NYC’s micro apartments push the limits of downsized living

Construction of New York City's micro apartments, by Capsys, a modular manufacturer,  is going on at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, April 9, 2015. Once the apartments are completed, they will be moved to Manhattan.
Construction of New York City’s micro apartments, by Capsys, a modular manufacturer, is going on at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, April 9, 2015. Once the apartments are completed, they will be moved to Manhattan. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Sam Greenwood

New York’s housing crisis is a big problem but to help solve it, the city is thinking small.

Next month will mark the final construction phase of the My Micro NY pilot program that will create a nine-story apartment building in Kips Bay made up of studio apartments between 260 and 360 square feet, less than the current legal minimum of 400.

Although that sure doesn’t offer enough space for a pool table, architects and housing advocates believe the model is a viable one to create more affordable housing.

“There is an unmet demand for small units, because the number of one-bedroom households has grown,” said Tobias Oriwol, My Micro NY’s project manager.

There are about 1.8 million one to two person households in New York; however, there are only one million studio and one-bedroom apartments, the city said in 2013. 

Oriwol said developers’ focus on larger than one-bedroom units has meant “people are subdividing all over the place and it’s often illegal and uncomfortable.”

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed the micro apartments idea in 2012 and Brooklyn architect firm nArchitects won the bid in 2013 and it is developed by Monadnock Development.

The 55 units are currently being built in a warehouse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. A team of 50 workers is constructing each apartment in the style of an assembly line, starting with the steel frame, adding the walls, sheet rock and ceiling, then the flooring, modern kitchen and bathroom — which has a shower but not a tub.

At the end of May, the team will ship the micro units to the lot at 335 E. 27th St. where a crane will stack each unit, along with stairs, an elevator and other amenities, to create the building. Oriwol said rentals will take place around the end of the year, with 33 units going for market rate while the others will be affordable units.


He said the pricing is still being worked out but predicted it will come in at below $3,000 a month for all units.

“These are smaller spaces, so the market should dictate that they would be cheaper,” he said.

Rosemary Wakeman, the director of the urban studies program at Fordham University, said the idea will appeal to many New Yorkers.

“They aren’t as concerned about square footage as they are about a good space and one close to social venues that they can enjoy,” she said.

Some New Yorkers were mixed on the proposal. Mike Soffer, 37, who lives in a Park Slope brownstone with his wife and their dog, said that micro units would be perfect for New Yorkers who are starting out.

“Anything they can do to help make affordable housing is great,” he said.

On the other hand, Emily Tyner, 34, of Prospect Leffrets Gardens, said the city should look for methods other than building “a subway car apartment.”

“Who would want to live in that when you could move to an outer borough and pay less for more space?” she asked.

If the pilot program succeeds, the city might consider changing current zoning that limits apartments to a minimum of 400 square feet. 

Margaret Newman, the executive director of the Municipal Arts Society, said the city should strongly consider the change to the 28-year-old zoning restrictions and predicted that the micro apartments would catch on.

“The concept will be clear to people,” she said. “You have to meet 21st century needs.”


– The 55 apartments will be part of a nine-story building located at 335 East 27th St., between First and Second avenues.

– The apartments will be between 260 and 360 square feet, roughly the size of a subway car.

– The rooms include a kitchen, and bathroom with modern amenities.

– 33 will be market rate; 22 will be affordable?