Help: NYC apartment search
June 29, 2012 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Help me move to NYC Part 1: Finding an apartment (Brooklyn? Jersey City?)

I am moving to NYC with my girlfriend, my salary the first year is going to be ~65k but I expect to have ~15k coming in from a second position. My girlfriend will be looking for work but probably won't have a job when we get there.

My job is at the federal building on Houston and Varick at the very south end of the West Village. Subway line 1 has a stop right next to my building.

My dream is a nice 1 bedroom + office (or 2 BR) apartment which allows cats and with not unreasonable parking for 1 car. Apartment budget ~1625 (65k/40), though I think we could reasonably go up to 2000. I can demonstrate reasonable assets and could probably find a cosigner if needed. It seems like Manhattan is going to be well out of our price range if we want something other than a tiny studio (and of course no car).

We are pretty laid back and introverted people but we hope to get out into the city some and enjoy living in NYC (or Jersey as the case may be).

Ideas so far:

1. Bay Ridge Brooklyn
- Commute via the R train to South Ferry and the 1 train to work. (35-40 min)

2. Crown Heights / Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn
- Apartments are cheaper than Bay Ridge or Jersey City.
- Commute via A or C train to Spring St. or Wash. Sq. (30-40 min?)

3. Jersey City
- Apartments near the PATH stations seem pricier than Brooklyn.
- Commute in on the PATH to Christopher (30 min?)

All the commute times look pretty similar based on me eyeballing transit schedules. I'm sort of at a loss here. I'll start work some time in September, though the start date is flexible. We plan on flying out for a few days to find an apartment before moving. We were planning on looking for an apartment through a broker knowing it will cost more, but hoping the convenience will make it worthwhile.

Questions for you wonderful mefites:
- How far in advance of the move should we visit, would 3 days be enough time to scout some apartments and rent one?
- Any recommendations on a good apartment broker or other source of apartments?
- Do any of my assumptions above look foolish?
- Any thoughts at all re: Bay Ridge/Bed-Stuy/Jersey City.
- Where and what else should I be considering?

posted by pseudonick to Work & Money (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
3 days is NOWHERE near enough time. Give yourself about a month to look; housing shopping in New York City is really tight. However, with that budget you're probably gonna be okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bay Ridge is pretty far out. I think your commute is going to be quite a bit longer than 35-40 minutes and there's not that much to do in the neighborhood. I live nearer to Manhattan than that, and it's still a little bit of a hassle every time I want to get out to Manhattan because the commute is long.

There are parts of Crown Heights and Bed Stuy that are gentrifying and that are pretty nice. But if I had $1625 a month to spend on rent, I would not live in either of those neighborhoods. They're still a bit sketchy, and especially since you haven't lived in the NYC area before, and you're just going to be visiting for a few days, it's going to be hard to sift between the "Yeah, this is on a pretty good block" apartments from the "Whoa, no way" apartments.

I would think about Ditmas Park, Prospect Park South, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene -- it should be possible to get a 2-br for your budget in most of those neighborhoods, your commute will be better, and the neighborhood will be nicer.

I've done the "scout apartments for a weekend" and had it work, but this last time I was looking for apartments it took more than a solid week of looking. It may be smarter to plan on finding a sublet for a month or two and using that month to look for apartments.
posted by Jeanne at 4:11 AM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another advantage of finding a sublet for a month or two is that with the extra time, you can avoid dealing with apartment brokers, NYC's most useless and infuriating industry sector, altogether. Or, even better, you can see a few places with brokers as you choose, without being reliant on the brokers. Do not rely on brokers. Craigslist apartment rentals by owner only remains far and away the best source imho.
posted by oliverburkeman at 4:37 AM on June 29, 2012

Best answer: I think you'd have to be lucky to find a two bedroom apartment in your price range in the neighborhoods that Jeanne mentioned, at least at the lower end of your budget. But it's not impossible.

