How to not just survive, but thrive?
March 26, 2011 11:05 AM   Subscribe

I might hate New York, I might love that job. Now what?

I am currently living in New York and very ambivalent about living in the city. However, I just got offered my dream job - in the city. What now? I both can't imagine turning down the job (amazing colleagues, good resources, supportive, simulating environment), and I can't imagine not living in a relatively small town with easy access to mountains.

I'm an academic, so the choices are always somewhat limited. The position is in many ways ideal - the best in terms of fit, and includes resources I might not be able to find anywhere else. That said, I do have other offers in smaller towns. For me, this really feels like a question about work vs life priorities.

I've lived here for a few years, and still find it an overwhelming, crowded, noisy place to live. Sometime I just want to be able to go to a grocery store and be able to buy good produce at a reasonable price, to be able to go trail running near my house, to be able to get to climbing, hiking, etc. without hours of travel.

Are there any other small town, outdoors seeking people out there who have found a way to enjoy this fine city?

Specific recommendation about train commutable towns to live in or other creative solutions would be greatly appreciated.
posted by lab.beetle to Work & Money (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Where do you live in NYC right now? Manhattan? Brooklyn? If you're in Manhattan, or the industrial wastelands along the L train, then no wonder you're feeling starved for the outdoors.

I would take the job, and I would make living in a neighborhood with access to a large park and decent grocery stores a #1 priority. If you can afford it and want a shorter commute, the neighborhoods around Prospect Park will give this to you. There are lots of other options in Queens, particularly out toward Flushing, although I personally have less experience with that borough.

There are also lots of commuter towns in New Jersey with great train access. I used to visit a friend down in Bordentown, NJ quite a bit, and it's lovely.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2011

Check out Nyack, NY. Fits your bill!
posted by thinkpiece at 11:17 AM on March 26, 2011

I've always liked New York so I am a poor point of comparison. But moving to within a minute's walk of Prospect Park made an amazing difference to the part of me that craves nature. Even though it's "only a park". It's an extraordinary thing. Of course you may be very familiar with it already, but if you only know Manhattan parks (including Central Park) you urgently need to check it out.
posted by oliverburkeman at 11:20 AM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

(I have also joined the NY/NJ chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, on Ask Metafilter's recommendation, though I have yet to attend any hikes.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 11:25 AM on March 26, 2011

Yes. Where exactly do you live now?

You have tons of options, you're just not aware of them all yet.

Stay in the area for sure!
posted by jbenben at 11:41 AM on March 26, 2011

How averse to commuting are you? The Hudson Valley gets surprisingly low-density not too far north of NYC. The train trip up the Hudson rapidly turns into mostly trees and river punctuated by isolated small towns. According to Amtrak's website, it takes about 45 minutes to get from Penn Station to Croton-Harmon, and although the tickets are expensive there may be cheaper options for regular commuters. (Commuter rail lines, bus lines, even carpool options.)

If your dream job pays well enough, you might consider the expense worth it. Other suburban areas (like Long Island and Westchester) are a train-able option but those are a lot more dense than the Hudson Valley, in my opinion.
posted by Quietgal at 11:52 AM on March 26, 2011

As an ex-Manhattanite who hopes never to have to go back, I sympathize with your dilemma :-) I would either take the small town job or move to a nice part of Brooklyn and go to the Hudson Valley on the weekends. It's wonderful to live in the 'burbs but the commute into the city can kill you, more because of traffic and logistics than distance. If you can get away with only going into the department a couple days a week this may be fine - otherwise I don't recommend it.

Keep in mind that any train commute, while vastly superior to the dreaded car commute, involves getting to and from the station on both ends. This will turn what sounds like an easy 45 minute commute to Croton into a 1.5-2 hour nightmare, each way. You will also be stuffed into subway cars like a sardine if you go during rush hour. If you get easily overwhelmed by the noises and crowds of NY, as I do, I would not do this. But if you do decide to look at suburbs, in addition to the other good recommendations here, check out the NJ Morristown area - Chatham, Madison, Summit, etc. More yuppy than rural but it does have a smaller town feel.

