When Matthew Tanner decided to move back to New York this summer after two years away, he found the hunting process far trickier than it was the last time he looked for a place.
For much of the pandemic he had been living with his parents in Coral Gables, Fla., and missing the city; he was ready to move back. But when he arrived in New York in May for a quick visit to look at some apartments, simply viewing one was almost impossible.
“I was trying to get a tour of 10 different places, and I only heard back from one of them,” said Mr. Tanner, a 28-year-old math tutor who recently started baking and selling vegan cookies. “I was like, ‘OK, this is not going great.’” He was able to see one apartment in Crown Heights whose hallways, he said, looked like “the bathroom of a school gymnasium.” Also not great.
The rental market had bounced back with a vengeance from its Covid slump, and the usual dance of scheduling a bunch of viewings in one or two days — and, crucially, getting to see those apartments — clearly wasn’t working.
Then Mr. Tanner remembered a Park Slope building that had been built in 2019, when he lived in a nearby studio apartment. He went by in person to inquire about any open listings, but all the units were out of his price range — he didn’t want to spend more than $2,400 for a one-bedroom.
The on-foot system seemed to be working, though, so he kept walking around the neighborhood, and found another new-construction building that looked promising, on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus. After a quick Google search, he reached out to building management and was able to get an in-person viewing of not just one but three one-bedroom apartments. One of them would become his new home.
$3,100 | Gowanus, Brooklyn
Matthew Tanner, 28
Occupation: Freelance math tutor, occasional cookie entrepreneur.
On the local restaurant scene: He has enjoyed revisiting some of his favorite restaurants around Gowanus and Park Slope. As a vegan, he loves the Middle Eastern food at Bedouin Tent on Atlantic Avenue and Miriam in Park Slope. He has also fallen in love with Japan Village in Industry City; he’s a big fan of the ume onigiri.
His number one piece of moving advice: “I recommend renting a car during moving week,” said Mr. Tanner, who moved himself and most of his belongings across the country and back in his own car. Having it with him for this most recent move allowed him to take all the last-minute trips to Ikea that he needed.
Mr. Tanner had a few important criteria for his apartment. First, he knew he wanted a true one-bedroom, if only for the sake of his mental health. In his old Park Slope studio, “I felt like I was going a little crazy, being in a single room so much,” he said. “If it was snowing and no one wanted to go anywhere, it felt like I was trapped.” Being able to have friends over and offer them a sofa to sit on, rather than his bed, would be an important upgrade.
Given his budding cookie side hustle, he also needed ample kitchen space. Before decamping to Coral Gables, he’d briefly lived in Los Angeles, where he became enamored with TV shows like “Chopped” and “Top Chef.” He started trying to make the dishes he saw onscreen in his home kitchen. In March 2020, he toured a local culinary school and planned to sign enrollment papers the next day, which turned out to be the day L.A. shut down. By last spring, he was back home in Florida, cooking dinner for his family every night and honing his vegan cookie recipe. He soon began selling cookies at a weekly farmers market.
It was important, then, that his new apartment have enough storage for his stand mixer, his food processor, and the other gadgets and ingredients he uses for his cookie company, Big Lover Bakery. (He’s still devising his plan for entering the New York market.) The one-bedroom he chose in the Gowanus building has “the perfect kitchen layout,” he said, with plenty of storage and counter space, he reckons, to make 12 dozen cookies at a time — his standard farmers market output.
Mr. Tanner has moved 10 times in the past decade, so his goal was to find an apartment that he could stay in for more than a year. His new apartment is more expensive than what he had planned to pay — $3,100 a month — but he was able to negotiate three months of free rent, which makes his net monthly rent for the next year a manageable $2,325. It’s a bet he chose to make on an apartment with all the amenities he wanted — a big kitchen, central air-conditioning, and an in-unit washer/dryer. But he’s unsure if he’ll be able to make enough money tutoring in the next year to justify staying and paying the $3,100 next year.
In the meantime, Mr. Tanner is enjoying being back in the city he loves. A live-music fanatic, he already has tickets to 12 shows going into the fall, including Phoebe Bridgers, Japanese Breakfast and Skullcrusher. He moved his piano into the apartment, and is excited to mount his collection of guitars on the walls.
On the weekends, he appreciates his proximity to Prospect Park and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Downtown Brooklyn. “I love Prospect Park so much,” he said. “When I lived in Park Slope before and friends came to visit the city, I was always sure to get a bagel with them and sit in the park.” Now that the city is reopening and he has a comfortable home base, he’s eager to restart his favorite traditions.