My boyfriend and I were looking for an apartment that included our entire luxurious list of wants – a dishwasher, washer and dryer, outdoor space, lots of bedrooms.
It was time for a change. A growing up. And both of us had fantasies of moving our work spaces outside of our bedrooms. I had lived in a 1-bedroom in Astoria for 13 years and slept next to my writing desk the whole time.
We decided to look in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, where apartments tend to have a lot more space. All of the ones we saw--and there quite a few--were larger than any space I saw, or hung out in, in Astoria.
Our new place has everything we wanted, plus a finished basement. It’s a 4-bedroom, so we each have an office and there's a guest room. Since we're splitting the rent, neither of us had to pay more, but the place is more expensive than my studio in Queens. The cats have plenty of room – one of them hides out exclusively in the downstairs guest room. We moved in the summer, and we’ve been able to plant a garden in our backyard.
Ditmas Park slows down in the evenings, whereas Astoria is alive--really alive--all night long. Astoria feels more concentrated, with a larger number of people living in a smaller area. Ditmas Park has wider sidewalks, more stand-alone houses, bigger trees. And the Victorian houses of Ditmas Park proper are amazing -- nowhere in New York can you see houses like that.
Before the move, I struggled a lot with how I was going to get by in another neighborhood. I'd become really steeped in Astoria in a way that I wasn't prepared for. My whole 20s were spent there, my whole adult life, in some ways. My kittens became cats. So I’m nostalgic for the neighborhood and the many years I lived there, but I've learned to love Ditmas Park.
My commute to work in South Williamsburg is much longer now – from Astoria it was 20-30 minutes on one train, now it is 45-60 minutes on two trains. But I live far enough in Brooklyn that there are often empty seats, and I use that time to read, write, watch TV on my phone, or look at dumb magazines. It seemed like forever when I didn't live in that neighborhood, to go ELEVEN stops into Brooklyn...but now it just passes like anything else.
There are fewer restaurants in Ditmas Park, and in that way, the ordering-in is far less interesting in Astoria, where you can have, literally, delivery from 75 restaurants. That said, since there aren't as many places in Ditmas Park, you can frequent them enough to get "your own" table. Fifteen years in New York and finally I have my own table.
I miss Queens all the time, but I don't regret moving. We're close to friends here, and I have a room where I can write quietly, and a yard for sitting and waving at the neighbors. The cats have four bedrooms to spread out in. The ceiling leaks sometimes, but hey, it's New York, something is always trying to ruin your day. I say that lovingly.
Lee Houck is a novelist celebrating 15 years living in New York City. Visit his blog at www.grammarpiano.com
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