When Ashley Stanley heard that NYC rents were falling, she packed up and drove here from Colorado. But it was still hard to find a place for herself and her young son that she could afford. A fateful encounter with a friendly bartender turned everything around, and they landed in a one bedroom for $1,900 on the Upper West Side. Now she’s fully enamored with NYC living. Here’s her story.
I was raised in Dallas and was living in Denver in the Downtown/North Capitol Hill area for just over a year. My seven-year-old son and I lived in a studio in a building with lot of amenities—a rooftop pool, gym, and deck for grilling and entertaining. It was great to have a dishwasher and in-unit laundry when you have a kid.
I signed my lease there pre-Covid, so I was paying $1,693 a month. During the pandemic, I noticed rents dropped to $1,380 for the exact same unit, so I snagged a new unit and saved $300 a month! I paid $120 per month for an unreserved spot in our building’s garage. I loved living downtown because it was walkable and convenient for shopping and restaurants.
We loved to go bowling. In fact, someone noticed how great my son was and asked if he wanted to join a league. During the pandemic, there was not much for us to do, but we made it work. We went swimming a lot during the summer, played in the snow in the winter, and learned to roller skate in the apartment.
I was working in Aurora, CO, as a commercial property manager for an industrial warehouse space near the Denver International Airport. My commute was about a 40-minutes by 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.]
In the spring, I started to think about moving to New York City. I had wanted to move here for over 20 years. Why I decided finally to do it is the million-dollar question. It had been on my bucket list, but it never seemed the right time before. When I saw that rents were dropping, I thought it would be a good idea to finally head here before rents went up again.
I packed up everything and drove across the country in five days with no apartment to move into. I lived out of a hotel for two weeks while I found the right place. My boyfriend also decided to move to NYC but we live separately.
And OMG! It was fucking hard finding an apartment. I tried an agent or two, but the units they showed me just didn't fit the bill. I needed a walkable neighborhood and at least a one bedroom, not a studio, for under $2,000. I knew I only wanted to be in Manhattan and really wanted to be close to Central Park.
I saw at least 35 apartments. I was out-bid on a couple, didn't qualify for a few, and finally I walked into a bar where the bartender told me about a unit above her that was ridiculously low for the area and had a renovated kitchen. She called the landlord and within an hour I was viewing my apartment and applying for it. Since I didn’t have a job in NYC, I was required to have a guarantor and thankfully a friend back in Dallas agreed to help out. The landlord was extremely flexible and allowed an out-of-state guarantor.
I moved in May and it’s pretty amazing that I am living a one bedroom on the Upper West Side/Manhattan Valley for $1,900! I love my tiny space in Manhattan because it is unique, quaint, and cozy. The building has no amenities, and neither does the apartment. I'm okay without a dishwasher, but I did buy a microwave and air conditioner. I walk across the street to do laundry at a laundromat.
Overall, Manhattan is way more walkable than Denver. I lived five minutes away from my boyfriend via car, door-to-door and now we both live on the UWS—a 12-minute walk! I love that living in Manhattan offers me more exercise, but not having easy access to my car is a drawback. I park in a monthly garage in East Harlem all the way on 110th Street and First Avenue, which costs me $250 per month.
We live just two blocks from Central Park. There is no comparison to that! I still do miss the mountain views I had in Denver and all the sunshine. But in Denver, I had a 9-to-5 job, which meant I needed babysitter to pick up my son and care for him until I got home at 6 p.m. That cost about half my monthly income. Here in New York, I have a more flexible schedule, so I don't need a babysitter. My son started an awesome summer camp on the Upper West Side—Steve and Kate's Camp at Trevor Day School on 88th Street. He'll go to a public school when school starts, PS 165 Robert E. Simon on 109th.
The food here does not compare. NYC is much more diverse and richer in culture. I love that there are so many delis and bodegas in NYC – and 99 cent stores! Back in Denver we only had Amazon Prime or Fresh deliveries. My favorite places to eat and get take-out are: Bob’s Your Uncle, Mighty Catch, The Calaveras, and Duke Ellington Gourmet Deli.
I landed my current job through my apartment hunt. I went to look at an apartment and there were six people waiting to see the same unit. The agent couldn’t make it to the showing, so I called his boss and asked if there was another way to see the unit. She and I talked for a while—I happen to be a licensed agent and long story short: I ended up joining the company, Living New York—and I even closed a rental deal the first week I was on board.
Since then, I switched over to sales and enjoy the opportunity to explore NYC’s neighborhoods while helping people find their perfect home.
Making friends—especially during the tail-end of the pandemic—has been slow, but steady. I already have three new friends!
My friends and family from home were shocked that I moved. My mother is upset because she cannot see her grandson like she used to. I got a call from my cousin in Arizona who I haven't spoken with in years. He was shocked that I moved without knowing anyone and that I am so far away from family. Everyone is blown away, but then there are some that think this is just something I would do.
No one has visited me yet, but they will have plenty of time to do so, because I signed a two-year lease and plan on staying in Manhattan for a long time.
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