The Ex-Villagers | A Doorman and Dog Bath in Williamsburg

Introducing a new column written by those who loved the East Village and left it. Today: Rachel Trobman tells us why she crossed the bridge to Brooklyn.

rachel in window Rachel Trobman in her 13th Street apartment, 2005.

Williamsburg is teeming with babies. That was my first reaction to my new neighborhood. I’d been lured from the East Village after seven years there by the increased space, a price that would allow me to buy, and the likelihood there would not be a man singing opera at 3 a.m. outside of my window.

Moving across the river, I knew I could expect a slightly longer commute, no yellow cabs, less college students, more facial hair.

What I didn’t see coming was the prevalence of young children. There were five pregnant women in my building when I moved in. Now there are five infants and several toddlers. There are babies in the restaurants, strollers in the parks and tiny humans in the subway.

I first moved to the East Village, from the West Village, when I graduated New York University. My sister, and roommate, was a sophomore there and wanted to be close to campus. I didn’t want to be too far from Chelsea and the news network where I had just gotten a job. We found a reasonably priced “two bedroom” walk-up on St. Marks Place – more like a one bedroom made out of a living room, with a second bedroom made out of a closet.

The hot water never worked and the trash was always piled up, but we loved that our building was sandwiched between a 24-hour sex shop and a storefront that housed a forever-rotating variety of specialty shops. The sex shop workers always received our packages for us, a fact that we kept from our grandparents. Across the street, we could get any color or style of sunglasses for $8.

I’d be lying if I said the man I met as a senior in college, now my husband, didn’t play a part in the move. Jason lived just five blocks north. We would go on long walks and discover restaurants in unexpected places. Walking into the underground Decibel bar was like stumbling into Japan.

One time we got excited about new hiking shoes, and walked from his East 13th Street apartment to the Staten Island Ferry, just to break them in. Soon his apartment became mine, too. We lived with his best friend Andrew and Andrew’s now-wife Kate – four people in less than 500 square feet. It was a fine dance of managing space. Kate and Jason had an elaborate morning routine involving her waking up an hour early to take a shower and then going back to bed so they wouldn’t get in each other’s way.

Green Wall The 13th Street apartment.

The four of us would stay out until 4 a.m. singing at Second on Second, splurging on long-winded dinners with too much wine at Max’s, ending with a late-night snack at Artichoke. Sometimes we’d throw theme parties where we managed to fit 20 more people into the space. We’d invite our fabulous live-in superintendent over to watch football on Sunday. We were loud. We were fun. We didn’t mind the girls sitting on our stoop, crying into their cell phones at 2 a.m. We’d join our neighbor’s parties on Halloween. We even got a dog to add more excitement to our lives.

Two years passed. Our friends moved out. We got engaged. Another year passed. We got married. It was just our dog and the two of us and yet the place felt small. Our apartment began to fill with all our wedding presents. There was no place to use the kitchen tools, nowhere to store the linens.

And then, without even realizing it, we began to get frustrated by the things we used to love. We got angry with the late-night partiers, the girls crying on the stoop, the random visitors in the hall. We were also desperate for more space.

We began looking for rentals in the neighborhood. They were even smaller. Or were not well kept. Or didn’t have a live-in super. Or were walk-ups. Or didn’t have laundry. All amazing things we were spoiled by in our 13th Street oasis. The prices had also increased substantially in the time we lived there.

So with great trepidation, we began looking elsewhere: Gramercy, Murray Hill, Battery Park, Chelsea. Then, on a whim, we looked into some “for sale” listings we had seen online: beautiful buildings off the Graham Avenue stop in Williamsburg. We had never been past the Bedford stop. We arrived on an icy late-November day to a building with a doorman (!), a gym (!), a separate dog bath (!) and an indoor POOL! It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a balcony. We discovered we’d be able to handle the down payment, and the monthly mortgage was less than our rent. It was impossible to turn down.

Leaving was more difficult than I imagined. I took extra long runs around Tompkins Square Park, an extra sick day from work so I could have one more lunch at B&H and put off packing to spend more time with friends I had made across the street.

A year and a half later, I don’t regret the move. I’m across the street from a park. We have (some) room to grow. New standout restaurants like Gwynnett St. have opened and old favorites like Max’s are coming our way. We take long walks to Brooklyn Flea and long runs over the Williamsburg Bridge. We’ve even had a party or two. But no opera singers were heard.

I still miss the East Village. I walk down our old block and still consider it my own.

In the future, we’ll join the Williamsburg Baby Brigade. I love that our kids will be surrounded by young friends, can play in the playground across the street and take swim lessons in the pool. But I also can’t wait to take them back to 13th Street, introduce them to our old super and get them ice cream at Sundaes and Cones. After all, it may have just been a rental, but it was our first home.

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