The Hunt: For the Love of a Dog and Duane Reade

The Hunt

For the Love of a Dog and Duane Reade

A first-time buyer combs the Upper East Side for a place to make his beloved pup — and himself — happy.

Mitch Leff and Mazel at home in their new Upper East Side apartment.CreditCreditBrad Dickson for The New York Times

After graduating from Rutgers University in 2011, Mitch Leff, a New Jersey native, moved into a Chinatown walk-up with a friend, then rented a studio on the Upper East Side. From there, he decided to try a trendier location downtown, so he rented a studio in a Financial District condominium, and lived there happily for two years.

“It was perfect,” he said. “There was a Dunkin’ Donuts in my building.”

Mr. Leff would see dogs come and go, dimly aware that owners — but not renters — were allowed to have them in the building. So he adopted Mazel, a miniature goldendoodle.

“I felt the pressure of being 30 and single, and I wanted companionship,” he said. “I was doing a little soul-searching in my life. I brought home a Jewish woman, but she has four legs.”

But as soon as Mr. Leff dropped off his 9-week-old puppy at his apartment and left to return the Zipcar, the doorman called. Mazel was barking; neighbors were complaining. He learned that he was not allowed to have a dog.

Mazel didn’t yet have her shots. She wasn’t house trained. She was too young for doggy day care. “Having a puppy in the city and being a single person is almost impossible,” Mr. Leff said. “There are a million barriers to entry to having a puppy.”

Mr. Leff’s new home has plenty of space for Mazel to run around, as well as ample closet space and a spot for a dining table.CreditBrad Dickson for The New York Times

Panicked, he took the pup to his parents’ house in Essex County, N.J., where they agreed to care for her while he figured out what to do. He visited every weekend.

“So Mazel is living in Jersey and I am missing her like crazy,” Mr. Leff said. He knew he had to move.

“I always had this thing in my head,” he said. “If I was 30 and still single, I would do something drastic, like buy an apartment.”

In the meantime, he focused on “the only thing that mattered — taking care of Mazel,” and signed a one-year lease on a dog-friendly studio in Lenox Hill. He had an easy commute to his job in TriBeCa, where he works in private health care.

There, Mr. Leff, now 31, “learned to live in New York with a dog.” That included “managing her bathroom schedule, her day care schedule, her vet schedule and my travel schedule.”

Last winter, with the help of his friend Charlie Panoff, a licensed sales agent at Triplemint, Mr. Leff embarked on a hunt for a one-bedroom in a dog-friendly condominium. His price range was $700,000 to $900,000. Online, he was enticed by several new buildings in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with tax abatements.

“I warned him that you don’t know what those taxes will be when it’s time to sell,” Mr. Panoff said. “He didn’t know much about Greenpoint.”

The taxes notwithstanding, when Mr. Leff visited and realized there was no subway station, Greenpoint was out. A better bet was the less cool, albeit familiar and accessible, territory of the Upper East Side and its many postwar apartment houses.


On East 85th Street near Lexington Avenue, a one-bedroom was asking $895,000. But it was too far from Mr. Leff’s preferred Q train.CreditBrad Dickson for The New York Times

“If I was going to buy a home, I wanted it to be all-inclusive — elevator, doorman, full-service building,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to own.”

On East 85th Street near Lexington Avenue, a one-bedroom was asking $895,000, with monthly charges of $1,600.

“I want people to get perspective and see what a little bit more money can get you, and a little bit less,” Mr. Panoff said. This building was in “what most people would consider a better location.” But not people like Mr. Leff, who relied on the new Second Avenue Q train for his commute.

To see newer construction for a similar price, they headed up to East Harlem. A one-bedroom with a balcony in a 2007 building on East 104th Street had been converted to a two-bedroom. It was asking $850,000, with monthly charges of almost $1,740.

The area, north of Metropolitan Hospital, felt desolate, with a housing project across the street and little commerce, save for small takeout places. Mr. Leff noted the lack of a Duane Reade. He retreated back down to the comfort and convenience of the Upper East Side.


A one-bedroom with a balcony on East 104th Street in East Harlem had been converted to a two-bedroom. It was asking $850,000, but the area lacked the amenities Mr. Leff was looking for.CreditBrad Dickson for The New York Times

At a condominium on East 79th Street, several one-bedrooms were available. One, on a high floor, was nicely updated inside and came with a balcony, which Mr. Leff found windy and scary at night, and unsafe for the dog. It was asking $950,000 and later sold for $968,000. His favorite — and the least expensive — was on a low floor with no balcony and an older kitchen. It had around 650 boxy square feet, with ample closet space, a spot for a dining table, and a view of a low rooftop that allowed for plenty of northern light. It was $799,000.

“I didn’t care about the view,” he said. “I didn’t care what floor it was on. I felt a good vibe.”

He bought it last spring for $785,000. Monthly charges are in the low $1,400s. “I’ve been so happy with it, beyond what I thought,” he said. “Mazel has so much room to play. I care unconditionally for this dog.”


Mr. Leff chose a one-bedroom on a low floor in this building on East 79th Street. “I didn’t care about the view,” he said. “I didn’t care what floor it was on. I felt a good vibe.”CreditBrad Dickson for The New York Times

She still barks at bells, buzzers and hallway passers-by, but on the rare occasions she is left alone, she goes to her crate for a treat and dozes off to classical music.

When Mr. Leff goes off to work, Mazel goes off to day care. “I walk her neurotically,” he said. “She has had one accident in the apartment so far.”

In his building, dogs use the service entrance. “Mazel has her own private, exclusive entrance,” he said. The many dog owners in his building connect on Instagram, and Mr. Leff documents his dog’s life on Mazeldoodle.

“It was good to look at more expensive places, so when I found my place I knew I was making the right choice,” he said. “I look out the window and there’s a view of Pinkberry — I get peanut butter for myself and a sample of vanilla for Mazel. There is a 24-hour Duane Reade in my building. That is like a home to me.”


For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.


Published at Thu, 27 Dec 2018 10:00:07 +0000