NYC isn't a city, but a collection of villages...
April 25, 2012 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Looking for some input on specific NYC neighborhoods...

Hi Mefites of New York (and ex-Mefites of NYC with good memories)!

My wife and I are moving to NYC (yay!), and we're looking at real estate. We have two places in mind, one at 1st and 51st, the other at York and 82nd. I've never lived in NYC (I'm from Seattle) and don't know much about what the neighborhoods are like. Of course, we've walked around both areas while shopping for real estate, but strolling only gets you so far. What are some interesting features of those two neighborhoods that you wouldn't necessarily get from a casual look around?

For example: '1st and 51st is near the UN, so be prepared for the wild drunken UN street parties every second Thursday.' That would be interesting.

(I know about the upcoming Second Avenue subway, which presumably will improve property values of the place on 82nd, but not 51st, at least in Phase One)
posted by molybdenum to Home & Garden (46 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I worked 44th and 2nd for years. Don't live there unless you really, really like the ambiance of harried businesspeople and clueless tourists, and also want to pay out the nose for everything, or never shop close to home. I don't remember any reasonably-priced produce stores in the vicinity. By the number of times I was almost winged by cars with Diplomat plates, I am pretty sure you have to actively fail a battery of exams to get them. Important Political Figures like to make appearances around there, as well as massive political rallies, so the streets get shut down.

Unless you have A Lot Of Money, it's not somewhere I would ever recommend people live. If you do have A Lot Of Money, you can afford to live somewhere considerably nicer than 51st and 1st.
posted by griphus at 2:34 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks griphus. Yeah, I was wondering what the impact of the UN would be. The immediate neighborhood at 1st and 51st seems like a quiet tree-lined oasis. But of course you have to go out to buy food sometimes...
posted by molybdenum at 2:43 PM on April 25, 2012

I grew up on 84th between 1st and 2nd. It was nice back then, (70s/80s/90s), when the neighborhood still had some of the vestiges of the old Yorktown--the Austrian/German/Hungarian area of town. We still had several Hungarian butchers, an honest to god German department store on 86th St., and a Hungarian paprika shop (Paprikas Weiss).

Now, its predominant flavor, I think, is of young professionals, recent college grads, and the older WASPy money that the Upper East Side is historically known for.

The new subway (when it's finished in 2346) will give you some mobility, but living at 82nd and York will be inconvenient for getting to a lot of places. You can take the M79 to the West Side, but that takes a long time (and is, IMO, a shitty bus line compared to the M86), and otherwise you'll be walking to the 4/5/6 at 77th (which is a local stop) or 86th. That's a real schlep.

York is, I think, a pretty boring avenue, which is some of its appeal. 2nd has a lot of stuff, but is in ghastly turmoil from the subway construction. Maybe York and 1st have picked up the slack. It's sort of funny, but I've been living in or visiting that neighborhood all of my life, and I can't think of the last time I've actually gone to York for anything. There used to be a model shop I'd hit, and my parents liked a fish shop on York between 84/85 (which closed 20+ years ago). I'm sure there's good stuff there, but it's not a destination by any stretch of the imagination.

If you have kids, Carl Schurz park at East End and 84th is really great, and close, and there is the whole riverside promenade you can run on. That's nice.

There's an H&H Bagels on 2nd and 82nd or so. Last time I checked, there's an Agata and Valentina on 79th and 1st. There's a new Fairway on 86th, and an Eli's on 82nd and 3rd. Plus, if you haven't encountered Fresh Direct, it is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.

Where will you be working? Where will you be playing?

I agree with Griphus that there's not much of anything recommend living by the UN. York in the 80s is marginally better, but it's not a super awesome spot.

(on preview: you don't need to go out to buy food, you get take away and deliveries from Fresh Direct. Seriously, it's the law.)
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:47 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if you plan anything around the Second Avenue line opening, you have already done more thorough planning than the government. The MTA can't go six months without cutting service. I think we've lost more bus lines in the last two years than in the last twenty. The chances of them finishing a new subway line are laughable.
posted by griphus at 2:53 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

York and 82nd is about as far away from the subway as you can get in Manhattan, except for maybe Alphabet City around Avenue C and 8th Street. The difference is that Alphabet City has a billion restaurants, shops, and nightlife spots, while York & 82nd is a dead zone.

