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Life In New York For Families
October 11, 2006 2:44 PM   Subscribe

What's life like in New York City for families?

I'm 34. My wife is 33. Our son is 20 months old.

If we decided to move to New York City (we currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area), what would it be like for us? What are the pluses and minuses to living in New York City as a three-person family with a small child? Obviously, it's going to raise the stakes significantly in terms of living expenses, but we're also interested in the cultural experience of New York City for kids, and as a parenting environment.

For those of you that grew up in New York City, what was it like for you as a kid in NYC? For those of you raising kids in New York City, what's it like to parent in NYC?
posted by scrump to Grab Bag (35 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
How small a child? The biggest problem is the public school system. I lived with a single mom and her kid for a year and we ended up living in Westchester, where the public schools are much better. But the cultural experiences are great: check out Time Out NY Kids for a sample of the kid-oriented activities in the City.
posted by rottytooth at 2:48 PM on October 11, 2006


Whoops, I missed the line where you had your son's age. I guess it will be a while before you're concerned about schools. But still something to consider in the long-term.
posted by rottytooth at 2:53 PM on October 11, 2006


Obviously, it's going to raise the stakes significantly in terms of living expenses

Housing and food cost about the same, and you don't need a car to get around here at all unless you live waaay out in Brooklyn or one of the outer boroughs, so how do you figure that? If you have a car in the Bay Area and are going to be making the same amount of money here as you do there, you'll actually end up saving money because the subways and buses are so convenient.
posted by lia at 2:54 PM on October 11, 2006


housing and food cost about the same

uhm... rents in manhattan are higher than in san francisco. I paid about $2800 for a one-bedroom in midtown and parking, had I brought my car, would have easily run me another $400/month (my building wanted $600). it's of course cheaper in brooklyn and queens but yeah, it's a lot. apartments also are smaller.

I liked living in manhattan (I moved there from los angeles) but I missed the ability to quickly hop over to trader joes. public transportation makes travelling ten or twenty blocks more of a journey.
posted by krautland at 2:58 PM on October 11, 2006


also -and this came as quite a shock to me- not only will you have to pay federal and state taxes but also new york city taxes. not good.
posted by krautland at 3:00 PM on October 11, 2006


Brooklyn or one of the outer boroughs

For what it's worth, Brooklyn IS one of the outer boroughs. When I grew up (in the Bronx), anything other than Manhattan was an "outer borough". Manhattan, on the other hand, was "the city".
posted by deadmessenger at 3:01 PM on October 11, 2006


I'm a California native who went to college in NY with a bunch of NY/NJ/CT people.

In general, I came away with a dim impression of those who grew up on Long Island/NJ (sorry but it's true). There seemed to be an excess of materialism and privilege among those kids, but I have to say, the people I knew who came from NYC proper struck me as pretty cool and well-adjusted. Which I didn't expect since I went into it sort of googly-eyed-omg-NYC-is-so-cool-how-could-you-grow-up-there- and-not-come-out-different. There are various reasons for this--maybe socioeconomic differences between those who live in NYC and those who live in the suburbs--but obviously I'm speaking in very broad generalizations here.

I've found this impression to hold even as I've lived here longer and met more people from the NYC & tri-state areas. So, I can't speak as a parent, but I have lived here long enough to draw comparisons to California, which is what I think you're interested in. I wouldn't hesitate to raise a family here.
posted by Brian James at 3:13 PM on October 11, 2006


I grew up in the Bronx, and moved away 11 years ago due to the staggering cost of living there. Here is the advice I would give you:

The NYC public schools are either VERY good, or VERY bad. Think of an inverted bell curve - there aren't many schools that one would consider "average". The good schools, though, are typically in the very wealthy neighborhoods, with an in-district enrollment preference. If you're Catholic, or don't have any objection to having your child indoctrinated in a religion other than your own, you may want to consider Catholic school - the Archdiocese of NY runs an outstanding school system, and it's a LOT cheaper than sending your child to a non-religious private school.

You live in the Bay area, so you're used to ridiculously expensive rents and real estate. Manhattan will probably be a wash for you, as will the close-in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. Further out, things get WAY cheaper, and, other than Staten Island, the whole city is connected to Manhattan via the subway. In the outer parts of Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, you might have to take a bus to get the the train, though. Another note on Staten Island: it has it's own bus and train network, which will bring you to the Ferry, which, last I checked, was free.