It really does require (unless you're extraordinarily lucky) checking craigslist every day and being able to drop everything to go see an apartment and sign for it. Working with a broker might make things easier, though I would keep looking on your own too. Some of them are pretty unsavory but a decent one who finds you a good place in your price range is well worth the fee.

I agree that the best thing to do is to get a sublet for a month or even two, to give yourselves time to explore.

As far as commuting - follow the subway lines out from your work area. Keep in mind that Google maps thinks you walk really fast (NY speeds or higher) and doesn't usually account for time waiting for trains, so you have to add in time for that and time for each transfer. If you're going to be commuting on off hours or weekends, keep in mind that train service is often slower and some trains don't run at all on weekends.

I live in Brooklyn, Crown Heights, but very much in the gentrifying area (although it wasn't quite as obvious when I first moved in), and I love it. It's also super convenient. If you were here in person, you could get a better sense for when the neighborhood changes, depending on what's important to you, and when there stop being cafes and and start being take-out places with bullet proof glass. I think that many of those places are actually not really more dangerous, but they're also not as fun.

I actually think that being on the inside edge of gentrification is sometimes more dangerous than being on outside side of it - at this point there are blocks in Prospect Heights that I would be slightly more nervous about walking on than my own - just based on crime statistics - but would and have still walked on anyway, well after midnight, alone, without any trouble.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:16 AM on June 29, 2012

Also wanted to add - something to keep in mind is the location of the nearest laundromat and whether they do pickup/delivery, if that matters to you. Unless you live in a large-ish complex, there's a good chance you won't have laundry in the building, let alone in the apartment. (If your lease doesn't nix it, you could get a portable washing machine).
posted by Salamandrous at 5:22 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the input so far, I'll try to look a little closer to Manhattan. Sunset Park instead of Bay Ridge maybe and I'll pay more attention to the locations Jeanne mentioned, even if as Salamandrous says it's a longshot. Even a small shave off the commute adds up over the year(s?).

I'll think about subletting, but I'd really prefer to move into a long-term apartment if at all possible.

What's the best non-broker strategy? Look through Craigslist and call up every place that seems interesting to arrange a viewing? I was hoping a broker could provide a narrow list of open apartments in our price range that fit our needs and arrange viewings, and in exchange we'd give them many hundreds of dollars, am I hoping for too much here? (Any broker recommendations welcome)
posted by pseudonick at 5:28 AM on June 29, 2012

I think you misunderstand -- people are suggesting you sublet for only a month only to give yourself time to look for your long-term apartment. That way you don't have to keep coming here again and again looking for an apartment, or stay in a hotel or anything. Even if you do use a broker things could take longer than you think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:31 AM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Can't speak for Sunset Park highly enough. I had a pair of friends who were looking for a two bedroom for under $1500 a month, and their only problem was that so many of the places they looked at were better suited for couples. Particularly if you can find a place near one of the express stops on the N or the D, it would be a pretty quick commute into Manhattan. (Although being on the 1 train is kind of a pain -- it might be faster for you to walk from a different stop and save yourself a few transfers.)

Generally speaking, being on an express train is more important that physical proximity to Manhattan. Local friends of yours (and people here on Mefi) can tell you about what the travel time from different subway stops is likely to be, although there are also some online trip planners that'll give you an okay estimate.

I've rented several apartments through brokers, and if you can afford the up-front cost I personally found it worth the convenience when I didn't have a ton of time to hunt on my own. They can show you a bunch of apartments in one go, which is great if you're on a tight schedule. I can probably refer you to the Sunset Park broker that my friends used (successfully) to find their awesome apartment if you want, just drop me a memail.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:36 AM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Given your price range, I would not use a broker. Rental brokers may their money by taking a commission of the annual rent. The lower the annual rent, the lower the fees, and so the poorer quality the broker. I would not use a rental broker for any apartment that rents for less than $5,000 per month.

Craigslist or Streeteasy are the way to go for what you want. Find the phone numbers in the listings, and call the numbers as soon as you spot the ads.

