Five Flights Up: Cleaning Up Hell’s Kitchen

Toni Schlesinger’s book Five Flights Up has a lot of good Manhattan real estate stories. Freelance photographer Keith Rizza talks about Hell’s Kitchen in a 1999 interview:

Actually, five years ago I saw an apartment in this same building through my friend’s sister. At the time I said, "No way on God’s green earth am I going to live in Hell’s Kitchen." The neighborhood was boring and depressing and had no character. When I first came to New York I thought it would be really nice to live in the West Village, SoHo. They were all out of my price range. I’d come to go to school at Pratt. Then I moved in with my first boyfriend, who had a beautiful apartment in Chelsea. But then I broke up with him. I had to start doing roommate situations. I lived with insane people constantly. At one point I was sleeping where the front door was literally two feet from my bed. My roommates would come home at three in the morning with friends. Years passed. I heard about another apartment in this building and I didn’t have to think twice. I’d learned that living in New York is about getting a good space at a good price. Meanwhile, the neigborhood has been changing. A lot more people my age and with the same taste as me art starting to move in. It looks like more tax dollars are going to fix the sidewalks and streets. Nicer stores are opening up. Of course, when I moved into this apartment, it was not a pretty sight. It was really dirty and infested with bugs. I talked to different people about what to do. I had a lot of success with Combat roach bait…

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