipment is so expensive and the sport is so niche, finding the right equipment is near impossible.”
Moving closer to the gym became a priority.
They found a possibility in a small building on the Lower East Side, near Chinatown, where the monthly rent for a one-bedroom was in the low $2,000 range. “We eat a lot in Chinatown, and the groceries are cheap,” Ms. Le said.
But the landlord declined to accept them because Mr. Le is self-employed.
They were intrigued by a new rental building, Fifth and Wythe, on the prime north side of Williamsburg. The lively neighborhood was appealing, filled with restaurants, coffee shops and people in their mid-20s.
The project manager of the 164-unit building, Scott Bennett, a salesman at Citi Habitats, showed them several apartments. They chose an alcove studio. “It gave us what we didn’t have before,” Mr. Le said, referring to the spacious kitchen, the elevator and the easy access to transportation.
The rent was $2,723, with one month free.
A week before their lease expired, however, they learned that the Williamsburg building was not quite ready for occupancy.
Their landlord would not let them remain for just a month. If they renewed the lease, they had to either find a tenant to take it over, or pay a two-month fee to break it.
Because of the delay, Fifth and Wythe offered one additional month of free rent. The couple also negotiated for $500 toward storage costs, which helped with “all the headache we were going through,” Ms. Le said.
The couple put their belongings in storage and spent a month with Ms. Le’s parents in New Jersey. In early winter, they arrived at Fifth and Wythe, glad to have, at last, a comfortable and convenient living situation for them and their dogs, Bear and Shyla.
“I enjoy cooking now and it’s not a hassle to me,” Ms. Le said. Brooklyn Harvest Market, just across the street, was a happy surprise.
“We could set up a zip line to take us right to the door,” Mr. Le said.
Their gym is a quick walk away, providing two things of value: more sleep and more workouts. “When I have a lull in the middle of the day, I can come home and take care of the dogs and take a nap if I need to,” Mr. Le said. “I get a lot more done with less time spent on it.”