New York, New York!
February 2, 2012 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Which neighborhood in New York City is right for us?

I was accepted to Columbia for a graduate program this fall (yay!). My husband will be working in SoHo. Where should we live? Or rather, where COULD we live?

I've seen the very recent "moving to NYC from CA" thread here, as well as the threads linked therein.

Other background info that seems relevant, based on previous discussions:
- We have no kids. It'll just be the two of us.
- We do have a conservatively low monthly rent budget of about $2500 (i.e., we could likely go up a couple hundred bucks from there, but would really rather not).
- Laundry in-building would be awesome, as would being within reasonable walking distance of the 1/2/3 trains and within a half-hour commute to SoHo; we can do without a doorman.
- We'll be looking for a one bedroom, though I think we can make an alcove work; overall space will be more important than the actual number of rooms.
- Neither of us are from from New York (we currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the Silicon Valley 'burbs); right now, we just end up there several times a year for various reasons.
- We'll fly out for an apartment hunting trip out a few weeks before we intend to move, so we'll be available to see things in person.
- I'm willing to use a broker, so long as that broker comes well-recommended from our friends and colleagues, and can find us a good long-term lease in an apartment we like.

Hope me/us?
posted by zamboom! to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, why not live near Columbia, in Morningside Heights or Harlem? You will get a really good apartment for 2500, compared to what you'll get in SoHo, and only one of you will have to commute.
posted by devymetal at 9:54 AM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Congratulations! You can afford Chelsea or the West Village, if space is as little of an issue as you say (ie, you'd be getting a rather small one bedroom or an alcove studio in those places). Also consider Hell's Kitchen, for more space.

A Harlem-SoHo commute doesn't sound appealing to me, but it wouldn't be that bad. Within a half-hour, especially if you take the express.
posted by millipede at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, this will help you. Also, it is fun.
posted by millipede at 9:59 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

By far the least expensive place on your Columbia-to-SoHo trajectory will be Manhattan Valley/Morningside Heights (i.e., up around Columbia). I have been living in this neighborhood for 20 years so I can answer any questions you might have.

The subway commute down to SoHo, depending on where in SoHo, would range from 30 to 45 minutes. Not bad.
posted by slkinsey at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2012

millipede: "if space is as little of an issue as you say"

zamboom!: "overall space will be more important than the actual number of rooms. "

I think you misread what they meant, millipede, it looks like they want as much space as possible, they just don't care about the layout. Which likely means not Manhattan* for their budget.

* - errr, anywhere south of 90th st in Manhattan, that is.
posted by Grither at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2012

Oh, I did misread. I read "less" instead of "more." Sorry!
posted by millipede at 10:08 AM on February 2, 2012

Don't forget that the A/B/C/D runs up to 125th Street near Columbia.

The B/D is express and will take your husband to Soho at Broadway/Lafayette.

My friends who live in Morningside Heights love the D train because it can get them uptown/downtown in as little as 25 minutes (the B stops running at 9:30pm but the D is express all of the time).
posted by kathryn at 10:14 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that you want to live north of Columbia, maybe Harlem. You should also check east of morningside park, the box bounded by 110th street/ morningside ave / 120th st / lennox ave. If you dont mind a commute you can get a nice place in inwood (the very tip of manhattan). Columbia does have a real estate posting internal website (which you get access to once you have an email I believe) and has some housing which you should look into as well.
posted by shothotbot at 10:15 AM on February 2, 2012

Are you at all interested in, or eligible for, Columbia housing? The website for off-campus housing is here.
posted by plastic_animals at 10:21 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I actually just moved away from the Morningside Heights area about a month ago (I was a researcher at Columbia). Columbia owns a lot of the buildings in the area and offers subsidized housing for people associated with the college. Check with your graduate program to see if that's an option for you. If so, my experience is that the Columbia apartments are pretty nice and often 25%-50% below "market price" for the area. Graduate students tend to get the least nice apartments (faculty apartments are amazing), but they're still pretty nice and Columbia is actually a really good landlord compared to a lot of other options in NYC. The one thing I will say is that these apartments are typically hot commodities, so you probably want to get your name on the list early and be prepared to not have a huge amount of choice in which apartment you get.

We paid ~$1500 for a good-sized one bedroom. That was probably near the top of the price range for a one bedroom through Columbia (which, if you've started apartment hunting already, you'll realize is a GREAT price).

Morningside Heights is pretty boring, but the nice thing is that you're a ~15-20 minute train ride from Midtown and a ~20-30 minute train ride from downtown; the 1 train would take your husband right down into SoHo. We actually really liked living in a "boring" area with easy access to all the cool stuff NYC had to offer. Riverside Park is great, as is the bike/walking path right along the Hudson River.

