East Williamsburg to Hell's Kitchen: From hosting the party to living above it

By V. L. Hendrickson  | December 23, 2011 - 7:52AM

I’d been living in a loft in East Williamsburg for about 10 years. It’s a huge space that I shared with three other women. Over the years I’ve had dozens of roommates and, often, a friend was staying on the couch or someone had a live-in boyfriend. There were gatherings almost every night (fewer than 7 guests) and parties on the weekends.

At 22 years old, I loved it. A decade later, I still love it, but I don’t want to live there. In October, I signed a lease with two roommates (one of whom travels a lot) in Hell’s Kitchen. My bedroom is pretty small for $1300 a month -- more than twice as much as I was paying in Brooklyn -- but I jumped on the deal. For me, this really is an instance of “location, location, location.”

I came to the city to be an actress, and I’m finally getting some regular work. I wanted to be closer to the action. Hell’s Kitchen is expensive, but the bright lights of Broadway are a real attraction. I was prepared to survive on Ramen and shift meals at the restaurant where I wait tables, also in the area.

Although I no longer live in a loft, in some ways I have more space in Hell’s Kitchen. My bedroom is definitely bigger than the sleeping quarters my then-boyfriend helped me put up ten years ago. And sound doesn’t travel though the walls; I can’t even hear the television in the living room when I close the door. I could hear everything through the drywall we put up in the loft.

Hell’s Kitchen is flashy and full of people – both locals and tourists. There are so many restaurants and bars, with patrons roaming the streets at all hours. That’s sort of how our building was in Bushwick, so I’m used to it, but I’m glad it’s outside on the streets instead of outside my door.

In Hell’s Kitchen, the streets are always full of people and I feel safer heading home late at night than in Bushwick--where, on the positive side, there is a growing arts scene, with plenty of galleries that double as party and performance space. You can make an art opening turn into a night of dancing on just about any Saturday night – and all for less than $20.

I cut my 45 minute commute down to five minutes – and I save on transportation costs. And I walk almost everywhere in Manhattan – whether it's 5 blocks away or 30. It makes the rent seem a bit more reasonable.

Just about everything else is more expensive, of course, and being in the thick of things makes me want to spend more money to have drinks with my friends or see a show. Sometimes I usher at a theaters and see a free show -- another perk of living nearby.

Sometimes being in the center of the city that never sleeps can be exhausting – it’s never really quiet outside my window. But in Bushwick, it was never really quiet in my apartment or in my building. I miss that party scene sometimes, but fortunately my former roommates make sure I’m always on the guest list.

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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