Moving to the city during the pandemic: “This is the New York I know”.


Mark Hale always dreamed of living in New York City, but it took a pandemic to get him here.

Mr. Hale, who grew up just outside of Philadelphia, spent 32 years in Tokyo working in project and business development for a Japanese general contracting company, and raised a family there. Several years ago, when the firm offered him a job in Atlanta, he decided to take it. His two children had grown up, his daughter lived in the United States, and although his wife, Kiyomi, did not want to leave their son, Sei, who is now 23, or their apartment in Tokyo, she would visit Atlanta for several months in that time. . He also returned frequently to Tokyo for work.

But when the pandemic struck, he found himself cut off from visitors in a city that had never felt like home. “I really felt lonely,” said Mr. Hale, 64. “Because I’ve never been with my family, I’ve never taken a day off. I worked seven days a week. ”

But he did have family in New York – his daughter, Emi Yasuda Hale, 30, and her husband, Viktor Mashalov, who live on the Upper West Side. So last winter, after nearly a year of isolation exacerbated by Atlanta’s low-density, car-centric culture, he arranged a move to his company’s office in Midtown East.

“I wanted to be near my family,” Mr. Hale said. “If I hadn’t come to New York, I would have retired in Tokyo.”

Upon hearing the news, her daughter and her husband immediately started looking for an apartment near theirs. “I totally trusted him,” Hale said. “I wanted a bedroom, views, sun.”

He liked the idea of ​​an older building, similar to the one where his daughter lived, with character and charm. He also wanted easy access to good management, a washer and dryer in the unit, and a south-facing space with good light – a delicate combination to be found on the Upper West Side, even with a generous housing allowance. of the company $ 5,000 per month.

As Ms. Hale said, “There were some contradictions in my father’s demands.”

Many older buildings were owned by small owners, so it was difficult to say how responsive they would be. For example, Ms. Hale reviewed a beautifully remodeled condo, but the owner was overseas, which she said would make it difficult to coordinate repairs.

Ms Hale also knew that after decades of living in Tokyo, her father’s expectations for building cleanliness and safety were likely higher than those of many New York homeowners. And because Mr. Hale wanted to move ASAP, in March they couldn’t wait for the perfect apartment to materialize.

In the end, they found a one-bedroom apartment in a seven-year-old LEED-certified building on Broadway in the ’70s that filled most of the boxes: a large light, washer and dryer in the unit, a careful management and view. of two beautiful old buildings: the Belleclaire hotel and the Apthorp.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very New York building, but it’s good for my dad,” Ms. Hale said. “It’s not what was in his heart, but he has good sunshine, is very clean and there is an elevator.

The elevator was particularly helpful; Mr. Hale, an avid cyclist, rides a bike four or five times a week and doesn’t have to carry the bike up the stairs.

Due to the pandemic, the initial rent of $ 6,100 for the unit was reduced to $ 5,100, and the landlord offered four additional months free on a two-year lease. Mr. Hale moved in on March 15, paying an average of about $ 4,200 per month.

About $ 4,200 | Upper West Side

Occupation: A senior executive working in business development for a Japanese general contractor.
Supermarkets: Mr Hale’s wife, who mainly lives in the couple’s apartment in Tokyo, had one request for their New York home: to be within walking distance of several supermarkets. The Hales hope she can visit in June and stay over the summer.
Being a short train ride from friends: Mr. Hale’s two best friends in junior high never left Philadelphia. “Now that I’m back in America, it’s like we’ve never left each other. It’s magic, ”he says. “We can kind of go back to being 19, drinking beers and listening to music in Cape May, NJ”

There is room in the living room for a sitting area and a workspace – Mr. Hale works in the office in the morning and at home in the afternoon – and also space for his two road bikes: one that he rides outside and one that he uses as a stationary bike in bad weather. With indoor and outdoor cycling options at home, the building’s gym doesn’t have much of an appeal. But he, Ms. Hale and Mr. Mashalov enjoyed the huge rooftop terrace overlooking the Hudson River.

From the apartment, a river shard is also visible. But perhaps the best view of them all, at least for Mr. Hale, is the most quintessentially New Yorker: an indescribable residential building across the street.

“I’ve been reading The New Yorker for years, which has all the jokes about seeing people in the next building,” said Mr. Hale, who enjoys watching the cartoon come to life every night when his neighbors light up. the light. at.

As for moving to New York during the pandemic, he’s thrilled to be able to live in the city, an opportunity he hadn’t expected.

“I didn’t know New York well before Covid. This is the New York I know, ”he said. “And since I moved here in March, there are more and more people going out, the restaurants are more and more crowded.”

“Last week,” he continued, “I cycled across the Brooklyn Bridge to Dumbo and it was like a festival. It was wonderful. Everyone was out. In Atlanta, you cycle and there is no one around.

But as much as he enjoyed the company on the streets and sidewalks, it was the closeness to his daughter and son-in-law that made the biggest difference. They live a three-minute walk away.

“I see them several times a week, which has completely changed my life,” he says. “For the first time since arriving in the United States, I have a work-life balance. We have dinner together once a week, watch basketball. “

Ms Hale said it was fun to watch her dad discover new things and enjoy his life. “It’s nice to be able to see him often,” she says. “My family is laughing at me. Usually, it is the mother-in-law who is very close after your marriage.


About Mary Moser

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