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In New York City, people often shop for a neighborhood first. Once they have their hearts set on a neighborhood, many will sacrifice square footage and pay a premium to live there. Even shifting a few blocks to the east or west can make for a big change in the way a New Yorker lives, and some moves can be quite a shock.
Transitions, a new column on BrickUnderground, highlights New Yorkers’ first impressions as they transition from one neighborhood to another.
A little over a month ago, I moved from a very small, very dark converted two-bedroom on Fourth Avenue and East 10th Street that I shared with a roommate to a true one-bedroom at First Avenue and East 55th Street, which my boyfriend owns.
It’s been a bit tough to squeeze everything we own into one bedroom: I had to downsize the contents of my closet and I made him get rid of a lot of his stuff, too. But the place is huge compared to my old apartment. And there is a full wall of windows, letting in much more light than my old place.
The neighborhood is very different from the East Village. It’s very family-oriented. Finding groceries and other staples is much easier here--there's a grocery store on the corner, which would be great if I actually cooked--whereas downtown, there are more Duane Reades and delis.
All the buildings around me have doormen, including mine. It’s nice, but a little awkward. I'm not used to being asked if they can carry my groceries. Obviously, I can do it myself. And I do.
I miss the artists and young, single people in the East Village. Here you can go food shopping more easily, but you can’t get an $8 dinner on St. Mark’s Place. And it’s not just food – everything is more expensive. A manicure in my old neighborhood was also $8; now it’s $15. I’ve found a local sushi place that’s not too expensive, but my boyfriend and I usually catch a cab downtown for dinner and drinks.
In my old building, the residents were mostly young and the attitude was more relaxed. In my new building, a co-op, there are set ways of doing things, and the neighbors – many of whom have lived there for years – call me out for not observing the rules of the laundry room or other common spaces. There have actually been some screaming matches.
My commute to the Financial District is also a lot longer since I’m living on First Avenue. I’m five blocks and three avenues from the subway. Before, it was right outside my door. It used to take only about five minutes to get to work, now it takes 45.
If money weren’t an issue, we might live in a more trendy area. In fact, my boyfriend put the apartment on the market earlier this year, and we thought we might find a place together in a neighborhood with more nightlife and restaurants. But, in the end, we decided to take it off the market to save money on rent and have more space.
I’m getting used to the quiet. And all the action is just a cab ride away.