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Photograph: Caroline Voagen NelsonBalcony
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Where to live in NYC: Studio in the East Village

Trying to decide where to live in NYC? Check out a Manhattan studio for $1,700 a month, and find out about the neighborhood and how the tenant scored a deal.

By Rebecca Fishbein
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If you’re trying to work out where to live in NYC, check out one New Yorker’s experience leaving Alphabet City for an East Village studio with a balcony (jealous yet?). Find out about the search, the apartment, what the neighborhood’s like and advice for negotiating a deal.

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Cyan Bonacci, 31, owner of organic skin-care line Lee-lai Natural Beauty (myleelai.com).

Broker: Jonathan Kestenbaum, Miron Properties (203-824-4464, jonk@mironproperties.com; mironproperties.com).
Broker’s fee:
15 percent of annual rent ($3,060).
Deposit:
One month’s rent.
Moved in:
August 2012.

THE SEARCH: “My old apartment was on 14th Street between Avenues A and B, and it was a shoebox. I had a shower in my kitchen, no bathroom sink, and I had to brush my teeth in the kitchen sink. It was pretty terrible,” says Bonacci. “I’d been looking [at other apartments] on and off for the past six months. I didn’t have a time frame to move, so I was open to looking around. I looked a lot in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and there were just some really old, run-down apartments for more than what I’m paying now. I decided [to move out] about a month ago. It was very spontaneous. I looked at Craigslist and saw this apartment, and I thought, That’s my apartment!”

THE APARTMENT: “It’s small, but it has a good flow to it, unlike my other apartment, which was very long and narrow. [This place is] very open, and it has high ceilings and lots of light. There’s lots of closet space, too; my old apartment had no closets at all,” she says. “And a lot of people say my bathroom is bigger than most they’ve seen in New York. Considering I didn’t have a bathroom before, I feel like I deserve it!” Bonacci’s favorite part is her balcony and the community-garden view it affords.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: “Looking out and having a real view is amazing. In my old place, Stuyvesant Town blocked all of my light,” recalls Bonacci. “It seems like more of a community [here], whereas before it was dollar stores, Dunkin’ Donuts and Rite Aids.” Among Bonacci’s favorite haunts in her ’hood are Ninth Street Espresso (700 E 9th St at Ave C; 212-358-9225, ninthstreetespresso.com), where she frequently goes to get work done. She’s also a regular at wineshop Brix (649 E 9th St between Aves B and C, 212-777-0691). “They have a lot of really beautiful rosés, and they have Aperol there, which I love.”

HER ADVICE: “A lot of people try to avoid a broker, and I don’t know how they do it,” says Bonacci. “You get really slim pickings, you have a lot of competition, and it ends up being more headache than anything. I’ve always gone with a broker. I know it’s expensive, but if you stay in your apartment for a long time, it evens out.” Something else that helped seal the deal for her was speaking with the previous tenants. “I asked them questions like, ‘Is it loud?’ and ‘Is the super always on top of things?’ It made me feel better to ask questions of someone who’d lived in the building.”

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