Your discussion of real estate values makes me wonder if you are looking to buy an apartment without ever having lived here? Don't do that! Rent for a year, so you can figure out what neighborhoods suit your needs.
posted by lalex at 2:56 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Upcoming is certainly a good way to describe the 2nd ave subway. It is years away, and phase one doesn't reach 82nd.

I'd recommend renting over buying so you will have time to learn what neighborhood you want to live in.

I wouldn't want to live by the UN and concur with the above.

The area near 82nd will be nice, clean, expensive, residential with small amounts of stores and a park nearby, but there is not much going on culturally, it is a slog to the 6, and the 6 rush hour is very over crowded meaning you may need to depend on cabs or buses. If you want to experience NYC I wouldn't move there either.

Where will work be? What do you want out of your neighborhood?
posted by ridogi at 2:57 PM on April 25, 2012

Just an aside:

phase one doesn't reach 82nd

Yes it does.

"....service will operate along Second Avenue from 96th Street to 63rd Street..."
posted by millipede at 3:01 PM on April 25, 2012

Another child of the Upper East Side here.

I'm agree with Admiral Haddock that Yorkville isn't what it used to be, but York Ave has a sleepy, neighborhood-y quality that I find appealing. Access is an issue, yes, so you'll either be doing a lot of hiking over to Lex or waiting a lot for the crosstown buses. Still, between Carl Schurz Park (a great place to jog, or stroll, or just sit and read) and the few remaining vestiges of the historic Yorktown (the Heidelberg at 86th and 2nd and Orwasher's at 78th and 2nd), I think the area has a few things to recommend it, certainly moreso than 1st and 51st.

Still, does it make sense for you to be living there? Where will you be working? What would your commute be like?
posted by Bromius at 3:02 PM on April 25, 2012

To be honest I would not live in either area if I had other options. Can you tell us more about what you're looking for and where you think you'll be working?
posted by lalex at 3:03 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I lived at 81st and York for a couple of years, but ten years ago. I was back for a look-see a few years back and it didn't seem to have changed much apart from the closure of my favorite greasy spoon, Mr. Chips.

Minuses: As you must have figured, it's a major hike to the existing subway (I haven't followed the 2nd Ave line developments) - maybe a twenty minute walk? The local nightlife was not so great, in my opinion, comprising most of frat-boy types, bankers, "Irish" bars and the like. Not too many good restaurants compared to other neighborhoods.

Pluses: Relatively quiet. The park on the east side along the river is nice to have so nearby. Despite the relative isolation, there were still loads of urban amenities (corner bodegas, supermarkets of various types, cleaners, drugstores) in close proximity, at least when I was there.
posted by exogenous at 3:04 PM on April 25, 2012

few remaining vestiges of the historic Yorktown (the Heidelberg at 86th and 2nd and Orwasher's at 78th and 2nd)

Don't forget Schaller & Weber! Plus, 84th St. still has a (sorry-ass) Oktoberfest, and there a German Kirke (with Sudnay services auf Deutsch).

But Bremen House is gone, Cafe Geiger, the Ideal coffeshop, Elk Marzipan, almost everything.

In any event, I'd think of 81st and York as living in a suburban bedroom community. If that's what you want, that's great. There's not much there there, and it will take a long time to get anywhere else. But it will be quiet and somewhat dignified.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:07 PM on April 25, 2012

So, is it safe to assume that you're buying?

If you are, be aware that the real estate market in NYC is pretty much unlike anything you've encountered before. Not only is it more expensive than other places, but just because you qualify for a mortgage doesn't mean you will get the apartment. The co-op or condo board still have to approve you, etc., and they are far more stringent than any lender, even in these straitened times.

Make sure your monthly nut also takes into consideration maintenance fees as well as principal + interest on the mortgage.

As others have said, the two neighborhoods you mentioned are pretty crappy. If you give us an idea of where you'll be working, we could provide some alternative suggestions that you're not considering.

Other things to consider: do you want a doorman? Elevator? Washer/dryer? Or laundry on premises? Etc.
posted by dfriedman at 3:08 PM on April 25, 2012

Just an aside:

phase one doesn't reach 82nd

Yes it does.

Oops, you're right. It doesn't seem like it will be truly useful until it reaches downtown in phase 3 though.
posted by ridogi at 3:09 PM on April 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks guys!

