Kelsey Kotzur moved to New York City in 2015 and has since built a TikTok following of more than 144,000 with depictions of her fabulous life in the Big Apple. Some of her popular videos show her strutting across crosswalks with the Empire State Building peeking out behind her, strolling through Central Park in a new outfit and brunching in Brooklyn.
“This video makes me want to pack up and move to ny to wear cute dresses and go to central park,” a user replied to one of her clips.
The problem? After seven years, Kotzur — who has been a full-time content creator for the last year-and-a-half — no longer lives in NYC. In July, the 29-year-old fashion influencer’s rent for her two-bedroom in Greenpoint shot up from $3,900 to $5,485 — forcing her to move back to her small hometown of Plattsburgh, NY.
“I am currently trying to get approved for an apartment [in NYC] but it’s nearly impossible because no one really understands my income and what I do. So that’s been pretty difficult,” Kotzur told The Post.
Influencers, creatives and other gig economy workers are struggling to sign leases in the highly competitive NYC rental market despite the city being a major hub for their lines of work. More than one-third of the apartments available to rent in the second quarter of this year became available after people were priced out of their homes due to rising rents, a report from StreetEasy found. Earlier this year, The Post reported that a landlord evicted an entire building of longtime Manhattan artists.
Without paystubs proving a guaranteed salary backed by a third-party company, they said they’re having to go to exhaustive lengths to keep their Empire State of mind a reality — even, in some cases, with six-figure incomes.
Struggling on a six-figure income
Kotzur told The Post she is estimated to earn an astonishing $250,000 this year on top of an “excellent” credit score. Her main source of income came from deals with brands such as Skims and Delta Airlines. Still, they can be sporadic, and these days, landlords have their pick of tenants.
“It’s hard to get these landlords, who are from an older generation, to understand what I’m doing. This is a full-time job,” she said of social-media influencing-as-work.
Many of the landlords who Kotzur has spoken to insist that she find a guarantor and that they provide two years worth of paystubs, despite the fact that she makes 40 times the rent.
“I am missing out on a ton of opportunities while I’m away from the city,” she said. “Career-wise, I’m definitely taking some losses.”
And so she has taken to making the six-hour trip into the city for days at a time to squeeze in as many meetings and opportunities for content creation as she can.
“I am an influencer, this is my job and being in New York is where all of my jobs come from,” Kotzur said.
The growing gig economy
About 36%, or 57.3 million, workers in the US are currently participating in the gig economy, with more than 50% likely to participate by 2027, according to a 2022 report from project management software company TeamStage. But the unreliability of their income can be a red flag to landlords.
Marissa Meizz, 25, said she recently struggled to secure an apartment rental in the city, endangering her 471.7K TikTok following — and her livelihood.
Meizz first went viral in May 2021, when a TikToker overheard a group of friends in a park talking about purposely excluding their friend Marissa from their party. It turned out that she was the Marissa in question, and so she used her newfound social-media fame to begin the No More Lonely Friends movement — hosting meet-ups in Central Park to make new friends and sharing clips of the creative chaos of her life in the city that never sleeps.
“If I wasn’t living in New York … I don’t think that any of my content would have become what it is today,” she told The Post.
Meizz has lived in NYC for about three years now — paying about $1,000 in monthly rent for apartment shares in the East Village and Brooklyn. But, as her social-media career took off — she said she expects to make $100,000 this year — she sought to strike out on her own.
But despite earning more than ever, the full-time content creator couldn’t find anyone to believe her. “It was just so hard to get someone to trust me,” she said.
“I literally had to beg my landlord,” Meizz said. “I wrote a cover letter, I gave every single invoice that I made in the last year, I gave them proof of my income and everything and they still said that I didn’t make enough and that I still didn’t have enough proof so they wanted a guarantor.”
Meizz eventually gave in and paid the extra $1,500 to secure a third-party guarantor and signed a lease on her $2,500-a-month Greenpoint apartment in November after nearly two months of obsessive hunting.
“People don’t really recognize that the little things that keep the city going are the artists,” Meizz said. “A city like New York is where my stuff thrives.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.