These Streets Will Make You Feel Brand New
February 2, 2012 11:54 PM   Subscribe

New York City Living Filter: Help a still wet-behind-the-ears young man from Utah successfully move to New York. Lots of snowflake details inside.

I'm asking for my brother-in-law, let's call him Ray. Here's the story:

Ray is 27 years old, born and raised in SLC, Utah. He works at an airline as ramp crew and is getting transferred to La Guardia in about a month.

Ray has never lived outside of Utah. He has traveled a little but has never been to New York and really hasn't spent much time in any large metropolitan cities (yes he lives in "SLC" but a) SLC isn't very big and b) he lives in a suburb from which he rarely ventures. Add to this the fact that everybody in Utah seems to have an opinion about living in New York, which I'm sure is largely informed by television and not by actual experience. They are not helping him, they're scaring him.

We've looked at apartments on Craigslist, but we really don't know what we're doing.*

1. What is the best way to look for housing?
2. What is a reasonable rental for a 1-room vs. studio vs. roommates?
3. Access to La Guardia is important, since that's where his job is. What neighborhoods should he be looking at? Keep in mind he doesn't make a ton of money (we're talking $10-11/hr, with some overtime each week).

He's a hard worker and usually pretty easy-going to boot, but right now he's feeling pretty daunted. I want to help him out, but he doesn't need encouragement as much as he needs information.

*Yes I know this question gets asked a lot, but I'd rather not derail someone else's active question with my brother-in-law's specific concerns.
posted by Doleful Creature to Work & Money (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: He should live right there in East Elmhurst, where LaGuardia is. It's a decent, modest, inexpensive family neighborhood that is pretty suburb-y. If he ever feels like venturing out of there, Astoria is just to the west, and it's nice, happening, lots of young people, but not at all intimidating. Mix of yuppies, families, and old Greek ladies who have lived there forever. Both of these neighborhoods are in the borough of Queens. If even these are too urban for him (though I doubt it) he should live to the east, on Long Island.
posted by cairdeas at 12:15 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

First- Welcome Ray! you're going to have a blast, but it's seriously a change in lifestyle.

One big difference between here in new york and every where else? Here almost everyone has roommates. Even married people often live in apartment-shares. This just is how it is.

OK. So Ray makes about 1900 bucks a month before taxes. He's going to need roommates. You MIGHT be able to find a studio for 1000, but it's more likely to run you about 1200 to 1500. Go in with another person and suddenly your rent is a very manageable 600 or 700 bucks. I have found apartment shares on the internet. it's fine. Some work out, some don't. Best thing? most don't require a lease so he can jump ship if he finds them sacrificing goats or something.

At the very least- he is going to want to have enough spending money to go out and do things. It would be awful to move out here and then be too broke to enjoy the damn city.

The gent is probably going to want to live in Queens. LaGuardia isn't on a train line, which is kind of a bummer, but the bus isn't that bad if you aren't carrying suitcases. Queens is actually a great choice for a lot of reasons- You can find great prices for housing, it's often a quick jump to Manhattan, it's often much quieter and less of supershock for newcomers.

Don't sweat it if you can't find a place near LaGuardia right away- Even if you end up in a share in Brooklyn for a few months- the absolute worst thing that would be is that you have an hour and some commute each day. It's actually not that bad.

Here is the most important thing- This place can be incredibly lonely if you don't have a support structure. New people get the Three-Month Blahs (once the shine of HOLYFUCKILIVEINNEWYORK goes away). It is super super super important to stay active and meet people. Take any opportunity you can. If your crew at LaGuardia has a bowling team- learn to bowl. If you are religious- join a church right away and start with the church clubs. Get involved with meetups. What you really don't want is to wake up four months in and realize you are doing that "I have seen millions of people this week and talked to literally no one" thing.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:07 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. Look for proximity to the Bus lines, which is how you get to LGA easily. IMHO, cars in the city are an expensive mistake.

I lived in East Astoria with two roommates and paid $650 a few years ago. Granted, my room was approximately the width of my armspan...but moving outward from Manhattan you should be able to find some places in that range with more room. Craigslist is the way to go, and yes, you'll have to share. Something like this? These neighborhoods are generally very safe, and Astoria has boatloads of cool restaurants and bars, including a couple of popular beer gardens.

