The Newcomers

Why we moved to NYC from Washington: To grow professionally and be in a place with more diversity and culture

  • The friends found their wish-list apartment before leaving Seattle and signed the lease the day they arrived
  • They pay $4,900 for a two bedroom with space to WFH in a dog-friendly building in Clinton Hill
By Kelly Kreth  |
June 16, 2023 - 9:30AM
newcomers brick underground

Roommates Serena and Amara love their loft-like apartment with exposed beams and lots of light. 

Seattle-based friends Serena and Amara shared a desire to move to New York City, so when their plans finally aligned, they decided to share an apartment in the Big Apple. Having landed in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, the roommates are committed to staying for a few years to see where life takes them. Here's their story. 

I was born in Toronto and raised in Seattle. Amara was born and raised in Los Angeles. She moved to Seattle for work, having interned there for two summers. We met through mutual friends and realized we had similar lifestyles.

Most recently, I was living in a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath place in Pioneer Square with another friend. Our building was amenity filled: We had a nice gym, 24-hour security, indoor and outdoor rooftop space, and a package room. I even had laundry in my apartment! I was paying $1,600 for my share, which included the fee for indoor parking. The Covid deals were great back then, and we took advantage of them, signing a two-year lease. 

Pioneer Square is in the arts district, but during the pandemic, the area felt sketchy at times. I loved the galleries but hated that I felt unsafe at night. I also lived next to a football stadium, which was either great fun or highly annoying, depending on my plans for the day. I could also walk along the waterfront to the famous Pikes Place farmers' market. It had a good neighborhood feel, and I felt known—it was very comforting. 

I’m a software engineer and work from home, although I had a car if I needed to commute anywhere. 

Amara lived by herself in a 750-square-foot, one bedroom that had a den in the First Hill neighborhood. Her building was similar to mine—amenity laden. She was paying $1,850 for rent, but her total payment was closer to $2,100 a month because of utilities and parking fees. 

Amara loved that there was a park nearby and that the neighborhood was central yet quiet. However, being close to Pioneer Square meant it was not the safest area to walk around. 

She is a product manager and, like me, works from home and had a car. She also lived in front of a streetcar station, which was convenient. 

[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.]

Their reasons for relocating to NYC

I wanted to move to NYC to start my own clothing line and learn about the fashion industry. In Seattle, I was only exposed to people who were in the software industry. I wanted to come to NYC to learn and grow and try something new. 

Amara wanted to head to NYC because she knew Seattle was not a good fit for her. Being from L.A., she appreciated living somewhere with access to arts, culture, and diversity—and NYC seemed like the best fit for that.  

Wanted: A two bedroom in a dog-friendly building for under $5,000 

We did all our research from Seattle and ended up working with Yan Gladkov, an agent at Keller Williams NYC, on the recommendation of Amara’s friend. He was the best! 

We wanted a clean and bright two-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms that was under $5,000 per month. We needed enough space to fit two workstations because we both work from home. I have a dog, so the building needed to be pet-friendly and in a very safe area for nightly walks. We hoped for a washer/dryer in the apartment. 

We searched mainly in Brooklyn and looked at Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bed-Stuy. We settled on Clinton Hill for the accessibility to other areas of NYC. We really liked how the neighborhood was described.

Amazingly, we found our place prior to moving and applied before we headed to NYC. We were really on top of submitting our application so that part was fine, but after filling it out, the management company told Yan they wanted our assets to be more "liquid." He explained that we were young and putting our money into investments, which was better than having cash flow, and that we were responsible. That did the trick. We are so lucky that he was on top of it and helped us. I cannot stress enough how great Yan was.

The day we landed in NYC, we came with the cashier's check ready to go, saw the place in person, and finalized our lease that afternoon. It was a very seamless rental process, thanks to him. 

Though we had a great experience, I found it way more intense and fast-paced to apartment-hunt in NYC. In Seattle, I didn’t need a broker or to list all my assets, even though both are expensive cities. 

We got our wish-list apartment: We pay $4,900 a month for a 1,000-square-foot place in a building that allows dogs and has a gym and part-time security. We love that our apartment is loft-like, with exposed beams and lots of light. We even got an in-unit washer/dryer. 

The only downfalls are being right off the highway and far from the subway. In addition, it turns out the management is terrible; the building is definitely not up-to-date on some safety things.


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Surviving a moving company mishap

We brought quite a bit of furniture from Seattle and purchased some as well. After doing a cost-benefit analysis and considering inflation, we figured this would be the best option since we found some affordable movers. However, we had an issue with our movers not having insurance, so our building wouldn't allow them to bring our stuff inside once they arrived. 

Again, Yan was an angel and handled everything for us even though he didn't have to. He found us new movers and got them in contact with our old movers to transfer our stuff and deliver it for us. The lesson learned here is to never work with budget movers, especially if they do not have insurance!

Pros and cons of the new nabe

Clinton Hill is a lovely neighborhood—ultra-residential with lots of brownstones and trees and parks. People of all ages and phases of life live here. The vibe is super peaceful.

For dining, we recommend: Farmer in the Deli, El Cofre (Domican), Le Petit Monstre Bakery (in our building), LaRina, Russ & Daughters. 

To do, we love: Brooklyn Navy Yard, taking the ferry into Manhattan, Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn Museum, Saturday farmers market.

Food shopping and ordering in are great, and I love Wegmans, which is near our place. 

I use public transportation and rideshare apps. It’s an adjustment, but I can't imagine how difficult it would be to own a car here.

Our friends and family who have visited are incredibly impressed with our place. This is the first time a lot of them have stayed in Brooklyn and they totally understand the appeal now. They love the loft apartment and how gorgeous/spacious it is. They love Fort Greene Park and the super safe, cozy vibe of the neighborhood.

How their social life is going

Making new friends has been easy if you put yourself out there. Also, NYC is the kind of city where people are always networking within the connections they already have and looking to make new connections. The friendships I have in my hometown of Seattle are much deeper. I am hoping that the new friendships I build here grow deeper, too. I know all good and real friendships develop over time, so I am not worried 

Amara concurs. She feels like New Yorkers are open to meeting new people and that it's easy to follow up with someone. She had a lot of friends here before because she went to college on the east coast. Her boyfriend also moved to NYC around the same time, which has worked out well for her. 

For me, dating in NYC is kind of crazy. It's just a huge dating pool with a bunch of randos—I have definitely experienced dates all across the spectrum from really fun to really bad. I am growing throughout all my experiences for sure. Also, being single in NYC is really fun because of this, so I'm enjoying the ride!

Both of us agree: Moving to NYC has been incredible so far. My growth has been exponential. We both plan on staying in NYC for at least four years. We will see where life takes us after that, but I would love to stay longer if I can. 



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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