Cross-country move
March 27, 2012 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Give me your advice for renting (for one person) in the nyc area.

I (late 20's, female) am moving to the nyc area for a new job in two months, and need to quickly figure out the living situation. Having never lived on the east coast of the US and being sorely unfamiliar with the nyc metropolitan area, I'm turning to AskMefi for some housing advice.

I am planning on renting in the foreseeable future, and will be living by myself. I prefer not having roommates. I have heard a lot of my colleagues are living in Jersey and commuting by train everyday - however, they have kids and cars, which is quite different from my situation. I have also heard that rent in Manhattan can be quite expensive.

The things that I need to consider, in order of most important to least important are:
- convenience. The office that I'm working at is in the thick of Manhattan. I have to be there everyday from 8 to 6. I would prefer the commute not being a struggle to cross fiery lakes and snow-peaked mountains everyday if possible. I will not have access to a car for the first few months, so accessibility to public transportation is a must. My preferred commuting time would be less than one hour, from door to door.
- safety. Would like to live in a relatively safe neighborhood. Preferably safe enough to jog outside everyday, but this is not a must.
- price. I have no hard limit for rent, but would like to go with the most economical solution. I am considering aggregate cost of living - rent, transportation, food, etc.
- food/entertainment. This is not really an issue. I am quite flexible with respect to social life. While it would be nice to have the opportunity to join some sort of group activity, I am perfectly content staying at home working on my own projects. I am not very much into city night life, and in general have no preference between suburbia and urban environments. Nearness to a large/academic library would be a plus.

Given these, should I try to rent in Manhattan? In one of the boroughs? In Jersey? Would any savings in rent be worth it compared with the huge increase in commuting time? Would it make sense to invest in a car sooner? Any specific and general advice about location, where to find places to rent, tips and tricks for an nyc first-timer welcomed!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (39 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Without a guide to what you think expensive/cheap is, or what "the thick of Manhattan" means, nobody can really answer that question.

Assuming you mean midtown, the standard answers are going to be Astoria, Inwood, maybe East Village.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:44 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Where in Manhattan is your job? That determines the subway lines you're near, which determines which neighborhoods in the boroughs are easily commutable.
posted by The Michael The at 9:45 AM on March 27, 2012

: "Would it make sense to invest in a car sooner?"

If you plan on investing* in a car, then I would recommend not looking for a place in Manhattan. If the reason you want a car is so you can get out of town every now and then, and you still want to live in the city, then I'd recommend renting instead.

* - a car is not in any way an investment
posted by Grither at 9:46 AM on March 27, 2012

Err... renting a car, that is.
posted by Grither at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2012

You're going to need to give us a rent limit and job location.

The NYPL system is pretty awesome, and has branches everywhere, so I wouldn't worry about the library bit.
posted by larthegreat at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2012

I see this in anonymous, so either create a sockpuppet account and post with that or send your reply to the mods to post here.
posted by The Michael The at 9:49 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do not live in New Jersey! It's massively inconvenient, less fun if you're single, and, in all likelihood, nobody from Manhattan and the other boroughs will visit you often, if ever.

An hour door to door leaves your options way open-- definitely need more info about who you are and what you like to do,

If you have the means, living in Manhattan is the best and most convenient option, but if you don't or want more space, I'd personally only consider Brooklyn.
posted by devymetal at 9:52 AM on March 27, 2012

Yes, this is very difficult to answer without a rent budget and the general location of your office (Midtown? Financial District?). The "thick of Manhattan" is not specific enough.

You don't need a car. You don't even need a car if you live in Jersey as long as you live in Hoboken or Jersey City, someplace near a PATH train. Parking is horrendously expensive if you park in a garage and a giant pain in the ass if you park on the street, and if you are living anywhere on a subway line, train line, or bus route that goes near your office, commuting that way will always be cheaper and easier and will probably take less time than driving, especially if your office is in Manhattan. You can sign up for Zipcar or HertzConnect if you want to occasionally get out of town in a car.
posted by bedhead at 9:53 AM on March 27, 2012

This question makes me think you might not be very familiar with NYC.

