Finding a place to live amongst 18 million people.
Spend a bit of time here because this is the most important aspect of your move and you need to be well informed.
When you arrive you'll either be in temporary corporate housing through work, or paying your own way. If you’re in corporate accommodation you're taken care of, but try to get 6-8 weeks in your contract because it can be necessary when finding an apartment.
If you're paying for temporary accommodation while looking there are a lot of options to suit all budgets. So unless you have very nice and very tolerant friends who will let you stay with them while you look, get onto Yelp and Craigslist and search for temporary housing, they list all options from hotels, shared accommodation, hostels, etc. You will need around a month to six weeks to find your apartment and get a feel for which part of the city you want to live in.
- Imagine the tiniest apartment in the world and halve it, that's probably what your friend is living in - with a room mate. So tread lightly when asking for favors, especially the long term sleep-over kind. It's not like other cities where people generally have another bedroom or at least a big enough lounge room to set up dividers to house you in. Save yourself the awkward moment when he / she has to say no by bringing it up, if they offer, awesome, if they don't hit the hostel or hotel.
- Bedbugs are a big problem in NY, if you are going to stay in a hostel, find out prior to your arrival what size bed you'll have and bring your own sheets, quilts, pillows and a plastic mattress protector. Do not take any risks, if they get into your clothes you'll have a really hard time getting rid of them.
BOND AND APPROVAL
Looking for the perfect apartment is hard enough but be prepared to fork out some dough and go through the ringer for an approval when you do. Bond will cost you 3 months rent (which you get back when you leave of course) and also the first and last month's rent. So if you're paying $2-3k a month, you can be up for $10k straight away.
As for approval, because you are new to the country you will not have references and some landlords may ask you for a much larger bond - up to five months in advance. They will also ask you for personal and professional references - which is why it's great to get all your paperwork together as early as possible: pay stubs, letters from your employer, previous pay stubs, bank account receipts and in some cases like to meet with you to suss you out.
First off, you might have heard that NYC is HUGE. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands you will need to work with a broker. Most of the accommodation for rent is not advertised and goes straight to a database that NY brokers pay a fee to access. The apartments you'll find on the NY Times and most other rental websites are NOT accurate. Trust us. What they do is upload a photo of the penthouse or the best apartment in the building, and just when you get really excited that real estate in NY is actually quite reasonable, you'll go to the apartment and find something more like the penthouse laundry closet.
A broker will charge you around 15% of one year's rent but they will filter out all the rubbish places so you won't waste your time. Be careful of brokers who 'don't charge a fee', because they get their fee from the party renting out the property. This means you will cut down your options dramatically. That's why it's very important to to either:
- Negotiate a broker allowance in your contract
- Be prepared to pay the broker fee or
- Network, network, network.
Another option is to scour New York for Real Estate Agencies who have pretty accurate photos and descriptions of properties in their windows, if time is on your side go for it.
The 5 Boroughs
New York is split into 5 boroughs:
Each borough is then split up into districts and communities with individual zip codes. Below is a brief outline of each borough, the communities belonging to it and a general idea of rental prices.
Of course it's up to you to find where you're most comfortable and start looking.
Manhattan is the heart of New York and once you get your head around it, it really is quite easy to navigate around because all the streets are numbered instead of named, (except for downtown) as is most of NY really. It's separated by the Hudson River on the west side, the East River on the east side and by Harlem River to the north. In Manhattan you'll find most of the icons you associate with NY - famous buildings, shopping, museums, congested traffic and millions of people.
Manhattan is split up into the following parts and you can use this guide when searching for apartments:
Battery Park: Is just that, it's a pretty big park and not much else except for some expensive apartments surrounding it. It's where you go to get the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and it's also where you get the Staten Island Ferry. You wouldn't live here, there's nothing to do and quite the hike to where the action is.
