New York City's nastiest apartments

The Worst Room is a blog exploring the seedy and insanitary world of New York City's "affordable housing." The home featured above, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is yours for $1200 a month.

Update: And here's WTF Is a Cottage?, another new "bad apartments" blog focused on San Francisco. Less cramped squalor, but an extra helping of insanity.


  1. If you just think of the bedbugs and cockroaches as subletters, the effective cost/month goes down pretty sharply…

    1. They look exactly like the NYC apartments I lived in in college… back in the 20th century, before you kids were born.

      1. Yep.  East 13th, between 1st and A, 1980, while a student at NYU.  The apartment was in a former stable behind the main house.  It was 7 1/2′ wide at the widest, and only 5′ where the fireplace was, and was 21′ long, including the bathroom and kitchenette.  The 5′ wide part was something I was willing to live with, since I thought having a fireplace was pretty cool, except the first time I tried to light a fire I had the upstairs neighbor at my door 30 seconds later telling me that I could never do that, as all the smoke wound up in their apartment.  5′ wide didn’t seem like such a good compromise after I learned that it was a non-working fireplace.
        BTW:  I paid $214 a month for my 7 1/2′ x 21′ bachelor pad in 1980.

        1. WTF214? Cooper, a couple of years after you, and I never saw a phone booth for under 600. Was it a sublet?

          1. No, no sublet.  Perhaps you caught the leading edge of gentrification and paid the price.  I was one of the few people on my block at the time that wasn’t on welfare and spending most of my time on my stoop.
            My favorite memory about the place was how the super took great pride in cleaning up the 10′ x 12′ “yard” between the front and back buildings.  Previously it was bare dirt and broken glass.  He manicured it, planted grass seed, and nurtured it as it grew to 6″ tall.  All was great until it rained, and all of the grass was beaten flat by a gentle rainfall, never to grow again.  The poor grass just didn’t have the will to put up a fight against the forces of nature.

  2. I just moved away from the Park Slope area and am going to call foul on some of those ads, we paid as much for our two bedroom as the higher range in the tumblr in the same area.  Some of those are either faked by the author or by the actual craigslist poster, and I know that I’ve seen joke postings on Craigslist before. 

  3. Um, a ton of these places just look like pretty normal rooms that one would rent out in a house or condo. I’m picking up on a bit of elitism on the part of the author. I’m not sure he understands how normal people actually live.

    1. Agreed, some of those rooms are awful, but they’re also relatively cheap. If you really want to live in a certain neighbourhood but don’t have enough money, these rooms make it possible. And some of those “worst rooms” look pretty cool.

  4. Some of those are a helluva lot nicer and more affordable than what you can get in London.

  5. I know someone who had to live in Manhattan right after college because that’s where you have to live. Have to. A good chunk, probably between 1/4 and 1/3, of his 300 sq ft was taken up by a very long 3 ft hallway that went past a couple of other apartments because of the way the building owner had divided up the floorplan to shove in more tenants.

    That 2-week sublet on page 2 wasn’t too awful. I stayed in an old, crappy basement apartment below a very nice house in California. It needed paint, renovation, and some love and had very little natural light, but it was clean and pest free. The owner knew what it was and subletted it for two weeks at a time for a couple of hundred bucks. I used it while looking for an apartment after moving to the area and the people who moved their suitcases in as I moved mine out were doing the same. It’s far cheaper than a hotel.

  6. I created a similar blog at almost the same time. Crazy coincidence. Mine is about crappy apartments in San Francisco.

    1. Good one…you would think property owners would make a little extra effort in order to maximize profit as well as make their own possessions aesthetically pleasing. But no. The rental market is red hot right now, and quick and cheap is all some people understand.

    2. Yeah, except your blog seems (to me) to be just snobby snarky criticism of style and design choices.  Unless there’s a price listed, and an idea of that price relative to the rest of the market it’s vacuous.  Are you really genuinely surprised that there are poorly designed and aesthetically unappealing places to live?  I envy that naivete.  There are many many people who wish they had the opportunity to live in the places that you’re mocking.

      1. But snarky criticism of (as you admit) poor design can be funny; I’ve lived in SF all my life, and worked on remodeling projects for almost 20 years: I’ve painted, tiled, demolished, plumbed and moved many a friend into numerous funky in-law apartments over the years, and the choices people make and the methods they use to ‘create’ a rentable but flawed living space…well, it’s funny to me.

        ‘There are many many people who wish they had the opportunity to live in the places that you’re mocking.’  Yes. Because they all have four walls, a roof and a toilet. Also running water and electricity. It’s not prison and it’s not in a war zone.