Go to the meetings with: a letter of employment, proof of your salary (a paycheck or two), a bank statement, a copy of your credit report, and a couple of personal references (preferably one from your current landlord).

The NYC rental market is very, very tight and very competitive.
posted by dfriedman at 5:40 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bay Ridge is GREAT, but much further than you think, especially if you have to transfer trains. Sunset Park is nice, too.

I would definitely not live in Jersey City. Huge pain in the butt.

You're making a fair salary. I would look at the Financial District, maybe Chinatown, Inwood, Washington Heights...
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:43 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

And yeah, you don't want a 2br. Start with a studio.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:46 AM on June 29, 2012

Have you thought about Roosevelt Island? Husbunny lived in a complex there when he first moved to NYC. You can take the tram in. Here's a place, it's above your optimal price range, but it's a start.

Hoboken is cute, but I don't know anything about the apartment market there. It's another place to look.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:59 AM on June 29, 2012

If you'd like to go direct to the management companies for rentals, check out NYBits. Bypass the broker! This method is exhausting though (a lot of leg work); brokers do make things very easy and quick.
posted by teabag at 6:14 AM on June 29, 2012

Best answer: You might also try what I suppose is called South Slope these days--between Sunset Park and Park Slope. More affordable than the latter but a little bit closer to the city than the former. Pretty low-key but with a bunch of bars and restaurants. You could commute off the R there.

I live in Ditmas Park, which I love, for under what you are looking to pay.

The area right around Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights is really nice, and you could come into the city on the 2/3 train and transfer to the 1 for a couple stops. I agree with other people that you could afford a place in a more gentrified neighborhood if you want to, though.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:15 AM on June 29, 2012

You may want to reconsider the car. Unless your car is essential to the work you do or you find an apartment with a garage, you will very likely get sick of trying to park it. And it will get beat to shit. I would really reconsider trying to bring your car. Everyone I've known who brought car (or acquired a car while living here) ended up dumping it within a couple of years because of the hassle and cost, with the exception of the two people who have garage space.
posted by kimdog at 6:18 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'll go to bat for Jersey City, since nobody else is. My sense of prices is a bit out of date but you'd want to look in the Van Vorst or Hamilton Park or Powerhouse Arts areas for apts near the Grove St PATH. It also wouldn't be crazy to look in Paulus Hook and take the PATH from Exchange Place to WTC and then change to the C/E (to Spring Street), but Paulus Hook is a bit pricier, I believe. The PATH can be a pain, especially on weekends, but I think the half hour estimate, door to door, is about right for weekday commuting, whereas the other neighborhoods you're thinking about seem way farther flung to me. Also you can take the ferry sometimes if you want to! Downtown JC is a very livable neighborhood and having a car there - street parking or finding parking rental - is, while, not actually easy, easier than in the city. And it pays off more because you don't have to go over a bridge or tunnel to get to things you need a car for.

The other thought is Inwood or Washington Heights, which would be a straight (if long) shot on the 1. Those are supposed to be the 'affordable' Manhattan neighborhoods but I don't know what that means in terms of current prices.
posted by yarrow at 7:08 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you DO keep the car, there is no chance Bay Ridge is what you want. I love Bay Ridge, but... it's probably the worst neighborhood for street parking in NYC, so unless you're willing to shell out $200+/mo for a garage, don't go there. The other problem is that in Bay Ridge you'll probably want a car. It's remote, and the R train sucks sucks sucks, especially on the weekend.

Parking in most of Brooklyn is tough. I doubt Crown Heights is all that easy these days either. Your insurance will cost more in Brooklyn too. South Slope, on the other hand, is probably pretty easy to park in. (Your car will still get 'beat to shit', as kimdog just said. I keep construction adhesive in the car for repairs.)

I'll give the obligatory plug for my home borough of Queens -- the E train also drops you quite close to the federal building. You can certainly park in Jackson Heights (where I live) -- I do it myself and it's pretty good compared to when I lived in Brooklyn. It's 27 mins on the express train to West 4th, probably 29m to Spring St, plus walking time.