Financial District (Wall St): Is home to Wall St, most of the stock exchanges and Ground Zero. Definitely take a look at some apartments here because at the moment you can get quite a good deal - with the GFC the Financial District took a big hit as a lot of people lost their jobs and moved out of the area - and you get a lot more space for your money too. Views can be spectacular and most apartments have 24-hour concierge and all the mods and cons. While it hustle and bustles on weekdays, the area is dead at night and on weekends and you will have to get the subway to get to anywhere busy. If you want to rent here, make sure you check it out at night and on the weekend.
TriBeCa: Is an acronym for 'Triangle Below Canal Street' and this is your best bet for celebrity spotting as the area is peppered with expensive celeb lofts and glamorous restaurants. Robert DeNiro's latest restaurant, Locanda Verde, is located here. It's expensive real estate because a lot of it is converted warehouse spaces which are perfectly suited for very large lofts. The culture of the area itself is far quieter than nearby downtown areas.
Chinatown: Is absolutely crammed to the brim with authentic Chinese restaurants and grocery stores but the streets are also lines with tonnes of tiny shops selling fake designer purses, bags, watches etc and is unfortunately the dirtiest and trash lined area in Manhattan. The majority of the people who live here are Chinese but every nationality is welcome. Chinatown is an awesome place to hang out and a new bar pops up every hour. Be wary of living here though, it's expensive and your apartment will be tinier than tiny but what to be careful of is the smell - In winter your apartment might be fine, but if you're near a Chinese restaurant which leaves its rubbish on the street, the baking sun will let you know about it.
Little Italy: Has almost been totally swallowed up by Chinatown but the remaining 4 or 5 block stretch is still a really cool place to live - if you can afford it. Again, your apartment will be tiny and super expensive but the area itself is really nice and has a very homely and welcoming feel to it.
SoHo: Is short for 'South of Houston Street' - Houston Street is a major east-west thorough that runs the entire length of Manhattan and is generally used as a boundary for neighborhoods - and it is generally where everyone want to live, eat, drink, shop and be seen. SoHo apartments are generally converted warehouses that earlier developers rebuilt to serve as artist's work-live spaces and the area is now packed with the who's who and is a very central place to live. Again, very, very expensive. Prices here are at the top of the rental market but the vibrant atmosphere, the unique shopping and the incredible people watching is well worth it if you can splurge a little (ok a lot).
NoLita: Is short for 'North of Little Italy' and is a small area that is home to new bars, clubs, restaurants and boutiques and is just as expensive - if a little less grungy than its next door neighbor the Lower East Side. Again great place to live if you can afford and can deal with a very small space.
Lower East Side: Is packed with cool bars, clubs and restaurants and while it used to be one of the cheapest areas to live twenty years ago, it's now so hip that rental prices seem to hike up daily! It is insanely expensive and it's really, really noisy but you will never ever forget that you live in New York and if that's what you're looking for - even if just the first year - dive in, it's fun, fun, fun all hours of the day and night.
Greenwich Village: Comprises of three distinct areas and people who live there are generally quite smug about it with good reason, it is an awesome place to live and gives you the best of both world's with cool bars, restaurants and boutiques to gorgeous tree lined streets with the big stairs leading up to apartments a la Sex and the City. The three areas are; West Village, a really lovely residential area that has very few streets that allow through traffic so it's an unusually but very pleasantly calm part of New York. It begins at 6th Avenue and goes right to the Hudson River and is filled with beautiful architecture and plenty of history. VERY expensive to buy and rent. The Village is simply what the locals refer to as the centre of Greenwich where you'll find Washington Square Park. It's a really lively part of the city and the park always has something on. And East Village is the last to be gentrified and houses what is referred to as Alphabet City - Avenues A, B and C. It's really expensive to rent even though it's quite a way from any public transportation but it is definitely cool to live in. It's quite mixed racially and can seem a bit dodgier in some areas so have your wits about you and you'll be fine.
