The apartment: Brownstone living, at almost the same price
Our great elderly and eccentric landlord lived in the parlor floor of the Fort Greene, Brooklyn brownstone where we lived, which he'd bought in the early 1970s. When he died, the house had to be sold, since he had no close family. A couple and their friend bought it and, in the end, "required the building to be delivered vacant" (the real estate agent's actual words). We were forced to leave our $2,350/month 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom.
We decided to move to Bedford-Stuyvesant. We wanted to stay in Brooklyn, and it was the neighborhood where we could get a lot of space for our budget. Our new place, an 1,150-square-foot two-bedroom, is $2,400 a month--only $50 more per month than our old place. It's in a brownstone, like our old place, but instead of being on the third floor, we're on the parlor floor now. It's a little bit bigger, square footage wise, but the space is definitely used quite differently than in our old apartment, so it's taking a while to situate our old belongings in our new space.
The neighborhood: Giving up the greenmarket
Fort Greene was a great place to live. We loved how easy it was to get almost anywhere (tons of subway options -- the C, G, F and Q were all about 10 minutes from our apartment), we loved being next to Fort Greene Park, and we appreciated the mix of families and singletons--old and young, all races and walks of life, and lots of creatives too. We loved the streets lined with tall trees, loved the brownstones, loved knowing the neighbors and other familiar faces. We loved the greenmarket that we could depend on every Saturday year round.
Oh yes, we saw the neighborhood change. Near the end of our time there, people finally stopped confusing Fort Greene and Greenpoint when I would tell new acquaintances where I lived.
The restaurants in Fort Greene are overall pretty mediocre, though, and the few that are good are too expensive to patronize regularly. Same with bars--we really only found one or two that we returned to over and over again.
We miss Greene Grape Provisions--a high-quality place to get food that used to be at the end of our block. We don't have anything quite like that in Bed-Stuy. The best grocery store that's close is still a bit of a hike, and there's no Greenmarket nearby. We try to hit up Whole Foods near our offices on the way home from work, mostly. We don't care about dry cleaning so much. If we need that we'll do it near our offices.
Bed-Stuy is full of beautiful brownstones, even more beautiful ones than in Fort Greene, in our opinion. There's a real neighborhood feeling; a lot of our neighbors have lived here for a long time, and some of these homes have been in their families for generations.
And it definitely feels quieter and less bustling. I wouldn't want it to be so bustling that I couldn't relax, but I would like it if there was just a bit more foot traffic, just to feel slightly safer at night.
The commute: Mostly reliable trains, but coworkers worry
Though it's not quite as well served in terms of public transportation, the lines we do have are (usually) quick and (mostly) reliable. We take the A to work. We're close to a lot of other things and places we frequent --restaurants, bars, many of our favorites are within walking distance or in some cases a quick bus, subway, or cab ride. A good laundromat (better than the one we used in Fort Greene) is very close as well.
But it takes about 10 to 15 minutes more to get home from work from Midtown East, compared to living in Fort Greene (it's now about 35-40 minutes total). Also, my coworkers, 95% of whom live in Manhattan, seem to think I live in another state or something.
The days we've had bad weather this winter, they keep trying to get me to leave work early so I can get home safely, or work from home if it's too hard to get to work. I'm like--I just take the subway. No different than your way home, really, just a little further to go.