You can also afford a real two-bedroom here on $1625, which is not necessarily feasible in most of Brooklyn.
posted by zvs at 7:13 AM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Upon browsing your profile: You're in Oregon, I see; how much of an "urban" feel would you like? And I don't mean "urban" like a code word for "working-class" or anything like that - I'm talking more "do you want lots of trees on your block and close proximity to a park, or is just concrete-and-pavement okay". That's also gonna make a big difference in where you ought to look.

Both types of neighborhoods have their benefits.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on June 29, 2012

Response by poster: I appreciate all the advice. Best answered ones that stuck out particularly.

- We're willing to lose the car.

- We'll broaden the search and consider Queens as well as Inwood and Washington Heights.

- As far as subletting goes, I get that it would be a temporary thing, but it would be the last resort for me.

- Logistically what sounds more reasonable.
a. Flying into NYC on e.g. August 5 and spending 3-5 days looking at apartments to move into on Sept. 1.
b. Arriving in NYC on e.g. August 22 and looking for a place available on Sept. 1.

- Re: "urban" Some trees would be nice, but not a necessity.

This is helping alot. Thanks.
posted by pseudonick at 8:00 AM on June 29, 2012

A. The competition is going to be especially tight for apartments starting September 1st - what with grad students or even undergrads looking for apartments for the school year.

If you come on August 5th, you would at least at the beginnig of August whether you'd found something or not. That way, if you found something, you could take your time packing and sorting through things with an eye to what you'd really need; and if you didn't find anything and had to go home, then you'd have time to arrange a one-month sublet for September while you found your "real" apartment.

If you wait until August 22nd, and if you still don't find anything, then you'd be scrambling for a sublet at the last minute, or you'd have to put all your crap in storage and stay in a hotel...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 AM on June 29, 2012

To each their own; I would say (B) because there are way more apartments at the end of the month. And early leases have a way of falling through. (EC is right that September 1 is a special level of housing hell in NYC though.)

If you're bringing all your stuff in the car you can be more tolerant of delays, I suppose, than if you hire movers.
posted by zvs at 8:11 AM on June 29, 2012

Best answer: Maybe split the difference, then - come on the 15th. Gives you enough time to find a place, but you're still late enough to catch the last-minute deals.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on June 29, 2012

Three days is definitely not enough time. And yes, 09/01 will be a fucking nightmare. I'd actually even suggest coming sometime in early July and finding a place that starts 08/01 or 08/15 and just eating a month's rent. You need to decide if peace of mind is worth that much to you, basically.

Inwood and Washington Heights seems like the best bet, I think, especially considering your proximity to the 1 train. The above Brooklyn recommendations fail to mention that the R train is unbelievably slow and smells profoundly of ball sweat and is generally terrible.
posted by elizardbits at 8:35 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about Astoria or Sunnyside?
posted by benbenson at 8:40 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding comments about Queens. I lived in Sunnyside (a neighborhood near Astoria and Long Island City) for five years and rented a townhouse with three (small) bedrooms, a basement and a backyard for $2200/month. (Fun fact: It was the childhood home of actress Judy Holliday.) I kept a car and it was a moderate headache, but it didn't get totally trashed like it might in busier areas. Plus the commute was awesome: Seven stops to midtown. You'd have to go further to your job, of course. Sunnyside Gardens, where I lived, is a national historic district, and big London Plane trees shade the streets. The population is a nice mix of older families and newcomers, with a concentration of media people. Welcome Home Real Estate has rental listings, although they do charge a fee. But at least you can get a sense of the housing stock. More stats from New York Magazine.

Long Island City is also worth a look, although it's gotten pricey. So is Astoria, which offers a lot of the benefits of Brooklyn at a lower price, and lots more stuff to do.
posted by bassomatic at 8:42 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Would October 1 be much better than September 1? I think I could talk them into an Oct. 1 start date. If we got to NY on Sept. 22 and had a week to find something would that be reasonable?

