Alli Fowler had a good deal in Washington Heights: A cheap two bedroom and a roommate that she saw rarely. But she always wanted to live on the Upper West Side and she wanted to live by herself—in a one bedroom, not a studio. She had a tight budget of $2,000—and she made it work. Here’s her story.
I was born in Denver and raised in Miami, where spent a lot of time at the beach. I moved to New York City 10 years ago after teaching English as a second language in Asia. Most recently I lived in Washington Heights in a two bedroom with a roommate.
We were very good friends, but during the pandemic we only saw each other a handful of times.
There were no amenities in the building, aside from a live-in super, but the rent made up for it—we paid a little over $1,000 each because the apartment was rent stabilized. It was a fifth-floor walk-up in a prewar building, and we lived on the fourth floor, so I got my steps in every day.
[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.]
Thanks to my job as a real estate agent with Keller Williams NYC, I don’t really have much of a commute since I work remotely.
I loved having an affordable place to live and the friends that I made in The Heights were an added bonus. We were very close to the Cloisters, which is gorgeous.
I also loved living near Fort Washington Park and visiting The Little Red Lighthouse. I miss the Empanadas Monumental, which had every kind of empanada you could imagine—it reminded me of Miami Beach.
Last summer, after two years in The Heights, I decided to move to the UWS. I had family members who used to live here and as a child, when I visited them, I always dreamed that one day I’d live here too.
I started looking for a one bedroom or studio. I really wanted a one bedroom, but most places were very small for a one bedroom and out of my budget of $2,000.
I looked at maybe 20 apartments on my own and eventually I connected with an agent when I put in an application for an apartment that I loved. It had a Juliet balcony and was near the American Museum of Natural History but it turns out it had already been rented. That was really a blessing in disguise, because the broker showed me a true, one bedroom close to my price range, which is what I really wanted.
It was just $50 over my budget and pounced on it. I didn't really care about amenities, I just wanted to be just a block or two from a train, which it was.
My new apartment is a third-floor walk-up without a live in super. I live on the second floor. It has a garden view and it is at the back of building so I don't hear much construction or traffic from the street.
Now I am one block away from the train, the 1, 2, and 3 lines—and live between two parks (Central Park and Riverside Park).
For movers, I used Movers Not Shakers, since I am friends with the CEO. We used to be in the same Business Network International group, so I refer them to clients and friends and they also have had great experiences.
Was the process stress-free because I’m an agent? No. Renting in NYC is a hellacious process and more competitive now than ever. I’d suggest looking about four weeks in advance and making sure all your paperwork is in order so you can submit a complete application, since listings are moving very quickly.
It took me no time to settle in. I now know everyone on my block.
I used to do a lot of stand-up comedy when l lived in Washington Heights, before the pandemic. Now I’m close to Broadway Comedy Club and West Side Comedy Club—I like to check out the acts and I’m back to doing stand up myself. Plus it takes less time to get to the clubs in the Village from the UWS. Commuting to downtown Manhattan for anything work related also takes less time and effort.
I spend a lot of time at the park with my dog, Froggy. Froggy is a 15-pound, mixed-breed with silver hair and a big personality. He makes me laugh at least once a day and when he hears sirens or ice cream trucks he howls and matches the tone of the sirens, which makes people laugh as we walk. He's my little buddy!
Food shopping is so much easier. There are three different grocery stores within a few blocks: Trader Joe’s, Fairway and Citarella.
Overall moving was a great decision. I plan on staying here for a long time. I am paying more than double what I was with my roommate, but it is worth it to live alone and be further downtown. It’s still close enough that old friends can come visit. They love the new area as much as I do.
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