Real Estate

A Couple Came for the Jazz and Stayed for a Better Apartment

Altin Sencalar’s timing could hardly have been worse.

“New York is the destination for jazz,” said Mr. Sencalar, a jazz trombonist. So a year and a half ago, he and his wife, Marina Sencalar, signed on — sight unseen — to an apartment in Washington Heights. Mr. Sencalar planned to perform and teach, as he had done in his native Texas.

“The day I moved here was the day I got called to go on tour with Michael Bublé,” he said. For months the couple’s $2,350 three-bedroom apartment sat mostly unused, an expensive storage unit. Ms. Sencalar remained in Texas with her parents.

Six months later, the gig ended, so the couple finally moved into the apartment in Washington Heights with their two dogs. “The big cash cow was unfortunately gone,” Mr. Sencalar said. “In classic New York fashion, the highs are high and the lows are low.”

Thanks to his jazz friends, however, Mr. Sencalar easily picked up work. “There is a big community here from my grad school, Michigan State, that looks out for one another,” he said.

But the couple, who had met as college students in Texas, were increasingly frustrated with their home. In the kitchen, only one outlet worked. Several evictions were proceeding in the building. They watched a neighbor upstairs get arrested.

“Here is the classic ‘first apartment in New York’ story,” Mr. Sencalar said. “We had a leak every single day from October to May.”

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