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Andreas Kokkino, 39Current Owner, Freelance Fashion Stylist
Moved from: Halsey Street with his roommate in 2011
It’s a classic trajectory. East Village to further in the East Village to Williamsburg to lower in Williamsburg. Then at some point I was like, Oh I can afford to live on the Lower East Side, then I got priced out of the LES, then I was like, Oh, I actually hate Manhattan.
My dad said that he wanted to help me buy a house. He said he didn’t want to see me struggle like he did at the same age. And he could tell that my job was going somewhere. I knew even before that I wanted to find a place that I could totally do, that hadn’t been redone Home Depot style. We were the only people at the open house. Multiple friends — older friends — said that it is committing real-estate suicide, coming to this area. People would always say these comments like, “Do you feel safe? What’s it like walking from the train?” I’d be like, “Ahh … the same as walking from the train anywhere.”
When Miriam sold her house next door, there was a bidding war. It pleased me intensely. I actually have no desire to sell it whatsoever. I really like my house. Of course, if it goes crazy, if it goes over $2 million, then maybe I’m going to sell it because that just seems insane. But I also don’t see where I would move to because the real-estate market is so crazy. I would redo this whole process in another neighborhood where I would have to wait. Only in the last year do we have services that are acceptable. Like I can get a coffee that is good. And there are multiple, less than ten but more than two, restaurants that I can go to. Manny’s on the corner has been like the savior of day-to-day life.
I’ve met more people on this block. I’m not friends with them, even if we talk like we’re going to be friends. But maybe that’s just what neighbors are a little bit about. But they really are neighbors, and I feel like if something genuinely was wrong, someone would come help me. We actually know each other’s names. I’ve lived in New York 21 years, I’ve basically never known anyone’s name as a neighbor.
It looks like a pretty block, but there is garbage everywhere. Even though we have garbage collection three times a week, people feel the need to take their shitty little garbage bags to the corner, which is then overflowing. The other thing is parking. It’s crazy the way people park on this block. Like the taking up way too much space for one car, so whenever their family members’ cars come, they can push back and create a spot.
I definitely also think there are people on the block who do not want to know me. Like for instance, I have a dog, Wanda. She is very popular. There is a woman across the street who has a dog and she’ll talk to Wanda, but she won’t even look at me. Never. I don’t know if she sees me as a new white person, but she doesn’t want to talk to me. Not on this block, but when I first moved to the neighborhood, I had been called a gentrifier, like as an epithet. By someone on a stoop, just being like, “Get out of here, gentrifier.” Literally. I don’t know what to do with a term like that. Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? Should I not live here? Should I not live where I can afford to?
Everyone loved the woman who lived here before, Thelma Akins. Apparently, she died in the house. She had lived here since the ’40s. When I moved in, there were five refrigerators and three stoves because she would cook for everyone and have parties. I feel like she has a great spirit, and I feel like that has made the house feel more awesome. When I moved in with my ex, we had this hilarious idea to have like a sitcom, the ghost of Thelma and the gay couple who moved into her house. She’d be the reluctant roommate, the friendly but sassy ghost, vetting our new tenants, our flower choices, paint colors. Maybe doesn’t have much of an arc, but that was our idea.