Chelsea: Sits on the the west side of Manhattan between 14th St and 23rd St and is the home of New York's most outward gay scene, particularly along 8th Ave. West of 9th Avenue is where you'l find the Meatpacking District - literally named as the original industrial area of west Manhattan - which is converted industrial building after converted industrial building serving as very trendy loft spaces and the hottest nightclub scene in NY. Think spas in clubs, rooftop pool bars and windowed toilet cubicles with sweeping views of Manhattan. Chelsea and the Meatpacking District are very expensive areas to rent or buy.
Gramercy Park: Is basically Chelsea's equivalent to the East but without the raucous party scene, it's very up-scale residential but some very pretty spots and much quieter. It's only a short walk to to the hustle and bustle though so check it out. The price is the same.
Garment District: Or the Fashion District named because many prominent fashion houses do their business there - between 23rd St and 34th St - You might go there hoping for an amazing shopping experience but it's really just a stretch of mainstream stores not really relating to fashion at all. Macy's is on 34th St and 5th Ave. You don't want to live here, it's busy, touristy, loud, dirty and the traffic never stops.
Midtown: Is the area between 14th St and 59th St (Central Park). Midtown is very, very busy, and very, very touristy, but it's iconic New York.You'll probably spend a bit of time there when you first arrive - especially if you're in corporate housing as they generally place you there - as it's the home to Times Square, Rockerfeller Center, Broadway, The Empire State Building, Theatre District, art galleries like MoMa, lots of shopping and so much more. Explore, grab a hot dog from a vendor (street meat), take pictures from the Top of the Rock (Rockerfeller Center), check out 5th Avenue, but you probably won't want to live here. It's expensive and jammed with tourists, at Christmas time it will take you an hour to walk from Rockerfeller (48th) to Central Park (59th) through all the thousands of people. A walk that usually takes ten minutes! And be warned, trekking through the crowds is made even more unpleasant if the snow has melted and you're stepping into puddles of dirty water at every single block. But having said that it's central, awesome and you will definitely know you're in New York.
Upper West Side: Is the area west of Central Park (59th St). It's where the Nouveau riche have decided to settle and is a really beautiful area with exquisite apartments, stately canopies, doormen in crisp uniforms and sweeping park views. It goes all the way up to 110th St where Harlem begins. There's not a great deal in the way of bars and clubs and everything is just that much more up-scale, so if you like things a bit grungier head back downtown, while the space you'll get for your money is a bit better here, it's an older demographic and a too goat's cheese salad for the grungy kind.
Upper East Side: Is east of Central Park and this is where the old money lives. This is the 5th Ave side and home to the museum mile and some of the most breathtaking properties in New York. If the Upper West Side is goat's cheese salad, the east is Beluga Caviar and Truffles.
Harlem: Is the area at the top of Central Park and you notice the economic divide almost instantly. Harlem starts at 110st and finishes at 155th St and is still very much dominated by African Americans. The area is slowly being gentrified as Manhattan locals are being priced out of their first choice areas. It does not have the notorious reputation it did in the past and is considered a bit safer, but the area still has a lot of crime.The north eastern side of Harlem is know as Spanish Harlem for its Latino community.
$$$: The cost of living in Manhattan is pretty much the same in every district, EXPENSIVE. For a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment (most are security apartments) that is decent, and decent means means basic and livable, you're looking at around $2k a month minimum. This can go right up to $4-5k if you want something bigger and a bit more modern and even more for two or more bedrooms. But be prepared to lower your standards if your budget is around the $2k/mth area and you want to live alone because your apartment will be TINY in Manhattan.
If you choose Harlem or even some places in the Financial District and Alphabet City (Avenues A, B and C), the price will go down slightly. Your other alternative is to share a place which is what a lot of people do. If you don't know anyone in the city, post your situation on the MESSAGEBOARD, there's probably someone in your exact position looking for a flattie themselves.
