From Greenpoint to the UES: I moved in with my girlfriend and I'm saving money on rent

  • He went from paying $2,600 for a two bedroom to $800 for his share of a small studio
  • Groceries cost more but having access to 'the Second Avenue subway is a huge upgrade'
By Kelly Kreth  |
January 12, 2024 - 10:00AM
transitions brick underground

Christopher, who owns a coffee roasting company, finds it much easier to get around for sales calls and events from his UES perch. 

Christopher enjoyed living in Greenpoint but decided to move in with his girlfriend, who happened to be on the Upper East Side. Now he's saving money and getting around town is easier. He even convinced his brother to move to the area. Here’s his story. 

I was born in Connecticut and raised in Massachusetts. I moved to New York City for a music opportunity in 2011, left in 2013 to pursue a career in coffee roasting in Portland, Oregon, and returned to NYC in August 2021 to be near family in the Northeast.

Most recently I was living solo with my chihuahua mix, Bernie, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I rented a two-bedroom apartment in a new-ish construction building. Amenities included a roof deck, back patio, and laundry in the building. The rent was $2,600; it was a Covid deal.  

I liked the keyless entry, bathroom fixtures, and small dishwasher. The biggest drawback was the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway nearby; the constant noise was inescapable.

The apartment was by McCarren Park and a stone’s throw from the Graham Avenue business area of East Williamsburg. The neighborhood is mostly residential, not far from cafés and shops but a bit away from pretty much anything else. What I had access to in Greenpoint was really kind of Portland-y stuff like vegan pizza, coffee shops, etc. It’s not that different from being in a happening neighborhood in any city, though restaurants and things are probably more international and at a higher level than in other places.

When I was in Greenpoint, I held the role of director of business development for a coffee company based in Carroll Gardens that also has a location in Chelsea. I was taking the G train to Carroll Gardens from the Nassau stop and the L from Graham Avenue to go to Chelsea.

I liked Maison Jar Refillery & Grocery Store on Manhattan Avenue if I was going to cook and Kava Social (RIP) was the best for doing work into the evening. There were many places I enjoyed eating on Manhattan Avenue like Screamer’s Pizza, Pierozek (for pierogis), and Coast and Valley (also now closed). They were all places I ate at only occasionally but still miss.

Greenpoint was great for socializing as most of my friends live there and it was easy to see a friend's show or get birthday drinks. 

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

Why he headed to Manhattan

In August of 2022, I began to think of leaving Greenpoint because I wanted to move in with my girlfriend, who had been living on the Upper East Side for the last seven years. I also was excited to switch it up and try out a new area.

We now live together in her older building. We share a studio and pay $1,600 in rent. At 300 square feet, it’s much smaller than my Greenpoint place. It has an elevator but we are on the second floor, so we just walk up one flight. There are washers and dryers in the basement if that's considered an amenity, but otherwise, it's a no-frills setup.

It is located on the fringe of UES, a few blocks from where East Harlem begins. There aren't many landmark UES institutions, but it is still culturally UES as far as housing stock and businesses. I take it most people move here to be near the Q for easy commuting.

How he likes the new nabe

I think the UES is less desirable for renters and more of a buyer’s neighborhood.

Overall, I am saving money, since I’m splitting the rent with my girlfriend. Grocery costs are a little higher in the UES so that offsets my savings a bit. But I also save by going back to Greenpoint for dentist, eye doctor, and vet appointments. 

I now own a coffee company, Oval Coffee Roasters, which I co-founded in June 2023. I work out of a few different spaces. My company rents time at a roastery in Brooklyn where we do production; we do tastings and meetings during off hours at my business partner’s bar, Hard To Explain in the East Village. I’m also meeting customers all over Manhattan throughout the week. So living here is much better for getting around. I can pop home at any point for some downtime if I have an early start and late night. 
We're far from the prestigious institutions of the UES, so the area just feels like a normal Manhattan neighborhood but one that’s especially quiet, clean, and low in crime. The ease of transportation is the best part. The Second Avenue subway is a huge upgrade. 

Parking is a lot more difficult; I’ve spent over an hour looking for a spot. I don’t own a car but I borrow one from time to time. I kept a car in the city for two summers in Greenpoint so I got to know parking there pretty well. 

There’s really no access to artsy stuff here aside from the big museums and galleries, but I can live with that. 

Thankfully, there is always access to great food: I really like San Matteo Pizza & Espresso Bar. I take pretty much any excuse I can to eat there. 

Carl Schurz Park is also a regular stop, especially the small dog run.  

There are tons of small businesses but they generally cater to a younger generation. There are probably more grocery options, though I’ve actually found Target on 86th has lower prices than anywhere in North Brooklyn or Manhattan (that’s my hot tip!). Ordering in is better in my new neighborhood, and delivery time is about 20 minutes faster.

My brother moved to the city last summer and after visiting me decided to move to the UES as well. I haven’t been able to convince too many friends to come hang out up here; usually I go to them or we meet somewhere like Union Square.

I have met one other person that works in my industry, and we’ve been able to get together for coffee here and there. My girlfriend already had friends in the neighborhood but I can’t say I’ve got a lot of friends here yet.

Moving to the UES was a great decision and I plan to be here for the foreseeable future. I would gladly buy a place in the neighborhood.


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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