- Most people don't commute by car to jobs in Manhattan.
- Almost all of the city is accessible by public transportation, particularly the bits you're likely to want to live in, so that's not something you'll have to worry very much about.
- We really need to know what your budget is, because there's no "normal" here, not really. Rent for a one-person apartment can range from $900 to $5,000 depending on where you are and how nice the building is.
- Most academic libraries aren't open to the public, but there are some excellent city libraries. The central branch in Brooklyn is near Prospect Heights and Park Slope, for example.
- If you rent in Jersey or Staten Island, you're making some decisions about your social life. Many people who live in Manhattan can barely be convinced to go to Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and most people in Brooklyn and Queens never want to go to Jersey or Staten Island.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:54 AM on March 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

Living in Jersey means your New York friends who don't have cars (i.e. all of them) will never visit you.
posted by griphus at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

If there's REALLY 'no hard limit' for rent then you could easily drop $3000 a month in Manhattan, so giving us a vague price range would really help. I think the conventional wisdom is to spend 1/40th of your yearly salary per month on rent. Figure out what that is and get back to us.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Rental market in manhattan and most of NYC is very tight and very different from almost anywhere else. Go to and peruse the discussion boards re rentals. We need a lot more specific info, as said by others, to answer this question.
posted by dfriedman at 9:56 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

This question makes me think you might not be very familiar with NYC.

OP says Having never lived on the east coast of the US and being sorely unfamiliar with the nyc metropolitan area, I'm turning to AskMefi for some housing advice., so cut her a little slack.

OP, please drop a note to the mods via the contact form so you can give the NYC mefites (who are really very nice and want to be helpful!) the info they need in order to help you best. The NYC housing questions on askme can get really awesome answers, but not if there's insufficient information to answer them.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your "things to consider" section describes 95% of the tri-state area.

I promise that you will not have to cross fiery lakes and snow-peaked mountains at any point in your stay.

If I were you, I would take a one to three month sublet to start exploring neighborhoods.
posted by valeries at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

If I were you, I would take a one to three month sublet to start exploring neighborhoods.

This is good advice.

Also, when looking at neighborhoods, use Hopstop to figure out what your commute time will be from that neighborhood to your work. It's more accurate than Google Maps for NYC transit.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2012

Good Christ, you don't need a car in New York. Especially not for commuting to work. My roommate had one and it was nice to use for trips to IKEA and Costco, but I'd never have thought about driving to work. Where would you park? Why would you want to deal with that traffic?

If you work above 14th Street, live in Astoria. Below, live somewhere in Brooklyn.

And make sure you get somewhere with air conditioning. You probably won't be used to the absurd humidity that comes along with the heat in the summer. I came from a place with 110 degree summers (but it's a dry heat!) and I still wasn't prepared for 85 degrees at 85% humidity.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Details as I understand them. You are: Late 20s, female, prefer no roommates, money is not *too* much of an object and you need a space ASAP.

And, in order of importance:
1)Being close: work 8 to 6 in Midtown, prefer short(er) commute; less than one hour
If you want to spend less than $3,500 per month for a decent one bedroom, I would look at one of the outer boros. Neighborhoods that come to mind are: Greenpoint (Brooklyn) 30 minutes to Midtown depending on where you live, Jackson Heights (Queens), Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn) 30-45 minutes to midtown,
2) Safe area
No neighborhood is totally safe in a place which contains 8,000,000 people in such a small radius. You can usually get a good feel for the area by the stores contained therein. If you can see yourself shopping at most of the stores without an issue, the neighborhood more often than not fits your criteria of safety.
3) Price... Outer boro's will run you $1,600 to $2,200/month for something decent. Manhattan is more like 3,500 to 5,000/month for something nice.

and please think VERY CAREFULLY before getting a car. It's really nice for large shopping trips, and getting out of town, but unless you have a monthly space or driveway, it is probably one of the most frustrating and annoying ways to get around the city. do not recommend this...
posted by Debaser626 at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2012

When people say that people will not want to visit you if you live in Jersey or Staten Island, that also includes people that you might date.
posted by grouse at 10:03 AM on March 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

What can you afford? don't bother with car if you live in NY area
posted by Postroad at 10:04 AM on March 27, 2012

I'm going to disagree with some of the Jersey haters - Jersey City and Hoboken are cheaper than Brooklyn and a short PATH ride into Manhattan. My girlfriend lives in JC and it hasn't prevented me from visiting her ;)

HOWEVER, it is true that there's not a lot of nightlife there -- you'll be doing your drinking in Manhattan. Also, getting into Brooklyn can be pretty time consuming if that's more your scene -- over an hour depending on how the trains are running.