As far as what it's like being a kid in NYC? No different than being a kid anywhere else. Really. Kids are resilient - they're going to look at whatever environment they're in as the only place in the world to be. If they grow up in NY, they'll probably love it, and the rest of the country will be weird to them.

If you live in Manhattan, you won't need a car, nor would you probably be able to afford one.

If you live in the outer parts of the outer boroughs, you probably will want to have a car, but it will SUCK owning one. New York is probably the most driver-hostile city in the US.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:16 PM on October 11, 2006


Taxes and rent are high in New York, especially Mahattan, but I personally love living here, and I doubt that much else will be more expensive for you. I suspect that it might be possible to find more cheap food and clothes here, just because there are so many places selling those things (about 30,000 restaurants, for example). And I bet you can get a roomy enough place for the three of you in Brooklyn for not much more than the Bay Area (though it of course depends on exactly where we're talking about in both places).

I know a few people who grew up here, and a few people raising kids, and based on them, it seems like a great place to raise kids; you'll be able to expose your child to even more cultural experiences than would be available in San Francisco. I've noticed that kids seem to develop social skills more quickly and thoroughly here, maybe because of the large number of people they have to interact with every day. After age 10 or so they seem to behave much more like adults than kids elsewhere, to make a breathtakingly broad generalization.
posted by lackutrol at 3:17 PM on October 11, 2006


uhm... rents in manhattan are higher than in san francisco. I paid about $2800 for a one-bedroom in midtown and parking

really? i always heard san francisco was the only place more expensive than manhattan in the US. costs can vary alot, and there are definately tons of places cheaper than $2800/month. I guess it depends on the anemities you want (doorman, gym) and where you want to live,. My one bedroom is $1745 and pretty centrally located.

some parts of brooklyn are more family oriented (like park slope) but are also pretty expensive. most parts of brooklyn nearer to manhattan are indeed cheaper, and brooklyn also has a lot of parks and cultural events.
posted by illegiblemess at 3:20 PM on October 11, 2006


For what it's worth, I have the extremely vague impression that parents are happy with the schools in my neighborhood, but I live in the West Village, where it would likely be difficult to find a moderately priced apartment of sufficient size.
posted by lackutrol at 3:21 PM on October 11, 2006


I suspect that it might be possible to find more cheap food and clothes

I don't know how it would compare to the Bay Area, but I can tell you that food tends to be SUBSTANTIALLY cheaper in NYC than here where I live in the Atlanta 'burbs. Clothing as well, as long as you stay out of boutique-type stores in Manhattan.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:23 PM on October 11, 2006


Born and raised in NorCal, been in NYC area almost 5 years now. Not a parent, but I volunteer with the youth group at my church and therefore know a lot of parents and teenagers.

Many families seem to enjoy living in the city, however I would estimate the vast majority (at least the vast majority of families that have more than one kid) end up moving out to the suburbs at some point - so the kids can have their own rooms and a yard to run around in and a good school district and what not. That said, I know plenty of well-adjusted kids growing up in the city and adults who grew up in the city who really enjoy living here.

This has actually been a huge issue for my church - getting families to stay in the city, and I know they're going to be running a "parents panel" featuring parents who have or are raising their kids in the city. I believe its designed for people in your position exactly. I would expect it to be more parent-in-the-city focused than religious focused (if that's an issue for you), but it sounds like you could hear from / meet / talk to a lot of parents that have done what you're thinking about doing.

If you want more info, my email is in my profile. I could maybe at least get you a CD of it, if they record it.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:37 PM on October 11, 2006


One more thought: kids grow up FAST here. I always think about that when youth group ends and you see these 9th graders taking off on their own to the subways to head home. These kids read the New Yorker, all have ipods and sideckicks and whatnot, and although they may seem like their suburbian peers, I think NYC forces them to grow up a little faster. Not necessarily a bad thing, the way I look at it is that your kid will probably have better street smarts than most at a younger age.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:42 PM on October 11, 2006


I paid about $2800 for a one-bedroom in midtown and parking, had I brought my car, would have easily run me another $400/month (my building wanted $600).

