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West Harlem to Crown Heights: A difficult adjustment, except for the great apartment

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As a native New Yorker born on the Upper East Side and raised in Harlem, it was a big deal for me to finally decide to move, and especially to move out of the borough. My boyfriend and I decided to live together and we needed to find a place that was closer to a bar he co-owns in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. A Manhattanite through and through, I found--and am still finding--the transition quite challenging.

I was paying a scant $650 for a big bedroom in a four-bedroom apartment in Harlem (my  mother owns the unit) shared with three friends. I was spoiled; not only did we have a dishwasher and in-unit washing machine and dryer, but being by 124th St., I was right near the 125th transportation hub.

My boyfriend and I looked in a few different areas of Brooklyn, settling on a big parlor floor home in Crown Heights. While we preferred some other areas like Cobble Hill, we fell in love with this apartment and knew it was the one.

While the apartment is great, there are some downsides. My rent has gone up for instance. Now I pay half of our $1,900 rent for a junior four--a one bedroom with a dining area. My boyfriend and I have to lug our 30lbs of laundry a week really far to have someone else do it.  I have yet to find a dry cleaner, which is maddening.

My commute to work is over 45 minutes. When I lived in Harlem, I used to take cabs to my job on the UES daily simply because I could, and while costly, it was really convenient. Now a cab is out of the question even on the worst of days because one from Crown Heights to the Upper East Side would be nearly $40.

I miss being able to hail a cab outside of my door and now have to call for a car service about 30 minutes or more in advance to get anywhere within Brooklyn. While I save money in cabs and in going out less, my rent is higher and so are laundry costs.

Life is much less spontaneous in all regards. We need to plan how to get places—sometimes having to borrow my father’ s car—and certain trains like the 5 stop running to my stop after 8:30 p.m.. Thankfully I am also by the 3 train at Franklin Street and can access both east and west sides.

I used to love shopping at the Fairway in Harlem or at Trader Joe's on the UWS and now there isn’t much in terms of good supermarkets in my new area.

I make do with great produce from the little neighborhood shops and often lug groceries home from the Fairway near my office on the subway with me.

Also ordering in is much harder; in Harlem I had every type of food imaginable that would be at my door in mere minutes. Here there are not many varieties although I have found myself having a taste for the local Caribbean food.

Thankfully my boyfriend and I share similar tastes, and are both happy to eat home. We sometimes take the long walk to Prospect Heights to try out cool restaurants but wish there were more in our own area. And Harlem had some food meccas like Red Rooster, Floridita, Dinosaur BBQ, awesome soul food, tons of coffee shops and great Chinese! I have yet to find one Chinese or Japanese place in our area that is passable. The one saving grace is a place called Super Wings, which has great Buffalo wings.

There are days when I’m stressed and I find myself escaping back to the UWS or Harlem to get a manicure or shop because I find it comforting. I miss walking around and getting a hotdog at Gray’s Papaya on W. 72nd or just stopping in Trader Joe's.

While there is a great outdoor sitting area across the street from my home I really miss Riverside Park, having thought of it as my backyard for so long.

I really don’t like the Brooklyn vibe, because it is too laid-back. Service is way better in Manhattan and I find that when I order food there is a more laissez-faire attitude. Also I’m shocked to find babies in bars! Brooklyn is very suburban in many ways and it takes some getting used to.

I miss so much about Harlem. On the plus side, though, I do enjoy not having roommates and I like living with my boyfriend. I enjoy having a big space to ourselves that we got to decorate—my boyfriend is really handy and changed all of our light fixtures and did so much design work already that the place is gorgeous. I like having distinct dining and office areas. I don’t miss the college students that permeated my area in Harlem.

We also love our landlord, who lives in the building and has owned for over 30 years. He is like the mayor of the block and knows many influential people in the area. I love the sense of community shared and the diverse group of people now living in Crown Heights. I have so many areas still to explore and that excites me.

I grew up in Harlem when it was gentrifying and that is what being in Crown Heights feels like, but I’m not sure I really want to go through the growing pains of gentrification again. Still, I do feel like this is a growth experience for me and while still iffy, it is growing on me. 


Transitions highlights New Yorkers’ first impressions as they transition from one neighborhood to another. Want to tell us your transition story? Drop us an email.

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