Do I want to live in Manhattan?
October 26, 2008 6:33 PM   Subscribe

New Yorkers - do I want to move to Greenwich Village?

I'm currently living in Brooklyn (Park Slope) and am considering taking a room in the West Village. Since I moved to NYC, I've found myself thinking that I'd like to live in Manhattan, but now that I'm actually in a position to do so, am still a little nervous of committing to it. Sure, I can move if I don't like it, but I'd really rather not for awhile if I can avoid it. I've visited the neighborhood and like it, but walking around the place and actually living there are very distinct things, of course. Can anyone offer any insight on living in Greenwich Village or, failing that, on the transition from Brooklyn (or anywhere) to Manhattan life? What should I prepare myself for? Things you wish you would have considered before making the plunge? How would you characterize the Village and people who live there? FWIW, I'm a 25/f in grad school and working in the arts.
posted by lxs to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What do you like about the Village? What do you like about Park Slope? What do you require from your neighbourhood? What is nice to have? What are the things that drive you crazy?
posted by winston at 6:40 PM on October 26, 2008

I made a similar move in February. I had been living on 181st in Manhattan for six years, and was able to move into Chelsea, just a few blocks north of the village. Overall, it's been pretty awesome. I can walk to my work, the amenities (shopping, restaurants, etc) are unparalleled, the convenience to transportation is incredible (I can be pretty much anywhere, including Brooklyn in about 20 minutes). I go out a lot more and more spontaneously because I don't have to make the 30-40 minute train ride home. I see my friends a lot more, including having them over to my place (people never came uptown to see me). I can take a cab if need be and not pay $30.

The downsides- it's noisier because there are tons more tourists and weekend warriors coming in for clubbing and bars. They tend to walk around hollering and acting like idiots on Thurs, Fri, and Saturday nights. I moved to a much smaller place (from about 550 sq ft to 380 sq ft) and I pay more rent. I miss the greenness of living uptown so close to beautiful, quiet parks. I think basic groceries are a bit more expensive, but I can't tell if that's location or general inflation. But the proximity of Trader Joe's evens that out.

Generally, I find the people to be cool. I have many more celeb sightings (evidently Susan Sarandon lives one block over), but I've gotten to know some of my neighbors, the people at my laundromat, and the guys at the local deli and diner. There's more affluence than my old hood, but not to the point of impacting me negatively.

So overall, it was a vast improvement for me. I don't know how long I am going to stay in NYC, but I am relishing living in the heart of the city right now.
posted by kimdog at 7:00 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

If I was in your position, knowing what I know now, I would definitely do it. I lived in Brooklyn for over 8 years in a bunch of different neighborhoods. Through a fluke, I moved to Manhattan about 2 years ago. I love Brooklyn, but if I had the choice I would never move back there. I am not sure it's just because I lived in Brooklyn for so long, but living in Manhattan was way better than I expected. It's never something I anticipated doing, but it's definitely something I now prefer.

I don't live in the Village, but to me the greatest value of living in the city is never having to get on a train. I walk everywhere I need to go. No more 30 minute train rides. Except for groceries, shopping is way easier. Need some jeans? Just take a 15 minute stroll to the Levi's store. Stuff like that is what makes the extra money worth it.

The difference in population density may be something that surprises you. Brooklyn used to feel really busy, but now it feels spacious and slow paced, but I live in Chinatown, which is busy by manhattan standards.

In short, do it now when you have the opportunity.
posted by milarepa at 7:00 PM on October 26, 2008

Response by poster: I like that the Village seems kind of hip and artsy without being quite as hardcore about it as, say, Chelsea––or at least this has been my impression. It would also cut my commute down a whole lot. As far as Park Slope goes, I like that it's super down to earth...I came from the midwest originally and often often feel like I'm still there when I'm in the neighborhood. It's seems to be a real family/couple oriented neighborhood, though, and there isn't much to do at night. I want an energetic neighborhood where I can go out in the weekends, but where I can also get coffee and do work during the week. Maybe becuase I am, in fact, from the midwest, I'm kind of nervous that everyone in the Village is super attractive and rich, but I don't know if that conception is accurate or just the product of too many episodes of Sex and the City. I don't really care how much space I have. I do want to live around nightlife, but maybe not something that is an absolute shitstorm during the weekend. Hopefully this isn't totally incoherent––I've been obsessing about this decision so much that I barely know what I want/value anymore.
posted by lxs at 7:08 PM on October 26, 2008

I could not imagine that any place else within hundreds of miles could be better, other than the whole expense thing. You are in culture central in the West Village.
posted by caddis at 8:27 PM on October 26, 2008

