The Newcomers

Why I moved to NYC from Illinois: I left my quiet yet fulfilling suburban life for a new job in the big city

  • She saw seven apartments and picked a one bedroom in a brand-new construction
  • Her $2,800 rent is higher than the mortgage payment on her Chicago-area house
By Kelly Kreth  |
December 1, 2023 - 9:30AM
newcomers brick underground

Tamika Bradford likes living in NYC but misses her tight-knit community—and the pizza and hot dogs—back home. 

When Tamika Bradford was offered a new job in Midtown Manhattan, she headed to New York City to quickly find a place to rent. After 10,000-steps-a day searches, she landed in a brand-new construction in Kensington, Brooklyn. Here’s her story. 

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Most recently I lived in Flossmoor, a suburb of Chicago where I have owned a 2,300-square-foot, three-bedroom house with two and a half baths and a large deck for seven years. 

Back home I have family and friends plus great shopping and restaurants. I miss going to Harold’s Chicken, Lou Malnati’s for pizza, and anywhere for a Chicago dog and a really great steak.

I love to entertain—the party was always at my house. If it was a holiday or girls-only get together, my place was the hang-out spot. My social circle included my group of workout ladies that I trained with at 5 a.m. for the last three years.

I also loved going out with friends for brunch or dinner, grabbing drinks at happy hour, seeing a show (that’s what we call the movies in Chicago), going to concerts, and spending time with family. My interests are shopping, home décor, and cooking and baking.

My commute was pretty much non-existent because I could work from home due to the pandemic. When I did need to go into the office, I could take the Metra train near my home, which is different from the Chicago L trains. I also own a car.  

[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.]

Why she decided to move to NYC

Then suddenly I found myself unemployed. I set about looking for something new and found a great opportunity. However, that opportunity was in New York City. So, in March 2023, I decided to leave behind my quiet yet fulfilling suburban life for the big city. I opted to rent out my house rather than sell it.

My new employer connected me to Mitchell Nochlin, an agent at Keller Williams NYC. Our first conversation was very telling in terms of what my expectations should look like prior to arriving. Mitchell let me know straight up this is NYC, not Chicago. 

My requirements were a real bedroom—definitely not a studio—with outdoor space (balcony, porch, deck, whatever) and in-unit laundry or laundry on the premises.

I flew to NYC in late April, leaving my car behind and all of my belongings in the basement/garage or areas of the house that are not used.

How she landed her new digs

I arrived in the city on a Thursday morning with no place to live. I stayed at a hotel and spent the next three days on multiple trains and walking well over 10,000 steps a day looking at apartments with Mitchell. 

We saw seven apartments in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

I liked the newer buildings and newer apartments, but I didn’t always like the neighborhoods. Manhattan apartments just looked small and scary to me, or at least the ones I viewed.

I did see a small place in Park Slope that I liked. It was a ground-level apartment with access to the backyard. The outdoor space almost had me sold. I also saw a great third-floor unit in Crown Heights in a beautiful brownstone. The layout was weird however because the apartment had three different entrances, but the kitchen was newly remodeled, and the historic charm of the apartment was unmatched.

I ended up choosing a 650-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment with a balcony and in-unit washer/dryer in Kensington, Brooklyn. I had heard of the area from a friend who used to live in NYC. It was the second apartment I visited. I moved in on May 8th.

My monthly rent is $2,800—more than my mortgage in Illinois. The new-construction building has an elevator and a gym. I love the apartment because everything is brand new. 

I initially just bought a bed and a sofa and didn’t get a TV until around two months later.

How she likes (or not) her new nabe

I’m not so keen on the neighborhood because there are no stores close by like Target or Starbucks. There are mostly bodegas, of which I am not a huge fan. I must order groceries for delivery or take Ubers to the stores. 

I do however enjoy going out to eat and shopping when I can. One Saturday I spent the day in DUMBO, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, took pictures, and ate at Julianna’s Pizza—it was so good. There’s no comparison between NYC pizza and Chicago pizza; they are too different to compare. I like both, but I will give Chicago the nod as the best. I am a hometown girl.
My favorite thing to do is go to the Courtelyou Greenmarket.

My commute now is tough: I walk 10 minutes to the station and take the F train to Midtown, which takes about an hour. After three months, I eventually brought my car here. I almost appreciate the opposite-parking-every-other-day rule. NOT!

The biggest differences for me are that NYC is more expensive, there are more people, and the neighborhoods are very diverse. I don’t think it was a big adjustment for me. I grew up and lived on the south side of Chicago most of my life. I am aware of city life and know how to live in a city.

How her social life is going

So far, I don’t have much social activity. I have made a few new friends here and am exploring making more, but nothing compares to my friends and family back home. Dating is nonexistent for me right now, but I am open to dating—just haven’t met anyone yet.

I have had friends and family come to visit me and they say they love my little apartment. Their biggest concern about me moving to NYC was my safety. They are happy I feel safe here.  

I like my new job in Midtown, so moving to NYC was a good idea. I am really going to try to stay for a while. 


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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