Memories of a Fifth Floor Walk up

My best friend Janet and I shared a fifth floor walk up apartment on E. 83rd between Park and Lexington Avenues in NYC during our early twenties. The neighborhood was phenomenal, ideal, a combination of serenity and vibrancy just a stone throw from both the Lexington Avenue subway and the majestic Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Our apartment was a tiny two room structure, the first room comprised of the kitchen and living room and the second containing two twin beds crammed so close together our toes almost touched.  A visitor entering our living room with two bottles of wine under each arm once remarked, “I’ll just put these in the kitchen!” to which I replied, “You’re standing in it.”   I remember one hot summer day our window air conditioner dripping rhythmically on the unit directly below us, prompting the downstairs tenant, an eccentric but pleasant woman to pay an impromptu visit pleading, “please, can you do something? that drip, drip, drip is driving me mad. Why the sound is going right through my teeth!” I handed her a pillow to muffle the offending din and politely bid her adieu shrugging the encounter off as typical city living, neither of us no worse for the wear. On the floor above us resided two young men, Dave and Barry, new to the city from the Midwest. Both possessed polite and kindly natures and we struck up an easy friendship often playing monopoly or simply running up and down the stairwell to each others apartments just to say hello or drop off a plate of brownies. . The casual relationship we shared with the boys gave our apartment building a feeling of dorm living and shelved the belief that living in New York meant never getting to know your neighbors. Tuesday was “Beauty Night,” a weekly ritual  we cherished involving face masks, pedicures and chilled cucumber slices on eyelids.  These do it yourself escapes soothed both body and soul though I do recall an unpleasant incident involving a peppermint foot cream which caused a burning reaction on Janet’s feet.  I remember one dateless New Year’s Eve cozily holed up in our apartment watching the entire 24 hour Twilight Zone marathon thrilled to not be out with the hoards attempting to hail a cab on a bitter night. Though it took some getting used to, our apartment’s five floor ascent allowed us the best physical shape of our life and in no time we could sprint up all five floors like marathon runners. An added perk was the old fashioned candy store we frequented only steps outside our front door on the corner of 83rd Street, a neighborhood landmark that has stood the test of time and still serves homemade lemonade and egg-creams. But as they say, all good things must end.

We said goodbye to our fifth floor walk up for a larger apartment in Stuyvesant Town located in lower Manhattan.  My dad had put his name on the waiting list five years earlier. “Stuy Town,” as it is affectionately known, allowed more space at a rent controlled price an offer we could not refuse.  So we packed up our bags and headed downtown to a two bedroom, elevator building on East 20th Street carrying too, memories bittersweet.

I visited our old fifth floor walk-up last summer, thirty years later and stood on the doorstep, it’s appearance virtually unchanged. I snapped the below photo as a testament to my first apartment and the days of living in New York City. And somewhere right now, I feel one thing is certain. Uptown or down, east side or west, a vacant apartment lies waiting. Awaiting a pair of twenty-something roommates eager to unpack their bags alongside their dreams, maybe in a fifth floor walk up…

Back in the hood with my sister Sheila…

Published by Kathy Simmons

I am an ex New Yorker who still misses the vibrancy of the city. I seek out the humor in every day life and relay it through my stories in the hope others will appreciate as well. I love to write about growing up with my fantastically unique Irish mother whose memory inspires me every day. Although she is no longer with us, her antics are an endless staple for my tales. I currently live in Connecticut with my husband, two sons and toy fox terrier Anabel.

18 thoughts on “Memories of a Fifth Floor Walk up

  1. I have NYC-in-my-twenties memories, too, and they are so fond. I can’t imagine living there now (well, that’s not true; if I were fabulously rich, I’d take a pied-à-terre there immediately!). There’s just no place like that city, and I love every nook and cranny of it. When I think back about the size of the living quarters, I can’t believe we did it and that young people still do it. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, from the Upper East Side down to Stuy Town!

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  2. What fabulous memories, must have been very emotional sharing this. Thank you so much for doing so as part of Squares, and welcome to the squares community 😀

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  3. I am new to your blog so please excuse me sort of stepping in along with your familiar followers. Well, I am so charmed by your post about living in a tiny apartment next door to Lexington Candy Shop. I regret not doing something similar to what you go to do. Around that time, I did visit New York City as a twenty-something. And then I visited again and again through the years. My last visit was only a couple of years ago, 2019. Right now, middle-aged and in the Pacific Northwest, I am considering making a move eastward when the pandemic has left us. I’d love to figure out a way to be relatively close to NYC and maybe I’ll end up doing it. But getting back to Lexington Candy Shop, I have written two book on NYC and my most recent includes all the best places to get egg creams in New York City based on my visits and some rigorous searching. Maybe you’ll check it out. I’d love to get your take on it. You can easily find it on Amazon and the title is “Sometimes You Just Want an Egg Cream.” Oh, also, I am pretty familiar with Stuy Town from visiting a friend. I did not realize it has rent control and there’s a 5-year wait. That makes sense! It is a no frills, intensely urban environment, and I even got sort of lost within the labyrinth of apartment complexes. But it is, no doubt, an amazing location.

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    1. Hello Henry, and thank you for stopping by! I am very impressed you liked my story as you are quite accomplished and your recent book sounds like a wonderful tribute to old New York and egg creams! I will read. Sadly, StuyTown alike my fifth floor walk up is no longer rent controlled after being sold by Met Life but I have wonderful memories of living there. I have written a couple of other stories on my blog I would love you to read “Whisked Away” and “Please Mom May I’ve Some More?” Also, “In the Company of Women” about my dad. Would love your feedback as you have had great success! I also just wrote another story about my Irish Mother that I will publish on March 17☘️ in honor of St.Patrick’s Day and her Irish heritage. Wish I could figure out how to publish a book containing several short tales about my mother who was a true character, I hope you decide to return to New York. Some great deals on apartments due to pandemic!

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      1. I just replied to one of your story posts and will make my way to the other stories! They are quite good and I do think you will ultimately create a book. I could supply illustrations for you if you need them. But, yeah, you are a very good writer! As for StuyTown, I saw so many people living there–truly a village all to itself! I hope those folks are paying reasonable rent.

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