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When the lease on their three-bedroom apartment in Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn, expired last year, Isabel Chang and Michael Webb decided to move, hoping to pay around $3,000 a month.
Ms. Chang, 45, an advertising art director by day, moonlights as Calamity Chang, a burlesque performer, and is a producer of the Asian Burlesque Festival.
“Costumes take up a lot of room” at home, said Ms. Chang, who was born in Taiwan, grew up mostly in Texas and came to New York after graduating from Cornell University. She has huge feather headdresses, among other things, that need to be stored.
Mr. Webb, 53, who grew up near Toronto and graduated from Sheridan College, works as a photographer and digital technician. He has lots of equipment that he transports to work sites, so they also needed a place with a parking spot and an elevator, or something on a low floor.
And they longed for their own yard.
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The first apartment they shared in New York, 10 years ago, was a spacious two-bedroom in a co-op on the Lower East Side. But their rent rose sharply over time, in part because of increases in the co-op’s subletting fees.
So three years ago, the couple headed to Brooklyn, where they found their three-bedroom in a new Stuyvesant Heights building “with brand-new amenities, central air, gym, common shared roof and one of those buzzers where you can see someone,” Ms. Chang said.
The neighborhood was filled with warehouses and construction sites, and “the building was designed for people who are fresh out of college in their first job,” Ms. Chang said. “People acted like it was a dorm.”
In the laundry room, residents would leave clothing in the machines and others would take it out, leading to nasty notes.
“Nobody spoke to anybody, which is very strange to me,” Ms. Chang said.
With their lease expiring, the couple seized the opportunity for a new beginning and were pleased by what they found in the rental market.
“I was heartened by the space for the dollar I was seeing,” Ms. Chang said.
But intangibles like safety and noise felt unpredictable and seemed to vary from block to block. “Every building had different strengths,” Mr. Webb said.
They focused on garden duplexes in Brooklyn. A friend lived in one, and it seemed an ideal setup they might be able to replicate.
Among their options: