Last summer, my boyfriend and I moved to NYC. After the initial few months of tough-luck apartment hunting online (no one wanted students, especially those with little credit history) we were able to find a share in a railroad-style apartment. It was a great place on Ocean Avenue along Prospect Park in Brooklyn, even if we had a roommate in the living room.
Right away, I loved the area. A huge leafy park, small Caribbean grocery stores, a large bulk store co-op, and a backyard garden area made for an excellent transition from my home in rural Ithaca, New York.
But my boyfriend started to get restless and wanted the buzz of the city and the convenience it provided.
Initially I fought it, but slowly, the universe seemed to hint we should move. People started making snide remarks to us on the street (sometimes race-related -- my boyfriend's Hispanic, I'm white) and there was growing neighborhood violence -- the subway station near us was once closed down for over a day as the cops combed the area, and rumors circulated that a shooting had taken place.
The ever-present CSI unit and police tape outside the subway station didn't help us feel secure.
The subway itself ran behind our backyard, which wasn’t helping us sleep, either.
Also, our roommate in the living room was going though a divorce and his ex-wife would routinely show up to move her things out (meaning that one by one, our shared furniture, decorations, and housecat disappeared).
The final straw came when my mother and sister came to visit. Our trip to the local Italian restaurant was met with police tape, flashing lights, and the news that there was a shooting a few stores down.
“Don’t worry,” the waiter told us when we finally got there, “It was just a revenge shooting, you’re in no danger.”
After that, we got a bit more serious about moving.
On a fluke, an apartment in Manhattan popped up on Padmapper.com -- it was being shown a good three months before it was available. It was in the low 100s on the Upper West Side, about 50 feet from Broadway, and close to Riverside Park. The rent ($2,500) nearly gave me a heart attack, but my boyfriend recently got a better job, and convinced me to at least check it out.
Turns out, our new apartment was in the basement. Recently renovated, it was spacious with two bedrooms, a bathroom with a tub, a tiny kitchen, big living room, and a backyard lovingly referred to by the broker as a ‘patio’.
Our “patio” was cemented, chain-linked, and dirty as hell, but it had potential.
Months later, we are settled in and enjoying the apartment and neighborhood. Our basement apartment offers no views and little light. However, because it’s in the basement with little direct sunlight, it’s cooler in the summer (a sweet 20 degrees cooler without air conditioning).
Riverside Park is absolutely lovely, and every week we visit our local diner -- Tom’s Restaurant -- for breakfast. While their pancakes can’t hold a candle to the Tom’s Restaurant in Brooklyn, the people, and omelets, are growing on me.
Overall I love my new neighborhood. It’s full of energy, yet quieter and just as dog-friendly as living on Ocean Avenue. I feel secure here and the neighborhood has an excellent safety record. The proximity to public transportation on the B, C, and 1 train is amazing, and a walk through Riverside Park after a long day really makes the area special.
Granted, I miss the cheap health food of the Park Slope Co-Op, the Caribbean restaurants, Tom’s pancakes, and the expansive vistas and natural beauty of Prospect Park, but the Upper West Side offers me a mix of (relative) quiet, great shops and eateries, dog-friendly walks, and, thankfully, less CSI.