Living in Elmhurst, Queens for the past four years, Samantina Zenon became increasingly concerned about crime in the neighborhood. During the pandemic, she decided to move somewhere safer and landed in Woodside, where she found a bigger apartment. Her rent is now $600 higher, and food is more expensive, but she appreciates being in a quieter and more family-oriented community. Here’s Samantina’s story.
I was born in Haiti and moved to the U.S. when I was 12. I came to New York in 2008 for college and a new beginning. I am now an actress, author, and content creator and have lived in Queens for nearly a decade. For the past four years I was in Elmhurst.
My apartment was a newly renovated one bedroom in a three-story house, where I lived on the first floor. The $1,500 rent was reasonable, but the place had its drawbacks: There was no laundry although there were laundromats close by, and there were heat and hot water problems in the winter, when the pipes would freeze.
[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.]
Even worse, the area wasn’t very safe. Over the years there were just too many incidents. A person was shot and killed on my block and at my train station.
I was close to the subway, so at least commuting was easy. I lived just three blocks from the 7 train and if that train had any issues I could always transfer to the E, F, M, or R at 74th Street at Roosevelt Avenue.
I didn't really do much socializing in Elmhurst except go to baseball games—Citi Field was fairly close to where I lived. I enjoyed the restaurants by me—especially the Mexican food! My favorite place was Taqueria Chila. I also ordered from Manjares Mexico and Chano’s Cantina.
During the height of the pandemic in NYC, I decided to move to a safer area that would also be closer to Manhattan for work. I scanned StreetEasy and saw at least 20 apartments in person. Often the apartments didn’t look anything like their pictures or they were too far for an easy commute.
Eventually I found a place in Woodside, a one bedroom in a brownstone. The apartment is bigger than my old one. It has high ceilings and a dishwasher and modern appliances. There are laundry facilities in the building and 24-hour security onsite.
Moving during a pandemic had an upfront cost that I didn’t anticipate. In addition to paying the usual security deposit, and the broker fee, I had to pay an additional $500 move-out deposit in case I was not out of my apartment by 4 p.m. Thankfully it worked out and my money was refunded.
I really love that my new neighborhood is quieter, cleaner, and feels far less dangerous than my old one. The area seems family-oriented, which I like. However, there is a tradeoff: My new place is way more expensive—$600 more per month—and so are the restaurants.
Still, I’m happy there are restaurants, gyms, and beauty salons around. Because of the pandemic I haven’t eaten indoors at any, and get takeout instead. There are several Spanish and Asian places to choose from: I like Ten Full and Thai Mission. I do miss my old area’s Mexican eateries. Sometimes I go back just to get a burrito.
There are three different supermarkets right by me including Key Foods, which is open 24 hours a day!
Overall, living in Woodside very convenient. I don't have to go too far to find anything I need—I walk about seven minutes to the main street for stores and restaurants. My gym is just a five-minute walk from my apartment so I can work out easily. I haven’t made too many new friends in the area, but at least I have some people to chat with at the gym.
I am still on the 7 subway line, but much closer to the city. When I go out now I typically take a Lyft. The rides are fairly cheap to the city.
Having an apartment and neighborhood I like and in which I feel safe was paramount, especially because I’ve been stuck at home and unable to be on stage. I’ve been performing via Zoom so having a bigger space is very helpful.
I feel I definitely made the right decision by switching neighborhoods. It’s my favorite place I’ve lived in NYC so far. And after I moved out, I went back to pick up my mail. There was caution tape at the bodega by the apartment so it seems like there was yet another incident. Glad I left when I did.
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