No one pays money like that for anything other than a full-service (elevator, doorman, gym) luxury building, so scrump, please don't take that as indicative of how most of the rest of us live. I paid well below that for a lovely newly-renovated two bedroom in a brownstone on the Upper West Side, a far better place to live and raise kids than the wasteland that is Midtown. People will tell you about Park Slope and the other affluent Brooklyn neighborhoods, but the UWS costs about the same, is just as beautiful and is incredibly safe.

I liked living in manhattan (I moved there from los angeles) but I missed the ability to quickly hop over to trader joes. public transportation makes travelling ten or twenty blocks more of a journey.

Ten blocks, a journey? What? New Yorkers will walk ten blocks and not blink an eye. Heck, I've been known to walk two miles from my apartment to the Trader Joe's off Union Square and back just to get four bottles of root beer, and I'm still considered fairly lazy in these parts.
posted by lia at 3:49 PM on October 11, 2006


Walking - that's another thing. Manhattanites walk a lot more than people from most other cities. Translation: healthier kids.

(It grows on you after a while, sometimes you walk just for the sake of enjoying the neighboroods.)
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:56 PM on October 11, 2006


A lot of stuff has been covered, but I'll just say this: I'm graduating college this year, and while New York is calling me back again, I have a strong desire to get away from there for awhile. Why? Simply because I know that I want to settle down there and therefore want to take some time off before I do. I was born and raised in Manhattan, and even though I have mixed feelings about how that affected me as a person, I know now that I wouldn't raise my kids anywhere else. Whatever negatives that came about of my being raised in a city, let alone New York City, were greatly outweighed by the positives. I don't think it would be fair of me to raise my kids anywhere else, feeling the way I do. Just keep an eye on your kid(s), and take advantage of the museums, parks, and zoos.
posted by Cochise at 4:04 PM on October 11, 2006


Ok Cochise made me think of one more thing, and then I'll shut up.

Definitely will want to raise my kids here in NYC should I ever have them. Seconding Cochise, the positives far outweigh the negatives in my point of view.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:21 PM on October 11, 2006


Another bonus for raising kids in NYC: you won't have to get them a car when they turn 16. My spouse is a lifelong New Yorker who never even learned how to drive.
posted by bink at 4:49 PM on October 11, 2006


In terms of cultural experiences for kids, I know in elementary school we went on trips to every museum in the city at least once. You really have to do your research about the school district where you live. My parents picked the neighborhood they moved to based on the school district and my sister and I definitely benefitted from it. There are also tons of magnet schools, which means that even if you pick the "wrong" area, your kids can be bussed to a "better" school if they do well. I'm going to chime in about having more "street smarts" than other people. I went to college in Maryland and met some people who were really intelligent but wouldn't last a second in the real world.
posted by blueskiesinside at 5:13 PM on October 11, 2006


I grew up in New York in the 80s, then lived upstate and in Massachussetts for high school after my parents split, and then came back to the city for college & have been here ever since. I loved growing up here - I have great memories of going to the AMNH on the weekends, or to the Met, taking dance classes at the DTW, being involved with a level of culture you just don't get in the rest of america. Even just ordinary things like architecture, or galleries on the street, make a difference (I grew up in SoHo with its iron front buildings, and at the time, avant garde art scene). When I was in high school in Mass, I was really dismayed with how pedestrian so many of the offerings were - the dance classes there, for instance, seemed to be taught by people who really didn't understand dance.. in new york, the people who teach may be ones who 'haven't made it yet', but they won't be 'those who can't do'

One more thought: kids grow up FAST here. I always think about that when youth group ends and you see these 9th graders taking off on their own to the subways to head home. These kids read the New Yorker, all have ipods and sideckicks and whatnot, and although they may seem like their suburbian peers, I think NYC forces them to grow up a little faster

I would say there is probably a sense in which this is true - I wouldn't phrase it that way, but I do think NY kids tend to be more culturally aware, and more actively integrated with adult venues or interchanges - not that it's somehow expected of them, but you just get interested. A friend of my sister's won an emmy reporting for children's express, an org that used to have 8-13 yr old reporters do real news. I always thought it was cool, but in college some of my friends thought it sounded awful, "forced the kids to grow up" or whatever. To me, kids are just younger people, and I don't see the down side of having opportunities to think about and interact with the real world. But my parents never tried to push me to do stuff I wasn't into - I guess that would be important. As long as there isn't pressure to fill up a resume when you're in grade school...

