Transitions

From Bushwick to Morningside Heights: Leaving an artist’s studio for the comforts of a large prewar

"I no longer have a part-time artist roommate; I now reside with my seven-month-old son. My building is a prewar, six-story, elevator building that really feels like a community," says Gabriella.

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Gabriella, a native New Yorker, enjoyed sharing an artist’s space in Bushwick. But when she became a single mother, she decided it was time to move to Morningside Heights to be closer to her family, and so her son could enjoy living in a spacious apartment. Here’s Gabriella’s story.

I am a native New Yorker born and raised in Riverdale. I’m proud that my family (my dad’s side) has been here for over 100 years. My mother’s side came to New York as refugees from the Holocaust. All eight of my great-grandparents lived in New York City. Personally, I’ve lived in three boroughs over the years and as such, I pride myself on my knowledge of NYC. 

I attended college and grad school in NYC and left the area three times: I lived in Jerusalem and Beer Sheva in Israel, Boston and Lowell in Massachusetts. But each time I gravitated back to NYC. 


[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]


In 2018, I rented a room in my friend’s art studio in Bushwick, paying just $800 per month. I needed an inexpensive place to live, wanted to be by friends, and jumped at the chance to live in one of New York’s thriving art communities. My apartment was a large, prewar alcove studio with soaring ceilings and a mantel. My friend had her easel and desk in the alcove—she would use a sectioned-off space while I was at work during the day. 

The building was conveniently located right next to the J, M, and Z Myrtle stop. It was great to be connected so easily to all of New York City’s art, music and writing scenes. It also made my commute to my Midtown office super easy; the M train went straight there. 

The food options in the area were also stellar. I love Sprout Market, stocked with organic products; Norbert’s Pizza, a hole-in-the-wall shop that frequently sold out of pizza by nighttime; and Arepera Guacuco, a great Venezuelan restaurant. I also greatly appreciated being close to Molasses Books, and Little Skips, which was my go-to spot for live music or an afternoon of writing on my day off. 

But then I got pregnant—I’m a single mom by choice—and by my third trimester I knew I wanted to move back to a section of New York along the IRT. Because I had gone to college in Morningside Heights and lived there during graduate school, it felt more comfortable for me. I now live there again, between my grandmother’s home on the Upper West Side and my mother’s apartment in Riverdale—all three of us on the same subway line (the 1), which I also take to my office. Also, as a mother, I wanted the comforts of a large apartment building.

I am now within walking distance of Columbia’s affiliated preschools and my son is already registered at the Children’s Learning Center for fall. 

I still have soaring ceilings and a mantel, but now I have a two-bedroom, one-bath unit of almost 900 square feet! I no longer have a part-time artist roommate; I now reside with my seven-month-old son. My building is a prewar, six-story, elevator building that really feels like a community. We have a fantastic live-in super, a gym, laundry room, bike storage, storage cages and a package room. In addition to electronics and clothing recycling, we even have organics recycling. Of course, I pay much more in rent—just over three times more what I paid in Bushwick. 

While not as hip as Bushwick, the area certainly isn’t boring. I live by Riverside Park and some of our city’s greatest institutions: Columbia University, International House NY, and Riverside Church. Pisticci, Max SoHA and Toast are all still here from my college and grad school days. 

The La Salle Dumpling House is a wonderful addition to the nabe. For food shopping I like the West Side Market. There is a new bar, the Expat, which has an open mic. Sakura Park is wonderful for stroller walks and part of the year there are goats in Riverside Park. As an alumna of International House and Columbia, I attend cultural events at both. I have a local book store here too, called Book Culture. 

This doesn’t mean I don’t miss Bushwick. These days the pulse of the city is south; Brooklyn is where people gravitate. However, at this stage in my life, while I love both neighborhoods, as a former Riverdale girl, the stretch of land near the Hudson feels most like home.