Good luck! This is going to be a GREAT experience. It won't always be easy, but good things that make you learn and grow never are. Just keep an open mind, patience, and follow Blisterlips' advice on setting up a network.
posted by keasby at 2:13 AM on February 3, 2012

Does he know anyone at all here? It's really difficult to secure housing without being here (totally doable, but difficult).

you can get a place really quick on craigslist- i don't think I ever spent more than a week looking for an apartment share. If he can couch hop for a short time it's going to be bitch-ton easier.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:15 AM on February 3, 2012

Best answer: He might really enjoy Greenpoint as well as sections of nearer Queens--like much of Astoria, the buildings in Greenpoint are low, it feels more like a village, and it has the soothing quality of being remote but very near to the action of the city.

I think his basic decision is going to rest on whether he has a car or not. (It's very easy to have a car in New York. Not like, suburban Utah easy, sure! But easy enough.) That changes his commute radically. (Getting to LaGuardia is, in a way, unfortunately the least easy thing in New York.)

He would likely not enjoy Flushing. (It's very busy and bustling and fabulous, and predominant languages are Asian, and he might feel really lost and far-away there.)

The Upper East Side is pretty LaGuardia-convenient too, and the east-er side of the east side can sometimes be less expensive--don't rule out chunks of Manhattan. But still he should look carefully at Astoria (and likely Woodside, even Long Island City.)

I would encourage him not to hide himself away in Long Island beyond Queens.

He really needs to spend some boots-on-the-ground time. Do they not give him some temporary relocation housing?

New York is really fun and lovely, and in general the people are terrific and helpful. It's very surprising to people who haven't spent time there.

As far as Craigslist... it's a helpful survey, and also if you're searching no-fee and by-owner listings exclusively on Craigslist, PARTICULARLY in Queens and Brooklyn, you can find some actually pretty decent and affordable things. But also Street Easy is amazing for rental searches.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:51 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing that will shell-shock him a bit is the speed of everything. The New york areas moves fast. People walk faster, rush around, etc. It's not that they'[re any less friendly, but it can come off that way. the pace of life just seems faster.

All the suggestions up top are good, especially finding a local support structure. I'm sure there is a church that he can join that will help a lot.
posted by rich at 6:05 AM on February 3, 2012

Best answer: Jackson Heights! Cheap cost of living. Epically good food. Can bustle, but doesn't have to. 25m ride on the 7 train to midtown Manhattan (or 14m on the F to the UES). Use the Q33 bus--15m to LGA.
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 6:40 AM on February 3, 2012

Response by poster: I should mention that he is Mormon and we are reaching out to local church leaders to get him a support structure that way. I think he's going to fly out next week and spend a few days on the ground so hopefully that will help as well.

Thanks for all the great advice so far! I know it's really going to help him.
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:26 AM on February 3, 2012

Re Mormon--I don't know if you know about this, but it's one of the more prominent Mormon organizations in NYC.
posted by dfriedman at 8:16 AM on February 3, 2012

Best answer: If Ray is making $11 an hour, two things:

1) He is going to have roommates.
2) He is not going to have a car, unless he wants to live on Long Island or something (and even then, still with roommates).

That said, he certainly can find a share for $600-$700 per month an easyish bus ride from LGA. The neighborhood suggestions here - East Elmhust, Jackson Heights - are solid. I'd add Sunnyside to the list. He might be able to find something in Astoria, though that's likely a bit outside his price range. I wouldn't rule Flushing out, either, as it is is a HUGE neighborhood - just make sure he avoids anything anywhere near Main St.

Anyway, Queens will probably be less of a shock for him coming from SLC. It's more suburban and not as fast-paced as Manhattan, in general. He'll want to take advantage of what the city has to offer, but I get the impression that he wouldn't care much about living in a cool neighborhood, which is a good thing. Queens is incredibly diverse, which means great food and interesting experiences, but it may take a bit of adjustment for him.

Also: if people are scaring him about crime, tell them that NYC has about the same crime rate as Provo, Utah. Seriously. Look it up.

Finally, a word on the car thing: it's true that having a car in NYC (well, at least outside Manhattan) is not the nightmare some make it out to be. But, it would be a big stretch on a $10-$11/hour salary, and most New Yorkers I know with cars are natives, on account of the fact that driving here can be a bit scary for the uninitiated (well, unless you are from another big Northeast city or Chicago or something). Someone from SLC is likely to be quite intimidated by the weaving through traffic on expressways, the confusing parking signs, the aggressive cyclists, etc. Combine that with his very modest salary, and I wouldn't even consider a car.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:18 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mormon? that's actually great. Have you asked the local church if they have a bulletin board for local stuff? They might be able to hook him up with people looking to fill a room, or a short term rental so he can look while he's here.
posted by Blisterlips at 8:43 AM on February 3, 2012

One big difference between here in new york and every where else? Here almost everyone has roommates. Even married people often live in apartment-shares. This just is how it is.