        If you can live your life and not be a snobby critic of the hair splitting we in the developed world call style and design; then I envy YOU pal. If I start to think of the gargantuan inequality we take for granted…my eyes start bleeding inside. I wish every human on earth had a safe place to sleep, clean water to drink and a reliable sewer system to float the crap away. But until then, laughing at cramped kitchens and uninviting foyers works for me…

  7. Those rooms also prepare you for possible incarceration or kidnapping in the future.

  8. The Bed-Stuy ‘kitchen’ is pretty hilarious, but most of these places are not really that bad. At all. 

    Sure: tiny, overpriced…minimal amenities. It’s Big City living! You want bigger: hustle harder. Make more contacts. Move up the social ladder. Marry a debauched but fabulously wealthy heiress…The problem with most of these places is the ugly and impractical furniture. (If your place is 350 square feet, don’t use huge stand alone shelves or four post queen beds.)  

    And two words: paint. and carpet. New paint can really help out a strange space; and while its really gotten expensive over the years, one bit of advice I have for the frugal set would be using the local dump/recycler; they take old paint and give out their custom mixes to the public…usually some sort of off-white, brown and brick red. Beats neon orange.

    My first apartment in SF had some very suspect carpet, and I knew the landlord would not lift a hand or spend a dime. But I took pictures as evidence of the hideous before and much better after in case he decided to make a stink (he didn’t). Bad carpet makes perfect tarp for new paint. Measure widest lengths of floor. Get remnant at carpet store. Rip out and use old carpet as template (cutting in the street is a great way to meet your neighbors…)

    If you are lucky the old tack strips could be used. Or new ones hammered in. Heavy-duty double sided tape might do for the easy and quiet fix.

    When complete, lie down on your new carpet, look up at your freshly painted ceiling and inhale deeply the latex and polypropylene…Aaahhh.

    Now get the hell up and shake your money maker…rents due next week!

    1.  How is $100 of paint even remotely expensive when the room costs $1200 a month? It should be no problem to paint a modest room for less than $100.

      1. You seem to think that there’s an unlimited supply of money available to the people who live in these places.

        1.  Not particularly. But if I was spending $40 a day for a room and an additional $0.30 made me sweat, I’d be looking to change things.

  9. Insanitary, as in insanely unsanitary?  I like the word, but not the condition!

  10. I think the point isn’t the amenities or the size (or the lack of safety) by themselves, its those factors combined with the prices.  To pay all that money for a room with no windows is a joke.  I lived in a three bedroom full-floor apartment with windows on three sides, a huge living room, huge dining room and nice-sized full kitchen in Carroll Gardens Brooklyn in the mid-90s for $1,200 a month (for all three of us).  Now $1,200 can get you a single “room” with no windows.  The rental market, especially in NYC is insane.  The city has not kept up at all with the ever-increasing demand for housing and so many people live in illegal lofts and extremely dodgy housing.  Douchebags like Mayors Bloomberg and Guiliani don’t care about such important issues and so nothing is done.  The fire departments are angry about all the firetraps but they are basically instructed to ignore them (until and unless an embarrassing event occurs and then they go full-bore, kicking out all the tenants with no notice and locking down the building).  If any libertarians want to see how the “free market” really works, and how well it really provides for the needs of the people, go apartment hunting in NYC in 2013.

    1. No. That said, add my voice to the chorus of “most of these are fine.” I’m calling BS on some, but just because of the prices. Perhaps the lister expects to haggle?

  11. The rental market in NYC is seriously distorted by deep and layered government regulations, primarily various rent-control ordinances and zoning ordinances. Like toilet paper in the old Soviet Union, simply decreeing that something should be a certain price doesn’t make it cheaper; instead, it creates shortages. The high prices and low supply in the NYC rental market is the result of the government *preventing* the market from providing for the needs of people, not the operation of the market – economic ignorance on an appalling scale.

    1. Regulations or no regulations, rental housing will not be built for two reasons: condos make more immediate money, and secondly, not-making apartments manufactures scarcity, and inflate prices indefinitely. There is no incentive to make more, so none are built.

  12. Christ, that’s depressing. And weirdly controlling. By the time I got halfway-through, I was all ‘Hey, this one’s got a WINDOW! Bargain!’

    1. Now you know my actual life right now~! I had, in fact, almost replied to one of these ads the day before this tumblr came up.

  13. Wow! Here in Houston you can get a livable apartment in a high-mugging area of the city for like $600/mo, more or less, if things haven’t changed in the last couple years… The appliances’ll be ancient, and possible fungal growth and bugs etc., but there are windows. Always windows. (I know, two *very* different cities)

    Are there squatters in NYC?? Or just illegal housing? (ignorant Texan here, please humor me)

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