Rental Rookie

Rental Rookie: The IRT and me

By Michelle Castillo  | September 8, 2010 - 11:27AM
rental rookie subway.jpg

I’ve been living on the railroad.

One of the main reasons that I chose my apartment was because it was one block away from the entrance to the 96th Street 1,2,3 Subway station. I’m frequently late, so the idea that I could dash down the street and jump on the train was very attractive.

As it turned out, this was one area in which my fledgling renter’s instinct turned out to be right, for reasons of proximity and others that I hadn’t anticipated.

In fact, it took awhile to realize how transportationally fortunate I really was.

Even though I was located a stone’s throw away from the train station, some miracle of underground engineering meant I didn’t have to deal with the rumbling of the subway all night.

One of my other friends moved into an attic apartment in a house near a bridge. Every 20 to 30 minutes, her entire room would shake as the F or G train would blast across the bridge. She lasted a sleepless month until she gave up. Being cranky in the mornings and rising coffee bills wasn’t enough to make up for the cheap rent.

It also turns out that living next to an express stop is like having extra insurance.

Consider my student friends in Morningside Heights, living between W.110th to W. 120th  Streets between Columbus and Broadway.  The 1 is the only train that services Columbia University’s Morningside campus.  That would be okay, except that it frequently stops running on the weekends and is a 15-20 walk away from the next subway.

One friend was so fed up with intermittent service on the weekends she broke her lease in the middle of the year and moved to Brooklyn. It may have been further away, but she claimed the transportation was more reliable in Williamsburg.

Another good thing about the transportation options outside my door was the fact that although the 1, 2, 3 might be a strictly West Side line, it has enough transfer points and reliable express trains to get me most everywhere I needed to go.

Contrast that to my friend who moved to a cheap spot closer to the 2/3 line up north, but the distance from the subway--25 minutes to the top of his sixth-floor walk up--was so great that he decided not to renew his lease in Harlem.

Being geographically undesirable, he didn’t get too many visitors, whereas my friends found their way to my place pretty regularly.

The same cannot be said for my packages. 

Next week: Without a doorman or a live-in super, everything seemed to get turned away until I found a clever solution.


Michelle Castillo moved to Manhattan last fall to attend Columbia University's Journalism School. She has covered arts and entertainment for The Los Angeles Times,, Hollywood Reporter, and, and she currently writes about geek culture for's Techland. Rental Rookie is a twice-monthly column chronicling her first year as a renter in NYC.

See all Rental Rookie columns here.

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