Thrifty … not cheap !
My husband’s mother’s life actually reads like a Dicken’s novel. She came to the United States in the 1920’s on a “potato boat” from Ireland, married the son of the wealthy people who had hired her as a maid, had two boys (one being my husband) and then suffered the loss of her husband at age 39 from a brain aneurism and was disinherited from the family !!
With little more than guts she made her way to New York City and got a job in one of the big department stores. She had very little money but was crafty enough to rent a 4th floor walk-up apartment on East 39th Street under the city’s rent control program.
It was there that I first met her in 1958. My husband had left his job as asst. photographer at “Life” magazine and moved in with her while he got his free lance business started. The thought of walking up three long flights of stairs to get to her apartment, after a long day’s work, was overwhelming to me. I was the ripe old age of 25 at the time and had become very used to elevators. My husband explained that her apartment was one of the coveted rent controlled ones and as long as she stayed there her rent would be substantially lower than others in the area.
As I said, that was 1958 and she stayed on there well into the 1990’s, until old age and her physical condition made it impossible to navigate the stairs any longer. Her location (practically next door to the United Nations) was prime and I believe she was the last one in that building still under the original rent control agreement with the city. As I recall she was paying less than $400 a month when she finally gave it up.
According to the city’s 2011 housing-vacancy survey about 1.8 percent of the city’s rental-housing stock is still rent-controlled and the average price of the units is $800 a month. (That’s a lot of very old people holding on for dear life !!)