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Listener Asks: Advice for Moving to New York City?


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So a listener has a friend who's maybe moving to New York City.

My best guess is that my household spent something like $10,000 on that process, which included renting an apartment we'd never seen and being asked to sign the lease in a parking lot under an elevated subway line.

Despite the horror stories about real estate, the listener and her friend have gamely sent over some questions. If you think you can help, hit the comments.

1.) Is it possible to find a livable, fairly decent apartment for under $1,000 a month, or would it be better to find roommates?
2.) What are the best times to go apartment shopping?
3.) How wise would it be for a 21-year-old small woman to live by herself the first time she's even in NY?
4.) How long does it usually take to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan?
5.) What's average for a one-bedroom or studio apt in NY?
6.) Is it generally OK to get an apartment in NY without first viewing it?
7.) In what neighborhoods does one NOT want to live?
8.) In NY, when one decides on an apartment, how much notice does the landlord need?
9.) What neighborhoods are preferable for NYU students (are there any places where NYU students tend to live in a large group)?



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i'm a listener and i'd love to know the answers to the above! we're considering a move ourselves... tho we'd prefer a 1 bdrm.. our questions to add:

10. subway from queens to Manhattan in the morning... survivable right?

11. should we go with an apt broker or try it on our own?

12. any chance that they will use the hell gate bridge for local trains one day?

i think that's about it. :-) Thanks!

Sent by eli | 9:33 AM | 5-1-2008

"4.) How long does it usually take to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan?"

Uh, let's start with the fact that Brooklyn is not a one-dimensional point. Hop the L train in Williamsburg and you could be at Washington Square inside of 20 minutes on a good day -- get the R from Bay Ridge or the Q from Flatbush/Ditmas and you could be in for a much longer ride.

More answers:
1 no, roommates are needed
2 before the autumn rush
3 can't say. might work out fine, might work out badly.
5 depends entirely on location, could be as low as 1K or high as 4K
6 no
7 it depends. Any neighborhood where you don't feel safe walking from the subway to your residence is probably not ideal for you.
8 how much notice for what?

Sent by Mike | 9:36 AM | 5-1-2008

question 8 redo:
How much time does the landlord need to know before you want to move in. i.e. You see an apartment and you like it but the date you're moving is in 2 weeks (or 2 months). Appropriate or not?

Sent by Sarah Lee | 9:57 AM | 5-1-2008

A good resource for some of this information would be Apartment Therapy New York. Some helpful stuff may already be available there, plus they have open threads where people often get very helpful advice. Generally speaking, the readers are very knowledgeable and happy to share.

Sent by Maura | 9:59 AM | 5-1-2008


The subway from Queens question needs the same qualifiers as the subway from Brooklyn question. Queens is a big place. From eastern Queens, it's a real slog. From Astoria or Long Island City, it's pretty fast. I lived in Astoria and commuted to midtown for eighteen months, and it was totally doable.

Also, for crowding, if that's what you're worried about--the number 7 train is overloaded these days, I think. I haven't ridden the other trains to Queens at rush hour in a while, so I can't speak to that.

As for the Hell Gate Bridge, will it be used for local trains? I doubt in our lifetime.

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 10:22 AM | 5-1-2008

First, welcome to New York! Hmm, where to start...

Mike's comment on Brooklyn commuting is right. Several BPPers live there and manage just fine. @Eli, the same can be said for Queens. Both boroughs are huge and some parts are more convenient than others. The key is how close to you live to the subway, and which line. Ideally, you live a short walk to a line that takes you to school/work without having to transfer to another train.

It IS possible to find a decent place for under a grand, without roommates, even in Manhattan. But it isn't easy, and you generally won't find it online or through a broker. Typically, the great place at the great price is found because your friend lives in the building and tells you someone is moving out. A guy I worked with found an amazing place cheap because he used to hang out at a bar where a lot of doormen drink. One day they tipped him on someone moving out. But that kind of info is hard to come by if you don't live here. You mentioned NYU - if your friend is a student, she might be able to tap into a student network there. But if you can't sniff out a great deal, preparing for roommates is a good idea.

@Eli, brokers help you navigate the crazy world of Manhattan real estate and are plugged in to openings. So a lot of people use them. They are expensive, sometimes charging the equivalent of two months rent, up front in full. This is in addition to the first and last month's rent you give the landlord, plus your moving costs. So unless you are just wealthy, try to find a place without a broker, but be prepared to shell out for one. Vet them carefully if you do.

@Sarah Lee, apartments don't last long here. Generally, you start looking when you are ready to move, and to be safe, you need to be ready to put down a deposit the day you find an apartment you like, because someone else could be right behind you ready to grab it.

Sent by Mark Garrison - NPR | 11:33 AM | 5-1-2008

As Joan Didion wrote, "New York is a city for the very young or the very rich." Good thing you have your youth. Anywho...