Finally, (you probably know this already), you will need much much more money to live in any part of NY than you will in a small town. I'd say you need about 1.5 times to twice the salary, and if you stay in the city you will still live in a small apartment instead of a house. Even the NY area suburbs are generally much more expensive than "normal" towns. Good luck!
posted by walla at 12:12 PM on March 26, 2011

early morning bike rides over the GW bridge to palisade park kept me sane while i lived there. it's amazing how quiet it is over there. i lived in midtown, so it was pretty quick to get over there.
posted by nanhey at 12:47 PM on March 26, 2011

I say this as someone who has never lived in NYC or a city of more than 50,000 residents, but I think you should search for a job elsewhere. You say that you have other offers and it sounds like you would be happier in a small town. And this "dream job" may be less than ideal, while some other job prospects might turn out to be ho-hum okay and allow you to fill the rest of your life with awesome and fun country things.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:00 PM on March 26, 2011

As I've lived in NYC the last few yrs, I am going to list a few specific places that may meet your needs, although I cannot speak to the cost of living (and too bad we couldn't magically change job opportunities, as I left an academic position because it was located in a small town several years ago but that isn't the question).

Check out Cold Spring. Lots of hiking, hills, etc (and nice fall foliage). Small town. Great biking. On the river. Can't find good resources, but just trust me. It is a train ride, and if I remember correctly,maybe an hour away? If you haven't seen it yet, in the next month take a train ride there and at least check out some of the local hiking areas as a start. As is mentioned above, lots of parts of the Hudson Valley is interesting from a nature and history perspective.

The other area that may meet your needs and is still nearby (although YMMV) is Staten Island. The traffic is not as insane there (okay,early morning on a weekend it is not). There are more parks and open areas, there are historic forts, not as crowded in some areas (like bike path along the water),etc. If you live close enough, your commute would be ferry.

You would also be surprised how rural parts of New Jersey can get, too, but the train trips coming back seem long.
posted by Wolfster at 1:33 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Move to Hoboken, commute to NYC on the PATH train, and spend your weekends hiking or cycling in rural areas about an hour to the west. You'll think you're in the Vermont woods.

On preview, yes, Wolfster.
posted by drdanger at 1:34 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I personally think you're so lucky. You get the best of both worlds! I am also an outdoors person in nyc, and i joined the AMC and do a lot of skiing in vmt and now utah and spend a lot of time outdoors in general. New york has everything INCLUDING easy access (maybe sometimes a 4+ hour flight- but then you are directly in SLC, it's amazing!) to the outdoors. I really do not have my dream job but I love new york anyway. Try it for a couple of years- you are being offered an amazing opportunity.
posted by bquarters at 1:57 PM on March 26, 2011

I find downtown Jersey City more "homey" than Hoboken. [Important: Downtown, within walking distance of the Grove St, Exchange Pl., or Newport PATH stations is the area that's the anti-Manhattan: not Journal Square or the Heights.]

There are even grocery stores with fresh(er than Manhattan) produce! And farmers' markets! There are several nice parks; it's very suburban, but not rural. In most areas it actually gets quiet at night. For real rural/outdoorsy you'd have to take bike/car/train trips on the weekends. Like Hoboken, it's a quick PATH ride to the city.
posted by lesli212 at 2:01 PM on March 26, 2011

no one has specifically mentioned Tarrytown yet, so i'll throw that out there too. nice paths/trails nearby and the commute isn't terrible.
posted by nanhey at 2:20 PM on March 26, 2011

I grew up in a house with woods and a farm behind it. Was never what I would describe as an outdoorsy person, but I loved bird-watching and just generally looking at nature outside my window. I couldn't imagine living in the city and not having these things at my immediate disposal. But you know, I've lived in Astoria for six years now, and although it's not exactly filled with nature, and pigeons and rats are no substitute for flickers and chipmunks, it is laid back and low-density enough that I'm okay with it.

I enjoy coming back to Astoria after working or shopping in the city. We've got Astoria park here, but also a trip to Central Park on a nice day is pretty good too. If I just want to go for a walk outside, it's nice to walk up and down the streets in the neighborhood. Occasionally you'll even hear a blue jay or see a mockingbird.

If you really want mountains, can't help you there, but we do have good produce at a reasonable price, particularly on 30th Avenue near the N train.
posted by wondermouse at 2:39 PM on March 26, 2011

Do you have to go to work every day? I ask because in Australia, many academics have their teaching days (where they are on campus) and then may have a research day/s (where they work from home, or whereever.. obviously doesn't work for all kinds of research). So many academics live in lovely regional areas and commute a few days a week, rather than travelling every single day.