But then again, if you live in Queens it will also take you over an hour to get to some parts of Brooklyn, so relative trip lengths might come out as a wash.
posted by modernserf at 10:05 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude.

I understand you said that you're "sorely unfamiliar" but I was mostly unsure whether or not you've had the chance to visit the city in person at least briefly, or if this was just one of those "Great job means I'm moving regardless!" situations.

The suggestion to sublet first so you have time to explore is a very good one. People are often surprised by which neighborhoods end up appealing to them, or by which aspects of city life end up being the most stressful -- for example, I never would have guessed it before I moved here, but I hate living in Manhattan (way too noisy and crowded) and would never do so again even if I could afford it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:07 AM on March 27, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
Hey guys, thanks for the replies so far. I'm really sorry about not being specific enough - the last time I was in nyc was when I was 13 and a tourist - I had no idea that being near specific subway lines is so important.

My job is around 50th/7th ave., and looking at the subway map, it seems like lines B,D,E,N,Q,R all have stops within walking distance...
More on the "no hard limit for rent" - by that I mean I am trying to judge by the "average" circumstance, but as some of the posters have said, I realize now that this could differ wildly. Since I'm really not familiar with the area, I didn't want to throw out a ridiculously unrealistic number. Judging by the estimates some posters have given, I'll probably shoot for the $1500-$2000 range. Right now I'm living in a 400sq ft studio and am liking it. Is the price range I gave adequate for a similar living situation? Sorry for being so clueless.
Regarding the "no one will visit me in Jersey" - that's totally fine and not a problem with me. :) I consider myself fairly low maintenence in terms of entertainment and I'm by nature pretty much a loner anyways, and would be perfectly happy cozying up with a book on the weekday nights and spending some weekends in the city.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:23 AM on March 27, 2012

Oh, totally go for Astoria. Your commute will be like 20 minutes!
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Astoria is what you want. Lots of great food, very very multicultural, lots of people your age. Don't restrict yourself to ONLY around Ditmars (I'm closer to the Broadway stop on the N/Q and theres plenty to do).

your job is right by the 49th street station, and thats a half hour from all of astoria.
posted by softlord at 10:27 AM on March 27, 2012

If you’ve got $1500-$2000 and you need to live alone, you’re looking at Astoria for sure. It’ll be a very quick commute to your office, you can get a nice studio, and Astoria’s a great area.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:27 AM on March 27, 2012

Oh man, Astoria. You'd have a great commute and it's a charming neighborhood.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:28 AM on March 27, 2012

Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill in Brooklyn (Carroll St. or Bergen St. stops on the F) would be a great choice too. Probably more expensive than Astoria, but you could definitely find a place for under $2k (some friends just found a 1BR floor through with a backyard for $1900). It's safe, I used to jog there all the time (and it's not too far from Prospect Park, too), there are tons of restaurants and bars, and both the NYPL and NYU's Bobst Library (if you can get access) are right off the F train too.

Somewhere off the R in Gowanus/Park Slope South would likely work, too (and would be closer to Prospect Park).
posted by The Michael The at 10:50 AM on March 27, 2012

Cross Astoria off your list. Please, how many times does she have to tell you she's an academic-type and not a social animal?

If you want to be in Manhattan, look 8th/9th Ave and 45/46/47/48/49/50/51/52nd streets - you can something in your price range and you can easily walk to work - No daily subway expense for work.

If you want the quiet, peaceful version of this, NJ (south Bergen County area) all very quiet towns with a couple of Universities nearby (for the libraries). Bus to manhattan takes 30 mins to 42nd/8th Ave.

For more urban NJ: Jersey City, Weehawken, or Hoboken, path train takes you to 33rd St in 25 mins, or bus from Weehawken: 15 mins.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:51 AM on March 27, 2012

I'm not quite getting some of these responses. Astoria, particularly the northern part near Ditmars, is not a "social animal" part of town, like, at all. You're thinking of parts of Manhattan and probably, I dunno Williamsburg. If anything, Astoria is more like Park Slope, i.e. families. There are literally three baby stores on my block. A quiet, peaceful type will do just fine there, particularly with that price range. (Since I mentioned Park Slope, that'd work too.)

