What Nora Paid

“The rent was fifteen hundred dollars a month, which, by Manhattan standards, was practically a bargain. Trust me, it was. In addition, I had to pay the previous tenant twenty-four thousand dollars in key money (as it’s known in New York City) for the right to move in. I didn’t have twenty-four thousand dollars. I went to a bank and borrowed the money. No one in the building could believe that I would pay so much in key money for a rental apartment; it was an astronomical amount. But the apartment had beautiful rooms (most of them painted taxicab yellow, but that could easily be fixed); high ceilings; lots of light; two gorgeous (although non-working) fireplaces; and five, count them, five bedrooms. It seemed to me that if I lived in the building for twenty-four years the fee would amortize out to only a thousand dollars a year, a very small surcharge. I mean, we’re talking about only $2.74 a day, which is less than a cappuccino at Starbucks. Not that there was a Starbucks then. And not that I was planning to live in the Apthorp for twenty-four years. I was planning to live there forever.”

— — Continuing in the tradition of revisiting a writer’s body of work upon her death, please read this 2006 Nora Ephron essay — a love letter to her Upper West Side apartment. Ephron’s rent eventually underwent destabilization and she moved out of the Apthorp when offered a new lease for $10,000 a month. Today many of the units have been turned into condos selling in the millions, natch. Key money, by the way, is totally illegal.

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