“Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do. Now you're in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new. Big lights will inspire you. Let's hear it for New York.” (Jay-Z, 'Empire State of Mind') Read Guide >
What's it Gonna Cost? No matter where your apartment hunt takes you, there are a few things we recommend you have handy. Of them, the most important has to be some cold, hard, cash. New York is many things to many people, but cheap isn't one of them. New Yorkers should expect to spend ¼ of their annual income on rent. Landlords like to see that your annual salary is at least 40 to 50 times the cost of your monthly rent.
Be Prepared: To get into just about any place, you’ll need at least first month’s rent and security deposit in the form of a cashier’s or bank check. (New Yorker's aren't very trusting when it comes to personal checks!) A letter from your current employer stating your salary and time of employment as well as a reference from your previous landlord don’t hurt, either. If you don’t make a certain amount of money, you may need to call in a guarantor. However, this varies building to building, so don’t freak out if Mom and Dad don’t feel like signing their life away for your New York dream! A credit check will also be required, but those obtained on your own will not be accepted. Be prepared to spend between $25-$100 getting one.
Getting Your Priorities Straight: Chances are that you, like most New Yorkers, probably won’t have everything you desire in your immediate vicinity. Are you most concerned with the size of your new space? Commute? Safety? Prioritize the things that are most important to you before you set about your hunt.
Too Broke for a Broker? Using a broker or an apartment locator is often recommended when renting in New York City (especially in summer and early fall – NYC’s most difficult times to rent) and while brokers can charge a fee ranging from one month’s rent to 15% of one’s annual rent, in certain circumstances it may save you both time and money in the long run. Many brokers have access to rentals that aren't listed elsewhere, so if you've hit a dead end in your apartment search, it’s probably worth a phone call. Just keep in mind that the shorter the lease, the more expensive they come. Most brokers deal in long leases, so make sure you really want to live in your selected spot before committing.
Leaving Expectations at the Door: Usually, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be conscious of bait and switch scams found on Craigslist and elsewhere. Trust your gut. This same rule applies to the cost/size ratio. Compared to just about everywhere else in the country, New York apartments are almost microscopic, with limited closet space, zero storage space, and, on top of that, you will be paying astronomical prices for it. But if you wanted space, you’d be moving to Kansas. So on that note, let’s move to the borough where you’ll get the least bang for your buck, the glamorous and bank-account-draining, Manhattan.
Many people move to the Big Apple with images of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha’s “Sex and the City” pads floating in their heads. But unless you have a job in finance or a really cushy trust fund, you might want to reconsider. For those who haven’t quite made your millions (yet!), don’t fret! Manhattan is still completely doable if you look in the northern regions of Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. Not only are these neighborhoods more budget-friendly, but you’ll also get a splash of Spanish culture that makes it a true melting-pot experience. The only drawback to living ‘round these parts could be your commute downtown (assuming that’s where you’ll be winning your bread). Thirty-minute commutes to the subway train are standard fare, so you better bring some comfy walking shoes. Whoever said a little exercise was a bad thing anyway?
Another neighborhood to check out is the “new” Upper East Side, in the 80’s close to York Avenue. This is a very fashionable area for the young and single, with a plethora of dive bars to bring you back to those college days.
If you've already nailed that dream job and are raking in some serious dough, we have some good news: your New York options are truly endless! We suggest pointing yourself towards the East Village for an amazing nightlife, the West Village for cobblestone-street cuteness and adorable sidewalk eateries, Midtown for easy access to the best theater in the world, the Upper East Side for endless museums, or the Upper West Side for strolls through Central Park with your pooch.
If you’re a foodie at heart, Queens may just be the borough for you. It has often been said, “I ate my way around the world and never left Queens!” This borough surely lives up to that mantra as the most diverse New York area, home to immigrants from all over the globe. Here, you can find the biggest Greek community outside of Athens in Astoria, the largest African-American community in Jamaica, and Eastern Europeans galore in Ridgewood. The main thing to keep in mind if you decide to go to one of the outer boroughs is commuting time. Obviously, the closer you are to Manhattan, the shorter your commute will be. And if you end up in the outer-reaches of a far-out borough, make sure you are close to public transportation. If you’re living in Jamaica, for example, expect a hefty commute complete with mile-long walks and long train-rides downtown. Unless you are an avid reader or napper on the train, we would suggest staying as close to Manhattan as you can justify.
There have been many debates between Manhattanites and Brooklynites about whose borough is better. Brooklyn defends their spacey apartments, along with having a lifestyle that caters to the “artist”, the “dreamer”, the “2.5 kids and a dog”. Manhattanites just throw back their head in laughter and chalk it up to people who just can’t cut it (or afford it) in Manhattan. However, don’t be deceived. With Brooklyn’s recent popularity, prices have soared, especially in hip (or hipster) areas in West-Brooklyn, such as Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Brooklyn Heights. The farther east or south you go, the further your dollar stretches. Just keep that treacherous commute we warned you about locked in your mind.