Let me answer some questions that came up:
* Where will I work? Remotely at my current Seattle job for now. Eventually I'll be looking for something local, but don't know what that is yet. My wife will be at York and 70th (Cornell).
* Where will we play? We've never lived in NYC, so not sure! We don't really need to be in the hippest place with the best bars, but a bit of nightlife nearby would be nice. Better would be easy access to good produce and other food and interesting restaurants. Access to parks would be nice too.
* Admiral Haddock, is Fresh Direct like Amazon Fresh (groceries-to-your-door)? It seems like there's a million little grocery stores all over, so it's not obvious to me why delivery is superior to going out. I guess that tags me as a non-Manhattanite.
* Are we buying without renting first? Yeah, we're thinking about it. I've heard the arguments that this is a terrible idea. The appeal of not paying $2500 - $3000 / month for a year, and instead have that money buying equity is appealing! But renting isn't totally off the table...
posted by molybdenum at 3:09 PM on April 25, 2012

Maybe look at the Upper West Side? The crosstown bus isn't too bad and it's an infinitely more interesting and pleasant area to live than where you're thinking if you want to have nightlife, grocery stores, interesting restaurants. I worked in the Upper Very East 80s for a while and I think of overpriced boring everything.

Fresh Direct is superior because you don't have to stand in line in tiny stinky grocery stores for insane prices.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:15 PM on April 25, 2012

You should probably just stay in Seattle, it'll be far easier all around. :)

In all seriousness, I'm glad "lalex" said this, because I've been nagging you about this at brunch all the time:
Your discussion of real estate values makes me wonder if you are looking to buy an apartment without ever having lived here? Don't do that! Rent for a year, so you can figure out what neighborhoods suit your needs.
You can certainly work on selling your place here, and just renting a place in NY for a year to be sure what neighborhoods you actually like. Even if you figure total rent for one year in a moderate place is $24-30K, that's a pittance compared to what you'll pay for condo that might not even be in a neighborhood you like! The 82nd and York place probably is nice enough and close to S.H.'s work... but it sounds like it's near nothing else in particular, such as the things people are noting like the accessibility of mass transit or the amount of businesses nearby are often far more important.

It seems like you'd be better served experiencing NY for a year as renters with little commitment, spend your weekends with S.H. wandering the different neighborhoods/markets, and then when you fall in love with a neighborhood, decide to look for condos in that area.

But if you're dead set on buying in the Upper East Side/near Cornell, I think your question to the hive mind should be modified into "Which area of the UES is the best to live in for these sorts of activities?" and then see which places you looked at this past weekend that you liked, that were in those areas. I know you looked at a lot of places, so I'm not sure why these two were the only ones being considered- were the rest that bad?
posted by hincandenza at 3:15 PM on April 25, 2012

If your only choices are the two you've listed, then despite being a haul from any transit, the upper east side is far superior to the UN area by far. Otherwise, yeah, I'd totally recommend renting for at least a year before buying.
posted by elizardbits at 3:16 PM on April 25, 2012

Oh and buying doesn't necessarily make more sense than renting in Manhattan. The costs of buying and the ongoing maintainence payments that do not build equity really are a strike against it. It's not the sensible money-saving decision that it is in other places. You really really should rent and figure out neighborhoods and your job location.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:17 PM on April 25, 2012

...oh and if it's a doorman building, factor in the tips at holiday season that don't build's really not an obvious money saver. Let me see if I can find the article about it that was in the NYT.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:19 PM on April 25, 2012

Also, maintenance on the UES for a 2br apartment in that neighborhood could easily run you $2,500 a month anyway.
posted by elizardbits at 3:19 PM on April 25, 2012

* Admiral Haddock, is Fresh Direct like Amazon Fresh (groceries-to-your-door)? It seems like there's a million little grocery stores all over, so it's not obvious to me why delivery is superior to going out. I guess that tags me as a non-Manhattanite.

Other than my parents, Fresh Direct is the thing I miss most about NYC. High quality fresh fruit, veg, meat, cheese, dairy, baked goods, prepared foods, household stuff, everything--all delivered direct to your door, for something like $5, in a two-hour window of your choosing from 6 a.m. until 10 or so. Their bake at home croissants are fantastic. It's so good. And it's no more expensive than going to the grocery store (often cheaper) for better quality food.

