Business: Playing Rental Roulette

Skyscraper prices leave apartment seekers flat broke

The newspaper ad described it as a "charming penthouse with fireplace" in a "restored town house." But when the apartment-hunting couple gave a taxi driver the address in lower Manhattan's East Village, he blurted: "That's the combat zone! I'm not going there, buddy." The couple finally pulled up in front of a building that had rats scurrying up the narrow stairs, cockroaches dancing in the fetid rooms and bars on the narrow windows. The "fireplace" was a drawing with colored flames. Rent? "Well," rasped the agent, "they're...

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