‘Friends’: Monica and Rachel’s Apartment Number Makes No Sense

A Friends reunion will be coming to HBO Max when the service launches in May 2020. Months of speculation are officially over, and fans can get to work rewatching the series either on DVD or through digital download until then. For those who do decide a rewatch is in order, there is one serious plothole that is almost impossible to ignore. The apartment numbers used for Monica and Rachel’s apartment, as well as Chandler and Joey’s unit, are entirely wrong, even after the art department tried to fix it.

Friends writers changed the apartment numbers early on in the series

When the series opens, Monica and Rachel live in apartment number 5, while Joey and Chandler occupy apartment number 4. The apartment numbers didn’t match the exterior view, which utilized an apartment building located on Bedford Street. The show’s art department rectified the error sometime during the first season.

Fans first noticed that the number change during “The One With Ross’s New Girlfriend.” In the episode, Rachel sprints up the steps to beat Ross and his new girlfriend, Julie, up the stairs. She stands with the door open, attempting to catch her breath and the apartment number is easily visible. Gone is the prominent number 5. Instead, the apartment is now number 20. According to Screen Rant, the art department switched out the numbers so it would better match the view from the apartment’s large window, which is clearly located on an upper floor of the building. While the attempt to fix the error was a reasonable effort, it still wasn’t quite right.

New York City apartments generally don’t rely on a simple numbering system

While the writers of Friends might have caught the issue early on in the series, their correction is just as inaccurate as their original numbering system. New York City buildings rarely only number their apartments. If you were living in Manhattan, you wouldn’t live in apartment #1 or apartment number #22.  Instead, New York City and much of the surrounding area assign each apartment a number, which correlates to the floor the unit is on, and a letter, to differentiate it from the neighboring units. Alternatively, some buildings are numbered with three digits, and the first digit denotes the floor the property is on.

Monica and Rachel’s apartment, as well as Chandler and Joey’s unit, was supposedly on the third floor of the walkup building. Theoretically, the apartment addresses should have been 3A and 3B, not 4 and 5 or even 19 and 20. Even using the alternate, three-digit system, the apartments would be 301 and 302. The building, located at 90 Bedford Street, uses the number and letter system to label its units, according to Street Easy, for what it is worth.

If the building was to simply number their units, the writer’s numbering choices would still be wrong. Built in 1899, the building offers 22, one-bedroom units for rent. The first floor of the building contains retail space, as well as apartments. Assuming the first floor offers 2 units, with the other five floors housing 4 units each, The gangs’ apartments would not be number 19 and 20. Theoretically, they would have been units 7 and 8.

Monica and Rachel’s apartment is unrealistic for other reasons, too

Many Friends fans coveted the apartment Rachel and Monica got to call home. Many New York City residents did, too. There is a good reason for that. The apartment as completely unrealistic and would not exist, at least in the building that was used for the show’s exterior shots.

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According to 6SQFT, 90 Bedford street is what is considered a “dumbbell tenement.” Under the building codes, when the structure was constructed, builders were only required to provide a small airshaft and a single window in each bedroom. In most scenarios, a person living in one unit could reach out and touch the neighboring building, because of how narrow the shaft between buildings often was.

While Joey and Chandler’s setup is far more realistic, Monica and Rachel would be hardpressed to actually find an apartment with such large windows in a West Village building. Even with the unrealistic apartment and the inconsistent numbering system, we are all excited to see a Friends reunion.