In Queens, a Rent-Stabilized Family Compound


“I had always wanted to live in New York,” said Ms. Spear, who attended graduate school in Texas. “I thought, ‘Emily is living in my dream city.’”

Mr. Spear, an actor, was eager to make the move as well. So when Mr. Moore, now a dean at Voice Charter School in Long Island City, found out about an opening for a social worker at the school, he let his sister-in-law know. He was similarly quick to try to score the downstairs apartment, making sure they saw it the first day it became available.

They offered $2,100 a month — $100 less than the asking rent — and sealed the deal the next morning. (The Moores have paid $1,700 a month since moving in.)

“We were trying to figure out if we should pay more for more space than we needed,” said Ms. Spear, who admitted that it was hard to give up their below-market rent of $1,450 a month. “But once we saw it, we decided to take it,” she continued. “We had really loved their apartment, and we also had a comically small bathroom at the other place. The door could hardly close.”

Seeing more of Mabel — the first baby on their side of the family — was, of course, a huge incentive, and Ms. Spear admitted that she was more tolerant of living below this particular 2-year-old than another 27-year-old might be. “Probably any other toddler would drive us crazy,” she said.

While their families were delighted when they moved to the same neighborhood, not everyone thought that living in the same building was the best idea. “When I was a kid, our grandmother lived really close to us, and she would call my mother to say we were swinging too high, stuff like that,” Mr. Moore said.

But the Spears have been more helpful than meddlesome when it comes to raising Mabel. Mr. Spear acts as nanny two days a week when Ms. Moore works as an occupational therapist, and there is a lot of informal visiting as well — Mabel insists on stopping to say hello whenever she comes home.

Photo

Tyler and Emily Moore’s Astoria apartment.

Credit
Liz Barclay for The New York Times

Not long ago, the Moores decided to expand their family — the timing of which was definitely influenced by having relatives just downstairs, they said. And last week, Ms. Moore gave birth to a girl, Matilda Jane.

Even so, the couples share more than child care (and a set of floor beams). Among the things they regularly exchange are tools, a step stool, dinners, chocolate chips, Wi-Fi, a printer, clothing and the better vacuum cleaner, which belongs to the Spears.

When a mirror in Ms. Moore’s living room caught Ms. Spear’s eye, she borrowed it for a few days to determine whether she liked it well enough to buy one for her bedroom. And when Ms. Moore needed a respite from her maternity wardrobe, she snagged a few of Ms. Spear’s flowy peasant tops.

They occasionally exchange snippy words as well, mostly between Mr. Moore and Ms. Spear, who see each other both at work and at home.

“At school, I’ll say something in a meeting and then afterward be like, ‘Oh, maybe I should go apologize to her,’” Mr. Moore said.

But the length of their acquaintance helps lend some perspective to any discord. “I’ve known him since I was in fifth grade,” Ms. Spear said. “He’s more like a brother than a brother-in-law.”

What about the rest of the family? Mr. Spear’s younger brothers share an apartment in Brooklyn that they have no intention of leaving, and most of their respective families plan to stay put in the South. But Mr. Moore’s cousin is moving to the city and, he reports, is hard at work trying to find a place within a five-block radius.

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