Moving to NYC and looking for an apartment. Questions inside.
August 6, 2011 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Moving to NYC and looking for an apartment. Questions inside.

I am moving to NYC and looking for an apartment for September 1st (I have someplace to stay before then so I will not be renting sight unseen). I'm leaning strongly towards the Park Slope / Boerum Hill area, but I'd appreciate neighborhood recommendations. I'm moving from the Annex in Toronto and looking for something similar - safe, laid-back, restaurants, trees, more residential and quiet but still very walkable and close enough to downtown. I would be commuting to lower Manhattan (Chambers/WTC) and don't want it to take more than 30 mins.

My budget for a 1-bedroom is $2000-2500 and I'm looking for something decent sized, newish or renovated, with a dishwasher.

Questions:
1. What are the eating options like in Park Slope? I eat out most nights and I like varied food - so Chinese/Indian/etc. as opposed to French bistros and cupcake shops. It does seem like Park Slope tends towards the latter. Any good non-Western fare to be had within walking or delivery distance?

2. What is neighbor noise like in a brownstone/"pre-war" building - can you hear neighbors' music, upstairs footsteps, etc.? Noisier or quieter than a new condo building?

3. How do you get your packages if you live in a non-doorman building?

4. I like going to Queens (Elmurst area) sometimes but it seems difficult to get there from Brooklyn on public transport - what's the best way there?

5. Where should I be looking - I've been using StreetEasy and PadMapper so far.

Appreciate any advice and general tips on apartment hunting in NYC. Thanks in advance.
posted by pravit to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (31 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Streeteasy and Padmapper are my tools of choice. Lots of people here will recommend Craigslist, but I hate that service. Different strokes for different folks.

Park Slope--lots of bistro type restaurants as you note, but if you want Chinese, Chinatown is not too far away.

Getting from Brooklyn to Queens via public transport is a pain.

Packages in a non-doorman building: either you wait at home for the package to arrive or you arrange with a neighbor to receive the package for you or you have the package delivered to your work.
posted by dfriedman at 1:52 PM on August 6, 2011


Is there a particular reason you're leaning towards Park Slope, especially since you like Elmhurst? If you like varied ethnic cuisine, you can't get better than Queens (Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the United States). You may also want to consider Astoria, LIC, or Jackson Heights.

That having been said, if you're set on Brooklyn, look into how the G train might work for you - it's the only line that goes through Queens and Brooklyn without going through Manhattan, so it might be your best bet for making a more direct Elmhurst-Park Slope trip.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:52 PM on August 6, 2011


3. How do you get your packages if you live in a non-doorman building?

Few options here:
1) They drop it in the apartment's vestibule. This option sucks.
2) They drop it outside your front door. A little better, depending on your neighbors. Also depends heavily if someone else will let them in the building.
3) Either you (or a roommate or neighbor) signs for it. Otherwise it goes back to the depot. If you work full-time, 9-5, this only works if you have a neighbor who doesn't or works at home.
4) You go to a place like Mailboxes Etc or a UPS/Fedex/USPS dropoff center and pay them to get packages for you.
5) You have stuff delivered to you at work instead of at home. Unless you're ordering something huge.

4. I like going to Queens (Elmurst area) sometimes but it seems difficult to get there from Brooklyn on public transport - what's the best way there?

You can take the F and then transfer to the R in Queens if necessary. Don't make the mistake of trying to take the R all the way up there.
posted by griphus at 1:56 PM on August 6, 2011


Oh, wait, the G runs through Park Slope now. Better taking the G than the F. However, the G has been absolutely sucking during the weekends: not running through a lot of stations, running in two shifts (which during late night is miserable.) I'll take the G train to get somewhere, but almost always end up cabbing it home at night.
posted by griphus at 1:58 PM on August 6, 2011


I don't get it. In your price range you should live in Manhattan!

