From Suffolk County to Columbus Circle: Avoiding a long commute when a new medical residency starts at dawn

From Suffolk County to Columbus Circle: Avoiding a long commute when a new medical residency starts at dawn

By Kelly Kreth  |
July 23, 2021 - 9:30AM

A medical resident describes his new commute: "I take the A (25 minutes) or 1 (30 minutes) up to Columbia Presbyterian. I go to work generally around 6 a.m. so things are on the quiet side. At least the breakfast vendors are awake!"


Homer and his girlfriend work in healthcare and were enjoying living and working in Suffolk County. When both land new jobs in Manhattan, they have no desire to commute. They end up in a place on the Upper West Side that’s within their budget—but find they’re still spending more each month than before. It’s a tradeoff they’re willing to make. Here’s Homer’s story.

I grew up across the Hudson River from Albany in a town called East Greenbush. My girlfriend Rica grew up in East Northport, NY, in Suffolk County. I was living in Miller Place, NY, which is also in Suffolk County, in a five-bedroom house with roommates for $3,000 a month.

The house was spacious and had our own washer/dryer but the landlord was not very responsive about making repairs. It was close to grocery stores, restaurants in the surrounding towns were great, and getting to the hospital where I was working in my final year of medical school was easy, just a 20-minute ride.

[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.]

The eastern part of Long Island is beautiful. Exploring different towns east of Center Moriches was great. Neighboring towns, such as Port Jefferson had smaller bar scenes, and with a 30- to 40- minute drive, you could be in Patchogue, which had a much livelier scene (but also a rowdy crowd.)

The beaches (Robert Moses, Smiths Point) were also nice and just south of us about 45 minutes away. Port Jefferson and Stony Brook have a nice restaurant scene too. There were wineries east of us within 45 minutes. We came into the city often, when our schedule and finances permitted. 

Rica and I were both taking new jobs in the city and did not want to commute from eastern Long Island. I’ve started as a resident at Columbia Presbyterian, and Rica works as a physical therapist in Columbus Circle.

We began looking in April, but we quickly learned how things work: A lot of New York City real estate agents won’t show you units more than 30 days from your desired move-in date.

I reached out to Antoine Amir, an agent at BOND New York. We wanted a one or two bedroom on the Upper West Side, not past 97th Street and close to the 1 train. Our budget was $3,000 and we wanted a washer/dryer in building. We had hoped for a large kitchen because we like to cook. We also have lots of plants so we wanted a place with good light.

We saw 15 units in total, including six in the building we ultimately rented in. Antoine showed us a corner unit we had not seen online and we loved it—and that’s where we ended up.

Our place is a light-flooded two bedroom in an elevator building near Columbus Circle for $2,600 per month. We got a free month of rent so our net rent is around $2,400. We don’t have a dishwasher but thankfully, there’s a laundry room in the basement—it’s not ideal but it’s satisfactory. We haven’t had to wait for machines because there are a lot of vacancies in the building.

The building is well maintained and I like the proximity to the A, C, and 1 trains. My commute is 25 minutes by train, but I can never rely on them to be on time. I take the A (25 minutes) or 1 (30 minutes) up to Columbia Presbyterian. I go to work generally around 6 a.m. so things are on the quiet side. At least the breakfast vendors are awake!

There are many reasonably priced grocery stores like Trader Joe’s are just a quick train ride away. Speaking of food, we like food a lot! The immediate neighborhood around Columbus Circle has parks, a handful of restaurants and a few bars. We generally travel uptown to the Upper West Side in the 80s and 90s to socialize. We've explored a handful on the UWS, like Tacombi and North Miznon.

A nearby hotel, The Watson, was a homeless shelter during the height of the pandemic, so that was challenging. Our neighborhood has been safe so far, but it’s close to Mount Sinai West so it's a little on the noisy side. 

Downsizing from a five bedroom with roommates to a two bedroom with my significant other, we are still spending significantly more living here. I took on a rent increase of about $400 a month, and that's with Covid pricing. Utilities are very comparable, and I'm happy to not have an oil bill anymore but food is generally more expensive.

We have had a few friends and family visit us. They like the location, like the size, and think it is a very livable space. We both have multiple sets of friends in the city. For me it was not very challenging meeting new people because my work sets up all sorts of events.

I have a four-year commitment to work in the city and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Manhattan so far, despite working many hours. With rents increasing, I just hope I can afford our apartment in the future.



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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