A few years later, though, they found themselves in need of more space: There were twins on the way, and Ms. Pathak’s mother, Vimal Pathak, would be joining them from Mumbai to help care for the babies.
The couple wanted to remain in Yorkville, where they could get home from work quickly if necessary. And they liked having John Jay Park and good public schools nearby. So they started their search for a four-bedroom co-op in the 70s and 80s east of Second Avenue.
Their price range was wide: maybe $1 million if they had to put money into renovations, or as much as $2 million for a place in near-perfect condition. Most options they found were in 1960s-era buildings similar to the one they were living in.
On East 77th Street, they were interested in two one-bedrooms being sold together and marketed as a bring-your-architect deal. “I liked the idea of a fixer-upper,” said Ms. Pathak, who had been pleased with their renovation. “That is how we got both apartments at low prices.”
But the asking price was $1.65 million, which seemed high for the work needed. And the monthly maintenance was almost $2,400, although the building didn’t have a doorman, so it wasn’t hard for them to pass on it.
Nearby, in an East End Avenue building, three options appeared, all with views of the East River.
One was a three-bedroom on a high floor with a dining room that could be converted to a bedroom. It was listed at $1.895 million, with maintenance of around $3,300, which also seemed high. It later sold for $1.815 million.
There were two options to buy and combine apartments on lower floors, both uncomfortably pricey: One set of apartments was slightly over $2 million, and the other slightly under.
The prospect of renovating, moving and timing the sale of their place “started to feel like a lot of work for two older parents,” said Ms. Pathak, who was also concerned that some of the balconies were directly above the F.D.R. Drive, with its noisy traffic.
Staying put began to seem more appealing. And that was when they remembered the apartment next to them, an alcove studio that had sat vacant for years. They contacted the owner, who had retired and moved south, and after some negotiating, bought it for $305,000. Their maintenance is now around $4,000 a month.
Waiting for permits took months, and since construction started in the early summer, they have been living with dust and plastic, a situation that is even more challenging with one-year-old twins.
“Our whole life has shrunk to our living room and bedroom space,” Ms. Pathak said. “It is very constricted. My son wants to run around, and my daughter wants to follow him.”
But now that the renovation is nearly complete, she added, “There is light at the end of this long tunnel.”
“I am glad we decided to do this,” Dr. Lappin said. “We are looking forward to the kids having their own room, so we don’t have to wake up when they wake up” — something that is unavoidable at the moment, as Uma and Sahm sleep in their parents’ bedroom, in Finnish-style baby boxes.
When Ms. Pathak and Dr. Lappin visit their friends in the suburbs, they marvel at the space. Still, they are convinced they made the right decision.
“Our friends got married and all moved out of the city,” Ms. Pathak said. “They have massive homes with all the room in the world. What life is better? For us, the answer is: City life is our life.”