Miche Griffin grew up on a farm near Nashville, dreaming of a more exciting life. “As a kid, I was drawing pictures of my loft in New York City,” she said. “Somewhere deep inside, I knew I needed the distraction and the busyness that the city offered.”
She arrived in the East Village nearly 30 years ago, feeling like a pioneer and a risk-taker. “That was when Tompkins Square Park was full of tents, and one guy had cooked his girlfriend and fed her to the homeless people,” she said. “That was what I moved to.”
Ms. Griffin eventually settled with her partner in a two-bedroom rental in a walk-up building, above a restaurant on a busy East Village block, and their daughter was born not long after. Her partner died about a decade later.
Three and a half years ago, their daughter left for college in New England. She was never a city girl at heart, Ms. Griffin said. Even as a child, she agonized about homeless people, and complained that the playground was too loud and disorienting. When she moved away, “She said, ‘I don’t think I’ll live in New York City again.’”
With her nest empty, Ms. Griffin, now 51, was ready to upgrade, downsize and escape a block that was increasingly noisy and crowded. “What used to be professionals or bohemians was turning into a party neighborhood,” she said. “It was like a fraternity party, and it is not conducive to daily living.”
And the apartment was no longer much of a gathering place. “Ours was the apartment that all the kids came to, and when my daughter went to university it was like I lost five kids and not one,” she said. “I thought it would be healthy for me to have a clean slate.”
Ms. Griffin, who works in the field of corporate relocation for international clients, went on the hunt for a one-bedroom with a monthly rent of up to $4,000 for herself and her German shorthaired pointer, Sacha.
She was willing to live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which had a similar vibe to her beloved East Village, and where she figured she could get a nicer apartment on a better block for a similar rent. She didn’t feel too old for the neighborhood. “My personality totally fits,” she said.
She had been eyeing the Lewis Steel Building, a converted steel factory with exposed brick and industrial style on North Fourth Street. Most one-bedrooms there were in the low $3,000s.
At that point, Williamsburg was preparing for the L train to close for repairs. Ms. Griffin works from home, so she thought she could function day to day without the train. But then she reconsidered, fearing she might feel disconnected or spend too much on cabs.
Ms. Griffin liked a one-bedroom apartment in the Lewis Steel Building, but wasn’t convinced she wanted to live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. CreditStefano Ukmar for The New York Times
“The apartment was right, but the location wasn’t,” she said. “The East Village was the one place I belonged.”
She liked the central location of the glassy Avalon Bowery Place, completed more than a decade ago, near the corner of Houston Street. It was across from a Whole Foods Market, with convenient subway access. But her budget would get her only a studio there. “I need to be able to separate my bedroom from my live-work area,” she said.
A friend from the Tompkins Square Dog Run mentioned the Niko, a brand-new rental building about as far east as possible, at the corner of Avenue D. The size was appealing — a not-overwhelming 12 stories — with a panoramic view from the roof deck.
The central location of the Avalon Bowery Place was enticing, but her budget would only get her a studio there. CreditStefano Ukmar for The New York Times
Ms. Griffin found herself liking the area, which was more residential and less crowded than she was used to. It felt like the East Village she had known three decades earlier.
She considered her daily routine. “Rite Aid is right downstairs, and the grocery stores are less expensive,” she said. A Citi Bike station was across the street, and the M14D bus stop was a block away. Both East River Park and Tompkins Square Park were quick trips, for walking Sacha.
“She was ready to move to a nice place that was new, where she is not going to have any issues,” said the leasing agent, Adrienn Feher of MNS Real Estate.
Ms. Feher showed Ms. Griffin a one-bedroom with a terrace, thinking she might like it for the dog, but it was on a low floor with less light than she wanted. Besides, Ms. Griffin knew she would walk Sacha more often if she didn’t have her own outdoor space. She picked a sunny one-bedroom on a higher floor, with windows facing Avenue D.
She arrived last fall. “It’s the first time I’ve lived somewhere where everything works,” she said.
Ms. Griffin moved into her new building, on Avenue D, last fall. “It’s the first time I’ve lived somewhere where everything works,” she said.CreditStefano Ukmar for The New York Times
Her rent is $3,475 a month (the building is currently offering two months free on new leases, so her monthly payment came to $3,089 over the lease term). Amenities, slated to be $100 a month, are currently free.
Ms. Griffin easily fit her Indian teak table in the large living-dining area. “I cook a ton — it’s a passion,” she said. “That is my social life. I am not out at bars.”
And she found an unexpected advantage to living so far east: “I get to places quicker because I am right beside the F.D.R. When I was more central, I would get stuck in traffic.”
In her new, calmer spot in the East Village, Ms. Griffin has met many neighbors. The building staff — including her first-ever doorman — is friendly, “which was very appealing to me, being an empty nester,” she said. People greet one another on the street. If she is short of change at the deli, she pays the next time.
“I forget I am not on a porch in the South,” she said.
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