I'd never buy anything other than staples (and at duress) at the cornershop/bodega/Korean grocer. I think there's a D'Agastinos over there, but shopping in NYC means taking a pushcart down the street, jostling with other people in tiny aisles, etc. Blarg.

I agree with everyone that if you're not familiar with NYC real estate (and the fucking pain in the ass that is a co-op board), buying right out is really not for you. But, on the other hand, finding a rental will likely involve a broker if you're doing it remotely, which I think is 10% of your yearly rent ($$).

Can Cornell put you in touch with someone who might be doing a fellowship or something and has an apartment to rent (sans fees)?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:20 PM on April 25, 2012

If you are downtown your wife would have to take just one train, and it is much easier to commute uptown. Places near the F, N, Q, R, 4, 5 or ideally 6 would be best for her, and not being in UES sets you up better for a commute.

A logical place to start looking for interesting restaurants, some nightlife, parks, as well as an moderately easy commute for her is East Village.
posted by ridogi at 3:26 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

be aware that the real estate market in NYC is pretty much unlike anything you've encountered before.

Yep, and seconding everything everyone else about renting before you buy here; it's not a stupid financial decision. I have rented, currently own, and even though my maintenance is relatively inexpensive, between property taxes + maintenance the monthly cost is about what you're talking about for rent.

I love my apartment, and the reason I love it is because I rented before I owned and knew exactly what I was looking for. The NYC real estate market is extremely mentally and financially stressful; do not get yourself into a situation where you want to sell in a year because you didn't really know what you were doing when you bought.

If I were you, given where your wife will be working, I'd be looking at (rental!) apartments either:

(a) on the UWS, as the young rope-rider mentioned, in areas convenient to the crosstown bus or
(b) on the 4/5/6 or F trains below 33rd street.

I actually think some areas of Brooklyn would be great for you if it weren't for the commute to Cornell.
posted by lalex at 3:33 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, I figured I wouldn't do the whole snowflak-y details about who I am and what I'm looking for in a neighborhood, but enough people are asking that I should probably explain. :)

My wife and I are in our 30s, no kids. She's starting her medical residency at Cornell, and will be working 80-hour weeks, so we're looking for a place close by. I'm a programmer, and will be working remotely at least for a while. We love food (one of the reasons we're excited about NYC), so easy access to farmer's markets / etc. would be great.

We wanted to keep it within a 30-min commute from Cornell, which doesn't leave much: the Upper East Side is really expensive, so there aren't that many locations to choose from. The two locations I mentioned are the result of winnowing down ~40 options over the course of several months, taking into account every variable except neighborhood feel, hence this post.

We considered the UWS, but not all the cross-town buses run 24x7, and her job will have her working really random hours. So she doesn't want to have to walk home / cab it across Central Park after her shift.
posted by molybdenum at 3:46 PM on April 25, 2012

Two of my best friends live on the UES in that neighborhood - one on 85th between York and East End, and one on 85th between 1st and 2nd. The latter works a few blocks from Cornell and she loves being able to walk to work. They both love the neighborhood. If those are your two choices, I'd pick the place on York over the place near the UN.

nthing renting for a year before you buy. That's what I did. I'm glad I did, too, because the neighborhood where I rented was really cool and had great shops and stuff, but turned into a party area at night, and I am old and grumpy and prefer to not walk into a broken beer bottle on the sidewalk when I step out my front door. grumble. kids these days.

MeMail me if you would like an exhaustive set of recommendations for restaurants, grocery, gym, bars, etc. for the Yorkville area - my aforementioned friends would be happy to recommend stuff and probably will even show you around if you move to the neighborhood.
posted by bedhead at 3:48 PM on April 25, 2012

Also--and no need to answer in this thread--but is your wife's position at Cornell a long-term thing? If this is just a fellowship or 4-year residency or something, I'd avoid buying. It really is a big pain in the ass.

Example: My best friend from my old job (at one of the most prestigious law firms in NYC, mind) had Ivy League JD and PhD, and was making well over $200K a year and was a total, total sweetheart, and was still sweating bullets for his coop board interview--for which he not only had to present his financial records, tax returns, W-2s, letters of recommendation (including from senior $1000+ an hour partners at our firm), character references, resume, and a summary of his dissertation (why?) in six bound folios, but also made cookies. For a fifth- or sixth-floor walkup on the back side of a building right across from the 59th street bridge fucking on-ramp. They also required far more than a bank would require to give a mortgage (like, $100,000 in cash in the bank--though I don't remember the real figure, but this was above the down payment).