Well, I live here and I don't have roommates. And my 21 year-old daughter lives here, and she doesn't have roommates. And no, we are not rich. Just excellent apartment finders.

Ray should maybe come and find short-term housing, take 6 months and get the lay of the land and figure it out himself. Who knows, he may not even like it! Then, he won't have to break a lease. I think CL can help with that. He might also think about asking for short-term housing help at LaGuardia, their HR folks might have some resources.

And yes, there are some wonderful neighborhoods in Queens!
posted by thinkpiece at 12:45 PM on February 3, 2012

If he works in LaGuardia, it makes the most sense for him to live in Astoria, where he can take the M60 directly to work. Shoot for as close to the Astoria Blvd. stop as possible - there's a stop literally right there. Elsewhere in Queens is also fine, but since he's new I'd strongly advise against anything off the 7 line because 2012 is going to be super-heavy on what the MTA calls "maintenance" and common sense calls "fuckery." So no Sunnyside, Woodside, etc.

He'll almost definitely need roommates. As far as price range, give him an $800 ballpark. This is absolutely doable for a decent place in Astoria with roommates on his salary, and he'll probably end up doing even better. Just make sure he avoids brokers.
posted by dekathelon at 12:47 PM on February 3, 2012

The Astoria Blvd N/Q stop, that is - the M60's maybe a 15-20 minute ride from there. Here's a link for the 7 train stuff - it won't affect him except if he ever wants to go to Manhattan, which is a thing I think he might want to do.
posted by dekathelon at 12:54 PM on February 3, 2012

In order from quietest neighborhood to busiest:

1. Flushing - take the Q48 from Main St, takes about 30 minutes. Downside? There's really nothing to do in Flushing, and no one's really sure what kind of epic quest the 7 train is on right now, but I haven't seen it running lately. Upside? There are $800 studios (basement) available, utilities included. That's also kind of a downside because they're not strictly legal and some of them feel claustrophobic (or have an illegal nail salon operating a foot away from your kitchen, which, welcome to NYC) but if he doesn't want roommates, that's an option.

2. Rego Park off of 63rd Drive - take the Q72 from Junction Blvd/Queens Blvd. It takes about 20 minutes. There's a shopping center nearby, and a few nice restaurants (the deli on Queens Blvd by the Rite Aid has won a few awards/been featured on some foodie channels). Not really much else except a sad dive bar, but the M/R line can take him to the city easily enough. Studios run about 1100.

3. Jackson Heights - Pick up the Q37 or Q47 on 74 St. Jackson Heights has a lot more going on, and feels like more of a city. The subway is convenient, he can pick up the E & F (express) or M & R (local). The 7 also runs here, supposedly. Studios run around 1000.

4. Astoria - The M60 stops at the Astoria Blvd station (N and Q trains), and it runs to all the terminals, but it's also sometimes pretty crowded with Manhattanites with luggage. Astoria overall is a lot of fun, and this neighborhood is closest to the city out of all four. Rent is the highest, but roommates are doable. Just tell him to be careful whenever he starts looking for apartments, because a friend of mine got pretty scammed by some realtors there. Studios are about 1300.

He could also move to Corona, Glendale, or East Elmhurst, but living near a subway is much better in my experience unless he's bringing a car. OTOH, these neighborhoods are usually a little bit cheaper, so.

Also, for airport ramp, is it a sure thing he's only working out of LGA? Because a lot of airline personnel live in Kew Gardens/Forest Hills area, and there are shuttles designated specifically for airline crew travel between both airports, and also crew housing. His best bet for housing is probably to look for a roommate, because it's cheaper and also because it's easier to build a social life. If he's looking for a legit realty agency, Kings and Queens is the best I've dealt with so far. Most of the ads on Craigslist are scammy, and it's time consuming to call landlords/building owners all day.
posted by jnaps at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2012

Response by poster: Update: Thanks every one for all your answers! They were very helpful both in giving us a lot of things to watch for and also easing Ray's mind about things. He found some roommates in Harlem (not so close to LGA I know but the roommates were really really great and that's what sold him on it). He's been there for about a week now and is doing pretty well. Only time will tell but I think we've got him off to a great start. Thanks again everyone.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:40 PM on March 4, 2012

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