I left Hell’s Kitchen seven years ago and moved back to the neighborhood where I grew up, Astoria, for financial reasons. This time, I didn’t go to my parents’ place, but my own two-bedroom apartment located in the Ditmars area, by Astoria Park. It’s still a strange feeling to come back 'home' after 15 years of being away.
My old one-bedroom apartment was conveniently located on West 44th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. I loved being in the center of it all.
But I didn’t love my rent -- $1,650 a month. My current rent in Astoria is $1,250, and this is for a very large two-bedroom with seven closets, a lot of natural light and a small backyard!
The transition to Astoria was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It took me three years to finally get used to the neighborhood, and accept the fact that I was no longer in Manhattan.
I hated being back where I grew up. It felt like I was moving backward and not forward. In the beginning stages, I thought it was just a dream and I would wake up and be back in my apartment, enjoying life in the city again.
Among other things, I hated the commute to my work in the Financial District and the fact that I wasn’t near my favorite spots -- such as Juice Generation on 45th Street, Amy’s Bread on 46th Street and Don Giovannis up the block.
I also really missed my building’s amentities -- including a sundeck and indoor swimming pool. I also missed the 24/7 access to that you have in Manhattan -- you can hail a cab at any time of the night, order food anytime, run to Duane Reade anytime, and even get your nails done at midnight.
Being around my family and close friends made it a lot easier, and as I got older, I came to appreciate the simple family life you can find in Astoria.
I like that everyone at your butcher or grocery store knows you; it feels like a nice, old-fashioned neighborhood. People never leave here, and you'll see generation after generation still living in the same houses and apartments. Hell’s Kitchen, on the other hand, was very eclectic, a revolving door of different types of people.
Astoria cannot compete with the restaurants that flood Hell’s Kitchen, but it has come a long way.
Some of my favorite spots are Brick Cafe, Sparrow Tavern, Five Napkin Burger, Pachanga Patterson, Ornella, Kyclades, Watawa Sushi and Ovelia.
Even with several new eateries, Astoria is a long way from becoming the next Brooklyn. The community is still very old-school, family oriented, and those who don't like to go out to eat and step out of their comfort zone are still a huge part of the neighborhood. I think it will take another 10 years for it to become a trendy place for the creative types.
And I’d still move back to Manhattan if I could afford it.
Sure, there are many things I love about Astoria (including being close to my family and close friends) but my heart belongs across the 59th Street bridge.