The Newcomers

Why we moved to NYC from Jersey City: To lock in reduced pandemic rents and be near Central Park

  • Before: $3,200 for a 650-square-foot one bedroom in a luxury elevator building
  • After: $3,300 for a 900-square-foot two bedroom in a prewar walkup
By Kelly Kreth  |
November 18, 2022 - 9:30AM

Shaun and Miguel Rowan say it's easier to make new friends in South Harlem than in Jersey City, "especially because there are lots of dog people around the park."

When monthly rents in New York City dipped during the pandemic, Shaun Rowan and husband Miguel Rowan longed to be near Central Park. They found what they were looking for—more room and private outdoor space—in South Harlem. Here’s their story. 

I was born in London and moved to the U.S. 28 years ago through my job at the time, which called for me to rescue a business here that was not doing well. I moved to Jersey City in 1999 and during the next 20 years bought and then sold an apartment.

Most recently I was living in Downtown Jersey City with my husband Miguel and our two Italian Greyhounds, Paolo and Ripley. We shared a one-bedroom apartment of around 650 square feet in a luxury building that had a fitness center, an outdoor swimming pool, shared outdoor space, laundry facilities, a lounge, and a dog-walking area. Our monthly rent was $3,200.

[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.

We loved being on a high floor, although not when there was an emergency! A small fire broke out in the kitchen of one of the residences, and as it was late at night, we had to go down 20 floors in our pajamas. Also, it felt a bit like living in a hotel—the vibe wasn’t that friendly and actually felt sort of corporate.

We enjoyed living in New Jersey and liked going to the beach at Asbury Park and antiquing in Lambertville although traveling through parts of Newark could be challenging. We ordered most of our food from Fresh Direct or shopped at a local Whole Foods. We would order in from nearby Saigon Café at times as well.

Our commutes were pretty easy. I worked as head of training at a jewelry company. Miguel is a fashion designer. We'd hop on the PATH train to Manhattan and then just have a short walk to our respective offices. There was also a bus to Manhattan right by our building. We had a car, too, and initially paid an extra $250 per month for the on-site garage, which was expensive so I got a space at the local mall for $125 per month. 

There are great bars and clubs in Downtown Jersey City. Our favorite is Six26, which has an amazing bar/restaurant with a rooftop that in summer is a great place to have brunch or afternoon drinks—it's such a laid-back, fun atmosphere with tasty food.

Why they moved to Manhattan

In the spring of 2021, prices in Manhattan were going down because of the pandemic. We decided to act on our dream to be near or on Central Park, so we began looking for rental units in the area.

In Jersey City it seems that each building has its own broker, but in NYC a building can be represented by multiple brokers. We found Zak Abdullah, an agent at Weichert, to assist us in looking. We saw six properties total, including some in the 80s on the Upper West Side, but none had a large-enough kitchen. (I cook all our dogs' food so I need a bit more space.) Also, trying to find an apartment with good light was difficult, and having a sunny, bright apartment was important to us.

Then we discovered South Harlem, where we landed a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment near the park for $3,300 per month. It’s in a five-story, prewar walk-up with a washer/dryer in the unit. At 900 square feet, the place is bigger than our last.

What they like about the new neighborhood

We love that we are right on the park and that South Harlem has more of a community feel than our last neighborhood. But we are not thrilled with the trash, rats, and panhandling on the streets.

We are still exploring the area and looking for places to order in from, but one thing has stayed the same: We still shop at a local Whole Foods.

Our favorite coffee shop that has amazing house croissants is 1927 Cafe Bar Popularr. For casual eating with outdoor space, we love Maxwell's Central Park and for Italian take-out, we love Nocciola. Being from London I love Indian food and our favorite is Anār. Miguel is Latin and loves the Brazilian food at Bar Goyana, which also has amazing cocktails.

We no longer have a car—we gave it up when the lease ended—so we depend entirely on public transportation.

I am now a real estate agent at Keller Williams NYC and cycle through the park to work. Miguel catches the 2 or 3 subway one block away and takes it to the 34th St. stop.

We absolutely plan on staying put for now and feel like moving to NYC was a great idea. We love our apartment and being close to Central Park, though we are concerned about the level of homelessness we see there.

Making friends in NYC has been much easier than in NJ—especially because there are lots of dog people around the park.



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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