But in the end, I think I'd probably have felt a lot less isolated and unhappy if I'd been able to spend my teen years here instead of in suburban MA, where I just went goth and bemoaned the fact that "nobody understood me". Which all might mean, perhaps the reason new york kids are more likely to be culturally sophisticated is because the kind of parents who bring their kids up in NY are more likely to be that way - it could certainly be that if you're not a new yorker at heart, it would suck. But if you're a new yorker at heart, it's where to be.

two downsides: rent is seriously rough on the pocketbook, and the average apartment is very small. I was extraordinarily lucky that my parents moved into soho when it was dirt cheap, and then the neighborhood took off, so we had a great location and a big loft. Some of my friends had the same; a few of my friends had brownstones (usually those people had older parents who had managed to save up for that) and some of my friends had tiny little apartments, and rooms rented out to strangers, and stuff like that.

#2: you miss out on nature. central park is hardly really a park - it's a big lawn, but not real nature like hampstead heath or anything. Prospect park is better, and inwood park up at the tip of manhattan also has some real nature in it, but even with those, you rarely see the stars in the city, and the rejuvenation that time in a forest can provide is just much less available. Again, I was stupidly lucky on this count - my dad was a professor, and my mom had gotten involved with this hippie community in central maine, so we spent the summers in an old farmhouse hours from civilization proper, with old dirt roads, apple orchards, creeks and raspberry bushes. I consider that important to my childhood - maybe I'd never have missed it if I hadn't had it, but I really am glad I had it.
posted by mdn at 5:29 PM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


One more quick off-topic followup--Prospect Park is no more "real" than Central Park, it's just that it was Olmsted's second big New York park, and many people think he benefited from his experience with Central Park in creating Prospect Park. And mdn, I am super jealous of your parents' SoHo place. I once met a guy whose parents had the same deal--he said they were offered $1 million just to move out of the place, and turned it down.
posted by lackutrol at 5:59 PM on October 11, 2006


I love all these answers as I every now and then dream of moving to New York myself. In fact, while I have never wanted kids, something about thinking about New York makes me reconsider.

When I was there last summer, one thing that really impressed me was the life of kids. It seems like the kids in New York have all these choices and that, really, is a good thing. They must learn to be, to some degree, self-sufficient. It was also really great to see kids looking so different. I think your typical American suburb tends toward the middle-bland spectrum of fashion and ideas. So, it was nice to see kids looking different, talking different and being out and about in the world on their own.

I've spent a similar amount of time in San Francisco and I think that kids raised there must get something similar, though the pace in SF is slower and I think it is not quite as culturally diverse. I really love SF, too, but New York took me out of my comfort zone a lot more and I appreciated that challenge.
posted by amanda at 6:57 PM on October 11, 2006


I also grew up in NYC, and I want to second (or third) what others have said. I like being from New York, but over the course of my 35 years so far I have decided that there are both pluses and minuses to my background. It's been pointed out that NYC kids have an inordinate amount of freedom because of the structure of the city -- that is true. When I think back now, it is pretty amazing that I didn't get into more trouble than I did (and I got into a fair amount). NYC kids have easy access to pretty much every thing you can think of. That goes for amazing cultural experiences as well as scary underworld kinds of experiences. Drugs, alcohol, sex (and all their attendant thrills and dangers) are plentiful (ever see the movie Cruel Intentions? A startling accurate simulacrum of my experience as a teen on the upper east side). The good thing about this, I found, was that when I went to college, I had already sampled a lot of this forbidden fruit and didn't go buck wild during freshman year, like some of my more sheltered friends did once they got a taste of freedom.

I found also that I had to learn a lot of things late in life that other people had grown up with. For example, I didn't learn how to swim or really ride a bike until I was in my 20s. I did those things as a kid, but not regularly -- I wasn't running around in the woods after school like my husband was. I have never climbed a tree. I grew up in an apartment, where I couldn't run and stomp and romp, partially because of space constraints and partly because it would annoy our downstairs neighbors. I have worked in my adulthood to gain some of this body confidence and comfort in movement working with physical trainers and such. I think that makes me weird.

I have, however, always had friends of many different ethnic backgrounds. I have no trouble understanding English spoken with different accents. I have always been very self-reliant and confident in new places -- I'm not sure that can be attributed to growing up in the city but I suspect that being independently mobile and using public transportation my whole life has something to do with it.

