Creating a Home in a Harlem Townhouse Share


A number of brokers hung up when he told them what he was looking for and that he had 13 or 14 potential roommates but no absolute “yeses.” He also learned that actors’ reputation for being flaky partners on a lease was not totally undeserved. Four or five people dropped out of the search after being offered jobs on touring productions. A handful of others said they would leave their sublets or month-to-months only if what Mr. Heitz found was something nicer or less expensive.

But while actors posed a challenge, they were also, quite often, in need of a place to live. Shortly after signing the lease, Mr. Heitz ran into a musical theater acquaintance, Blake Zolfo, 25, at a catering gig. Mr. Heitz asked him how things were going.

Photo

A view of the kitchen.

Credit
Robert Wright for The New York Times

“Well, I’m getting evicted,’” Mr. Zolfo replied. He said he had been subletting from another actor, who, to his surprise, “had apparently decided that paying rent was optional.”

Mr. Zolfo was more than happy to take the smallest room in the house, which measures about 6 by 13 feet. It’s also the least expensive, at $825 a month. The two largest rooms rent for $950 each — Mr. Heitz has one and Joe D’Emilio, 28 and a freelance lighting designer, has the other. The medium-size bedroom, occupied by Dan Medvidick, 29 and an actor who had known Mr. Heitz from a volleyball league, goes for $875.

Mr. Medvidick moved in this May, after his room’s original occupant returned to San Francisco. Mr. Medvidick had been living in a month-to-month share in Astoria, but wanted a friendlier setup. “I wanted a more social environment, for people to talk to one another,” he said.

Photo

Mr. Heitz’s bedroom.

Credit
Robert Wright for The New York Times

In the months since moving in, the housemates have established rituals and rules and added personal touches. Playbills line the living room mantelpiece and cross-stitched Pokémon characters done by Mr. Zolfo hang on one wall. There are monthly dinners to bond and discuss house business — like what to do about flies around the compost, and implementing a chore list. The roommates also share a wine club membership that runs about $70 a month for a case. A mini-fridge used for wine is nested in the fireplace.

They have also installed a projector and roll-down screen visible from a red couch that Mr. Heitz bought on Craigslist. An upright piano is on the wish list.

Every Monday, the roommates host a movie night for friends and each month has a theme. September was “Back to School” themed; October is horror. They have yet to do their first play reading, but they’re hoping to soon.

“For me, the big question was, ‘How could I live the life I want to live in New York without spending a fortune?’” Mr. Heitz said.

For him, the experience of finding and creating a home was both so challenging and ultimately satisfying that shortly after moving in he decided to take the advice of a broker he met during his apartment search.

She had been impressed with the binder he carried to every showing — each listing he saw had a page including square footage, room by room measurements and outlets per room. She suggested he become an agent. Last winter, he received his license and joined Triplemint. The hardest part of his job?

“Finding housing for actors,” he said.

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