Is there flexibility around this? Because then you may find that living somewhere that is a longer commute is not such an issue. Have a look at the HR policies.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:18 PM on March 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses, this is amazing.

I currently live on the UES (chosen for the subsidized housing), but wouldn't have to live in that area in the future. Central park currently doesn't satisfy my nature cravings, but it may be the ~20 minute walk each way to get there. As with nanhey, I've taken up biking to get over the to palisades, which is great.

I'm an experimentalist, and though life is more flexible that a typical job situation, I still expect to be going in to work basically every day.
posted by lab.beetle at 3:40 PM on March 26, 2011

The difference between being on the UES, 20 minutes from Central Park, and being down in Brooklyn a couple blocks from Prospect Park is enormous. You should definitely take a look around Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush and Prospect Heights before you decide on whether or not you'll be leaving the city. There are always compromises to living in New York, but having a gigantic, beautiful park so close by has made a big difference in my ability to live here long term. It's less crowded and much wilder than Central Park, too, and the deepest parts are further away from urban noise.

Brooklyn also has a much more relaxed, livable feel to it, too. It's quieter. Less expensive. More kids and dogs, less honking. I could never live in Manhattan again.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2011

Sometime I just want to be able to go to a grocery store and be able to buy good produce at a reasonable price, to be able to go trail running near my house, to be able to get to climbing, hiking, etc. without hours of travel.

Where are these other job offers of yours? Are they in places that would certainly allow for all of those things? I mean, I'm sure Kansas has its charms, but there's no way in hell that you'd be able to go rock climbing without getting on a plane, let alone "hours of travel." A small town in Alaska or Hawaii would probably not help your grocery bill.

My point here is that you should make sure that the other offers you have are what you really want before you decide that NYC isn't what you want.
posted by Sara C. at 8:18 PM on March 26, 2011

Checked back in to see your neighborhood.

You can EASILY move to Connecticut. Express train (metro north) into NYC from Stamford is about 45 minutes. Lots of trains in and out, so commuting into Grand Central Station (stops at 125th Street, too!) is super duper easy.

Rye is the last stop in NY State on that train line before Greenwich.

Rye, Greenwich, Stamford, etc. - all are full of trees, mountains, parks, hiking, cycling, and seashore.

Having grown up on LI, I promise you the commute from Connecticut into NYC is hella quicker and easier, even though I think the distance in miles is shorter from, say, Great Neck, Manhassett, Port Washington or Roslyn. Not that LI boasts what you are necessarily looking for, just comparing suburbs here.

New Jersey is pretty nice. Depending where you live and work, there are nifty ferries that shoot across the Hudson, plus the PATH and regular trains.

I understand your dilemma. I had a (truly pathetic) breakdown once when friends made us miss the last train out of Manhattan up to a camping/hiking destination one weekend. That said, I couldn't hack it living in a smaller city when I did finally make the jump. I live in LA now, and it sucks compared to Manhattan in lots of ways. Don't leave NYC entirely until you are ready.
posted by jbenben at 4:31 PM on March 27, 2011

thinkpiece - commuting from Nyack (and most of Rockland) is hellacious and expensive.

OP, I'm on the UES as well and struggling for some of the same reasons. PLus I'd love space. One location I'm considering is Riverdale. Worth considering if 1 train is convenient to your office. [yes, 1 train is atrocious. As are 4/5/6].
posted by TravellingCari at 11:29 AM on March 30, 2011

This is going to sound like a cheesy tourism ad -- but I live in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. I can walk 5 minutes to Prospect Park every day to run the very woodsy nature trail; can walk down the block to one of three fresh, cheap, and mostly organic produce markets; and can take the train one stop to a gigantic and cheap Pathmark. There's also a big, bright, shiny Compare Foods around the corner that just opened up. My commute is less than half an hour on the 2, 3, 4 or 5 trains. I "thrive" by making good use of the park and the community art resources here which are many and growing.
I am by no means a "city person", having grown up in small town rural North Carolina, and even though I, too, am ambivalent about working and existing in noisy, crowded Manhattan, I love coming back to the convenience and even sleepiness of this part of Brooklyn.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 11:19 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

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