Even before the pandemic jacked up the claustrophobia levels in every New York apartment, Matt Foerster, 33, and Tanya Edmunds, 34, had outgrown theirs.
For three years, they had shared a two-bedroom apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with a co-worker and had quickly tested the limits of what the space could hold: first, a Peloton exercise bike; then two dogs, Tova and Eloise.
But they loved the place, and their roommate, Joanna Siegel, was “probably one of the only people who would put up with living with us,” said Mr. Foerster, a general manager at a Shake Shack in Brooklyn.
Previously, he and Ms. Siegel had lived together in a dormlike loft in Bushwick, Brooklyn, with five bedrooms and a sole bathroom, a living situation that Ms. Edmunds recalls, with a laugh, as “awful.”
The Crown Heights apartment, then, was a sort of upgrade: It had central air-conditioning, a washer and dryer, and a skylight, and was in a modern, recently renovated building. Mr. Foerster and Ms. Edmunds, who met while working at Shake Shack’s corporate offices, loved being within walking distance of Prospect Park, which was a win for them and the dogs. They lived close to friends and some of their favorite restaurants. Their shared rent began at $3,000 in 2016 and had increased only to $3,100.
The trio spent a lot of time together, and during the pandemic, Mr. Foerster and Ms. Siegel held a weekly happy hour on Thursdays, with beer and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.” But after Mr. Foerster and Ms. Edmunds married early last year — just weeks before lockdown hit the city — they decided it was time to move on and find their own place.
The lease was up in July, but by then “we were still trying to understand how long things would be different in the city,” said Ms. Edmunds, who was laid off from Shake Shack’s corporate offices last spring. “It was really hard to make a plan, and I was on unemployment at the time, so that definitely made us think twice about trying to make a move at the end of the lease.”
Their landlord hadn’t wanted to offer an extension, but Mr. Foerster was able to negotiate eight additional months by pointing out that there were already eight unoccupied units in their building — did the landlord really want to make it nine? Ms. Siegel planned to find a new apartment with her boyfriend once the extension was up.
$2,700 | Astoria, Queens
Matt Foerster, 33, and Tanya Edmunds, 34
Occupations: He is a general manager at Shake Shack; she is an event production manager.
On the Queens bar scene: Mr. Foerster loves swinging by for beer and cheese in Astoria on weeknights, and the couple take the bus to Long Island City to visit breweries like Big aLICe Brewing, Fifth Hammer Brewing Company and LIC Beer Project.
Running routes: Ms. Edmunds often meets up with friends for a run in Astoria Park, and once a week runs to Roosevelt Island with a friend.
With an extension granted until mid-March, Mr. Foerster and Ms. Edmunds began their search in January of this year. Ms. Edmunds, who grew up in New Jersey and has lived in the city for 17 years, knew she wanted to live in Astoria, her favorite of all the neighborhoods she had lived in.
But as she was dictating where they would move, she said, “Matt’s priorities topped the list.” They included amenities the couple had become accustomed to in Brooklyn: central air-conditioning (or at least something better than a window unit) and a dishwasher.
They were also hoping to find an apartment with one or more bedrooms, to accommodate their belongings and the two dogs.
They opted for the marathon approach of seeing 15 apartments in a single day, with the help of a friend who works for a real estate listings website. “As we got into these spaces, it became easier for us to really talk about what we wanted,” Ms. Edmunds recalled.
They lost out on their first choice — a split-level condominium with a balcony and walk-in closets — but landed their second, a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in a new building. The unit has a small alcove that they use to store their exercise bike and other equipment; Mr. Foerster and Ms. Edmunds appreciate that they can close the door to it when people come over, to keep things looking neat.
The rent was higher than they had hoped, and higher than they had seen on the listing, which was nearly a deal-breaker. But they negotiated two free months on a two-year lease, with a rent of $2,700 a month.
The apartment came with some bonuses, including laundry and a trash chute on their floor, an elevator and unexpected neighbors. Once they moved in, they began seeing the names of two former colleagues from Shake Shack on packages in the building, and learned that their friends lived two floors below them.
Parting ways with Ms. Siegel was, in Mr. Foerster’s words, “the definition of bittersweet.” But she and her boyfriend moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, close enough that the two couples can meet up in Long Island City for beers on the weekend. Mr. Foerster and Ms. Edmunds had the couple over for dinner the night they moved in, and they all sat in camping chairs, celebrating with takeout and beer.
For their first apartment as a married couple, Ms. Edmunds knew she wanted to invest in a few good pieces of furniture. In Crown Heights, they hadn’t owned a dining table, and often ate on the sofa; the only other seating was a pair of stools at the kitchen island, which was often cluttered with the sort of things you need to drop upon walking in the door.
So they ordered a new dining table, along with a pullout sofa that would allow them to have overnight guests. “The couch helps facilitate a nice, comfortable environment for people to stay,” Ms. Edmunds said.
Once the new furniture arrived, the couple had their former roommate and her boyfriend over for their first official dinner in the new place — at a table with non-folding chairs.
“I cooked because I was like, ‘It’s the first meal at the table, we can’t order takeout!’” Mr. Foerster said. As an added luxury, the exercise bike was hidden from view.