Mattie Ettenheim and Courtney Byrne-Mitchell met eight years ago while working at the Museum at Eldridge Street. Later, both took jobs in the corporate world.
“We doubled our salaries, and it made the concept of buying actually realistic,” Mattie said. “There is no way we could have afforded to buy anything in the city while we were working in nonprofits.”
The couple rented in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, and married three years ago, creating a portmanteau surname, Byrneheim.
“We were aggressively saving for our future,” said Mattie, 34, who works for a tech company. Courtney, 33, works in corporate philanthropy.
After a few years, eager to buy and planning for a baby, they moved to a rental in a co-op in Jackson Heights, Queens, to try out the area.
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“There are things you can’t know about a neighborhood until you live there,” Mattie said. In Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, for example, they lived near the infrequent 2 train, two stops after it split from the 3 train, and would often wait in frustration as several 3 trains passed by.
“We didn’t want to live in the neighborhood without knowing those little quirks that you can’t know if you don’t live there,” she said.
They chose Jackson Heights in part for its food, particularly Indian. “You can get food from anywhere in the world,” Courtney said. “We love street food. There are incredible taco trucks, momo trucks and fuchka trucks.”
Their co-op building limited rentals to three years. “We liked that we had an end date,” Mattie said, as it forced them to make a decision. The apartment was too small, but they had fallen for the neighborhood.
With a budget of up to $800,000, they were hoping to find at least two bedrooms in an elevator co-op building within walking distance of an express train to Manhattan. Mattie wanted a place that got southern and western light; Courtney didn’t care which direction the windows faced.
“We realized that windows don’t really equate to light,” Courtney said. She also discovered an aversion to hallways that were long or wide, which struck her as wasted space.
“Mattie did everything, and I showed up and told her what I thought was wrong,” Courtney said. “I am good at coming into the situation and poking holes through things. Mattie brought me only to the ones that made the final cut.”
The buildings they saw in the area were similar, often with a common courtyard, and most of the two-bedrooms had one bathroom and a dining area.
Among their options:
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Read More: Getting to Know Jackson Heights and Its Two-Bedrooms. Which One Would You Choose?