Maintenance problems abounded. Mr. Hunt used a pan to collect the rainwater dripping through the ceiling, graduated to a bucket and, when that proved insufficient, a trash can. Last winter, some of his favorite shirts were soaked by rainwater. “It was imperative for my sanity to move,” he said.
He envisioned his new place as airy and clean, but also warm and inviting. “Telling a real estate agent your vision is not as clear as making a list,” he said. So he made one, including light, views and a rent of around $2,000 a month for a studio or one-bedroom.
Using five apps — StreetEasy, Trulia, PadMapper, Naked Apartments and Zumper — he went to work. “I felt frantic about it,” he said. He contacted every agent who seemed to have a suitable listing. “The idea was zero fidelity.”
He planned to remain in Greenpoint. But the few available apartments were renovated units in small, older walk-up buildings, and seemed expensive for what they were.
The various maps showed vacancies across Newtown Creek in Long Island City, Queens, which Mr. Hunt knew nothing about.
So he took the G train to Court Square. “There was this hum of new construction, kind of like a whir, with lights and generators,” he said. “It felt like a whole city was being built. I was blown away. It was desolate and futuristic. Its history has yet to be written.”
Mr. Hunt checked out the residential high-rises on Center Boulevard, lining the waterfront. “They all seemed aged and dated,” he said.
He was drawn to the energy farther inland. On Crescent Street, he visited a studio at Packard Square North. Like most he saw, it was nice enough, though he disliked the floor, a busy pattern with a shine. The Long Island City buildings he visited had all been constructed within a decade, but “I was looking for new-new,” he said.
Agents were often late for appointments, he found. “We always met at Dunkin’ Donuts,” he said.
To one of those agents, he pointed at a rising building, 1 QPS Tower, and was informed it wouldn’t be ready for a few months.
But another agent, Fernando Serrano, a salesman at Home Residential, had more up-to-date information: 1 QPS Tower, he said, would soon be open for rentals. The two men agreed to meet at Mr. Serrano’s preferred coffee place, Panini Tozt Cafe.
“Dunkin’ Donuts is the easiest location to meet in Long Island City,” Mr. Serrano said. “Agents don’t want to give out the address of the buildings.”
They headed to 1 QPS Tower, where Mr. Hunt saw model one-bedrooms and studios. “It was the thing I dreamed of in my mind,” he said.
He cared not a whit about amenities, or so he thought. Then he saw the gym and the rooftop pool. “I love to swim,” he said. “That’s why I lived in the Hamptons for 14 years. This was luck city.”
The building was offering two free months of rent on a 14-month lease, and was picking up the broker fee. For $2,500 a month (net effective rent: $2,143), Mr. Hunt chose a studio halfway up the 44-story building, with a mesmerizing view of Manhattan in the distance and Long Island City below, with traffic thrumming and the 7 train coming and going.
(The building is currently around 80 percent leased, and is now offering one free month of rent, with no broker fee. A small amenities fee, for the gym and pool, applies.)
Mr. Hunt arrived last winter. His furnishings are spartan — little more than a bed and a table for a “command post,” where he writes. His poetry is published by Thane & Prose Press.
“Now, I have a fully functional environment,” he said. “Long Island City was the surprise best move of my life. Everything I craved in Brooklyn and could not find, I found in Queens.”