My sublet was ending on the Upper East Side, and I knew I needed a change. I was on 63rd Street between First and Second Avenue, and I liked the apartment –- I had my own half bathroom –- but the area was too...lifeless.
True, the food options weren't terrible. There was Moti Mahal Delux, an Indian place that was next door and quite tasty, as well as a small falafel joint, and a Whole Foods on 57th Street between Second and Third Avenues, but the clothes shopping and home-furnishings shopping, was pretty limited. There was a Bloomingdale's and a Bed Bath and Beyond, and that was about it. The options reminded me of the Long Island malls I grew up with.
I was also pretty much right off the Queensboro Bridge. It was noisy with all of the traffic and car horns during the week, and on weekend mornings, I was blasted with pretty much every genre of music coming out of people's cars.
The commute to my job in the Flatiron District on the F train was mostly fine, and only took about 10 minutes, but it felt like a long walk afterward from Lexington Avenue to my apartment 10 minutes away.
I was hoping to stay in Manhattan, ideally in a new building, but rents have gone up so high that it was pretty much impossible. I was using a broker to find a studio in Midtown, and seriously considered a tiny one for about $1,600 per month. But I also would have had to pay a $2,000 broker fee. It just wasn't worth it.
Find Your Next Home
I started looking in Brooklyn. I was open to a neighborhood around the Jay Street/Metro Tech subway because I take graduate classes there. I also looked at a place in Park Slope. It was really beautiful and had an amazing backyard, but I felt it was too far from Manhattan.
Time was running out, and I was getting desperate. I ended up finding a roommate on Craiglist. We met briefly, and she seemed nice and had a steady job, so I decided to go for it. We found a couple of new buildings in Wiliamsburg on StreetEasy. The first was a nice duplex with two full baths and a spacious common area, but the rooms were tiny.
The second apartment was in a new building near the Lorimer L-train stop. There was in-unit laundry and a roof deck. It was great, but there were three bedrooms and the total rent was $4,050 per month. We needed a third person and ended up posting another ad on Craiglist. The last room was smaller, but thankfully, we were able to find someone.
I think if you are looking with a good roommate, you can find something by just using Internet listings instead of using a broker. I've bounced around to quite a few apartments and only paid a broker fee once. Of course if you have a higher budget, it makes things way easier.
I am paying about $50 more per month compared to the Upper East Side and I have two roommates as opposed to one, but I like that the apartment is new. It's also a great, quick commute to work in the Flatiron.
And I love the neighborhood. It feels like it's where I should be. It feels younger than the Upper East Side, though I do see a lot of young couples with small children, which I don't mind, because that's a pretty good measure of safety.
I've lived in so many Manhattan neighborhoods, but I finally feel like I'm actually home and not just visiting. I feel like I want to stay for an extended period of time. It could be because the apartment is more of what I was looking for as far as amenities, but I think it's the neighborhood, too.
I was feeling an urge to move out of New York to somewhere like San Francisco, but Williamsburg was actually the change I needed. It feels like San Francisco in a way, with the waterfront access and and independent shops, like Painting Lounge, which lets you take painting classes. There's just a more palpable creative spirit in Williamsburg. Whereas with all the different characteristics of Manhattan neighborhoods, you don't get one strong vibe. Everything feels a bit muddied.
So far, my first place in Brooklyn has been a success. But I probably wouldn't go further east than Lorimer Street because I don't know the area; it's a total mystery to me east of Lorimer. Regardless of how up and coming it is, I like being as close to Manhattan as I am now. Sometimes, I think about how much cheaper it would be even just a few stops further down on the L-train, but I feel it still isn't worth it to be that far away from Manhattan.