I also feel that growing up in NYC engenders a very odd kind of parochialism, because there is this sense there that NYC is the center of everything. When I watched TV and movies, I saw my hometown reflected back to me; it was not at all unusual to see familiar places on TV or in print, and it wasn't unusual to see celebrities around town. There's a really misleading self-reflexivity here. I had to learn that most of the world was NOT like where I lived, contrary to what I saw reflected back to me in the media.

A side benefit is that ever since I left home, I can always go back to visit my parents who live there, and I have been bringing friends there for years. It is a joy to introduce people to the city.

I don't want to live there anymore, though I enjoy visiting, and I wouldn't want to raise my kids only because I don't want to live there myself. It's got pros and cons like most every place else, I would imagine.
posted by butternut at 7:30 PM on October 11, 2006 [3 favorites]


I'm raising a family in Brooklyn, and it is different from other places. It can be hard to connect socially if you're not outgoing, because we ignore people in place of having real privacy. Neighborhoods tend to be enclavish, not integrated. There is indeed something for everyone here, but finding it can be exhausting, esp. with a young child in the mix. On the other hand, it's as good a place to raise kids as anywhere
posted by rikschell at 7:59 PM on October 11, 2006


We moved to Queens with two kids five years ago mainly because we wanted to raise our kids in the city. Now have four. Our oldest is 10, youngest 6 mos.

Not much here will be different from what has been said above, but if you want the perspective of a parent, and a transplant at that...

Downsides:

School--after trying a couple options here in Astoria we enrolled our kids in a small school in Hoboken with an emphasis on arts and music. Yeah, Hoboken NJ. We carpool with neighbors to make this work, and our kids get to listen to Terri Gross every day and see the city from east, west, and across. So the downside is that a good school may not be next door, but the good is that there are so many to choose from, if you're committed.

Theft/vandalism--We see kids' bikes as disposable and try to pick up and repair ones left on the street since they'll inevitably be taken. Likewise, we've generally driven junkers so a smashed window isn't the end of the world. These problems would vary according to neighborhood of course and what kind of building you live in.

Trash/grafitti--Also will vary, but it's always there and a bit soul-killing for little kids I think. At least ours complain about it.

Shortage of grass and creeks--We compensate by taking our kids upstate or down south for vacations. They love it, and they're also happy to come home.

Upsides:

Neighborhood--I'm friends with more people on my block than I ever was when I lived in the south or midwest. Walking helps because it helps you see and meet people. Astoria is very family-friendly and our kids can easily find kids to play with on the block.

Food--We take full advantage of the takeout around here (Thai, Egyptian, Pakistani, Latin, sushi, Indian, Mexican, bagels and pizza of course). And 24-hour produce stands are great when you have little kids.

Lessons in independence and community--We recently started letting our older kids go to the park on their own or run to the bodega for last-minute ingredients or whatever. At the same time we have to talk to them a lot about consideration for our neighbors since everyone is in such close proximity (e.g., cleaning up, not yelling on the sidewalk or climbing on neighbors' property).

Culture--We don't do nearly enough with our kids, but their field trips alone are fantastic. MOMA, a ship tour at South Street Seaport, the warehouse where the Macy's Parade floats are housed, couple years ago to Central Park to see The Gates, hiking on the Hudson, and on and on.

Also I really value the fact that among the people our kids know in the neighborhood there is such diversity of age, ethnicity, religion, etc.

As far as finances--we don't have a ton of money and have made it okay. This is Queens, though, not Manhattan. :)
posted by torticat at 8:21 PM on October 11, 2006


No one pays money like that for anything other than a full-service (elevator, doorman, gym) luxury building, so scrump, please don't take that as indicative of how most of the rest of us live. I paid well below that for a lovely newly-renovated two bedroom in a brownstone on the Upper West Side, a far better place to live and raise kids than the wasteland that is Midtown. People will tell you about Park Slope and the other affluent Brooklyn neighborhoods, but the UWS costs about the same, is just as beautiful and is incredibly safe.

