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Tiny apartments are technically illegal in New York City, but thousands of them exist

Megan Willett
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NYC Mayor's Office One rendering for the My Micro NY apartments coming to New York City. City-approved micro apartments are coming to New York this spring in Manhattan's Kips Bay.  

Known as My Micro NY, the apartments won a design competition back in 2013 and are being built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard,  according to The New York Times .

The units range from 260 to 360 square feet and have some amazing amenities such as big windows, storage space, Juliet balconies, public areas, a café, a rooftop garden, and more.  

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NYC Mayor's Office Different setups for New York's new micro apartments. Michael Bloomberg, then New York's mayor, allowed the My Micro NY units as an exception to the 1987 zoning laws, which say "a dwelling unit shall have an area of at least 400 square feet of floor area."

Yet even today, thousands of New Yorkers live in apartments much tinier than 400 square feet because the law did not penalize homes built prior to 1987.

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NYC Mayor's Office The exterior rendering of the My Micro NY apartments. In fact, Jonathan J. Miller, president of the real-estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel, told The Times an estimated 3,000 apartments in the city were below the zoning-mandated square footage.

But some New Yorkers think the trade-off of less space for lower rent is worth it.

"Sure there are some compromises, but it's worth it," author and artist Felice Cohen said to FairCompanies.com in 2010. Cohen lived in a 90-square-foot apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side.   

Cohen's apartment didn't even have a kitchen or a bedroom, but she paid only $700 for rent and lived quite comfortably.  The FairCompanies.com video of her apartment went viral and has been viewed about 6.5 million times .

Cohen is not alone. Luke Clark Tyler in 2012 told SPACEStv he found his 78-square-foot New York apartment on Craigslist. "I think it called it a studio, which I don’t know if it qualifies as a studio," he said with a laugh.

The video, which shows how he lives in such a small space by hiding his bed and sharing a bathroom as in a college dorm, has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times.

Many New Yorkers are willing to live in tiny apartments, a fact evident in the city's waitlist for the My Micro NY units. Perhaps if the trend catches on and more small apartments are built across New York, the real-estate market will become more affordable.

"Coming home to a tiny apartment, I mean, this is what I've been doing for at least five years now," Tyler told SPACEtv. "We adapt very easily as people."

Read more about New York's coming micro-apartments here .

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