Obama's NYC Apartment: Cheap Enough for a College Kid

President Obama and Columbia UniversityFor just $1,900 a month you can live in the New York City one-bedroom apartment that President Obama and his then-roommate, Phil Boerner, squeezed into during their junior year at Columbia University. The pad, located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood, presumably rented for a lot less in the 1980s, and perhaps provides a lesson to young city-dwellers about the virtues of frugal living.

Even now, the modest apartment is well-priced.

"I spoke to the owner about the price," says real estate agent Dalila Bella, who is representing the property. "It isn't a raised price. They said they wouldn't put the price higher just because the president lived there."

Obama and Boerner might have saved more money if they had lived in the Columbia dorms, but since both were transfer students from Occidental College in Los Angeles, they weren't eligible for university housing.

But considering their financial limitations back then, the young men didn't do half bad.


Once upon a time, back in 1981, the wall of the long narrow hallway in apartment 3E of 142 West 109th Street might have been the perfect space for the president's birth certificate, and today die-hard Obama supporters can find little has changed since the future commander-in-chief spent late nights studying and chain-smoking. (No birth certificate though, jokes Bella.)

While there is nothing in the apartment to write home to Hawaii about, there is an allure to 3E as Bella understandably suggests in her Craigslist ad: "This is your opportunity to live where the President lived!"

The setup suggests a young man who took his studying seriously. The apartment where the president and a roommate crashed is a one-bedroom, three-room railroad apartment on the third floor of a walk-up -- typical student digs for the neighborhood. The view pales when compared to that of Pennsylvania Avenue, though a windowless office is ideal for someone who doesn't want distraction.

The listing describes the kitchen as a chef's kitchen with new appliances and cabinets. But based on the accompanying photos, the kitchen-like space is tiny enough that one may assume that Obama took advantage of the numerous takeout options in a neighborhood known for its delicious cheap eats.

While it's nothing glamorous, there are some subtly cool details, such as exposed brick walls and cherrywood floors. Plus, it is a convenient couple of blocks to the subway.

"It's perfect for people who go to Columbia University, for two people who want to share an apartment," says Bella.

"The truth is I've seen tons of apartments," she adds. "But when I went in to see this one for the first time yesterday, I felt a special fire, a special feeling. I was inspired. To think someone living in the this small space went on to the big house, the White House, is very inspiring. When I walked in I was like: 'Wow, our president lived in this tiny apartment.' "


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