Orley’s native Melbourne neighborhood in Australia had everything her family needed—except the excitement and diversity of a big city like New York. They decided to take the plunge and move back to NYC, despite the difficulties of a long-distance move during the pandemic. Here’s Orley’s story.
Up until September, I lived in Melbourne with my husband and two daughters, ages 4 and 6, in a two-story townhouse with a backyard. I loved the backyard and the privacy of having our sleeping quarters upstairs and our living area downstairs. What I disliked was the condition of the building: The floors creaked, the carpet was loose, and there were cracks in the walls and ceiling, which allowed ants and spiders to creep in.
We had to install our own washing machine and dryer. It is rare to find places in Melbourne, let alone Australia, that come with their own.
[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series The Newcomers features first-person accounts about why a renter or buyer decided to take a chance on NYC and live here now. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]
Our Melbourne neighborhood offered everything we needed within walking distance. Cafes and supermarkets were close by. But generally, it was super quiet—it was the suburbs—so if we wanted any action we’d need to drive somewhere.
During the Covid lockdown, Melbourne was the most locked-down city in the world so there was not much to love about Melbourne during these times. [Editor’s note: Melbournians were not allowed to leave the house except for medical care, grocery shopping, and essential work. One house of solo exercise was permitted. Those doing grocery shopping or exercise could not travel further than 5 kilometers.]
My husband and I were both born and raised in Melbourne, and in normal times, it is amazing place if you love sports (it has the Australian Open, Formula One Grand Prix, and Australian Rules Football—Go Dees!); coffee (shout out to Las Chicas in St. Kilda for enduring the lockdowns with us); parks, gardens and Japanese handrolls.
I am a lawyer and (pre-Covid) commuting to work would involve a drive to the train station and then taking the train. The public transportation system in Melbourne cannot compare to the efficient and easy-to-get-to hubs of European cities and some U.S. cities like New York. (Yes, you read that right: I’m a fan of NYC mass transit and all the many ways there are to get around.) My husband is also an attorney and our commutes were the same.
We began to think about taking another crack at living in The Big Apple. We had lived in NYC in both the Gramercy and the Lincoln Center neighborhoods from 2013-2018 and enjoyed it before we moved back to Melbourne to be closer to family after we had kids.
Now that our children are a bit older, we wanted to head back because NYC is the most dynamic big city we’ve ever been to. We wanted to experience the variety of cultures and ethnicities. Also, NYC is a great place to live because everyone wants to come to visit you!
It took about nine months from when we started thinking about it to completing our move in September 2021.
Where does one even start to describe what the process of moving to NYC was like? The number of available apartments seems huge and the pace at which apartments are listed and then unavailable is also much quicker than we were used to.
I searched online for a large two bedroom on or near the Upper West Side but without a broker in New York, it is really difficult to do a remote apartment search.
Finally, we saw a unit at Waterline Square, a luxury rental building overlooking the Hudson on the Upper West Side. While the rent was above our budget of $8,000 by about 15 percent, the amenities there are so exceptional we were fine spending a bit more to live a more comfortable life. With young kids and freezing weather in NYC at least four months of the year, having a huge indoor space where they can run around is helpful.
Amenities are located next door in the Waterline Club, which has a fitness center, Pilates/yoga studio, art studio, tennis court, swimming pool, kids’ playroom and so much more that we love. My girls could spend hours in the art studio, and I go down to the fitness center or Pilates studio every day to work out. I also love to play tennis on the indoor court.
So we took the plunge.
Luckily I had secured a job at a law firm prior to looking for a place and I also already had a U.S. credit score. Still, a lot about this move was difficult. Flights from Melbourne to NYC were extremely limited because of the pandemic– we had to take two 14-hour flights and go through Doha, instead of going to LA and then NYC as you normally would. We also had to do PCR testing and had to isolate the kids from school for a week.
I had to get a friend in the U.S. to assist in getting large bank checks for our initial deposit. Furniture took a lot longer to arrive than it normally would have.
Now we’re settled in our apartment and we love the cleanliness of the building and friendliness of the staff at Waterline Square. Living on the river is a bit quieter than other NYC neighborhoods. We like to go for walks, runs, and bike rides along the waterfront, although it can also get a bit windy at times. The biggest thing we had to get used to is the cold. And the only thing we don’t like about the area is there is so much dog poop! People don’t pick it up!
It’s very convenient being close to the kids’ school and their activities. There’s a shuttle that goes from Waterline Square to Columbus circle, and there’s a Citi Bike location really close by.
We had two cars in Australia and here we do not need them. Usually I take Citi Bike or the subway to work, same for my husband, or I can walk to work when it’s nice out.
We often get our groceries delivered and we have so many more options in NYC compared to Melbourne. You can order for same-day delivery and get everything you need.
It is cheaper to live in Melbourne in terms of rent and spaces are larger. But in NYC you have so many options for food—you can eat frugally or more luxuriously. For coffee I go to Rex religiously every day. Empellón just opened a location in Waterline Square and Morty’s wine bar is up the street; Freedman’s is a good place to take the kids for dinner; and Burrito Box has the best burrito around and we can also get it delivered.
We are very happy with our move back to NYC! We plan to stay for the foreseeable future. We have an amazing nanny and it’s a good place to raise a family.
We hope this year as restrictions ease up, our friends and families will head to NYC to check out our new place. We already know our former nannies will visit on their way to South America. We can’t wait!
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