New York’s Most Avid Micro Apartment-Dweller Relocates to Bigger Digs

Tiny boxes.

Tiny boxes.

As we ponder the arrival of micro-apartments, it’s worth noting that the woman who may well have been the city’s most famous small apartment advocate has moved into a much, much larger space. It is all of 500 square feet, Gothamist reports.

Felice Cohen, who briefly became famous for living in a 90-square-foot studio back in 2011, has bought a one bedroom. And while she may have defected from the ranks of shoebox dwellers (shoeboxes being defined, as per the Bloomberg administration, as anything under the legally-allowable 450-square feet) she’s still fully committed to the cause, as a new video from Fair Companies reveals:

Ms. Cohen became a micro-dwelling media darling not only because she lived in a meticulously organized micro-apartment (she was a part-time professional organizer), but for her cheerful embrace of extremely cramped living conditions. She admitted to having a panic attack the first night she awoke in her lofted bed, but demonstrated how a single person can adapt with aplomb to apartments much, much smaller than Bloomberg’s micro-units, which are between 250 and 375 square feet.

Alas, Ms. Cohen didn’t leave her Upper West Side studio, for which she had been paying $700 a month, willingly. Her landlord saw the video and, in light of the fact that she had taken over the apartment from a friend and wasn’t on the lease, tried to double her rent. Ms. Cohen admits that she considered simply paying twice as much, but decided to purchase a one-bedroom apartment instead. At 500-square feet, it’s modest, but looks palatial in comparison to her old place.

There are some good things about the new apartment: she doesn’t need to turn sideways to sit on the toilet. “I can sit and my knees are no longer black and blue,” Ms. Cohen explains. But, honestly, she seems less than thrilled about the new space and the lack of challenge it presents. She has even pared down her possessions since moving, a rejection of living large even if she is living larger.

“It’s about making any space your home,” Ms. Cohen says in the first video, explaining how so many New Yorkers were unaccountably angry about the dimensions of their apartments. “I want to fill life with experiences more than stuff, that’s the goal.”

And living in a tiny apartment was worth the sacrifice for Ms. Cohen, who finished a book about her family history there—a project that she says she was able to do because she was paying $700 a month. After all, accumulation of experiences, rather than the accumulation of stuff is, in large part, what draws people to New York.

There’s just one problem with living in a Bloombergian micro-unit: it doesn’t come cheap. Apartments reserved for low- and middle-income New Yorkers are expected to cost between $940 and $1,800 a month. Micro-apartments, in other words, are no longer a sacrifice that a New Yorker makes to pursue artistic goals, but the reward of pursuing a stable, middle-income career.

kvelsey@observer.com