NoLita FTW!
posted by jbenben at 2:07 PM on August 6, 2011


You can pay up to $2500, you like a variety of ethnic restaurants, you're going to be working in Manhattan, and you want quick access to Queens? Then I join jbenben in being surprised that you're not focusing on Manhattan. OK, your description of what type of environment you'd like to live in does sound more like Brooklyn — but if you like peace and quiet, do you really want to make the subway roundtrip every day? If I were you, I'd get a place in lower Manhattan close enough to walk to work.
posted by John Cohen at 2:23 PM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


$2000-2500 is in the range for a 1-bedroom in Manhattan in a great area. Any reasons you aren't considering Manhattan, especially since you live there? (The commute from Park Slope is definitely a commute).
posted by suburbs at 2:29 PM on August 6, 2011


FWIW, there is only 1 good Chinese (Hunan Garden) and 1 good Indian (Kinara) in the neighborhood.
posted by mkultra at 2:31 PM on August 6, 2011


1. For cheap ethnic food, Park Slope is very well served with good falafel/kebab joints. Lots of choices of Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Thai but they are mostly disappointing (some are ok; i can list my favorites if you like).

2. I live in a solid 1910 brownstone in Park Slope. I can only rarely hear my upstairs neighbor's footsteps (he likes to stomp into bed at exactly 12:07am every night, but I wouldn't know he's there the rest of the time). For one year I had a next-door neighbor who would watch war movies on a giant multimedia system on the wall next to my bedroom - I could just barely hear (and feel!) it. I have no experience with new construction to compare it to.

3. Find a friendly nearby business, spend lots of money there, and then ask them if you can have packages sent there.

4. Park Slope to Elmhurst will take you all day. I love it here, but maybe they're right that you should look in Manhattan!
posted by moonmilk at 2:40 PM on August 6, 2011


I love the Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens area and it's closer to downtown than Park Slope. Lots of great variety of restaurants, especially on Smith Street. Amazing food in general and lots of shady tree-lined streets. Excellent access to transit.

Park Slope is further away and only has the F and G trains, it's also a bit more white bread.

I love Queens but your commute would be bad so I think it's right of you to look in Brooklyn.

Older buildings are a crapshoot noise-wise. Depending on how they're renovated, you can end up with a thin wall between you and your neighbors, or a lot of creaky wood. However, the older building we're in now is extremely quiet, as was our last apartment in another old building.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:47 PM on August 6, 2011


Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. Maybe it does make more sense for me to live in Manhattan. I once lived at 50 and 8 for a few months and didn't really like it, but mainly because it felt touristy. I like the Union Square area - close to the Strand, Trader Joes, Chinatown, and St. Mark's, but it seems rather pricy.
posted by pravit at 3:02 PM on August 6, 2011


1. No idea about the Slope, but someone above said eating is better in Jackson Heights and I absolutely concur.

2. my building is 120 years old and things often go wonky, from electrics to plumbing to the no longer usable fireplace. Everyone who has ever lived upstairs from me has been a small dainty girl, and they all sound like angry arthritic hippos in clogs walking around on our creaky floors. I can hear my next door neighbors snoring and farting and occasionally screaming murderous obscenities in the middle of the night.

3. I get my packages delivered to work, or held at the UPS depot which is about 10 blocks away from my house.

4. I tried mapping this out in my head and it made me exhausted. Zipcar is your friend.


I too am confused as to why you want to live in Brooklyn at Manhattan prices. I live in the center of the West Village in a 1BR and pay under 2k a month. (Admittedly I have all the problems listed above.) I'm moving in October, so at least you know there'll be one under 2k apartment available in an awesome neighborhood if you change your mind!
posted by elizardbits at 3:07 PM on August 6, 2011


I like the Union Square area - close to the Strand, Trader Joes, Chinatown, and St. Mark's, but it seems rather pricy.

This area is pretty much NYU college town. Lots and lots of teenagers and stuff catering to teenagers.
posted by griphus at 3:09 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The difference between Manhattan and Brooklyn will be space and quality. You can get a great place in Brooklyn for 2k and an okay-to-sketchy place in Manhattan for 2k. Tree lined streets aren't something I associate with downtown Manhattan.