(I'm really getting my money out this this week's ask)
posted by pseudonick at 8:52 AM on June 29, 2012

Yikes--that New York Magazine link is 11 years old, but aside from rental rates, still accurate. Also, I meant that Astoria offers more stuff to do than Sunnyside, not Brooklyn.
posted by bassomatic at 8:52 AM on June 29, 2012

Best answer: I don't think a week would be enough time no matter WHEN you're looking. The market here is just much, much more competitive than I think you're assuming it is.

The only people I know that found an apartment with less than a month of looking were a couple I know who lucked into it big time (as in, the previous owner had just died that week lucked into it, I think), and it still took two weeks. And they literally did nothing for that two weeks but look at apartments; this was in January.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 AM on June 29, 2012

Best answer: My fiancee and I lived in Park Slope for 2 years and now we live in Hoboken for over a year now. For what we were paying in Park Slope for a 1 bedroom, we have a 2 bedroom+dining room in Hoboken (though on a higher floor).

If you can commute to Christopher Street, then I wholeheartedly recommend Hoboken. The PATH is much much nicer than the subway from Brooklyn. The PATH means sitting and reading a book for 10 minutes (and Christopher St is the first stop). From Brooklyn, it generally means standing up while the train stops every few minutes on a longer ride.

The thing about Hoboken is that it all depends where you live and how much you're willing to walk/bus/bike to the PATH, since the prices drop as you radiate away from the PATH. Hoboken has really only 1 to 3 streets which are businesses, and the rest is residential. You might end up with more walking than Brooklyn. Where we live is a 15 minute walk to the PATH.

Both Hoboken and Park Slope have alternate side parking for street sweeping, but Hoboken is MUCH easier to park your car. In Park Slope, you'd have to double park on the other side of the street and then move back to the spot a half hour early. In Hoboken, it's much more flexible, but it also costs $15 a year for a permit and you need a Jersey license/registration/proof of insurance to get one, so it'll be awkward when you first get here until you get that taken care of.

I don't know if it's true in all cases, but for me NJ taxes are significantly cheaper than NY. I save $1000 per year just by having moved out of the city.
posted by cali59 at 9:01 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's very, very unlikely that you'll find a decent place when visiting only for a few days, any time of the month. It's possible to do if you go the broker route, but a broker will set you back about 10% of your entire year's rent. It's practically a full time job looking for a place, and many workplaces actually recognize that when you're fresh into the city/job by being cool with taking a long lunch to snag a place.

I wish someone would've told me when I first moved here to sublet for a few months before looking for something long term. You should really explore some neighborhoods firsthand. Who knows, you might end up loving the financial district (I know people who do). As far as neighborhoods, every time I visit friends in Sunnyside I like it more. Has a nice vibe, affordable, and your commute wouldn't be terrible, even late at night as the 7 and 1 train seem to run more regularly than other trains in Brooklyn.

As another datapoint, my friend just found a non-broker place using Padmapper. It still took him a couple of weeks of looking at a bunch of dodgy places.
posted by sub-culture at 10:08 AM on June 29, 2012

Highly recommend avoiding Jersey City. You'll feel totally cut off from NYC, despite the proximity. Look hard in Brooklyn, you'll find a deal.
posted by the foreground at 10:17 AM on June 29, 2012

Oh, and to clarify that my friends who "found" their apartment in two weeks - that was, it took two weeks from them to say "honey, let's call these ads on Craigslist" to the point that they found an apartment where they made an offer and the landlord said "I think so, we just need to check your credit first." They still had to wait another week for the credit checks and all the paperwork to go through.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on June 29, 2012

Although, incidentally (and this is the last time I'll come back in like Columbo, I promise): they are in Crown Heights in a 2 bedroom facing Eastern Parkway, and I think their budget is about the same as yours. The apartment itself is lovely -- and WAY bigger than their old place (I was so happy for them). The neighborhood is really interesting - Crown Heights is this interesting blend of both West Indian immigrants and Hasidic Jews, and their apartment is right on the border where one transitions into the other; so you can get either knishes or beef patties depending on which direction you walk.