Ahh, the Boogie-Down Bronx! While it should be noted that the South Bronx rates as the poorest congressional district in America, with an unfortunate amount of people living in poverty, you shouldn't cross this borough off your list just yet. It you're willing to put on your brave face (you know, the one that got you to New York in the first place!), and cough up relatively little in rent, this could be the borough for you! The South Bronx is home to Yankee Stadium, so the area is undergoing a lot of positive development. Amazing deals and more family-friendly lifestyles can also be found in the Northeast Bronx in the neighborhoods of Pelham Parkway and Co-cop City. The apartments will be spacier, and you’ll ultimately get more bang for your buck...not only in rent, but also cheap bodegas, grocery stores and restaurants. When it comes to having and housing a car, The Bronx is the most user-friendly neighborhood around. It's not uncommon to find street parking, and the parking garages are a fraction of what you will pay in other boroughs.
Unless you are looking to stay with the suburb experience while still calling yourself a “New Yorker”, we wouldn’t recommend living in Staten Island. It can only be reached by a bridge from Brooklyn (i.e. a car is a must), or a 20-minute ferry ride that will take you to the bottom of Manhattan. And if you want a commute with that much hassle, you’re better off living in Jersey! Snarky comments aside, there are some lovely areas to this borough. The North Shore is home to the hoods St. George, Tompkinsville, Clifton and Stapleton, and is the most urban of the island.
Once you get to NYC, there are a few things you should know to help you make you look like less of a transplant.
Getting Around Town:
Now that your unlimited MetroCard has been put to good use, let’s reconvene! New York’s 5 boroughs are home to over 8 million people speaking over 800 languages. And no matter the borough you choose to call home, we’re sure you’ll bring something unique and amazing to the table. Get your apartment fondue skewers.
At over 8 million, New York is the most populous city in the nation. It's not just a leader for this country, it's a leader in the world in terms of business, international affairs with being the home of the United Nations, and the arts. It has 5 boroughs-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx. The New York Metropolitan area has about 18 million, making it the most populous metro area in the world. The Lenape Native Americans lived here for 5000 years before Europeans arrived. Dutch settlers made it a fur trading colony and called it New Amsterdam in 1614. The English fought and won control from the Dutch and renamed it New York. It served as the nation's capitol for a while after the American Revolution. George Washington was inaugurated here. In the 19th century, the city changed with industrial development and immigrants. New arrivals came from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe. It is still an immigrant city with people arriving from Mexico, China, and middle eastern countries as well as others. The city has long been a leader in social and cultural revolutions, and in the fine arts. The best music, art, dance, and theaters are found here. The film industry is also strong here along with literature. Business obviously thrives here with Stock Exchange and financial district on Wall Street. It has beautiful buildings and of course Central Park is quite lovely. The city has had its problems with crime and poverty. Things got really bad in the 1970's with unemployment and decay. However, the 1990's brought about big changes in economic development and a tough stand on crime.
Pros •The most exciting city in the United States •Many opportunities in business, fine arts, and education •You don't need a car •Cultural Diversity at its finest •People love living here
Cons •Winters can be gritty and depressing •Everyone lives in places smaller than the rest of the country •Ridiculous costs for housing •Can be intimidating •Crowded-on the streets, in the stores, everywhere people
New York or the Big Apple is an awesome town. It's the center of intellectual life, culture, business, and the arts. The public transportation is reliable, convenient, and for the most part clean. The biggest problem is the expense. Housing prices are horrible here. You give up a lot for a New York address in terms of living space. So unless you plan to live here for a short time, or you can make high dollars, at least $70,000 annually, making New York permanent can be a real hardship. It's a struggle to move ahead financially particularly since the city is so much fun. The temptations to spend rather than save are greater than most places. It's much easier to sock away money in a mundane cultural wasteland like many towns across the country. But with NY, there's always something to do and something new to see whether it's the latest documentary film, or photography exhibit. One financial bonus here is the fact you don't need a car and can ditch the trappings of automobile ownership like insurance and repairs. But that's still just a drop in the bucket for the cash you need. Despite the shoebox living conditions, what strikes me most about NY is the pride of the residents. They love their city. And their pride is contagious. Sure, New Yorkers are known for being rude and blunt. They may curse uncontrollably at you for taking their cab. But I find them to be real and approachable. Their straight forward honesty can be refreshing depending on where you are from. All in all, this is a wonderful city. If you have the opportunity to move here, especially when you're young, do it. If you have a family, there's much more to consider. As the years go by, the crowds and grittiness could get to you. There's quite a struggle to survive here, and that relentless pressure gets old. However, if you really love it, you'll never leave. -Debra M. Cole