Capital New York reporter Azi Paybarah noticed the above open letter in the Red Hook area this weekend. We've come across plenty of weird signs plastered on trees, bus stops and lampposts—but we were struck by the rhyming couplets of this one, the affectionate sincerity for the area, as well as James Carpenter's decision to put all his information out there. And we were curious: why does he want to stay in Red Hook so badly? And do people really respond to such postings?
We weren't the first to be charmed by Carpenter's apartment flyer-slash-poem: Curbed and Pardon Me For Asking both noticed it last month. Brokelyn also picked it up and decided to take up his cause. So did it work? "I wasn't thinking I'd have many responses, but so far I've had about forty or fifty," Carpenter told us. "Virtually all of them positive, and some with real apartment leads that I've been following up."
Carpenter explained his current living situation to us: he broke up with his girlfriend, whom he shared a one-bedroom on the border of Red Hook/Carroll Gardens, in January. He can't afford his rent there anymore, so he turned to Craigslist and brokers for help searching for a new place for him and his cat. He said it became a frustrating experience very quickly, one which most New Yorkers have had to go through at some point: "The crooked parts of their industry run entirely on helplessness and isolation," he said. "Feeling that you have nobody else to turn to makes you feel all the more pressured to jump at whatever crumb of an apartment they might let drop for you, at whatever insane cost, just to have somewhere to go."
Carpenter noted that he and his girlfriend only found their old place through happenstance, from random friends randomly asking other friends if they knew about anything: "It was lucky, but it was luck that was able to happen because we were bringing others in and sharing our search with them." Which is what led him to making the sign: "I thought, if nothing else it'll introduce me to some other people who like rhyming couplets!"
It turned out that the poem wasn't actually all about Red Hook: he placed the flyer in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and Carroll Garden as well. (Now the jealous neighborhoods will all conspire to make sure he won't live in them.) "Those aren't all the same neighborhood, by any stretch, but they hold a continuous appeal for me," he explained. "They're all communities, neighborhoods built for living in, that are really lived in fondly by the people there. All of them are great places for walking, for going out, for staying in, for working, for creating, for making and growing things, for talking to your neighbors."
Carpenter is currently staying with some friends in Greenpoint while he continues his search. And considering all the responses and leads he's gotten, it seems his strategy may have worked: "I'm starting to see that simply asking for and accepting help from friends and strangers, as you would hope they'd ask and accept it from you in similar straits, is the cure for all the panic and isolation that makes apartment-hunting so infamously miserable in this city. None of us ought to live with that if we can help it, and help each other help it."