One thing you might want to (very mildly) keep in mind is that the 49th St. station can be really weird, as in sometimes the subway will randomly not stop there. This almost never happens during weekdays and certainly not rush hour, though.

I wouldn't do Jersey. It's honestly hard enough to get people to visit you in Queens, and "a struggle to cross fiery lakes and snow-peaked mountains" is pretty much how people see commuting to NJ.
posted by dekathelon at 11:01 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Right now I'm living in a 400sq ft studio and am liking it.

I know someone who pays about 2000ish for a studio of about that size in Greenwich Village. The more comfortable you are with paying 2000+ for very little space, the easier it will be to find something acceptable.

Also, consider this AskMe experience a microcosm of what you will deal with in NYC: be specific and clear about what you need and what you're asking so as not to use up too much of everyone's time.

The OP might want to look into the mechanics of actually getting an apartment (eg., broker fees).
posted by deanc at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with the posters suggesting Astoria. You might, if you hunt hard enough, find a studio for under 2k on the Upper West Side, but a commute to Astoria would be just as easy from your office.

You could definitely also do NJ (Weehawken, Hoboken, or Jersey City would probably be easiest commute-wise), but keep in mind that doing your taxes is a little more painful if you live in NJ and work in NY. All NYC companies are used to doing this so they will take the correct amount of taxes out, but you will have to file in NY and NJ and some people find that process annoying and/or confusing.
posted by bedhead at 11:22 AM on March 27, 2012

I work right near your new office (56th and bway); used to live in Astoria, and now live in Jersey City. The commutes are similar (I was about 30 min door-to-door in Queens, and 40-45 minutes from JC) although of course you'll have to pay extra for both a PATH card ($65 unlimited monthly) and a metrocard ($104 unlimited monthly), though you don't have to do the unlimited version of the metrocard.

And people are right about visiting -- it's hard enough getting people to go to the outer boroughs, but when I moved to Jersey my friend-visitation dropped like 75%. (You've noted that that's fine, so it might not be an issue.)

I like JC well enough, but liked Astoria much better. It's true that there are some crazy thumping-late-night-music clubs in Astoria, but if you don't live directly on 30th Ave/31st street, you probably won't end up bothered by them. There is tons of street life--clubs, if you want them, but cool restaurants, shops, grocery stores, great mom-and-pop fish markets and bakeries, people out and about, etc. (You don't have to be a social animal to enjoy finding a diner and getting a cup of coffee & a book!)

Astoria has, IMHO anyway, a greater selection of well-located apartments in your price range. And you should be fine finding one, by the way -- my roommates and I always had 2 BRs but never paid more then $1700. I had two friends who had 1 BRs in the 1400-1500 range, so if you're looking for a studio you'll probably be able to get something quite nice.

Do not get a car. You 1000% will not need it, and you'll end up hating having to move it every morning before 8 am (alternate street side parking!) or paying an arm and a leg to park it in a lot (in JC, my bf pays $240 a month for a covered lot). You can sign up with Zipcar or a similar service for the short term, but you'll find that public transit is really pretty good for most everything you need. And there's a whole subculture of hiring a dude-with-a-van by the hour to get you from IKEA to your apartment, should you need that.

Keep in mind you'll likely pay anywhere from 1 month's rent to 15% of your yearly rent for a broker, ALTHOUGH you may be able to find apartments by owner (no broker fee) if you have enough time to look.

On preview, the best advice I see upthread is to sublet for a few months and spend some time getting your feet wet, checking out different areas, and familiarizing yourself with your commute. Apartment-hunting in NYC can be really brutal (esp if you're looking in Manhattan), and having to find and sign a decent apartment from the opposite coast, sight un-seen, or in a marathon 3-day apartment-hunting visit, is a lot of pressure (there are no month-to-month or six-month leases in nyc, so you'll be locked into your choice for a year). Getting yourself into a shorter-term, 2 or 3-month spot can really be helpful in taking some of that burden off.

