The halls smell vaguely of urine.
All the advice I heard was to hold off trying to arrange an apartment any sooner than a month before I needed it. Turnover is high. Living arrangements are fluid. Scams are easy to fall victim to — especially from afar. The trick is that I needed a place in September. As in the same month all the college students in the area are also looking for (cheap) places to live. In order to finish up work, button up my life, and say goodbyes (and linger as long as possible), my plan was to move out in mid August. So my situation had all the makings of the kind of comedy film you might go to see and laugh at mostly because you paid money to laugh at it. I've been doing what I could to make connections before I moved. This included several churches, various friends of friends, and an apartment broker placement service.
I was once part owner and a co-host of a local start-up online and on-air TV show back home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It never got off the ground. Sadly, the website is long gone. One of my co-hosts, Maya, went on to live in Brooklyn for a time. She's now back in Michigan, but just days before I moved to New York, she connected me with a pastor who connected me with someone else, and, long story short, I now have a ridiculously great apartment situation.
It's very nearly too good to be true. The price is several hundred dollars less per month than I was expecting to budget. It's perhaps 150 feet from a major (but quaint) subway station. It's six very short stops from school. The apartment is large by New York standards. It's a few blocks south of Prospect Park (Brooklyn's equivalent of Central Park) and in a very nice neighborhood. My room comes with a new bed and desk left behind by a previous roommate (apparently a bit of a flake). This makes the initial move much easier. My room also has a sleeper sofa so I can even host guests. I already have keys to move in. The building itself is “well loved”, and the halls smell vaguely of urine (be forewarned), but the apartment itself is quite nice and bedbug free (seriously — this is an issue in New York in the last few years). My new place is also on an odd little dead end street but the area at large is just great. All in all, it's a true blessing, and I'm very thankful.
I'll post photos of my place when I move in. If you're in the know, you already have my new address or will very soon. Make plans to visit. You can meet Justin.