You must live either very far up, or have gotten that apartment at a very fortuituous time (say, right after 9/11) to have a two bedroom of any size for far less than $2800. In the current rental market, in Manhattan, you probably will be shocked and disappointed at what $3000/month will get you. No, Manhattan is nowhere near SF Bay area in the cost of pretty much anything-- clothes are almost all more expensive (unless you stick to the chain stores), food is more expensive (unless you eat only cart food, even groceries are more expensive), child care costs seem to be enormous (there's a reason people hire nannies here-- it's not actually that much more expensive to hire a nanny than it is to get a decent daycare). Living in manhattan I feel like everywhere else I visit in the states is dirt cheap by comparison.
Personally, if I were thinking of having children I would be thinking Brooklyn. I love Manhattan but it is the land of $100 baby clothes, $4000 rents and waiting lists for Kindergarten (aside: one time I was walking to the subway and these people behind me were talking about how they "applied six places and were wait listed at five and didn't get in to one", and this was a conversation about kindergarten. This was on the UWS, too, which is somewhat more child-friendly and laid back). If you and your spouse have stock option/family money/amazing savings or together can earn a combined income in the 200K+ range (which is much less absurd than it sounds) I think you can make a go of it in Manhattan without too much pain. Otherwise I'd say take a good look at Brooklyn.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:38 PM on October 11, 2006


Hey now...

Anything that has anything to do with Hoboken should be listed under upsides.

:)
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:52 PM on October 11, 2006


ch1xor, are you new here? I have lived in New York for 13 years and your perception of rent is not even close to mine. I don't know anybody who pays much over two grand for rent, and some who pay far below (I am towards the top of that scale, but it's two people, and I live in a pretty desirable neighborhood). If I wanted to get really cheap groceries, I could go to Western Beef and pay less than I would in the South where I grew up, or I could go to Citarella, which is much better and maybe 10-20 percent more. I pay more than 40% below retail for clothes the vast majority of the time.

And the Upper West is more child-friendly, but laid-back? I saw the end of that in college, and now it's just as banker-y as the Upper East. At least there are still a few old school Jews keeping Barney Greengrass in business, but the whole Bella Abzug intellectual thing is long gone.

I really don't have the impression that the asker is looking for the power-couple life you seem to be describing, with the giant $4000 apartments and nannies and wait-listed kindergarten and such. More power to them. I have seen many of the kids of those couples and they seem kind of screwed up. The kid of my friend who lives in Yorkville in a $1500 apartment and goes to public school, though, he seems all right.
posted by lackutrol at 12:11 AM on October 12, 2006


NYC engenders a very odd kind of parochialism

This is true. It seems to be difficult not to fall victim to it. It's really sad when people who are from New York have been to several different continents, but not to Canada, or more than a handful of states in the U.S.
posted by oaf at 2:56 AM on October 12, 2006


I don't have kids, and I didn't grow up in New York City, but I've lived here for the past 20 years. One quick piece of advice: don't define "New York" as "Manhattan." In fact, living in a borough is almost certain to be cheaper, without losing any of the New York experience.

Where I live in Queens is a 15 minute subway ride to my job in midtown. I can walk out my apartment door at 7:15 and easily pick up tickets, meet a friend, and settle into my seat at Lincoln Center with time to skim the program before the lights go down at 8. If it's very late or I have something heavy to carry, I can take a cab from the Upper West Side or midtown to my front door: with tip, less than $20, time in transit, 15 minutes tops. Hell, even during the transit strike, I could walk to work across the Queensboro Bridge in about 90 minutes.

There is a lot more middle class and a lot more diversity in the boroughs than you will find in most parts of Manhattan, plus the population density is somewhat less so that there doesn't have to be a noisy dive bar on every single corner.
posted by La Cieca at 7:12 AM on October 12, 2006


If you grow up in NYC, you can never get the experience of moving to the Big City to make it on your own. Is that a weird thing to say? You never get the sense of accomplishment from mastering someplace busier and bigger and faster than where you grew up. I dunno, american dream blah blah blah.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:16 AM on October 12, 2006


First of all, there's 8 million people in NY, and at least a few of them have kids, so YMMV. But since you asked about raising a kid and family life in NY, let me tell you about what's been on my mind...

If your kid is 20 months old, and you move to NYC today, then you are about 1 1/2 years away from wading into the whirlpool of class and race that is the public/private education system in New York. Private pre-k (that is, school for 4 year olds -- you apply when the kid is 3) costs at least $20,000 a year in Manhattan and in Brownstone Brooklyn.