It truly is absolutely insane. Don't just assume that having a good job and the ability to pay the mortgage is sufficient to buy an apartment.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:48 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ah, medical residency. Mmm, call me crazy, but I don't think that would be looked on too kindly by many coop boards. Some will be OK, but a lot are very focused on cash flows, and the, what $50K? for a resident's salary is not a juicy plum.

Going across the park in a cab would be very easy, though, and pretty cheap--there's the 79th street transverse, and if she's going at odd hours, there won't be much traffic.

My ex wife was a resident at a NYC hospital, so I know the lifestyle. We were in hospital housing at the time, which was really ideal. I definitely sympathize with not wanting more than 30 minutes door to door.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:53 PM on April 25, 2012

We love food (one of the reasons we're excited about NYC), so easy access to farmer's markets / etc. would be great.

Well, neither of your neighborhoods are restaurant meccas, but here's a map (pdf) of NYC greenmarkets. They vary dramatically in size (the one in Union Square is MASSIVE), but there's a small one close to the 82nd and York location.
posted by lalex at 3:58 PM on April 25, 2012

Considering you are from Seattle, one thing worth knowing about the Upper East Side in general, and Yorkville especially (unless something big has changed in the last year or so), is that there is an extreme dearth of good coffee in that part of town.

I remember once needing to meet up with a film crew on 96th and 2nd early one morning, getting out of the subway at 86th, walking up 2nd ave, and literally not seeing so much as a Starbucks for half a mile.

Compare to Brooklyn or anything below about 23rd street, where it feels like there's a Mom & Pop coffee shop serving local or artisanally roasted coffee every other storefront. Or anything below 59th street, where you're at least going to run into a Starbucks every few blocks.

The Upper West is similarly lacking, though there is at least Starbucks.
posted by Sara C. at 3:58 PM on April 25, 2012

We love food

Then avoid living in either the Upper East or Upper West sides. Upper East is nominally better, but 90% of UWS restaurants cater to the kiddy menu set or the ultra-wealthy. And not ultra-wealthy in a West Coast Chez Panisse kind of way.

I think what you really want is to live in the East Village and either commute by cab or pick something convenient to the M15 Limited Bus, which should enable you to be 30 minutes door to door if you can find an apartment close to the right bus stop.

Or find something a little further west and walkable to Union Square, from which you'll take the 4/5 to the 6 and walk over to Cornell from 66th and Lexington. Which should take under half an hour, depending on how close to Union Square you can afford to be.
posted by Sara C. at 4:07 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I've heard the stories about the co-op boards, and we're prepared for being grilled somewhat. Yeah, her $51K salary is not going to impress the board, though it helps that it's guaranteed for six years. And there's my salary, which is more.

As an aside, my NYC realtor argues that the grueling co-op review in NYC is one of the reasons that NYC real estate didn't get hit as hard as the rest of the country: it was a lot harder to overleverage yourself.

Good point about the M79: looks like that one runs at all hours.
posted by molybdenum at 4:12 PM on April 25, 2012

I know a couple who work at Weill Cornell and live on Roosevelt Island, in an apartment owned by Cornell. They love it. Is that an option for you?
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:16 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I completely agree with Sara C.
posted by lalex at 4:19 PM on April 25, 2012

But renting isn't totally off the table.

I highly, highly recommend renting if you can. You don't know NYC well enough to know where you want to live, you're not going to be there long, and it sounds like you don't make enough to buy anyway. Keep in mind that a co-op is going to have monthly maintenance fees, which can be ridiculously high.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:26 PM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

The rule of thumb for rentals is your yearly salary should be 40x the monthly rent. It will be challenging enough to find a rental and unless your salary really dwarfs hers buying in Manhattan isn't in the cards for you.
posted by ridogi at 4:28 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is better to buy or rent? calculator from the NYT.

We love food

The UES is known as one of the worst Manhattan neighborhoods in terms of overall restaurant scenes. Fine dining, sure. Moderate and casual dining, it's definitely not as bountiful as West Village, Soho, East Village, etc. And I'd say less interesting than UWS. Consider also how much you'll spend in cab fare getting back home late at night, from downtown Manhattan. Or Brooklyn, which also has a thriving restaurant scene.

