What The Cast of “Rent” Would Have Really Paid In East Village Circa 1990
Sponsored by AT&T Performing Arts Center
People have been anxiously scribbling their monthly dues to landlords for centuries?—?but anyone who’s seen the Broadway musical “Rent,” believes it was especially trying for young artists struggling to survive in New York City’s East Village in the budding 90s.
When we first meet Mark and Roger, they’re living in an industrial loft that’s far from up-to-code. Despite their illegal wood-burning stove and the growing community of tented people in the neighboring lot, they can’t afford their junky space.
As a 20-something who laments each month when half my paycheck goes to Bil-Mar Management, I wondered how Roger and Mark’s monthly fee measured up. Monica, Joey and Rachel never seemed to worry about money despite their on-and-off employment, so I just assumed New York in the 90s was manageable.
According to Village Voice real-estate want section circa 1992, an apartment in East Village would’ve run Ol’ Roger and Mark approximately $900-$1,250/month. After calculating inflation, the cost of their rent has the same buying power as $1,843.87 in 2016. Their dumpy loft wasn’t astronomical, but certainly wasn’t cheap?—?especially for two dudes without “conventional” jobs.
Some ads from October 1992 list rent at $475 for a shared two-bedroom apartment. In October 1994, a 1 bedroom + study on 104 Ave and 7th St. with “new windows and appliances” was listed for just $1,250.
The real estate market is ever-changing, and so is the value of the dollar. With today’s average East Village hovering around around $3,800, it seems impossible there was a time when one could find a whole apartment for as low as $300 a month. How much were East Villagers getting for their money in the psychedelic 70s and the punk rock 80s?
Here’s the fascinating evolution of New York City’s East Village real estate:
“Rent” changed American theatre when it first debuted in 1996. Now, it’s returning to the stage for a 20th anniversary touring production. This year’s brilliant cast will re-deliver Puccini’s message, reinforcing the importance of love and friendship in times of turmoil.
Tickets are available now for the tour’s kickoff on Tuesday, Sept. 20.