I recently moved from an airy two-bedroom in the Bronx to a closet in the East Village, and I couldn’t be happier.
The Bronx, where I lived for four years after moving here from the Midwest, did have its advantages.
My place was huge, and only $1,200 a month. On top of that I could be loud, I could play music, and I had a dishwasher and laundry in my apartment.
In short, it was big, and I could do whatever I wanted.
And there were parks. I was walking distance from Van Cortlandt Park, at 1,100 acres the fourth largest in the city, and just across University Bridge, in Manhattan, was Inwood Hill Park. The Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden were just a couple of miles in the other direction.
But in terms of amenities and restaurants? Zilch. Not that I didn’t try.
The neighborhood, a safe, festive enclave known as University Heights, was pretty bland in terms of places to hang out. I would get out, make a couple of circles around the block and then come back. There are restaurants, but they were all the kind of deep-fried stuff that I don’t eat. I cooked. Any eating out I did was in Manhattan.
Although my music teacher lived fairly close by—I write, sing and produce songs—eventually even that was not enough of a draw. I finally got sick of the constant traveling that getting around the city entailed. It would take forever to get anywhere outside of, well, the Bronx—be it Midtown, anywhere in Manhattan, Brooklyn—in short, anyplace I liked hanging out in.
After four years of scoping out Manhattan neighborhoods, I knew what to zero in on. I wanted the East Village specifically. I’ve always really liked it. It just feels good to be here. I can't explain it.
To squeeze into my new apartment I had to ditch a lot of possessions, including a couch, table and chair, among numerous other items. To boot, it's a walkup, whereas my last building had an elevator. So there are adjustments, but it’s worth it.
It’s small—a studio—but it’s neat, it’s cool. I still haven’t figured out how to do laundry.
The abundance of great restaurants in the neighborhood has me cooking less than before. Instead of feeling as though I’m in a food wasteland, I’m surrounded by cafes, restaurants and other hotspots. My favorite place for hummus, which used to be an effort to get to, is now right around the corner. I also love walking to Chinatown.
There’s this Tibetan restaurant that I’m hooked on, Tsampa, on 9th Street between Second and Third avenues. The dumplings are out of this world.
When I do buy groceries, though, I have a choice, and in my own neighborhood to boot. I prefer to eat organic, and to do so I used to have to drag suitcases to Whole Foods, then haul them back to the Bronx. Now I can go to Trader Joe's, or run out to a smaller organic market that's up the block.
I’m also getting a lot more exercise: The trip upstairs, unaided by an elevator as my last place was, is five flights.
Best of all is the commute to Midtown, where most of my work is located. What used to take an hour, hour and a half, now takes 25 minutes.
Socially, it now feels normal to simply stay close to home roaming around the neighborhood, drinking in all the new restaurants and hangout joints. Before, I would go all over the place to meet up with friends. Now I make them come to me—and it's a place they want to go.
Basically I’ve pretty much forgotten that I ever lived elsewhere, as far as New York goes. Now if anybody’s above 14th Street I’m like, You’re far! I think, Why would I go to Astoria? The nerve.
There is one exception though: Before I moved downtown, the idea of making it to Brooklyn was all but inconceivable. Now that I'm so much closer, I will not blanche when my Brooklynite friends invite me south.
I love living in the East Village. It is bustling with youthful and creative energy—chock full of cool cafes, eclectic restaurants and fun clubs, all populated by people who have not yet grown up to become stultifying and predictable.