UWS has really gotten much, much better in the last few years terms of food scene. In terms of non-upscale dining, there's Fatty Crab, Shake Shack, Jacques Torres, Gastroarte, Salumeria Rosi, Boulud Sud, Bar Boulud, Grom, Epicurie Boulud, Grandaisy Bakery, Luke's Lobster, Mermaid Inn, Grand Sichuan, Cascabel Taqueria, Joe the Art of Coffee, Levain Bakery, and Recipe. For groceries/etc, Barney Greengrass, Zabar's, Whole Foods, and Fairway, more I'm probably missing. (There's an UES Fairway now and it was a huge deal to UESers when it first opened last summer.)

Admiral Haddock, is Fresh Direct like Amazon Fresh (groceries-to-your-door)? It seems like there's a million little grocery stores all over, so it's not obvious to me why delivery is superior to going out. I guess that tags me as a non-Manhattanite.

Think about buying a week's worth of groceries (do you drink bottled water? soda?) and dragging it home in a granny cart in the rain, and then bringing it up five flights of stairs, if you end up in a walk-up building. The small delis and grocery stores will have higher prices and anything they can sell and price individually, they will.
posted by kathryn at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've never lived by the UN, but I have a few things to recommend as items of interest in the area, based on a previous question of yours:

Japan Society! Museum, theater, language school and year-round Japanese programming. (47th betw 1st and 2nd)

Sakagura restaurant, hidden away in the basement of a Midtown office building, it's like walking into Tokyo. (43rd betw 2nd and 3rd)

Karaoke Duet 48, private room karaoke. (48th betw 1st and 2nd)

Tomi Jazz, Japanese jazz bar. (53rd betw 2nd and 3rd)
posted by xo at 6:06 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to chime in and offer another thumbs-up for Fresh Direct. It's fantastic, and the prices are very reasonable for the quality. In many cases, the meat and produce are much better than what you'd get in most grocery stores, and as an extra bonus they tend to last longer before spoiling.

I would also suggest renting before you buy.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:14 PM on April 25, 2012

Response by poster: Corpse in the library, thanks for the suggestion. I think she's not eligible for the Roosevelt Island housing (Southtown, I think?), as that's reserved for post-docs, faculty and students, and she's hospital staff.

There are Cornell-run apartments nearby that offer rents at 10% below market value to hospital staff. We're on the wait list, just in case, but getting a spot is pretty competitive. I haven't seen one of the apartments, but my wife has, and didn't have many nice things to say about it. Maybe they reserve their nice housing for their faculty / post-docs. :)
posted by molybdenum at 6:20 PM on April 25, 2012

Response by poster: xo, thanks for the customized advice! That's awesome! I'm not really a karaoke guy, but I'll definetely try the restaurant.
posted by molybdenum at 6:30 PM on April 25, 2012

People are going to say that NYC is super safe now and safer than XYZ other city and all of that. But if your wife is really going to need to be coming home at all hours, I do not think you should live a subway ride away. So I recommend against downtown. Bus is better because at least there's the driver with you, but you cannot count on help from a driver if you are being assaulted. I lived in NYC for college and just after, and was totally macho/cocky/naive/idealistic about taking transit all hours of the day and night. And I ended up having some really freaky and then a very dangerous experience that put a stop to all that. (I am female.)
posted by cairdeas at 8:48 PM on April 25, 2012

I've heard the stories about the co-op boards, and we're prepared for being grilled somewhat. Yeah, her $51K salary is not going to impress the board, though it helps that it's guaranteed for six years. And there's my salary, which is more.

As an aside, my NYC realtor argues that the grueling co-op review in NYC is one of the reasons that NYC real estate didn't get hit as hard as the rest of the country: it was a lot harder to overleverage yourself.

Okay, I'm often very happy to wryly poke at sundry assertions of how Everything is Totally Different in NYC (the New Yorkers are looking at my profile and saying "oh, Philly, that figures") but seriously, when it comes to real's really totally different in NYC.

