Upper East Side to Kips Bay: I still don't really hang out where I live

By Maria Burgio  | June 29, 2012 - 12:28PM

Anyone who has ever apartment-hunted in Manhattan knows they are starting a course filled with hurdles.

The three-bedroom apartment hunt comes with an interesting hurdle: The spacious closet posing as windowless third “bedroom.” I guess you can put a full-size bed and a coat rack into anything, and voila, a “bedroom” appears.

My old roommates and I looked at a few of these, before we found our gem on 78th between First and Second Avenue.

Each corner in the apartment was soaked in sunlight and each bedroom could breathe the FDR’s fresh carbon dioxide, through big windows.

It was, er, cozy, but for the price -- $2,000 the first year and $2,600 the second year -- it was perfect. My bedroom could fit a dresser and a little chair in the corner. I loved every day of my two years there.

A yummy Italian restaurant, Bocca di Bacco, sat right on my block. It’s dimly lit and impossibly charming. The Upper East Side is filled with places like that, bars and restaurants and cafes line the streets. I could try anything I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. The only problem is that I never did.

The unwritten rule that my 20-something friends all live by—the mantra against living above 34th Street—states that all things baby-related and unhip happen uptown.

So, naturally we stayed downtown. I mean, there is even a FourSquare “Far, Far Away” badge that unlocks when you check-in above 59th street.

We hung out downtown. That meant if I wanted to quickly go home after work to grab something or change, it was a special, out-of-the-way trip.

When my roommates of five years and I parted ways, I thought it was time to finally move closer where I spent most of my time. I also decided on buying a home and living alone.  

As the number on the blocks went down, the number on the price tag went up. Even if, say, an East Village apartment came with a decent price tag, the actual apartment would be too small or too old or too dungeon-like with no lights.

Since I was buying instead of renting, I decided to travel as far downtown as possible without compromising on my investment.

A few months ago, I bought and settled into a long, rectangular studio apartment on East 24th Street and Second Avenue in Kips Bay.

Was it my dream location? No. I prefer the scenery, the trees and the walk outside my UES apartment to the ambulance sirens coming from Beth Israel on Second Avenue, but I can finally walk to work on 23rd and Fifth, or easily sneak off to meet my friends in the Village, or even make it across town in a decent amount of time. If I jump in a cab, it’s half the cost that it was when I lived uptown.

I miss the coziness of the Upper East Side. It just felt more like a neighborhood up there, where Kips Bay/Murray Hill is more of an in-between place. Something feels different down here.

For one thing, the streets are lined with homogenous, jumbo-sized buildings instead of cute, movie-esque brownstones. 

It’s not even the newly graduated frat boys that bother me, because you get that crowd on the UES, too. Hang out at The Stumble Inn, on 76th and Second or Dorian’s Red Hand, on 84th and Second and you’ll think you’re in a frat house.

But the UES version of a frat house comes with polos and preppy boys, where the Murray Hill version comes with a slightly rowdier, Van Wilder-ish crowd. People tend to notice and remember the louder crowd.

On the Upper East Side, I did a lot of staying in a place without actually living in a place. I didn’t really have “regular” spots or “hang outs,” and that hasn’t changed with my move.

I do spend more time at Banc -- a good brunch spot on 30th and Third Avenue where the drinks are delicious and the vibe is a bit more sophisticated -- than I did at any place on the UES, and I managed to cut my transportation time and cost in half.

Every time I can walk somewhere instead of squeezing myself on a crowded subway platform, I get giddy. I’m staying put for now, but maybe I’d move again depending on the circumstances.

I feel like I’ll try the West Side or Brooklyn next, maybe I’ll even do some living in my next neighborhood.  

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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