Good luck! And welcome to New York!
posted by alleycat01 at 11:24 AM on March 27, 2012

(I should note that for my friends with 1 BRs in Astoria from $1400-$1500, those apartments were a little older, smaller (tho still bigger than in Manhattan), and not sitting right atop a train station. YMMV depending on what "nice" means to you. If you're willing to go a few blocks away from a station, you'll find nicer, larger places for your money. But since you're open to a studio, you might be able to get something close and nice within your price range ...

Slightly contrarily, though, don't discount the importance of being close-ish to a subway. I once lived .8 miles away from my stop, and though that doesn't sound that bad, I was miserable when it was really cold or super rainy. I much prefer to be within a few blocks, and at this point in my life am totally willing to pay a bit extra to be there!)
posted by alleycat01 at 11:32 AM on March 27, 2012

bedhead: "You could definitely also do NJ (Weehawken, Hoboken, or Jersey City would probably be easiest commute-wise), but keep in mind that doing your taxes is a little more painful if you live in NJ and work in NY. All NYC companies are used to doing this so they will take the correct amount of taxes out, but you will have to file in NY and NJ and some people find that process annoying and/or confusing."

The headache will likely be worth your time though, since you'll be paying less in taxes.
posted by Grither at 12:28 PM on March 27, 2012

The headache will likely be worth your time though, since you'll be paying less in taxes.

True. It's been so long since I lived in NJ I forgot that part, though when I lived there it wasn't that much of a difference. I think the difference in the amount of taxes you pay will depend greatly upon your salary.
posted by bedhead at 1:12 PM on March 27, 2012

My job is around 50th/7th ave., and looking at the subway map, it seems like lines B,D,E,N,Q,R all have stops within walking distance...
More on the "no hard limit for rent" - Judging by the estimates some posters have given, I'll probably shoot for the $1500-$2000 range.

This is anecdotal evidence only:

I work very near where your job is (a block away, in fact!), and my commute is under an hour. I live in Clinton Hill in Brooklyn, and pay about that much for a two-bedroom apartment. (Well, I pay half that -- my roommate pays the other half.) It's definitely got a lively feel to it -- some wonderful restaurants -- but it's also very family-friendly; it has the best Halloween traditions ever.

Fair warning that you would be hard-pressed to find a two-bedroom for the price I'm paying now (I really, REALLY lucked into a deal), but the neighborhood is about what you're looking for and the commute is right.

Also, a tip: if you're willing to also consider buses for a leg of your commute, that may help you a lot. I don't really live "near" any subways as such, but I live around the corner from three diffrent bus lines, all of which connect me to subways in fairly short order. My morning commute is a five-minute bus ride to an F-train stop that takes me the rest of the way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:41 PM on March 27, 2012


Sublet. Sublet. Sublet. You cannot know what you will want out of your NYC experience until you are actually in it. You may think your priority is a sunny kitchen, but when you're tearing your hair out because you have an 11-block walk to get from that sunny kitchen to the subway, you will want to punch your apartment in its goddamn face in exchange for a more transport-convenient home. You may think your priority is being close to a really good supermarket, but when you make a great group of friends and realize social life in NYC is way more bar- and restaurant-centric than you ever realized, you'll wish you could channel that extra $400/month in rent you pay for Whole Foods proximity into a running tab at The Smile, but you can't, because you're locked in to your lease for 11 more months and moving is really expensive and you blew all your extra money on the absurd 12% broker free that you're forced to pay for the privilege of living in New York City.

When I moved to New York I did a three-month sublet on the Upper West Side so that I could get used to my job, get used to the city, and figure out what I actually wanted (not theoretically wanted) from my home. I was lucky: my apartment turned out to be insanely perfect for my needs, and I wound up moving into another unit in the same building. You will probably not be so lucky, and should find a 2- to 5-month furnished sublease near a subway and in your price range.
posted by firstbest at 5:10 PM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh also: I live in Hoboken, to my great dismay. (I'm not a huge fan, but hey: I'm here for love, not real estate.) It is just as expensive as, if not more expensive than, Park Slope, where I lived up until 2 years ago. Jersey City is less expensive than Hoboken but is also less nice. Weehawken might as well be the moon; do not live there.
posted by firstbest at 5:12 PM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sublet for 2 months minimum while you scope out on the ground neighborhoods, market, jobs etc.
posted by lalochezia at 8:06 PM on April 1, 2012

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