Your main problem isn't so much that Manhattan is a grueling and hideously expensive market, it's that Manhattan real estate is an alternate reality that operates outside of earth-logic. Or, as another analogy, it's perhaps akin to the governor of an American state thinking that their political experience plus semi-fluency in French gives them a pretty decent understanding of how to get elected as a governor in Algeria.
posted by desuetude at 9:34 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Aw, it makes me sad that everyone is hating on 51st and 1st! I lived on 52nd and 1st for 3yrs with my wife(through Nov 2011), and we loved it! Of course, we had an awesome apartment, and I was able to walk to work (which really is fantastic, especially if you have to be at work at 630am or work crazy hours like your wife will be! Which I guess is an argument for 82nd St. As is Shake Shack proximity. But I digress.)

But we also really liked the neighborhood. Our street was tree-lined and beautiful, and quiet and very almost suburban feeling. But then we walked to 2nd ave and Bam! Tons of restaurants and bars. Sure, you'll pay 5%-10% more at a typical spot there compared to the East Village(where we also lived for 3yrs and loved), but if your salary is four times what your wife's will be (which I assume must be true, if you're planning on buying), then that shouldn't be much of an issue.

And there's a Food Emporium (not the best supermarket, but still) on 2nd between 51st and 52nd. And a much nicer Food emporium underneath the 59th St Bridge at 59th and 1st. And the M15 bus can take you up to the costco and back with little hassle (though coming back a car might be a better option, since it's costco and you end up buying toilet paper to last a lifetime each time you go). And of course, Fresh Direct, which is awesome.

Though I would tend to agree with folks who say to rent for a year to find out which neighborhood suits you best before you buy. Good luck!
posted by Grither at 4:39 AM on April 26, 2012

didn't have many nice things to say about it.

FWIW, most NYC housing in your price range in Manhattan is going to have at least one major flaw. Apartments are tiny, kitchens are antiquated, closets are scarce. Across the board. Even in the really great apartments. Your apartment will probably have some other problem over and above that (weird wiring, railroad layout, noise issues, bad airflow/heat/cold issues, etc). Because NYC housing stock is incredibly old compared to other cities. Most of it dates before a time when people had strong aesthetic expectations for their space.

Re safety and taking the subway at "all hours", your main issue there isn't so much safety as the fact that there are fewer trains late at night. I'd say that the subway and the streets are about equally safe at any given time of the day or night. If you wouldn't feel safe walking home, you shouldn't take the subway, and vice versa. In those situations you're going to want a cab.

Your wife should probably mentally prepare to cab it more frequently than would be thinkable in Seattle. It's something that simply needs to happen sometimes, even moreso if she's a resident and will be coming and going at strange hours. There just WILL be a day when the bus doesn't come, or the subway is out of whack, or it's sleeting out, or whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 8:10 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with Sara C. about housing generally having a problem or two. Had I seen my current (perfectly servicable) apartment straight from undergrad I would have had a fit. Apartments here kinda suck, and I wouldn't underestimate the benefit of having a landlord that is not a total slumlord or scammer and having neighbors who are also working hard (vs playing loud music all the time or whatever).

I think your neighborhoods are totally sensible for what you want to do and you'd be a train ride from amazing food but that's life, you know?

Good luck and congratulations to your wife on the residency! I hope you enjoy your time in NYC.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:00 AM on April 26, 2012

I think it would suck to be any more house-poor in NYC than you absolutely needed to be - and it's no joke that when you have mortgage + taxes + maintenance, it can be far more than rent and the only bit of it that's actually doing more for you than rent is whatever part of the mortgage that's going to principal.

It doesn't make sense to buy somewhere unless there's at least a credible likelihood of staying long enough to build some equity - even if a coop board would accept you. If you come across as people who like to live close to work but your work is temporary, I'd prefer someone who seems more likely to stick around for more than 6 years. (And really, even if you end up staying in NYC, if your wife got a job anywhere but there it would probably be silly to stay/be stuck in that neighborhood).

On the other hand, in this case it seems like a fantastic idea for your quality of life to live very close to work, in a rental you can easily afford, and direct your disposable income towards fun restaurants and cab fares to get there (and saving towards a place in a neighborhood that you choose from personal knowledge and experience).

Welcome to NYC! Call a meetup when you get here! I'll try to come even if it's tucked away near the Cornell hospitals. (But not stay too late because the otherwise excellent 4/5/6 trains can get excruciatingly sparse late at night).
posted by Salamandrous at 5:55 PM on April 26, 2012

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