like NYC, but not as expensive?
December 18, 2012 7:40 AM   Subscribe

(looking for somewhere to live) Where is like New York, but not as expensive?

I grew up in Queens until my family left the country, and I've always wanted to come back. I can't afford the 1K and up rent alone anywhere in NYC, so I'm looking for somewhere else to start out. I need ideas where. Looking for somewhere similar. Similar for me: English speaking city in the US with diverse residents (religion, origin, occupation, orientation) with forward manners (up to being considered rude in other parts of the US) who are usually helpful to strangers.

ideas? (and if by any chance anyone can think of a safe affordable place in any of the boroughs, I'd love to hear about that too!)
posted by mirileh to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
No place is like New York. It's a thing unto itself.

Most large American cities are starting to be diverse with regards to religion, origin, occupation and orientation. Most large American cities are expensive to live in.

I live in Atlanta. While we have decently inexpensive housing, decent enough public transportation and a really decent variety of people, it's nothing like New York. You can rent a nice studio apartment for around $500, but your average salary will be half that of a New Yorker, so are you really ahead there?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:46 AM on December 18, 2012

This is based on a short visit (I'm Canadian, so my sense of what forward manners are is a bit weird), but Chicago?
posted by SoftRain at 7:46 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Pittsburgh and Baltimore come to mind. Both very inexpensive and both have the same kind of diversity and city life that is at least reminiscent of NYC, even though the cities are comparatively small. Also, Philadelphia: not expensive and they booed Santa. But there's also Chicago: Chicago is really inexpensive compared to most coastal cities, and its size is at least within the same order of magnitude of NYC's.
posted by deanc at 7:47 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Chicago is *extremely* affordable. I've tried to explain this over the years to my small city/suburban-dwelling relatives and friends, but none of it really sunk in until I moved into my current apartment. (Huge 3 bedroom, under $700/month...not the awesomest neighborhood, but the point is that there are places like this available.)

Chicago is not NYC, but it has plenty of stuff and people and activities and whathaveyou to keep you interested. Importantly, though, it also has a lot of SPACE, which keeps things at a reasonable price.
posted by phunniemee at 7:53 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Philadelphia!!! I lived in New York for years then Philly for a year. I can't tell you how many times I have said "Philly is like New York, only cheaper and slightly less overwhelming, and with fewer bankers." It is more parochial/less cosmopolitan than New York, but still diverse with a rich urban culture.
posted by yarly at 7:55 AM on December 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Chicago is great in many ways, but the people here are nothing like that article.
posted by kpmcguire at 7:56 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree that nowhere outside New York is New York. But try Philadelphia. It has a lot of the New York-y parts I personally love (distinct neighborhoods, restaurants, top-notch museums and cultural amenities, buildings with character, an international population, general East Coast flavor) but it's a little less hectic and less expensive.
posted by anonnymoose at 7:56 AM on December 18, 2012

Chicago is nicely affordable but it is really nothing like New York culturally. I have never lived in Philly but based on my time in smaller northeastern US cities I would imagine that even a smaller city in that part of the country would have more in common with NYC than a bigger city in the Midwest like Chicago. The Midwestern/Northeastern cultural differences become more and more pronounced to me the longer I live here.

Also, while Chicago looks diverse if you look at the overall demographics, it is much more segregated than any part of New York, and it seems much more the norm in Chicago than in New York that people hang out mostly with people of similar backgrounds (race, class, age, and educational attainment) as themselves.
posted by enn at 8:09 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chicago is *not* like New York. It appears similar if you're only there a short while, but Chicago doesn't have the same intensity, and it's a lot less ethnic. It may be the closest substitute, though.

I have a friend who worked in Manhattan, but lived cheaply upstate in Kingston and took the train every day. That may be an option for you.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:12 AM on December 18, 2012

Also, what enn said.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:13 AM on December 18, 2012

Chicago's a wonderful city, but it's really, really not "like NYC but not as expensive" and if you move here expecting that then you'll probably be disappointed.
posted by theodolite at 8:20 AM on December 18, 2012

yeah Philly
posted by greta simone at 8:23 AM on December 18, 2012

There really is no place that is like New York that isn't New York, even if you were willing to pay New York prices to live there. Chicago, Philly, Boston will all approximate some parts of New York for you, and I'd suggest you visit them and think about which elements that you think of as "New York" are most important to you. Personally, I lean toward Philly as my primary suggestion for people looking for an NYC alternative who're more concerned about East Coast culture and diversity (as opposed to Chicago, which is better for Big Cityness), but then again I live here, so I'm biased.

That said, the other question is, how cheap is cheap? You talk about "`1K and up" rents driving you from modern New York; certainly there are plenty of places to rent in Philly and Boston and Chicago that are cheaper than $1000, but a $1K rent in much of those cities also isn't particularly noteworthy or expensive. If price is a major factor, how much are you really hoping to pay - and what are you hoping to get for your money, in terms of neighborhood and apartment size?
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:27 AM on December 18, 2012

I agree with Philly, though it really isn't nearly as cosmopolitan as NYC.