Eastern Parkway is a fairly busy car thruway, but it's got a dedicated bike path running alongside that takes you all the way to Prospect Park (which is bigger than Central Park), as well as Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn's Botanic Garden; they're about a 15-minute walk from the Park or a five-minute bike ride. However, their apartment faces that; if you walk a block south, those blocks are less serene and leafy and more bustling-mom-and-pop stores. So Crown Heights may be worth a look, but one given block in Crown Heights will not necessarily be like any other so check them all out. Actually, that same advice is true of any New York neighborhood -- the tone of a neighborhood changes block-to-block sometimes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on June 29, 2012

I'll third Sunnyside. I've lived here for 7 years, and I love it. The 7 train can be cranky, but when it's working properly, the commute to 42nd street is quick, and from there you can pick up any train you like.
There's great food, and a real sense of neighborhood. Virtually no nightlife, but that's what I go into Manhattan for.
posted by qnarf at 11:18 AM on June 29, 2012

Proximity to your subway/PATH stop is expensive for a reason. Coming from a driving culture I think it can be easy to underestimate the quality of life impact of a 5 minute versus 10 minute walk, for example. it doesn't sound like much, but wait until it's rainy, or you twisted your ankle, or need to carry something home. My friends who saved a lot of money by taking their dream place further away from the PATH station in Hoboken also regularly shell out $5-6 for a taxi to the station. Which, again, once or twice isn't much, but it reintroduces the wildcard of traffic.

You could totally arrive and find your place on your first day of looking. But you need a back up plan because if your plan A requires you to find a place within 5 days, you have a much higher chance of ending up in your 4th choice apartment in your 3rd choice neighborhood.

I understand the appeal of moving straight into where you'll stay, but your chances of moving to NYC having never lived here before, especially not recently, and finding, in 5 days, an apartment you'll want to spend more than 1 year in - that's pushing fate. Moving after a couple of months planned temporary sojourn in a sublet is much easier than moving after a year in a 'permanent' place.

So much about life here is different, including the impact that your choice of neighborhood has on your social and communal life. Commuting by train is different. The PATH versus the subway is different. It's hard to know your tolerate for it till you've lived it. Maybe you'd prefer a longer commute, but starting from a station where you can always get a seat (at least on the way in). Maybe, against all your speculations, it will be worth it to you to get a small apartment that you can walk to work from.

It's really helpful to have seen a lot of apartments to get a feel for what's a find and what's a deal and what's not.

(Also keep your eyes open for rent stabilized apartments, you might be lucky!)

Welcome!! Call a meetup when you get in town. (Plus, I'm sure we'll all be glad to talk your ears off about this stuff in person. It's a fun topic for many of us, as you can see).
posted by Salamandrous at 11:43 AM on June 29, 2012

Sunnyside Gardens, where I lived, is a national historic district, and big London Plane trees shade the streets

Hey, my notorious Communist great-grandfather was responsible for having those trees planted! It's been ten years since I've seen them -- I'm glad they're still doing well.

On the trees/convenience/affordability index, I'm not sure what could beat that neighborhood.
posted by tangerine at 12:53 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that considering your time frame, you don't so much want to pick a neighborhood so much as make a list of the 10 or 15 neighborhoods that might be vaguely suitable. Because there is no way you're going to find an apartment in three days if you're limiting yourself to either Crown Heights or Sunnyside, or whatnot. There might not be a single apartment that meets your requirements in your price range available in either of those two neighborhoods, and then you're up shit creek. Finding one or two neighborhoods you like and then choosing an apartment in one of them is what you do if you are already here and have weeks or months to find a new place.

Unless you're willing to sublet for the first month or so and devote more time and energy to finding a permanent place, your best bet is to draw up a list of EVERY neighborhood you would consider moving to, run that through Craigslist, and just start pounding the pavement until you find something acceptable. You might be in Crown Heights, or you might be in Bushwick. Or maybe it'll be Hoboken or Inwood or Harlem. In six months you might hate the neighborhood. But at least you have a home.

