Roommate Case Studies

Case Study No. 1: Actors

Seamus Mulcahy, Hallie Cooper-Novack, and Jillian Taylor
Yale School of Drama grads sharing a three-bedroom in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

What are the perks of living with other actors?
Jillian Taylor: They know exactly what you’re going through. We’re all in this together.
Seamus Mulcahy: I can always ask Hallie and Jill to read with me. They give great notes. Sometimes we run through lines at eleven at night, sometimes seven in the morning.

Any downsides?
Hallie Cooper-Novack: We’re all definitely poor.

Are you competitive, too?
Cooper-Novack: Jill and I audition for the same roles because we’re both redheads. But it’s not weird because we have different qualities as actresses. I’m a little quirky, so I make a good ingenue.
Taylor: It would probably be more competitive if we hadn’t all gone to school together. Seamus and Hallie are like my brother and sister. If Hallie and I audition for the same thing and she gets it, I’d say, “Awesome!” But then she’d have to buy a bottle of Jameson for the house.

Case Study No. 2: A Fivesome

Melissa Clark, Derick Wycherly, Rafaella Soares, Will Bailey, and Christine Billard
Two couples, plus one, sharing a four-bedroom in Bushwick.

Rafaella and Will, when did you guys start dating?
Rafaella Soares: We first kissed, what, hurricane week? After that, nothing happened for a long time. Then in December, he brought me flowers. My friends would tease me, saying, “Rafa, you know you’re going to date Will.” And I was all, “No, he’s my roommate, my best friend. These things never work out.”
Will Bailey: It was hard at first. If it backfired, I couldn’t just take her off my G-chat list.

Christine, what’s it like living with two couples?
Christine Billard: Everyone is super-respectful. I actually didn’t even realize Will and Rafa were together until recently—that’s how respectful they are. They cook me dinner sometimes. I’ve never felt like a fifth wheel here.

Case Study No. 3: Seniors

Marcia Rosenfeld and Carolyn Allen
A clerical aide and a municipal employee sharing a two-bedroom in Ditmas Park.

How did you find each other?
Marcia Rosenfeld: My landlord told me about the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens’ home-sharing program many years ago. Carolyn is my third roommate. The first roommate I had moved to Manhattan when a friend offered free rent. You can’t get any better than that.

Do you see each other often?
Rosenfeld: No. She does everything by herself, and I do everything by myself. I have my own things, she has her own things.
Carolyn Allen: But it’s good to have someone around. In my old apartment, I’d hear noises, and that was really hard. I hope Marcia feels the same way about me.
Rosenfeld: Yes, of course I do.

Case Study No. 4: Urban Kibbutzniks

Talia Klein, Gabi Wachs, Kevin Siegel, and 25 other Columbia University students living together at the Bayit, a Jewish housing community in Morningside Heights.

What is the Bayit exactly?
Gabi Wachs: The 30-second pitch is that it’s a Jewish food co-op that functions like a kibbutz in Israel.
Talia Klein: There are 30 rooms and 28 people living here. Everyone pays $800 a semester for food and dues.

How do you make sure everybody does their share?
Wachs: We have weekly chores in the common spaces that everyone’s assigned on a rotational basis.
Kevin Siegel: Mondays to Thursdays, two people cook for everyone else in the house. Dinner is at 7 p.m.

How do you even cook for 28 roommates?
Klein: It’s a huge kosher kitchen! We also have a huge walk-in fridge, a huge freezer, and a huge pantry.
Wachs: The kitchen is totally nuts, especially on Fridays, when everyone is in a frenzy trying to cook before sundown. You have ten people at a time cooking ten different things, asking each other advice, and negotiating how to share the space.
Klein: Yesterday, for example, someone was pickling, someone was making chicken, and I was making apple crisp.
Wachs: It’s organized chaos. But part of communal living is making compromises. We all choose to live this way.

Case Study No. 5: The Opposites

Marti Gould Cummings and Trent Johnson
A cabaret performer and an art director sharing a two-bedroom in Hell’s Kitchen.

Ever been told you’re like the Odd Couple?
Trent Johnson: Marti’s not old enough to know who they are.
Marti Gould Cummings: Yeah, we do! Trent keeps track of the bills and deals with the landlord; I lock myself out of the apartment and have to call him. Trent’s very put together and soft-spoken, while the neighbors make noise complaints about me singing too loud.

Do you hang out a lot?
Cummings: Our schedules are so different, but when we do see other, we gossip. I call him Trenicia.
Johnson: Yeah, he’ll be coming down the street, see me, and start screaming, “Hey, Trenicia!”
Cummings: I’m going to put Trent in a wig and heels one of these days.

Roommate Case Studies