You might consider Washington, DC. Definitely cosmopolitan. Not cheap, but not as expensive as NYC either. A lot of intense, ambitious people with forward manners working in a city known as a center of power.
posted by googly at 8:31 AM on December 18, 2012

You might consider Washington, DC. Definitely cosmopolitan. Not cheap, but not as expensive as NYC either. A lot of intense, ambitious people with forward manners working in a city known as a center of power.

No way. DC is still quite expensive. Outside of a couple specific neighborhoods, it lacks an urban feel and pace of life that you would expect from a normal city (few to no corner stores or local neighborhood bars). While there are some immigrant communities (El Salvadorans and Ethiopians being the most prominent), it lacks the sort of "ethnic neighborhoods/communities" you would find in NYC. Plenty of other MeFi threads have elaborated on DC's shortcomings in this respect.
posted by deanc at 8:44 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a feeling you'd get more targeted answers if your criteria were more specific. At least for me, I find the explicit criteria you've outlined to be a little too vague/all-encompassing:

Similar for me: English speaking city in the US with diverse residents (religion, origin, occupation, orientation) with forward manners (up to being considered rude in other parts of the US) who are usually helpful to strangers.

- Most American cities these days have diverse residents (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Miami, Chicago, etc.) of race, religion and occupation, though as enn says overall demographics doesn't mean much about segregation -- do you want a place where people are generally more integrated? Or a place where people might be segregated more, but there are healthy ethnic neighborhoods? etc.
- People with a "forward attitude" that are helpful to strangers: they may be more on-the-ground in New York, but I'm pretty sure you can find smatterings of these kinds of people in any city.
- And seeing as NYC is one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, there are lots and lots and lots of places with rents less than $1000/month.

Rather, I suspect that there are other criteria for "a place that is like New York" that are in your head: density; good public transit, some degree of racial integration, lots of cultural resources, skyline, sheer size/population, lots of pedestrian life, strong center city, a very international flavor, job market, amazing food and drink, etc.

I bet some of these things are more important for "NYC-ness" in your head than others, and it I bet you'll get more targeted answers, instead of the general "Chicago/DC/Philly" ones, if you are more specific.
posted by andrewesque at 8:45 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

DC really isn't much cheaper than New York unless you live in an suburb that is more like New Jersey.

Just move to New York. Find some roommates, scrape together part time gigs, busk, live in the Bronx, do whatever it takes. If you want it, get in here.

Oh safe and affordable in the Bouroughs? I'm sure Brooklynites can recommend stuff (Sunset Park?) but in the Hattan you can find cheap twobedrooms in relatively safe parts of Washington Heights and further north. Inwood is lovely, if really far from the happenings. But not as far as Pittsburgh!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:47 AM on December 18, 2012

Like Queens, but cheaper? Bayonne, NJ. Beacon, NY is kind of like a tiny Brooklyn (with a train right into Manhattan, too).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:16 AM on December 18, 2012

Maybe the people who are recommending Chicago didn't click on the link/aren't familiar with NY manners and just focused on the "helpful to strangers" thing, but Chicago manners are nothing like NY manners. Chicago is really a great place, but people there are friendly in a way that can be overwhelming if you're not expecting it. It's also, as has been said above, quite a segregated city, and a geographically spread out one. Part of what makes NY so special is its compressed quality, and Chicago really does not have that.
posted by dizziest at 9:28 AM on December 18, 2012

Agree with deanc! Washington is in no way a 24-hour city, or even 10- or 12-hour.

New York won't get any less expensive while you are figuring things out and trying other places. Get in, somewhere, now!
posted by jgirl at 9:42 AM on December 18, 2012

I think Chicago might be the closest per your criteria. People are polite but definitely keep to themselves more than in other cities/regions I've traveled. You would probably feel comfortable in that respect. It is also cheaper than NY (however, more crime ridden).
posted by marimeko at 9:49 AM on December 18, 2012

Philadelphia. Not quite as cosmopolitan, but better than Des Moines or something. In fact IMO having lived in New York and Los Angeles, I think Philly is more cosmopolitan than LA, or at least more cosmopolitan in a way that feels like New York.

Or you could just get a roommate in an outer borough of New York.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2012

I'd also say that there's a huge gulf between "has plenty of stuff to do and is a city and stuff!" and that certain je ne sais quoi that is New York.

If you want to live in New York, Chicago, DC, and other big dense American cities might not cut it for you, for a thousand reasons that your original question doesn't do much to clarify.
posted by Sara C. at 9:55 AM on December 18, 2012

Buffalo. It's kinda gritty, people are friendly, it's cheap, it's in NY, it's close to Canada.
posted by mareli at 11:41 AM on December 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! You've given me a lot to think about and research.
posted by mirileh at 12:07 PM on December 18, 2012

Wikipedia has a list of US cities by population density. An awful lot of the speculative explanation in that article you linked boils down to population density. Of course, the next densest city after New York is apparently San Francisco, which is culturally drastically different and not cheap.
posted by hoyland at 3:11 PM on December 18, 2012

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