I'd lived on the Upper West Side since moving to New York in 1999, most recently renting a third-floor walk-up on West 83rd Street between Columbus and Central Park West.
After my wife and I had our now-2-year-old, we built a temporary wall in the living room and planned to put her in the little room that we'd carved out there so that I could keep my office (I work from home) in the second bedroom. That didn't work.
So within two weeks of my daughter being born my office was moved into that made-up room. I basically worked in an al Qaeda cell. It was 8 feet by 5 feet, with enough room for a desk, two small file cabinets, a couple of computers and a small TV. We did put a little window there, but it was an internal room so it just looked out into the hallway.
Just about two years later, with a second baby on the way, we knew we needed more space. We were considering the suburbs -- places like Larchmont, Weehawken and Edgewater. We ultimately decided on Riverdale in the Bronx for several reasons.
One was the proximity to Manhattan. Even though I don't commute to a job in Manhattan, there are a lot of things that bring me back pretty regularly -- a weekly poker game, a weekly basketball game and a football game. From our apartment in Riverdale to my brother's place on 101st and Broadway it takes just 12-15 minutes by car.
For my wife who works on Wall Street, it’s a longer commute. But she takes the bus to the subway and then in the evening she takes the Metro-North -- we’re a three-minute walk from the station. It's very convenient to get to the city by car or public transport.
Another reason we chose Riverdale is because we have family here. Plus, our nanny lives in the Bronx and a commute to New Jersey would have been really hard for her.
Then there was our living situation on the Upper West Side. My wife was definitely getting tired of doing the walk-up thing with kids, and the idea of an elevator building with a gym, pool and doorman was nice. Meanwhile, I felt like I was living (and working) in a Toys R Us, because I never got away from the toys.
While we're paying the same amount to rent in Riverdale--$3,095/month--we're getting about 3 times the space. We left a small two-bedroom for a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath co-op that's about twice the size, with lots of closet space, in The Winston Churchill building on Johnson Avenue in Riverdale.
While I do love the city, at this stage in my life I am kind of a homebody, and I wasn’t taking advantage of the city as much as I once did. Riverdale is this in-between place where we're kind of holding onto the city for dear life. The schools are good, so it's also a good place to be with a family. While I miss the energy of the city, I don't miss things like the price of pre-school (which costs about two-thirds less up here).
I do miss being steps away from Central Park, and so close to the Children's Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Now we love going to Ridge Hill, an outdoor shopping mall in Yonkers. That's how you know you're transitioning in life. We also have a car now, so that changes things too.
Riverdale certainly is no Brooklyn, or Larchmont for that matter. I don’t quite understand why more stuff doesn’t come or succeed here, especially the unique type of places. The little downtown section in Central Riverdale does seems to be pretty crowded most of the time.
As far as restaurants go, there are not a lot of options in Riverdale -- there's one Thai, one Indian. Our menu drawer has shrunk considerably, that's for sure.
There are actually a fair amount of stores and restaurants on Broadway, alongside the 1 tracks, though it has a lower-rent feel.
That certainly would be the biggest thing on my wish list for the area – more shops and restaurants.
But I do think the neighborhood is getting younger. We met a couple with a one-year-old the week we moved in and they said that when they'd moved in four years ago about 90 percent of the building's residents were older people. Now, it’s 50-50 older people and families.
Renter's Survival Kit