Living Next To

I live above a NYC subway station—it’s noisy and hectic, but I have no plans to leave

By Kelly Kreth  |
February 18, 2020 - 12:00PM

The listing said the apartment was "by transportation." 

Franck Michel/Flickr

Tierney, a Midwestern transplant, knew moving into a New York City apartment sight unseen was a risky thing to do. Still an apartment listing that said it was “by transportation” seemed like a plus, so she decided to just go with it. On moving day, she was shocked to find that she was going to be living on top of the Marcy Avenue subway station. Now, nearly six months later, she finds the vibrancy of living above a subway station outweighs the drama. Here’s Tierney’s story.

I was born and raised in Chicago, and I’ll always be a Midwestern girl at heart. However, NYC has quite the allure, so I moved here in fall of 2017 to attend Pace University to major in acting on film and tv. Before I moved here, I had never even been to NYC. Still, I thought it was a good idea and took the leap. I felt it was a city of endless possibilities and how could a college student say no to that? 

My mom and I packed as much of my stuff as our Toyota Camry could handle and drove for 12 hours straight so I could start my new life. My then-boyfriend (now-husband), who I had met in high school, had already been accepted to Cooper Union. We were excited to be in NYC together. 

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Living Next to” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to have an iconic or unusual New York City neighbor. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

When I first moved to New York in 2017, I lived in a one bedroom in Kew Gardens that I shared with two other girls who I meet on a Facebook group for Pace University students. The following year in 2018, my husband and I decided we wanted to move in together. But we needed tons of space because he is an artist and needs room to store his paintings. We had the idea of moving to Jersey City. After listening to mutual friends and colleagues tell us, “you can get tons of space in Jersey and you are paying half the price,” we fell in love with the idea and took the leap. But it was far! We initially thought we’d like living in a family-oriented, quiet, and out-of-the-way neighborhood, but ultimately there was nothing to do there and the commute killed us. We could not wait for the year to be up so we could get out of that lease. 

My husband and I moved into our apartment by the Marcy Avenue station in Williamsburg in September 2019. We found it on StreetEasy and took it without ever seeing it in person. At the time, we were back home in Chicago, busy planning our wedding so we had to search and rent an apartment just by looking at listings. I know this was risky, but I went for it. 

Our apartment is on one of the busiest streets in Williamsburg. We live on the fourth floor of a walkup—at least I get my exercise in cheaply and easily—in a 900-square-foot two bedroom. There’s no laundry room so we bought our own washer/dryer. 

When I first arrived at our building, I was not excited at all about living next to the entrance to a subway station. We knew it was “by transportation” and that was key. We were happy we would be close to a subway so we could travel in and out of Williamsburg easily. We didn’t exactly realize that we would be living directly next to it—or quite how hectic it would be in front of our home each day. 

There’s an extra bedroom, so we have a roommate, who was my husband's roommate from when he first we moved to New York. Surprisingly, he doesn’t mind living directly over the subway. The best way I can describe him is very humble. Nothing ever seems to bother him. When we first arrived at our apartment to move our stuff in, I was in utter shock. He just shrugged his shoulders and kept moving up the stairs.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Marcy station not busy. Even in the middle of the night it can often look like rush hour. There’s always a huge mix of people at this station—moms taking kids to school, people heading to and from their office, or art students carrying their portfolios down to the platform. 

Although hectic, the best part of this is the convenience. When we moved into our first apartment together there was nothing around: no restaurants, transportation, or entertainment. It was dismal. But since we moved to Williamsburg, we get to see friends far more often, since most of them live in Brooklyn as well. And even those living in other areas don’t balk because they know we are literally steps from the subway. We go out more and try different restaurants and bars every weekend. We can pretty much time when to head down to the subway to be sure there is never a long wait by looking at people exiting the station to know a train has just arrived. This helps us gauge when we should head down to catch the next. 

Getting to work has been a breeze. All I have to do is take the M train to Broadway and Lafayette and transfer to the B or D train. When I get off, my office is less than a minute walk from the train station. That has been handy especially in the winter! Whether it’s going to the office, meeting friends or clients around the city or taking an acting class I’m able to transfer anywhere when I’m on the M or J train.

It’s not all rosy—or quiet. If there is a fight or yelling outside the station or even on the platform we can hear everything. Weekends are especially stressful because when people can be rowdy heading back from bars. And, it’s a subway station, so it can be smelly. It doesn’t help that I also live next to a 99-cent pizza shop and the scent of NYC pizza every day isn’t as pleasant as one may think. The combo of subway smell and food can be nauseating at times. 

I can hear the subway from inside my apartment, especially when I’m in the living room. I’ve started to learn to tune out the sounds of people on the street. But the first month or two, I felt as if I could hear everything. If I was working from home, I could tell when rush hour started because the noses outside would get louder.

Friends usually comment on how noisy it is when they visit for the first time. I’ve heard: “You weren’t joking when you said you lived right next to the train,” more times than I can count. However, they are New Yorkers and see the trade-off: we have a good-sized apartment, which is amazing for the rent we pay. 

I’ve never really felt unsafe living in near the subway during the day. Since there are so many people around, I feel protected. The only times that I feel unsafe are when it’s past 10 p.m. and I’m walking my dog and fewer people are around. There are a few homeless people who will ask for money. I’m always a bit on edge then. 

On the day we moved in, it was very long and grueling day. Around a rush-hour, about 5:45 p.m., the driver of the moving van said he had to move the vehicle or else he would get a ticket. We needed the driver’s help move the futon. It was too big to fit in the hallway, so it was on the side of the building outside. My roommate and I continued bringing boxes up the stairs. When we went back down to grab more boxes, we noticed that the futon was missing. We were confused and looked around and then the store owner from next door came running out. He said, “I saw two men who came off the subway looking at it. I told them to stop. But they carried it away!” We looked at each other frustrated and tired. It was gone. I wonder if they took it down into the subway for a quick getaway.

Shocking, for sure. But the most shocking thing happened when I was on my couch, watching tv. I got a notification on my Citizens app that the tracks were on fire in Marcy station. I thought to myself, “That’s impossible. There isn’t a fire in Marcy station.” A few minutes later, I heard sirens and a loud fire truck. I opened the window and I could see smoke coming from the station. I watched all the passengers scrambling to leave the station at once, and the police and firefighters trying to push past them to get on the platform. Thankfully the fire did not spread upstairs to our building. 

Still, I don’t lose sleep over it any danger. After living here for nearly six months, we have no plans to leave. We have so much NYC exploring left to do and our neighbor, the Marcy Avenue subway station, makes it easy. As with all relationships, you take the good and the bad.



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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