If you're flexible enough to get a studio apartment instead of a one bedroom, you'll have a lot more options in Manhattan.

Chelsea has a ton of amenities like Trader Joe's and the like, and I really enjoyed living there, more tree-lined and brownstones than much of Manhattan.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:10 PM on August 6, 2011


Nthing Manhattan. Maybe Gramercy, East Village?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:29 PM on August 6, 2011


At your price range you can afford Manhattan, but you'd get more space for less in Brooklyn ( although park slope is pretty pricey) according to natives " windsor terrace" is the up and coming hood with lots and lots IOC ethnic eating options

Also uptown Manhattan tends to be ignored by people looking for places, the Heights can have a lovely collegic feel but your stuck if the 1-2-3 is having trouble.
posted by The Whelk at 3:33 PM on August 6, 2011


Response by poster: The difference between Manhattan and Brooklyn will be space and quality.

Should also mention that was a factor in focusing on Brooklyn - seemed like you could get a nicer/bigger place for the money. I live with someone so I'd rather not do a studio or roommates. I was also looking at UWS but it seems similar to Park Slope but more expensive and equally long commute. Thanks again for the answers!
posted by pravit at 3:35 PM on August 6, 2011


pravit, I live on the Upper West Side and work on Wall St. My commute is about 20 minutes, half of what it was when I lived in Brooklyn.

Also, we have a huge 1BR for under $1k/month.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:38 PM on August 6, 2011


I also live on the UWS and wall street is 20 min away, it's funkier the further north you go, the lower 70s-80s are Moms with Yoga Classes and Nannies land.
posted by The Whelk at 3:48 PM on August 6, 2011


don't let living at 50th and 8th cloud your opinion of manhattan. That's one of those in between everything nabes. Not far west enough to be hell's kitchen.

the E will get you anywhere from the west side below the park out to Elmhurst/Woodside/Jackson Heights/Corona for food super quickly.

2000-2500 is def not a studio - def enough for a one bed anywhere other than the priciest nabes - and even then you might get lucky.
posted by JPD at 3:54 PM on August 6, 2011


The ethnic food is south of Windsor Terrace, in Kensington. Windsor Terrace itself is extremely sleepy and...for lack of a better word, suburban. It's also a haul from downtown.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:03 PM on August 6, 2011


I just got seriously lucky with a one-bedroom in the West Village in your price range. Don't count out downtown Manhattan, miracles happen and it's the most walkablest, foodiest, loveliest place.
posted by prefpara at 4:11 PM on August 6, 2011


God yes, the West Village is amazing and what I was thinking about when I said to think about a studio for more flexibility in Manhattan. When we were looking, decent studios in the West Village were about 2200 or so. Otherwise, other commentors are probably right about getting a 1-bedroom in your price range.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:39 PM on August 6, 2011


Response by poster: One more quick question - how old is old for a NY apartment listing? I keep reading things about places getting snatched up days after they are posted. If something's been on the market for 3-4 months is there necessarily something wrong with it?
posted by pravit at 5:56 PM on August 6, 2011


Where are you finding these listings? More likely, the broker or owner forgot to take the listing down. Having something on the market for 3-4 months would be very unusual in your price range.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:01 PM on August 6, 2011


An apartment listing for rent older than 3 weeks would be abnormal, I think.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:08 PM on August 6, 2011


In your price range you could get a great apartment in my neighborhood of Sunset Park. There are lots of nice blocks around the park, which is a great asset to the neighborhood itself. You can take the N train to Union Square in 30 minutes or less. Very nice restaurants, with Salvadoran and Peruvian as well as ubiquitous (and often very good) Mexican. There's great Chinese food as well.
posted by layceepee at 6:19 PM on August 6, 2011


