BY LUCY COHEN BLATTER, LAUREN EVANS
Moving to New York City is a big deal, no matter who you are or how cool you were back in Cleveland. New York is a deeply egalitarian metropolis in the sense that no one’s concerned about what you did before you arrived—it’s what you do with yourself here that matters.
Knowing this can be intimidating. But that’s okay! You’re moving to the greatest city in the world, in the eyes of those of us who live here. (Rule number one: Do not argue with a New Yorker on New York's preeminence.) That said, there are a host of ways to make the transition as smooth as possible.
And if all this sounds like too much, well, just know that you’ll have plenty more things to worry about once you’re here.
There's a lot more to a neighborhood than meets the eye
Let’s face it, your biggest struggle—aside from reckoning with the existential terror of living in a city of 8.5 million people—will be finding a place to live. There are some broad themes to consider at the outset. How well do you know the city? If the answer is “I’ve visited once,” or “Brooklyn is a neighborhood, right?” you should definitely engage in some on-the-ground research.
Grab yourself a short-term rental and do some recon. This will allow you to learn things about a neighborhood that you just can’t fully grasp from internet research, like how long the walk to the subway really is, the quality of the produce selection at your closest supermarket, and how the area feels at night. Sure, there’s a lot you can learn online, but never underestimate the importance of intangibles. If that’s not possible, at least take a virtual stroll around the area using Google Street View.
Once you think you’ve landed on a neighborhood, learn more about it. Visit Address Report, which generates maps with information on whatever address you enter, such as commute times, nearby parks, and number of noise complaints. You can also enter a building's address into Localize.city to learn about current and future construction, views, shadows, road safety, and much more. Local blogs are also a good way to get a sense of what’s happening in a particular area (here's our list of the best ones around). You can also get insider information through our Neighborhood Secrets series.
Some questions to ask yourself (and any broker you're working with) include:
How convenient is the area when it comes to subways? If you're more than a 5- or 10-minute walk from the train, do you have an alternative means of getting around, like a bus or Citi Bike? Keep in mind that even neighborhoods with access to subway lines can see major delays and detours on weekends, so if you work on weekends or plan to go out a lot, you’ll want to check MTA.info for details on planned maintenance work and construction. If you’re thinking of moving to a neighborhood off the L train, know that in 2019 it is going shut down for more than a year. This might be a deal-breaker, or it might work in your favor, as rents and asking prices should take a hit during that time.
What are your food options? Maybe you’re an amazing chef, but it’s unlikely you’ll have time to cook each and every day. Head over to the food blogs Eater and Grub Street to get a sense what’s out there, as well as what’s opening up. Food delivery services like Seamless, Caviar, UberEats, Postmates, and Delivery.com will do the hard work for you, and FreshDirect, Instacart, Google Shopping Express and Amazon Prime Now grocery delivery services will also help you avoid leaving your house to eat. You can also just call your favorite local takeout place to put in a delivery order the old-fashioned way, and many conventional grocery stores and bodegas deliver as well. (Note: If you have a doorman, don't assume he will accept grocery deliveries for you when you're not home. The soaring popularity of these options has so overwhelmed some buildings that they now refuse delivery. Be sure to ask what the policy is if this matters to you.)
What's the nightlife like? New York City has party neighborhoods, quiet family neighborhoods, and everything in between. In Manhattan, major party hubs include the East Village, Murray Hill, and the Lower East Side. In Brooklyn and Queens, that means Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint and Ridgewood. These neighborhoods tend to get pretty loud on weekends, and might not be ideal if you’re not planning to take advantage of the city’s wilder offerings. Ask around and see if there are a few too many bars in a given area for your liking, and return in the 10 p.m.-2 a.m. timeframe on a Friday or Saturday night to get a sense of the vibe.
What evacuation zone are you in? Superstorm Sandy taught us that severe weather can affect the city in a big way, and climate experts say we are likely to see more intense weather in the future. Parts of the city at greatest risk for flooding are evacuated first (see the zones here). It's something to consider, as there'll be a temporary disruption even if your building isn't damaged, and a far bigger upheaval if it is. Plus, if you're buying, living in a flood zone might mean shelling out for high-priced flood insurance and having to pick up the pieces when the next big storm hits.
How safe is the neighborhood? You can always check the official NYPD website for crime statistics, but the best way to get a sense of how comfortable you'll feel in the neighborhood is to ask someone who lives there, and to check it out yourself, especially at night. The vibe at 9 p.m. might be very different than at the 3 p.m. open house you attended.
How easy is it to find a parking spot? Wherever you move in New York City, the answer to this question is probably going to be "not very." But if you have a car, you can ask residents, brokers, and doormen about this. That is, if you plan to keep the car, which, again, you probably don't need. If you are going to keep the ride, get familiar with alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations. In Brooklyn, you'll wind up having to move your car less frequently than in Manhattan if you park on the street. If you decide to park your car in a garage, be sure to factor monthly fees into your budget. In Manhattan, $400-$500 a month is not unusual for garage parking. Some garages in prime locations charge as much as $800 to 900 a month. Renting a car is always an option, too. A Zipcar membership allows you to rent cars by the hour (most cost about $15 per hour, gas included). Car2Go offers tiny Smart cars for a similar hourly rate, but rather than an annual membership fee, there's a $35 sign-up fee. The service is currently only available in Brooklyn and Queens. On the plus side, you can leave the cars on the street where you please, as opposed to having to return them to their original spots, as you do with Zipcar.