When my boyfriend and I decided to move in together, I was living in a one-bedroom rent-stabilized apartment on the Upper West Side. Except for the years I was away at college and graduate school, I had lived my entire life on the Upper West Side. I didn't want to leave Manhattan but knew it would be impossible for us to afford a larger space in my old neighborhood.
We started looking for an apartment that would make me happy by not having to leave the city and make Jon happy by not having to give up on having his own space--he was moving from a house in a New Jersey suburb and was used to lots of extra room.
We assumed that each of us would have to make a sacrifice, that we couldn't get what we each wanted, but as it turned out, no sacrifice was necessary.
When we first went up to look at Hudson Heights (from 181st to 190th Streets West of Broadway) it was one of those glorious New York days—sunny, clear skies, everything looking crisp and clear.
You know how when you go on a college hunt and get to a campus on a gorgeous day? Chances are, you're going to love the school. That's the same feeling I got about the Heights. I loved it from that first moment. It took Jon a little longer.
Walking around the area, seeing how diverse it was, how many young people were on the streets and how beautiful Fort Tryon Park is, he was won over.
We found a two-bedroom, 1,350-square-foot apartment with a big eat-in kitchen, long hallway, large foyer, 1 ½ baths, wood floors and high ceilings right across from Fort Tryon Park for under $3,000 a month. Can you imagine what that would cost across from Central Park?
The building is typical of most of the others in the neighborhood—art deco, six stories, no doorman. It's a little like the one where I grew up in the West 80's before it got completely redone and condo-ized a few years ago.
The neighborhood is a lively mix of orthodox Jews, European immigrants, Hispanics, blacks and lots of young families. Actually, when I think about it, the neighborhood reminds me of what the Upper West Side used to be like when I was growing up.
The commute from here is no big deal. The A train is one block from us and I can be at 14th Street and 8th Avenue in about 35 minutes. I work in the Bronx but I drive to work. Parking on the street is a huge hassle so I decided on a garage. They can be quite expensive up here but I found one just a few blocks away that is $250 — much cheaper than it would be on the Upper West Side.
We haven't had to make any sacrifices in the food department either. A few steps away there's a mini-Fairway- type store and a few restaurants—Indian, Mexican and American—and a short walk away is a full-scale supermarket and a huge number of restaurants to chose from. When we want to order take-out, it feels as though we have as many choices as we had on the Upper West Side.
Some of the stores here close earlier than they would in my old neighborhood. The mom and pop drugstore that I like to use isn't always open when I need something, so it means a short walk to a chain store.
The neighborhood is very safe west of Broadway -- I have been advised not to walk east past dark, but that where we are is fine. I have never felt unsafe at all. Although our building does not have a security guard, there is one for the building next door, and he is on our block at night.
For us, there's plenty of nightlife up here. We like the happy hours at some of the pubs. We have a few friends who live here already and we hang out with them and friends are always giving me names and numbers of people they know who have moved up here.
The big difference between up here and my old neighborhood is that it's so much quieter, so much more mellow. Being across from the park is wonderful—we run there and it is just so beautiful and always so full of people.
And how's this for friendly: When we first moved here we had dinner at a local spot. In the course of conversation, we told the waitress that we were new to the neighborhood. When we got our bill, she had given us a 10 percent discount and had hand written on the check, "New neighbor discount." Can you imagine that happening on the Upper West Side?