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Seeking an Upper West Side Home That the Children Want to Visit

Dec 18, 2023Dec 18, 2023

The Hunt

By Joyce CohenJune 8, 2023

A couple of newlyweds, with six grown children between them, wanted to combine their lives in a new Manhattan apartment big enough for family dinners. Here's what they found.

Four years ago, Barbara Snyder sold her family's five-bedroom home in Princeton, N.J., after the sudden death of her husband. Her two oldest children were living in New York, while her two youngest were still in college. So she moved to the city, downsizing to an Upper West Side rental.

As the pandemic raged, Ms. Snyder and her daughter shared a two-bedroom in a high-rise on Riverside Boulevard. She had just met Joe Pigott, also recently widowed, who was living with his two teenage children in Stamford, Conn.

"Joe lost his wife within two months of me losing my husband," Ms. Snyder said. "We were on the same schedule. It's a terrible experience, but we went through it together."

Ms. Snyder, 56, runs the Iron Mike Youth Sports Foundation, which promotes sports participation for children from low-income families, in honor of her late husband, who died of a heart attack. Mr. Pigott, 59, who works in banking, lost his wife to pancreatic cancer.

The couple, who married last summer, split their time between New York City and Stamford. But as the rent on the Riverside Boulevard apartment rose — it was already pushing $9,000 — their thoughts turned to buying.

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"Having owned a home for decades and having had my little corner of the world — leaving that and living in rentals, I felt kind of unmoored," Ms. Snyder said. "I needed a home that was mine, something that felt like me."

Initially, the couple were hoping to find a one-bedroom co-op on the Upper West Side for around $1 million. But "the process of looking teaches you what you want," Ms. Snyder said. It also reminded them that, at that price, it would be tough to make a comfortable space for a big, blended family with six children and their significant others.

"I wanted a hub," she said, "a gathering place. The kids come over all the time. We sit around the table a lot. A dining room was important."

So was a place for guests to stay overnight. "It didn't have to be luxurious," Mr. Pigott said. "A very small room would be fine."

The layouts they saw rarely worked for them. "Some places had a nice kitchen, but didn't have a dining room," he said. "Or instead of a 10-by-12 living room, it was a 14-by-12 living-and-dining room," with little room for a table.

Having a washer and dryer was a priority, too. "It is a draw for my kids," Ms. Snyder said. "They come over with a laundry bag."

Through Zillow, they connected with Jenny Bryant, a saleswoman at Keller Williams NYC. At around $1 million, most places that were big enough seemed to have a fatal flaw, and many were in terrible condition.

"The inventory was low, so we agreed to raise the budget," Ms. Bryant said. The couple also realized they might have to be willing to renovate.

Among their options:

No. 1

One-Bedroom With Modern Updates

This sunny one-bedroom was around 700 square feet, in a centrally located building in the bustling West 70s. It had a new and modern renovation, a big bathroom, exposed brick and a kitchen counter with room for seating. After living on remote Riverside Boulevard, Ms. Snyder loved the area. Some units in the building had added a washer and dryer, although it was unclear whether that would be possible in this unit. The asking price was $895,000, with monthly maintenance of slightly over $2,000.

No. 2

Two-Bedroom With Possibilities

This 900-square-foot two-bedroom was on a corner at the back of the building, on a crosstown street sloping toward the West Side Highway. It had 10-foot ceilings, and there was a possibility it could be expanded — allowing for a second bedroom or a laundry room — if they bought the hallway outside, although extensive work would be required. The price was $1.095 million, with monthly maintenance of around $1,900.

No. 3

One-Bedroom With Extra Room

This one-bedroom was around 1,300 square feet, in a doorman building with a view of rooftops. It had a foyer with three closets and a separate dining room. A small "maid's room" was off the kitchen and had a half bathroom, which was "a mess because they got rid of half of it to put in a washer-dryer, and there was this icky toilet that looked like something stolen from a gas station," Mr. Pigott said. The price was $1.495 million, with maintenance of around $3,800.

Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:

Which Would You Choose?

One-Bedroom With Modern Updates

Two-Bedroom With Possibilities

One-Bedroom With Extra Room

Which Did They Buy?

One-Bedroom With Modern Updates

Two-Bedroom With Possibilities

One-Bedroom With Extra Room