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After Ivan found his dog training and t-shirt design businesses impacted by Covid-19, he decided to move out of New York City. He traded an eccentric Bushwick art and music scene for a more scenic and relaxed Rockland County area and discovered it’s easier to stay out of trouble when surrounded by nature instead of hipsters. Here’s his take on how the two places compare.
I was living in an artist collective in Bushwick for about the last two years. The walkup building had four floors and I was on the second. It was a big artists loft that was divided up for different creatives, which I found via word of mouth.
I don't know the square footage in total, but it was basically an old warehouse with few amenities near the L train Morgan stop. I had to go to the local laundromat to do wash. I occupied a bedroom with access to a shared kitchen, bathroom and living room with cable TV.
[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—or outside the city. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]
My immediate neighborhood was hipster central. I liked that I could walk around at any hour and pretty much anybody that I spoke to was an eccentric artist. It was very easy to find collaborators for any kind of art project. Many units had a quirky name and not just an apartment number. Essentially, artists turned their work/live space into a venue as well.
The best thing about the area was the experimental music shows that were without genre. Some called it experimental “sound art.” Others called it "noise.”
Every single night of the week there were multiple shows like this. I was emailed a special newsletter every week, with addresses for the weirdest shows imaginable. However, if you were not on the mailing list, you could still walk around at any hour and hear music coming from a loft. It was like a giant college dorm without the jocks.
Prior to living here, I lived in "The Darkside" of Bushwick. This is a part of Bushwick that hipsters don't even know exist. I once saw a guy get shot right near my apartment.
For these last two years, I was traveling all over the country as a service dog trainer. I was only in the city for one week a month. The rest of the time, I was in every state including Hawaii and Alaska. I even traveled to Canada. I commuted thousands of miles every month with dogs that I was delivering.
Later, as a side gig, I started a vegan-humor t-shirt company. So when I was home, I’d sell those designs in Union Square Park and in artisan markets in Williamsburg and Bushwick, all easily accessed by subway.
I eat a plant-based, organic diet and Bushwick offered good variety. I did much of my food shopping at Whole Foods in Union Square, which was on the L train, so super easy to access. I almost always cooked fancy vegan meals. If I ordered out or dined it, Hartbrakers was great vegan spot! Amituofo was another place I enjoyed.
When the pandemic struck, the service dog company that I was working for went bankrupt. And the lockdown made me crave fresh air and space in a way I hadn’t before— everybody is on top of each other in the city. I started searching online for an apartment I could afford in an area that was less congested.
In April, I found a one bedroom in 12-unit building in downtown Nyack in Rockland County. I used Trulia and rented it without seeing it in person, just a video. It’s on the second floor of a two-story walk-up and I live there with my partner, a chef. I pay about 15 percent more now in rent, but it is worth it. It’s so nice to have more privacy and I love that laundry is in the building! Especially because of Covid-19, the idea of traveling to a laundromat is very undesirable.
I organized the move myself. I was concerned about Covid. Many of my service dog training clients are immune compromised, so for their sake and mine, I didn't take any chances. I rented a truck myself, packed, and loaded it up with my belongings and drove the hour or so to my new spot.
The feeling of exiting the city was palpable. I appreciate the open space, especially in these times. The Hudson River is close by, but I wish it was cleaner. It's fun for boating but not swimming.
There are a few great parks within walking distance where I go foraging for wild edibles. I use this book as a guide.
This is also good area for me to reignite and expand my business. There are a ton of dogs in Nyack, which makes it easy for me to meet dog owners. Luckily for me, many of them have behavioral problems. (The dogs, not necessarily the owners.) Most of my clients are now in the Hudson Valley area. I am still available for clients across the U.S. and Canada; however, I am servicing most of my long-distance clients on Zoom at the moment. I still run my t-shirt business but pivoted so that I am outsourcing the printing versus doing it by hand. Soon, I'll offer some handmade designs as a premium.
The best thing about being here is the proximity to things I want to do. Camping anywhere in the Hudson Valley or even more upstate is easier. When you live in the city, it's tough to get out. Beacon and Cold Spring are cute and nearby. And I just went camping near Niagara Falls.
Shortly after moving here, I met a guy named Solo while walking around on the local streets, who seems to have many different side hustles and car sales is one of them. He sold me a car and used Vespa so getting anywhere is easy now.
Because of the pandemic I have been mostly exploring outdoor areas or areas where there aren’t many other people. I don’t go food shopping or into restaurants. I order curbside from Back to Earth (a local health food store.) Hands down, The Art Cafe is the best restaurant in town. It's a place that vegan and non-vegan friends can have plenty of choices.
I also love Crystals on the Rocks. Such an awesome crystal shop!
Nyack has a ton of both American flags and gay flags on display, which is quite welcoming. And its history is delightful. One of the coolest things nearby is the Haverstraw Brick Museum (temporarily closed).
There is a lot less late-night social activity here, but I've met some new friends. Many people walk downtown so it's easy to strike up a conversation. By far, the most interesting person that I met here is Rose Marie Raccioppi. She is the poet laureate of Rockland Country, NY. There is a monument on a nearby pier with a plaque inscribed with one of her poems.
My city friends have visited me and like the fresh air and quaint feeling of the town.
My new neighborhood is uneventful compared to Bushwick, that’s not always a bad thing; there is a lot less trouble to get into here. But I know myself and eventually I will definitely get bored here. I’m thinking my next move will be out west.
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