As for public school, while you will find many people living in NYC because of, or even in spite of, its racial and socio-economic diversity, there are very few places in the city where that socio-economic diversity is reflected in the public schools. Many affluent and even middle-class parents committed to live in New York City alongside the poor or those in need of social services are not willing (and not without reasonable cause) to send their kids to a school that teaches the poor or those in need of social services. As a result, many public schools located even in affluent neighborhoods (to say nothing of "edgy" or "up and coming" or "fashionable" neighborhoods so attractive to younger New Yorkers) do not reflect the racial and socio-economic mix surrounding them: the faces inside a school may be largely black while those on the sidewalk outside will be much more diverse, or even predominately white.

The few exceptions to this -- northeastern Queens, Park Slope, Greenwich Villiage -- reflect both large numbers of wealthy or middle class families and their conscious committment early on to improving their local schools by enrolling their kids in them. Although, now that this task has been accomplished, the money saved on private school tuition in those neighborhoods has been captured by higher rents and home prices.

In so many ways, NYC is great for families and kids. My neighborhood, at least, is like a little village, and my wife and I am acquiainted with maybe a hundred other families based on my involvement in various daycare, preschool, public school, church and other community groups. If you have the means to pay for private school with ease and have no desire to undertake the enormous task of improving public school by enrolling your kids in them, then your only concern will be where to take the kids when they need to be reminded what nature is like. But if you don't have an extra $20,000 a year lying around, or are troubled by the continuing white flight from the schools, then you will be facing, as my family and so many others are facing, quite a fiscal and moral quandry.
posted by hhc5 at 1:13 PM on October 12, 2006


ch1xor, are you new here? I have lived in New York for 13 years and your perception of rent is not even close to mine. I don't know anybody who pays much over two grand for rent, and some who pay far below (I am towards the top of that scale, but it's two people, and I live in a pretty desirable neighborhood). If I wanted to get really cheap groceries, I could go to Western Beef and pay less than I would in the South where I grew up, or I could go to Citarella, which is much better and maybe 10-20 percent more. I pay more than 40% below retail for clothes the vast majority of the time.

And the Upper West is more child-friendly, but laid-back? I saw the end of that in college, and now it's just as banker-y as the Upper East. At least there are still a few old school Jews keeping Barney Greengrass in business, but the whole Bella Abzug intellectual thing is long gone.

I really don't have the impression that the asker is looking for the power-couple life you seem to be describing, with the giant $4000 apartments and nannies and wait-listed kindergarten and such. More power to them. I have seen many of the kids of those couples and they seem kind of screwed up. The kid of my friend who lives in Yorkville in a $1500 apartment and goes to public school, though, he seems all right.


I am relatively new, yes. And as a relatively new person, I think that I am actually *more* qualified to compare living in Manhattan to living in the rest of the states. I remember the sticker shock of moving here very vividly. It is *expensive* to live here.
If all of the people you know live in Manhattan below 100th street for less than 2K a month, then I would bet that the vast majority of them are in rent stabilized places that they got a while ago. When was the last time you tried to find an apartment? I live in your neighborhood, have lived in three different places in that neighborhood since I lived here, and none has been less than 2K a month. That will get you a smallish one bedroom in a shitty building in this neighborhood, or a somewhat bigger one bedroom in a somewhat nicer building on, say, the UWS. I know the rental market very, very well, having done this three times. Yes, occasionally people get lucky and find amazing places that are still rent stabilized with clueless landlords, but if you believe that it is reasonable to expect to find such a place, you haven't tried recently. Go ask on the NY craigslist housing forum and see what the folks there say.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:14 PM on October 12, 2006


If all of the people you know live in Manhattan below 100th street for less than 2K a month, then I would bet that the vast majority of them are in rent stabilized places that they got a while ago. When was the last time you tried to find an apartment?

I got my current place in 2002. The Yorkville family I mentioned moved in in 2004. I have a bunch of friends who have moved here recently, or moved to a different place recently. Good places are indeed hard to find, as are other good deals, but they are most certainly out there, especially if you don't care about a doorman or any of that stuff.

Look, if you want to spend a bunch of money on things, or if you're not willing to compromise on space in order to live here, more power to you. Manhattan is the land of $100 baby clothes and $4000 rents (or $30,000 rents, for that matter), but it's also the land of $10 baby clothes and $1500 rents. You just have to put some work into finding the bargains.

You may not be willing to put in that work, which is fine, but it's no use arguing that they aren't out there.
posted by lackutrol at 11:15 AM on October 14, 2006


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