ALL MANHATTAN COMMUNITIES
The Bronx is NY's northernmost of the five boroughs and is home to the Yankee Stadium, The Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden and Pelham/Spit Rock Golf Course - New York's only 36-hole golf course. The community contains mostly African Americans and Hispanic Americans and this cultural combination has made the neighborhood a fountainhead of both Latin music and hip-hop - it's noted in many publications and blogs as the 'birthplace of hip-hop'. One fifth of The Bronx is parkland and the borough is surrounded by water. Sounds picturesque but the Bronx is NY's lowest economical borough and is still widely associated with violent street crimes, gang activity, drugs and gutted tenements. Having said that, with the gentrification of NY as a whole, The Bronx has been cleaned up considerably and is now a much safer place to live than say in the '90s. It does still, however, house a great many housing projects some areas are still very dangerous.
Below is how some locals describe their neighborhood in The Bronx:
Hustla718: "The best areas in the Bronx are the 45th, 49th, and 50th precincts. In the 45th, only areas to avoid are near the Throgs Neck Houses. Also
Co-op City is kind of ghetto. They have their moments. The rest is decent, although things do happen.
In the 49th, Try to stay as far to the east as possible. Pelham Parkway to the west can be shady at night and White Plains Road is a robbery hotspot. There are also a lot of gangs from A.B.I. to Latin Kings. Allerton to the west just north of Pelham Parkway is also not too great, similar to Pelham Parkway but less Albanians, more Latinos. Van Nest is pretty Mod cut these days. Also stay away from the housing projects (there are a few in the area, mainly around White Plains Road, also some HUD buildings in that same area).
In the 50th precinct, stay away from the Marble Hill Houses. Kingsbridge Heights also isn't too great except for a small pocket, north of the reservoir.
Oh and one exception is Woodlawn, it is part of the 47th precinct (a high crime precinct). However it is divided from the rest of the 47th precinct area by a highway and a river. Very isolated. Things happen like some kid got shot the other day but this is the Bronx what do you expect. It's a world of difference compared to the other neighborhoods in the 47 though. Decent area."
Freak: "Up until a few years ago, Van Cortlandt Village was just another neighborhood in the city that people forget about. The name Van Cortlandt Village was abandoned years prior as the old residents of the neighborhood started to die out and Kingsbridge Heights was being used more often. Around 2003, real estate folks started bringing the name back, and it's popular now.
Transportation is pretty good. The BX1, BX2, and BX10 run through the area. Additionally, the BXM3 which takes you to Midtown in 25-40 minutes runs through, too. The 1 subway station is but a five minute BX10 bus ride or a ten minute walk away. The 4 Subway station is a five minute walk up the hill and to the east or 1/2 bus ride for even less time.
The neighborhood is extremely safe, which is quite surprising considering the Tracey Towers, right northeast of the neighborhood, is having a lot of problems with gang activity, as are areas 10 minutes south of the community.
I'd say the residents range from lower-middle class to upper-middle class, depending where in the neighborhood you are.
Demographically, Jews and Irish were the vast majority of the neighborhood up until the mid 90s, when they all started to die off (most were old). Some younger residents stayed, but more than 25% must have moved away. This left the population at 1/3 White, 1/3 Black, and 1/3 Hispanic. Up until about three years ago, the White population was on a steady decline, and Hispanics were growing. Recently, however, Whites have again become the majority as middle class Whites being priced out of Manhattan and looking to raise a family are moving here. And not just one or two large families. I'd say 3/4 of the newcomers in the neighborhood are from Manhattan. So recently, the number of white teens and kids has grown largely, and 20-30 aged whites are larger now than they've been in at least two decades. Still, Hispanics are growing too, at a bit of a smaller rate, but a rate no less, creating some nice diversity for the area. I've been seeing more gay couples in the community too. Saw two last week. I assume they're from Manhattan, as well.
