Welcome to the Worst Apartments in NYC
On his hit blog "The Worst Room," one New Yorker catalogs the city's most unappealing rental options.
When Ryan Nethery moved out of his roommate’s Park Slope apartment this spring (his roommate was looking to start a family), he put his furniture in storage and couch-surfed as he launched his search for a new place to call home. He quickly became appalled at some of the abysmal options available for rent — and by abysmal, we’re talking windowless rooms, comically low ceilings, bedrooms-turned-closets. He started a Tumblr, “The Worst Room,” to document his findings. We asked the 25-year-old cinematographer about the experience.
How did you come up with the idea for the blog?
The Worst Room is the product of the many months of frustration and utter astonishment that accompanied what seems to be my never-ending search for decent, affordable housing in New York City. This all began in the months of April and May of this year. I had recently been asked to move out of a Park Slope apartment because my then roommate wanted more space to start a family. I moved all of my furniture into storage, kept only the necessities in my car and found myself in between apartments. I was, and still am, essentially living out of my car, crashing on friends’ couches or in a sleeping bag on living room floors while day after day, scouring Craigslist for an apartment that is 1) affordable and 2) not incredibly depressing to imagine myself actually inhabiting. It is surprisingly hard to find just that. Some of the rooms I found for rent were so awful, I decided to save a few images from the listings I had found to a folder I created on my desktop named “The Worst Rooms.”
One night I came across a listing that was so bad I couldn't keep it to myself anymore. A basement, gray concrete floors, windowless walls painted white, a single overhead incandescent bulb illuminating a room containing nothing more than a futon mattress with unkempt brown sheets and an indiscernible DVD box. The ad simply read, “Room available. Williamsburg, Brooklyn. $850.00” The listing was perfectly pathetic. It elegantly demonstrated the dichotomy of tragedy and painfully true comedy of the listings I was coming across. This is the first "Worst Room" on the blog. I created the blog as a means to share the truly despicable places currently being peddled online.
Where do you find these rooms?
It ranges from browsing on Craigslist, Air bnb, and other online venues. The day it went viral I created a SUBMIT button on the blog. Literally within minutes I was getting bombarded with submissions. I still get a few every day. I don't think there is a shortage of these rooms.
What would you say are some of the most common details you see in worst rooms?
I'd say that the most common "worst" details that I encounter are genuinely small spaces and rooms with no windows. Combined, they are a recipe for a truly awful room.
How long do you have to search to find a solid "worst room" contender? Is it surprisingly easy, or do you have to search around for a while?
I think New York has what seems to be a never-ending supply of “Worst Room” contenders. A lot of people submit to the blog, but if I search online it shouldn't take me more than 10 minutes to find some worthy of the “worst” label.
Do you see any of these rooms in person?
I don't think it's really worth my time to go see them. It would really be a waste of everyone's time, though I'd love to actually see what the people who are renting these rooms think of them.
Are there any neighborhoods in the city that seem to be especially rife with "worst rooms"?
I see a lot of people listing rooms in loft spaces, often in converted factories or warehouses in East Williamsburg or Bushwick. A lot of the posts on the blog come from there, but I've found truly awful places all over the city.
How many people contact you for more details about any of the rooms, because they're interested in renting them?
No one has contacted me so far about reaching out to the original listing, though people often reblog or comment on the post saying, "I would live there!" Which is just as much a commentary on the New York housing market as the blog itself. The blog is doing exactly what I had intended: starting a dialogue about the costs of living in New York and what some people will put up with just to be here.