Or you could just sublet and search the sane way.
posted by Sara C. at 2:03 PM on June 29, 2012

I love Queens but I need to caution against it for length of commute. I lived in Sunnyside (which I loved) but worked in the financial district for about 3 years, and the commute was definitely on the long side-- about an hour. Astoria/Sunnyside are perfect if you're working anywhere between about 42nd street to 59th street, but working downtown is a different story. My coworkers at the time who either took the Path from Jersey or lived in Brooklyn had much more reasonable commutes.

Also, I'll nth the Ditmas Park/Prospect Park South area. Reasonable rents (around what you're looking for for a 2BR), proximity to Prospect Park, and reasonable commute (30-45 minutes) to downtown on the B/Q (with an easy transfer to the R at DeKalb if you're going to the financial district).
posted by matcha action at 3:24 PM on June 29, 2012

My boyfriend and I are going to be looking for a place in about the same price range, at about the same time. I'd recommend a lot of the neighborhoods already named: We lived happily in Sunset Park for many years, off the express stop with the now famously funky subway step. Greenwood Heights/Park Slope South is within your price range, as is Clinton Hill. Kensington and Ditmas Park might be good, too, though the F train is sometimes a pain in the ass. I can't really speak to car ownership, though I think it's doable in the above neighborhoods if you're willing to deal with alternate-side-of-the street stuff. Astoria and Sunnyside, in Queens, are pretty rad, but definitely take Matcha Action's word over mine.

When it comes to commuting, Inwood and Washington Heights might actually take a bit longer to get to by train than the above; Hop Stop is a decent way to check commute times. I wouldn't recommend Bed Stuy or Crown Heights for someone just moving to the city, mostly because I once did recommend them to a friend just moving to the city, and it didn't go all that well. Jersey City and Hoboken are awesome in their own right, but do impact your ability to socialize and do things in the city proper. As people mentioned, the PATH is fine during the day, but crappy on weekends and late nights. Also, if your girlfriend ends up finding work that's not off the PATH, she's going to have to add the time and cost of the subway to her commute.

Way more places pop up after the 15th of the month. That doesn't mean that it's not worth searching at the beginning of the month, but does mean that you need to leave even more time to do so, since the pickings are slim. If your options are three days at the beginning of the month, or a week at the end of the month, I'd definitely go with the latter. That said, it might make sense for that week to start on something like the 16th or 18th, so there's time left for dealing with financials and signing stuff. Oct. 1st will be a little less nuts than Sept. 1st, but only by a bit; there will be an overflow of students who didn't find places, and other people who skipped moving in September, but without the added benefit of people leaving NYC to go to school elsewhere.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:10 PM on June 29, 2012

I have friends who live in a very expansive apartment in Washington Heights (around 156th st) for $1600/month. It's a two bedroom apartment with a living room and also a dining room, and they're only half a block from the 1 line. I stayed there a week, and commuted down to times square (42nd st) at least once a day. I found the distance to be quite manageable (especially with switching onto the express at 96th).

On my previous visit to nyc, I stayed with friends who live in East Harlem a block away from the north end of Central Park (around 106th st) who have a full finished basement (where the couple lives) and a bedroom on the top floor (where the third person lives) with a massive kitchen/living area as well as a back courtyard for barbecues. I believe they pay $1800/month. They're about two blocks from a subway station for the 4/5/6. So...I don't think you necessarily have to look outside of manhattan for an affordable place on your budget, but definitely look towards the northern end for the reasonably priced places. A lot of people associate Harlem/Washington Heights with scary, but there are some really nice neighborhoods there. I felt quite safe for my entire stay at both places.

Finding a place for your car, though, may be difficult. I love my car to bits, but I know that if/when I move to NYC, I'm going to have to give it up.
posted by Estraven at 9:17 PM on June 29, 2012

« Older Need stitches without the ER   |   Europe with a toddler? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.