There really isn't much going on here. There are three parks in the area, one owned by the amalgamated folks that is where the young kids spend there time. There is a library, Albanian pizzeria, Chinese restaurant, bank, C-Town, bodega, pharmacy, 99 cents store (also owned by Albanians), glasses store and synagogue, all located on two blocks across the street from each other on Sedgwick Avenue. The trees and proximity to Manhattan are what is attracting ex-Manhattanites, here. It's like a quieter, more affordable part of Manhattan to some.
During commuting hours, the blocks are pretty busy with the vast majority of residents commuting to Manhattan and back from their jobs. Also, I live here and thus the neighborhood is three times as good as I describe it to be."
Riaelise: "There's going to be friction everywhere. There is no utopia. Baychester will only be but so "bad". The per capita income is relatively high for Bx, and a lot of people are moderate/middle classed. It doesn't help that some of the kids buy into the wannabe thug culture, but that's here and there. Gangs are everywhere, too."
VictorFox: "To a certain degree I agree with you however I do think there are some safe areas of the Bronx as well.
The Bronx being the poorest borough is the reason why you see a lot of thugs, hoodlums, hood rats and loud people in the Bronx. And the majority do live like dogs which pisses me off because all that does is deter people with a higher living standard from moving into the Bronx. These ghetto residents in the Bronx live by a lower standard than the rest of us who are educated and work for a living.
This behavior is what you call a "ghetto" lifestyle or "ghetto" culture that's a cancer to the Bronx and that I hate with a passion being a native Bronxite who wants the best for the borough. I've always complain about that on other threads because I KNOW that these "ghetto" people are the ones holding back the Bronx from prospering since there are soooooo many of them concentrated in the Bronx. They out number any other class in the Bronx.
And this is why in other posts I've said that I would love to see more affluent people and/or Yuppies move into the Bronx to help diversify the borough so that it is NOT predominately known as a poor/low-income borough because having such a reputation of it being the poorest borough will only scare away or deter classier people with high living standards from moving into the Bronx. And we can't allow that to happen if you want the Bronx to prosper."
$$$: So you can probably guess that rental prices plummet around the area. You can get a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom newly refurbished home for under $2000 a month. And a 1-bedroom apartment can be as low as $1000 a month. Your commute to Manhattan is obviously going to be much longer and you may have to compromise your safety for the lower rent. For the keen investor, great time to buy as they are predicting the community to be gentrified even further in the next 5-10 years and with the economy still in such bad shape you could be looking at a very profitable little project.
ALL BRONX COMMUNITIES
Brooklyn is well known for its artistic flair and ethnic and cultural mix. It's home to so many different races and religions all dominating one particular area at a time - think Polish in Greenpoint, Hasidic Jewish in South Williamsburg, African American in Bed-Stuy, Hispanic American in Bushwick, Russians and Ukraines in Brighton Beach and Chinese and Italians in Bensonhurst - the list can and does go on. There's always something on in Brooklyn and at any given moment you could be walking to the shops to get some milk and walk into the middle of an Italian fair complete with roller coasters, ferris wheels, meatball stands and fortune tellers that spans across 4 blocks! Manhattanites seem to think that Brooklyn is 'so far away' and some have never in their entire lives stepped foot onto the borough, but really, it's only one stop and two minutes away from 1st Ave in Manhattan on the L train and you can be in Williamsburg in ten minutes from 8th Avenue. If you have a look at the map below you'll see the lower numbers are closer to Manhattan so if you choose to represent Brooklyn style, stay around the lower numbers.
