In 2003, Stephanie Diamond started the Listings Project as an online resource for renters looking for temporary space. Every Wednesday, the Listing Project sends out an email blast to its subscribers detailing hundreds of places to rent or sublease. These spaces can be anything from offices to artist’s studios and apartments. StreetEasy got the chance to speak one-on-one with Stephanie and ask her about her life, work and art.

Stephanie Diamond, local artist and founder of the Listings Project

Stephanie Diamond, local artist and founder of the Listings Project

StreetEasy: How did the idea for the Listings Project first come about?
Stephanie Diamond: Well, it was less of an idea and more like filling a need. At the time, I really needed a place to stay, so I emailed my friends who were living in the New York area asking if anybody knew someone looking to rent out or maybe sublet. I had grown up in the area as well, so I already knew many people around the city. So people started sending me things, and I was able to find a place pretty quickly. From there it kind of snowballed, because people kept sending things to me, so I started to compile them, and it turned into a business. But it definitely started out as a need.

SE: How does the Listings Project fit into your life now?
SD: I still work full-time as an artist, and I think of the Listings Project as just another piece of art. All of my art revolves around a theme of community and how people help one another, which is very much what the Listings Project is all about, as well. I’ve always been in touch with the art community, and it started out from my community of friends in the art world, so I try to keep that in mind when I’m doing my work for the Listings Project.

SE: Since you’ve been working in the New York area for so long through the Listings Project, do you feel like you’ve gotten to know it pretty well?
SD: Oh, absolutely. I was born and raised in the city, so I’ve always felt very deeply connected to it. The best thing about the popularity of the Listings Project is that it’s expanded to so many different cities, all around the world. So I feel like I’m getting to know the entire world the way I know New York.

The Listings Project is a weekly email service to help everyone find a home they love in New York. (Source: Spencer Means via Flickr Creative Commons)The Listings Project is a weekly email service to help everyone find a home they love in New York. (Source: Spencer Means via Flickr Creative Commons)

SE: How does your process work, when you get listings from people who want to be featured in your emails?
SD: Well, my project manager and I personally go through every listing we receive. We read everything the lister has sent us, look at all the photos they’ve attached, and then we email back with the lister, often multiple times. A lot of the time people have left things out, or we want more information, better pictures. If a listing feels fishy, we sometimes ask to talk to the landlord and see the lease.

SE: That sounds like it could take a while.
SD: Oh, it definitely takes a long time, but for me, the priority and my intention with the Listings Project is to take deep care of everyone who subscribes to this service. Moving is one of the most stressful times in someone’s life. I know when I’m going through that I want to be treated well, with care and respect, so that’s what we try to provide for everybody.

Listings Project subscribers find places to live and work all over the city

Listings Project subscribers find places to live and work all over the city. (Source: wburg via Flickr Creative Commons)

SE: What is your vetting process like?

SD: There aren’t a whole lot of restrictions on who can and can’t post a listing. There’s really only a couple of rules; we don’t allow any listings provided by brokers or management companies for the properties, and we don’t allow any listings with broker fees. It’s all person-to-person interaction. We ask for detailed descriptions of the spaces, and of who you’ll be living with, if there are roommates. We’re very transparent in our process, so we ask that our listers be transparent as well. We obviously try our best to make sure there are no scams, but those are pretty rare.

It’s all very community-oriented: we want to take care of our community, make sure it’s safe and connected, and that everyone can find a home they love in New York. We read our testimonials, meet with listers, sometimes we send out surveys and have focus groups, too — all to make sure our community is happy with the way it’s working.

SE: Once you have your listings all vetted, how does that then turn into the weekly email?

SD: The deadline to post and edit listings is Tuesday at 10 [the week before the email is sent.] Dana and I then read everything over, import the listings to our mailing provider, and for the next week, we correspond with the listers, and figure out more details about their listings. Then by [the following] Wednesday it’s all ready to be sent out.

Once the listings are sent out, the contact information for each lister is right there, so I don’t go back and forth with anyone after that. My week is really just a flurry of back and forth; we vet stories, make sure our site is running smoothly, work with our consultants and staff members, and ensure everything is working the way it should. Sometimes there are even days off, which is nice.

The Listings Project caters to all sorts of budgets and needs

The Listings Project caters to all sorts of budgets and needs. (Source: Jacques Lebleu via Flickr Creative Commons)

SE: It looks like you have a pretty even mix of different types of spaces, and different price ranges on your list. How does that come about?

