New York City extols virtues of tiny apartments

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 22, 2013 at 11:56 am •  Published: January 22, 2013
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NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Neuman jokes that he doesn't casually throw off his coat when he gets home at night — it would take up half his apartment.

Such is life in his walk-up studio a few blocks from Manhattan's bustling Times Square. At 280 square feet, the apartment is barely the size of a one-car garage, with just enough space for a bed, a desk, a TV stand on one wall and a kitchen against the other.

"I've developed this weird Stockholm Syndrome, which you identify with your captors," said the 31-year-old publicist. "When I go to other people's apartments, I think, 'Why do they need more than one bedroom?' I'm really very happy here. There's not really time to let things accumulate because ... where would I put them?"

The Big Apple is legendary for its legions of residents who live in really, really small apartments. Many of them are fiercely proud of it and can even find the humor in their cramped quarters. Now the city is about to see just how small New Yorkers are willing to go.

With the population and rents expected to keep climbing, New York City planners are challenging architects to design ways to make it tolerable — even comfortable — to live in dwellings from 370 square feet to as small as 250 square feet.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday announced the winner of a competition to incorporate those designs into an apartment complex to be built on Manhattan's east side next year featuring 55 "micro units."

To make up for the shoe-box dimensions, the building will offer residents common spaces like a rooftop garden and lounge area on nearly every floor. The aim is to offer more such tiny apartments throughout the city as affordable options for the young singles, cash-poor and empty nesters who are increasingly edged out of the nation's most expensive real-estate market.

If the pilot program is successful, New York could ultimately overturn a requirement established in 1987 that all new apartments be at least 400 square feet. Smaller living is a concept already endorsed by some cities. San Francisco recently approved construction of apartments as small as 220 square feet. And Tokyo and Hong Kong have long offered tiny units.

As a way to get New Yorkers to think small, the Museum of the City of New York is opening an exhibit Wednesday featuring a fully furnished 325-square-foot studio apartment that incorporates the latest space-saving designs. There's the bed that folds out over a couch, a padded ottoman containing four nesting chairs, a fold-out dinette table tucked neatly under the kitchen counter and a TV that slides away to reveal a bar.

Neuman was amazed at how much more spacious and airy the demonstration apartment felt than his own flat.

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