1. No, you'll need roommates.

2. Any time. Apartments go on the market constantly. One came available just now. Get it!

3. New York isn't substantially less safe than other major cities, and it's safer than some. That said, judging by #1, you can't afford to live alone, so this one doesn't matter.

4. Brooklyn is huge, both in terms of geography and population. If it wasn't part of NYC it would be 4th or 5th largest city in America on its own by population. It can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours from Bklyn to Manhattan depending on where you are and where you're going.

5 & 7. New York City is 322 square miles big. There is no quick answer to how much apartments cost or where you should live. A one bedroom can probably range from $500/month to $5000/month depending on a variety of factors. That being said, do not live on Staten Island.

6. I wouldn't recommend doing that anywhere.

8. It depends when the apartment is available. Most apartments are available immediately or on the first of the next month.

9. NYU is downtown, near Washington Square Park. If you don't mind living in squalor, you should probably live in the East Village or Lower East Side. If you want to live someplace moderately nice that you can afford, you'll have to live very far from NYU. Good luck!

Sent by Dan Pashman, NPR | 11:36 AM | 5-1-2008

Thanks tons everyone. Just directed said friend to the BPP blog. And, yes, she'll be attending NYU this fall as an aspiring editor.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 11:54 AM | 5-1-2008

I'm actually the friend she's talking about. I'm going to NYU for graduate school, and was dead set on getting an apartment instead of living in the dorms. After some careful reconsideration (and urging from my mother), I've decided it will be more wise to live in the dorms for a semester or a year, and then get an apartment. Especially since I need roommates, I want to get to know some people before I decide to move in with anyone. That being said, the advice is extremely helpful and I encourage you to keep answering, since I will still be looking at apartments.

Is there anything I particularly should know about moving to NY? Do you have any suggestions for fun things such as which restaurants to check out or where to shop?

I'm excited for the move and I really appreciate the comments. Thank you! Keep them coming!

Sent by Kat | 12:17 PM | 5-1-2008

I would agree with all the comments above. $1000 per month in Manhattan in certainly out of the question.

In terms of safety, that comes down, as does everything, to money. A doorman building is safe and convenient, and will cost you much more.

There is also not a lot of "notice to the landlord" or "what's the best time to look" -- basically, unless you're willing to pay a broker fee, finding an apartment is an incredibly frenetic process of looking at a ton of places at all different times of day.

When I found my rental, I was the first person to view it, and I wrote a check on the spot. That was after looking at many others (which really does provide an education of what things go for in what neighborhoods, and what they look like, etc). But more than once I made arrangements to look at an apt, only to get there and find it was rented already.

That's Manhattan, I'm sure outside of the island it's different, but I don't know.

If you want to live near NYU, you will need roomates, for sure. As Dan P. said, East Village is more affordable. Personally, I think it's worth the trade off in terms of space and money to live in Manhattan, but that's really a personal decision in terms of what your priorities priorities are things like running along the West Side Highway and walking to Union Square to shop for veggies at the Farmers Market.

Final point: Yes, do not consider Staten Island, under any circumstances. (heh heh heh.)

Sent by Carlo | 12:28 PM | 5-1-2008

So, not being from NY and not needing to know anything about it, I didn't understand the Staten Island comments. Was it a total slum or crazily high priced? I went on craigslist to figure it out for myself. All I have to say is, some properties selling for $300,000+ are as big as a 4-person dorm room I had in college.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 12:43 PM | 5-1-2008

Ah, how to explain the Staten Island thing?

It has nothing to do with the money. Actually, SI is very affordable. $300K for a house in the NYC tri-state area is cheap by any measure. (Yes, real estate here is different from most places...)

But SI? Let's just say it's a big hair thing.

Kat -- your question about fun places to eat and shop. Well, that's a whole topic in itself.

Everyone has their own ideas about what's great and where. Just ask someone what the best pizza is in town, and you'll get many different answers.

(The correct answer to that question, by the way, is Joe's Pizza.)

Dining alone, there are so many different levels of experiences. You can spend the money, and get one of the best dining experiences in the world. Gramercy Tavern and Babbo come to mind.

But you can also find great food for cheap. (Joe's, or falafels, or panini's and a glass of wine at Cafe Ino in the Village, etc.)

Part of the fun of living here is finding all the city has to offer. You can pick up either Time Out or New York Magazine to get an idea of what people are talking about and where they're going now as far as shopping and eating.

And, of course, fellow students will probably be the best sources of information.

Whatever you do, don't eat at Sbarros, and don't go to Staten Island.

Sent by Carlo | 2:58 PM | 5-1-2008

guys thanks alot.
Big thanks to sarah goodyear! we were/are actually considering astoria very seriously. we've done enough research to know about the size of the boroughs, but i wasn't sure i wanted to specify. so it was awesome that you mentioned it!
mark, thanks for the comments on the brokers. we've pretty much decided to go it on our own, but just wanted to make sure.

Sent by eli | 12:17 AM | 5-3-2008