A few neighborhoods of interest are:
Williamsburg: The Burg, as we refer to it, is now one of NYC's great restaurants and bar districts. There's loads to do, always something on, heaps of bars and cheap eats and a really cool neighborhood.The people who are drawn to it are of the younger hipster variety and on the weekends you'll be privy to some really great designers and artists showcasing their work on the streets and in the park. It's as grungy as the Lower East Side, which is directly across the water in Manhattan. There is a really friendly, community feel here. When the artist community got priced out of SoHo in manhattan, they moved to Williamsberg, which gives the area a very creative culture. Nowdays, it's becoming more and more expensive, and a lot of the real artistic community have moved further into Brooklyn to Bushwick. The rent is still quite high but a decent drop from Manhattan prices, you can get a good sized and modern 2-bedroom apartment in a security building for $3k a month. For $2k a month you can get much more decent (but still no frills) stuff in Williamberg than Manhattan, but look around. Oh, and on Sundays, Williamsburg hosts the Brooklyn Flea Market on the banks of the East River overlooking an amazing view of Manhattan, you can't beat that view, unless you have a pizza from the market ($10, massive and DELICIOUS! well worth the line) and a beer!
Check out Free Wiiliamsburg for more info
Brooklyn Heights: When you think Brooklyn, we're guessing you think of multi storied brownstone apartments with grand staircases leading up to double doors, well, you would think right if you placed them in Brooklyn Heights. Brooklyn Heights is one of the most desirable - and costliest - neighborhoods in NY. It has the most amazing views of Lower Manhattan and is home to some of the most incredible mansions in New York. Good luck to you if you want to buy there, and renting is out of a normal league too. It's a very quiet neighborhood and there's not a great deal in the way of bars and clubs but it is beautiful and serene and well worth a look if you're looking for somewhere a bit more quiet. $-wise, you're looking at Manhattan prices, maybe more.
For more info Click Here
D.U.M.B.O. Stands for 'Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass' - you will soon get very used to how literal New York is, everything just makes sense - and is also worth a look. DUMBO has developed pretty recently in the last 5 years, it used to be full of mainly manufacturing companies so has an industrial feel but it is quickly being redesigned and now boasts many art galleries and designer spaces. It is very quiet for now and you'll be able to rent a really great place for a lot less than Manhattan or even Williamsburg and definitely Brooklyn Heights without compromising on space or coolness. The main street - Washington St - has a walkway that connects to nearby The Brooklyn Bridge, and the area under Brooklyn Bridge has been recently re-designed as beautiful parkland.
ALL BROOKLYN COMMUNITIES
So Queens is actually rapidly becoming more and more gentrified - with every visit as far as we can tell. There is a new development in Long Island City that has incredible views over Manhattan and is only a very short - and enjoyable - ferry ride over to the city. The apartments are all high rise and brand new and MUCH cheaper. New Yorkers are migrating to Long Island City (newer apartments buildings on the water) Astoria and Astoria Heights (houses with families) and other funky little neighborhoods in swarms to get away from the exuberant property prices and to give themselves and their families a better quality of life.
If you check the map below you'll see the neighborhoods of interest are all on the water overlooking Manhattan, if you don't mind a little hike - probably about 30-45 minutes to get to Manhattan depending where you are - then definitely check out those spots.
One area to be wary of along the water in Queens is past the Queensbridge (41st St) where there is a large housing project. Not too bad during the day but to be avoided at night if you're not from around there. This is the original home of many legendary hip-hop artists including Marley Marl, Nas and Mobb Deep.
$-wise, it's a relief on your poor NY battered wallet but Queens is still a bit further out.
Not many people go to Staten Island unless you live there. It's the least populated of the 5 boroughs, but the most suburban. If you're interested in checking it out you can catch the Staten Island Ferry at the Whitehall Terminal, South Ferry which is at the southernmost tip of Manhattan near battery Park. Notable mentions culturally are that there is a dump there which Angelina from Jersey Shore was named after, and most of the original members of legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan originated there. Staten Island is one of those places that in 50 years people will probably wish they bought a place for super cheap, but for right now it's not really up there as the place to be. Feel free to Contact Us and share your knowledge and experiences of Staten island.
ALL STATEN ISLAND COMMUNITIES