SD: We just naturally get listings of all types, so it changes with the time of year. Many students look for places around September, and a lot of people sublet their places if they’re going on vacation for the holidays or for summer. It’s constantly in flux. As for the price ranges, it varies depending on the neighborhood.

The popularity of different places changes over the years, so now we have neighborhoods like Bushwick and Bed-Stuy that are popular, so they might have a higher rent, whereas places in the Bronx might be lower. In general we get a lot of owners making their own listings, since we don’t allow brokers or fees; so we get owners who like to get to know their tenants, know they’re making a good choice.

SE: Knowing the city so well, do you have a favorite area or neighborhood?

SD: That’s a tough question! Right now, my daughter and I live together, so we love to be near Prospect Park, which is the area we live in right now. We love nature, so any neighborhood that has good access to the park is good for us. The benefits vary by neighborhood: we could get a bigger place in Ditmas, but Park Slope is really close to the park. When I was younger, I used to gravitate towards areas with lots of young people. I preferred to be nearer to the subway, near the parties, and all the cool places to hang out.

The Listing Project services a broad audience ranging from artists and renters to sublettors and home-owners.

The Listing Project services a broad audience ranging from artists and renters to sublettors and home-owners. (Source: wburg via Flickr Creative Commons)

SE: Tell me a little bit about what your life has been like in different neighborhoods.

SD: I grew up on the Upper West Side. It was very different back then, it was the 70s and 80s, so it’s changed a lot since then. I went to the Rhode Island School of Design for college, which is pretty much the only time I’ve been out of the city. Then when I came back I lived in Greenpoint, Long Island City — at that point there was only one big building there — then the West Village, then Forest Hills, then the West Village again, then Carroll Gardens, and now I live in Prospect Heights.

SE: Do you have any horror stories about any of those places you were in?
SD: Actually, I’ve never really been in that level of terrible living space situation. I’ve heard of many people in those difficult situations, I mean, we all have, but it’s never really happened to me. The only thing that really comes to mind is my freshman year of college, my roommate at RISD. We were just very different people. When we first talked on the phone, her first question to me was “What do your bed linens look like?” I love interior design and things, of course, but I’m a lot more interested in the people in a space before the space itself. My roommate moved out after a while, so I ended up having the double to myself. After college, I never really had a roommate again until I was living with my husband.

SE: What’s the most difficult or frustrating thing about living in New York City?

SD: It’s really difficult to live in New York. There’s a lot of space, it’s really everywhere, but it’s so hard to get into that empty space. There are so many vacant apartments, I sometimes pass entire buildings that are empty, and yet we’re all jam-packed into these tiny places with all that open space right next door.

For Stephanie, the city never gets old.

For Stephanie, the city never gets old. (Source: Lihn Nguyen via Flickr Creative Commons)

SE: What’s the best thing about living in NYC?

SD: I have many, many favorite things about living here. Ultimately, it’s all about the people — being able to walk down the street and bump into your neighbors and friends after a busy day, and getting to just be with them, it’s great. Of course, you make time to see your friends, but people are just really accessible and there’s a constant sense of community that I love. Sometimes it’s overwhelming and I’d rather live alone, like on a farm, but I think I’d go crazy after a few days. It gets busy in the city, but that’s one of the best parts.

SE: How has the Listings Project impacted the way you live, or the way you look at the city?

SD: I think it’s very moving when I hear back from successful listers or subscribers who were able to find a place. The Listings Project is so incredible — I’ve never solicited people to share, it’s always their choice. It’s a unique experience for all of us to come together with this need, and to be taken care of and personally serviced. That’s rare in the world of real estate, but it’s also rare in the Internet age. None of this is automated, it’s all personal.

The impact of Stephanie’s work is apparent in the gratitude community members feel when they’ve a place to work or live. She’s received many letters of thanks over the years, but this one stuck out.

Many thanks for this generous project.  I found a great apartment through the listing. It seems that you and your contributors are living in keeping with Allan Kaprow’s thought that “the line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible.”

I look forward to seeing your other works and crossing paths in NYC.

Abbraccio –Daniel

The service is free for email subscribers. There is a fee for those who list their properties. To learn more about Stephanie Diamond or her work, visit the Listings Project website or her personal website