I agree. I recently moved from Bay Ride, Brooklyn to the Upper West Side, and while I LOVE, ADORE Brooklyn, and Bay Ridge, I'm ecstatically happy here.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:45 PM on October 26, 2008

Being 25 and living in Manhattan is a wonderful combination. Do it and enjoy the hell out of it.
posted by BillBishop at 8:57 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

i've tried living in brooklyn a few times—park slope twice, williamsburg once—and i'm just so much happier in manhattan. i've lived the longest on the lower east side and the upper west side and i love that there are things to do during the day and late night, i can almost always just walk home from wherever i go or take a super cheap cab ride, the trains are always running, and it's easier to get people to come hang out. yes, even the ones that live in brooklyn or queens, because they can pop in for a visit after work.

the only thing you have to consider really is which part of the west village you want to live in. some blocks are quiet and leafy all the time, others are noisy all the time, some are quiet on weekdays and noisy on weekends. oh, and how far the walk's going to be to the subway, if you have to take it—the far west village can be a hike to subway lines just as much as alphabet city is, albeit a posher hike.
posted by lia at 9:32 PM on October 26, 2008

....I may be the lone dissent here, but I only have one question --

Have you done a real-life comparison of how big an apartment you could afford in Greenwich Village, compared to what you can afford in Brooklyn?

If you have, and you're cool with that change -- or if you have a remarkable deal that you'd be an idiot to pass up -- then Godspeed. But if you haven't yet looked into what the places you'd have available would be like -- you may be in for a rude shock. My bedroom in the apartment I had in the Village was the size that my bedroom CLOSET in Brooklyn is today. The entire Village apartment could fit into the living room of my Brooklyn place. And I'm paying less here in Brooklyn.

Again, if you have already looked into this, cool, but if you haven't, just...check that out first.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:48 PM on October 26, 2008

I've lived in the Village for years and I wouldn't leave for anything, but I'm from around here so I may not be a useful example. But I can say that as a long-term resident, it's still the amazing variety and vivacity of the people on the street here that I love most about the neighborhood, so if you liked walking around here then you probably will like living here — as long as you don't live right over somewhere really loud. Make sure if you're considering an apartment that you visit it at night! Feel free to MeFi Mail me if you have specific questions.
posted by nicwolff at 9:59 PM on October 26, 2008

I used to live in the West Village, now I'm up higher in midtown. I chose the better living space over the better neighborhood, and I often regret that.

Definitely do it.
posted by rokusan at 3:42 AM on October 27, 2008

Just to counter EmpressCallipygos (with the utmost respect, of course), if you moved to New York to have a spacious apartment, then you'd be better off in Pittsburgh. Everyone has their own priorities I guess, but being able to walk home from pretty much anywhere (I've lived in the Lower East Side for 6 years now) is an amenity I wouldn't trade for the world, much less an extra couple hundred square feet.
posted by saladin at 4:27 AM on October 27, 2008

Just so you know where I'm coming from, I'm 38, married, with a kid, and over the last 15 years, I've lived in Astoria (twice), Alphabet City, the Upper West Side (twice), on 17th Street in Manhattan east of Second Avenue, in south Williamsburg (twice), Greenpoint, and Park Slope (where I live now). I'm here because I want a quieter life than I did 10 years ago.

Much of the advice above is good, but for me the key is this:

1. You really need to be able to handle noise and crowds. If you're up for a lot of night life, go for it. If you're thrilling to the chaos, go for it. If you're not the kind of person who gets aggravated by noise, go for it. If you're not going to be working at home, go for it. If your work doesn't require that you sleep during the day, go for it. If you don't mind not having the city to yourself at most times (except for Sunday mornings), go for it. Some of my favorite days in the city started off at 6 a.m. in the summer in Alphabet City, followed by breakfast at 7 a.m. on Avenue A, reading the paper and watching everyone else slowly emerge.

2. You need lots more money. Maybe as much as 50% per year for the same lifestyle as you have in Park Slope, though if you can scale back your requirements (and learn where the cheap stuff is in Manhattan), you can cut the amount extra down to the quick. The groceries are indeed much more expensive in Manhattan. Some things, like meat, can cost twice as much. Restaurants are more expensive. You get about half as much apartment for the same money as you do in Park Slope. Drinks and nightlife are more expensive. But other things are the same: utilities cost the same, cabs cost the same (and may be less necessary), clothes and books and drugstore items all cost the same.