Hey - as someone who lives in the neighborhoods you're looking at let me put my 2 cents in. Yes! be very wary of an apartment that is still being listed weeks later. Either its awful (as in missing walls) or the broker is lying and it doesn't actually exist. Finding a good apartment in the Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens area can take awhile only because there's not a huge amount of options, but since you're working with a higher budget you'll probably find something easier. The reason it costs as much to live here as it does Manhattan, is because its awesome (but don't tell those Manhattan people, they'll never believe you). To get to lower Manhattan takes about 15 minutes for me. Not bad at all. If you have a bike you can bike there in the same amount of time over the Brooklyn Bridge. I luck out with having a downstairs neighbor in my brownstone who is home raising kids all day, so she'll accept packages for me, but when I'm getting too many to bother her with, there's a mailbox place on Court Street that accepts them for me and I just go pick them up with its convenient for me. There's not a lot of good Indian food in the area - sorry to say, you'll have to lower your standards or go out elsewhere after work. But there's plenty of other dining options, you may not miss it as much as you think you will. Google the Red Hook Ballfields, if you're looking for non "western" food options! And depending on your building the noise issue is hard to nail down. My tip is to get an apartment on the top floor. Sunlight and quiet! Welcome to the city!
posted by Unred at 7:58 PM on August 6, 2011


Oh! And you'll want to call local brokers to find an apartment. Just keep calling them to see what they have available. Local landlords are just going to walk to the nearest brokerage agency when they need to find a new tenant so you need to cast a wide net with brokers. And tell them to not take you to crap places and waste your time, because they will.
posted by Unred at 8:04 PM on August 6, 2011


Should also mention that was a factor in focusing on Brooklyn - seemed like you could get a nicer/bigger place for the money. I live with someone so I'd rather not do a studio or roommates.

If you've heard people suggest that this necessarily costs more than $2,500 in Manhattan, you've been misinformed. It's not uncommon to find a 1-bedroom for less than $2,000 in a prime area of Manhattan. (I'm in one right now.) You can certainly get this for $2,500.
posted by John Cohen at 10:05 PM on August 6, 2011


The Brooklyn vs. Manhattan thing is sort of complex. People who live in Manhattan cite convenience and center-of-the-world magic when asked why they live in that particular borough. This is why a lot of Manhattanites, bother former and current, just assume anyone would want live in Manhattan if they can afford it. Other people (guess who) think it's nuts to pay a huge premium to live in an apartment with no sink in the kitchen on a block throbbing with tourists and noise and self-important businessmen. Neighborhoods vary, but I do think the borough as a whole has gone increasingly more corporate in recent years with an emphasis on chain restaurants/groceries, 24-hour pharmacies, and so forth. In my totally Brooklyn-centric opinion, Manhattan seems to lack the character it used to have. There are people who literally get blue in the face when I say this, and defend their borough to the death.

With your budget, you could rent *two floors* of the large beautiful pre-war brownstone in Fort Greene where I live. I have a backyard with a grill. There is a nice patio area upstairs. Our kitchen is bigger than many 1Brs in Union Square. There are the same variety of bookstores, bars, restaurants, parks and groceries available in Manhattan. With your budget in West Village, your place would probably very nice but undoubtably much smaller, no backyard (as if!), and a lot more tourists outside.

If you want quality and space is indeed important to you, you're on the right track with Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill, which are both extremely nice areas with a range of afforable-to-pricey apartments. You could certainly find a great 1BR in a brownstone or upscale apartment building for $2000. You might not even need to worry about packages, as that price range often affords doormen and/or mail rooms.

In terms of restaurants, Park Slope is not awesome, especially as you go deep into the heart of it around 10th St and 7th Ave. 5th Ave and anything north, before the numbered streets, fares better. Boerum/Cobble Hill is much better, and Smith St has lots of fun bars and restaurants to choose from. It's also near other fun neighborhoods like Prospect Heights and my own hood, Fort Greene, so you won't be isolated. Get a bike, and the whole borough opens up for you.

In terms of noise level, our brownstone is farily good at blocking out street noise and our roommate who takes singing lessons, but each building will vary.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:08 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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