If you have more questions, feel free to MeMail me (or post them here).
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:26 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

With that budget, I suggest Chelsea. The transit there is good, it's a nice neighborhood with lots of beautiful architecture and leafy streets, plenty of places to go out, lots of galleries, plus decent amenities. I loved living there and would move back in a heartbeat if we had a budget of $2500.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also I have no idea why you'd want to live in Harlem if one of you works in SoHo. There are plenty of lovely neighborhoods within your price range that are between your two workplaces. Why stick one person with a shitty commute when you could both have decent commutes? And Harlem is fine, but it's not that great of a neighborhood that you should be having a shitty commute just to live there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for checking out your eligibility for Columbia couples' housing. Like Betelgeuse used to, we live in a Columbia-owned building and have a respectably spacious one bedroom that's about $1350/mo. But what we've really come to appreciate just as much as the rent is how quickly Columbia responds to issues; stuff in our apartment gets fixed within 48 hours of submitting a work order and the layers of bureaucracy have shielded us from experiencing any of the horror stories we've heard from friends about capricious building managers. I'm not at all saying that wouldn't be your experience elsewhere, but cheap rent and reliable maintenance is a lovely combo if you're eligible for it.

The neighborhood is not trendsetting by any means but is underrated, in my opinion - there are some decent pub-type bars and cheap eats (especially over on Amsterdam where you'll see fewer undergrads) and you'll have grocery stores, drug stores, a couple of standout parks, and a public library branch all within a few blocks. We spend a lot of weekend nights downtown and in Brooklyn with friends, who all live below 70th St, and enjoy having sleepy uptown to ourselves the rest of the time. YMMV.

I used to work down just above Washington Square Park, which is not too far from SoHo, and didn't mind the ~30m commute on the 1/2/3. However, if we hadn't been eligible for subsidized housing it probably wouldn't have been worth it.

If you're not eligible or don't want to live in Columbia housing, another vote to check out the westerly areas of Hell's Kitchen. You would have to walk a few avenues to a train but you'd get more space out there and you'd split the difference space-wise.

Another open invitation to memail, of course!
posted by superfluousm at 11:01 AM on February 2, 2012

Difference distance-wise, that is.
posted by superfluousm at 11:01 AM on February 2, 2012

Upper West Side. :) For reals.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:03 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you can do this pretty much anywhere between 61st street and 168th. But I come to argue for up by 168th! On the Hudson is extremely beautiful and the apartments are great. You can get a lot of bang for your buck in Washington Heights, and you're right there at express stops.

That being said, you can also luck out in the 80s and 90s on the west side too. The UWS is so random about when good apartments open up. But I think your husband will be REALLY unhappy in his commuting without an A train. (Also key to know: the B goes express from 125th to 57th, heeyyyy.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:10 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Um. The B train does not go express between 59th and 125th. Only the A and the D go express between 59th and 125th. The B and C trains go local between 59th and 125th.
posted by slkinsey at 12:09 PM on February 2, 2012

Chelsea or the West Village for $2500? I guess some people really are okay with living in closets. Wouldn't bother looking at those.

I just moved out of the Upper West Side (80th, to be precise). It's pretty dull but nice enough, convenient to the right trains, and you can get a reasonable apartment within your budget.

Keep in mind for budget purposes that a broker is going to want 15% of the first year's rent. Some will negotiate, some won't. Thus, a $2500 apartment could run you $2875 if you think about the broker's fee as an addition to your rent (which, of course, it isn't; writing the check for roughly four months' rent up front to cover first month, security, and fee is always fun). If you have infinite time to look, you can probably get away without a broker. If you're in a hurry, you might need to use one if you want to get anything nice.
posted by sinfony at 12:52 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

What do you want to do when you're not working/studying? With that budget, you may be able to find something workable anywhere from SoHo to Morningside Heights.

If you're big classical music fans, you could live within walking distance of Lincoln Center. If you like to be outdoors, you could live near Riverside Park or Central Park. If you like nightlife, you could live downtown. You could live near a church or syanagogue you find affable. You could live near nice bookstores... or coffee shops...
posted by Jahaza at 12:54 PM on February 2, 2012

Missing from this entire conversation is whether a landlord will rent to you.

You say that your budget is $2,500 per month, but a more pertinent question is what your income is and how it compares to landlords' requirement that your annual salary be at least 40x your monthly rent. $2,500 * 40 = $100,000.

The rental market in NYC, and especially Manhattan, is very tight these days, so landlords have their choice of tenant. Don't be surprised by landlords' requirements for copious amounts of paperwork proving that you're financially qualified for tenancy (e.g., pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, letter of employment, etc.)
posted by dfriedman at 2:10 PM on February 2, 2012

« Older is it common to get invited for a job interview...   |   Mail carrier is committing mail fraud Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.