As for the Village as a neighborhood, I'd say nicwolff's comment about life in the Village is not to be disregarded, but from what I've seen in the latest years, it's a pale version of its former self. It often seems to be potemkinish, held together by wishful thinking, cognitive dissonance, a blinding longing for the past, and Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District-style initiatives that keep the images and legends of the long-gone New York alive only through constant resuscitation. It's also overrun most days of the week--not just on the weekends--by gawkers, looky-loos, tourists, Bridge and Tunnel types, mischief-makers, and traffic.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:36 AM on October 27, 2008

The only thing that would stop me from a move like this would be paying a lot more money for an apartment I like a lot less. If you found a place you like that you can afford, I wouldn't worry much about not liking the neighborhood. I lived there during college and it was wonderful. Basically, if I won the lottery and could live anywhere, that's where my city house would be.
posted by lampoil at 7:17 AM on October 27, 2008

Eh. It's a hodgepodge of pretty intense energy. Good for sightseeing and entertainment - nice to visit - but is it a cool place to live? I don't think so. There's also an undercurrent of weird danger that comes with the territory that might not be for every taste but then if you thrive on that kind of twisted pickled lemon twist (with the odd dark spot on the peel) in your organic soy milkshake - then by all means - go for it.
posted by watercarrier at 8:53 AM on October 27, 2008

You mention both Greenwich Village proper and the West Village. WV is part of GV, technically, but they differ quite a bit. Some people (realtors, most notably) consider 6th Ave the dividing line. That fact is debatable, but for the sake of argument, let's say west of 7th Ave is the WV. It's more...genteel?...than GV. Older people, pricier houses, far more upscale boutiques. Both neighborhoods have great restaurants.

I wouldn't describe either as particularly arty.

I do not live in Manhattan, but I work in the center of Greenwich Village and spend a lot of time here (grudgingly). To address your question about the feel of the place, I think it's awash in amateur drinkers and loud, stupid bars. And head shops. And tons of obnoxious teens/undergrads. Oh, also: nearly all of Washington Square Park is closed off to the public until at least 2010. That's definitely a minus, because it's a nice park.

So my opinion on moving here? Meh. I think there are better neighborhoods for your money.
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:05 AM on October 27, 2008

The Village stopped being "hip" and "artsy" about 10 years ago. If you are seeing the cover of that Bob Dylan album in your head and think that is what it is going to be like - I'm sorry, but no. Yes, Steve Earle finally moved to the Village and talks about how he's living his 60's singer/songwriter fantasy, but that's STEVE EARLE. The rest of us are not going to be so lucky.

Artists cannot afford to live in the Village and started fleeing in the 80s. I guarantee you there are more artists living in PS than there are in the Village right now.

The Village is overrun with NYU buying up everything that's left. The West Village has a great many noise and traffic and crime and vandalism problems, especially on weekends. You can find discussions of these on

I'm kind of nervous that everyone in the Village is super attractive and rich, but I don't know if that conception is accurate or just the product of too many episodes of Sex and the City.

When I worked in real estate in Manhattan, my biggest enemies were Friends, SATC, and Woody Allen movies - everyone not from here assumed that just around the corner was an apartment that looked like the apartments they saw in those movies.

When you say "you're not sure how much space you're going to have" - what does that mean? Have you seen the apartment? Have you gone to the building? Have you spent time on the block and the immediate micro neighborhood? The West Village is definitely its own fiefdom. Real estate is EXPENSIVE. It has the lowest attrition rate in the city, I believe, for rentals - nothing comes up to rent because no one leaves once they get there.

But this is an old cranky artist who bemoans the loss of her Greenwich Village. When I came here in the early 80s, everyone older than me was bemoaning the loss of "their" Greenwich Village.

You should take the apartment. You won't know if you like it if you don't live there. And I know you think moving is a hassle, but welcome to New York: unless you find something rent stabilized or buy, you're going to move every couple of years.
posted by micawber at 10:37 AM on October 27, 2008

Not all locations in lower Manhattan are equally noisy

Not all apartments in the same building are equally noisy! My building is in a particularly noisy spot (5th Avenue and 8th Street) and my sister used to live across the hall, on the front side of the building, until the buses and weekend revelers and rice-bikers screaming past her (single-pane, landmarked) windows chased her out — but my apartment on the back side of the building is outer-space quiet. Like I said, you should actually try to visit an apartment at night before you decide about it.
posted by nicwolff at 4:19 PM on October 27, 2008

Someone at the NYC Landmarks Commission told me that windows COULD be replaced in a landmarked building (the super at my rental had claimed that my rusted, leaking casement windows could not-- though several units had been! The treatment she was willing to do proved ineffectual.) as long as they closely resemble the originals.
posted by brujita at 1:55 PM on October 28, 2008

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