NYC help! 4 month stay in Manhattan with sporadic travel to Princeton
July 31, 2016 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Hello New Yorkers, I have two friends here in Spain who will be visiting scholars in the US for 4 months between October and January. The catch is that one will be working in NYU and the other at Princeton. Ideally, they would like to stay in or near Manhattan, but in an area that makes it as easy as possible to travel to Princeton.

Their budget is between $2000-2500 for a temporary rental.

Can any saavy New Yorkers give advice on:

1) what area to stay in (in or near Manhattan)
2) the best method to find an apartment or lodging in that area (and if their budget is feasible)
3) how to best travel to Princeton from Manhattan

Muchas gracias!
posted by sic to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I did that commute for a summer. You can catch the New Jersey Transit line from Penn Station. It's about an hour on the train, but you end up a bit away from the main campus, so you'll have to catch a shuttle. Depending on where they are in Manhattan, it could end up being almost two hours each way.
posted by tau_ceti at 2:05 PM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

West side of manhattan, near seventh or eighth ave where they will take the subway to penn station and then NJ transit to Princeton.

Budget is OK for a studio
posted by JPD at 2:05 PM on July 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

The NJ Transit line (Northeast Corridor) takes you to Princeton Junction. Then to get to Princeton campus you take the "Dinky", a smaller NJ Transit train which runs from Princeton Junction to Princeton Station. (Princeton Station is basically on campus, although due to a controversial relocation, you can expect to walk 140 meters more than in years prior!) You buy a ticket from NY Penn to Princeton Station and then hold onto your ticket when you change trains.
posted by little onion at 2:15 PM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Their budget is between $2000-2500 for a temporary rental

Just to confirm, this is per month right?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:25 PM on July 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are many places in NJ that would work, but I'm not familiar enough to name a town or neighborhood. But, as an example, from Newark you can easily go to NYU via PATH and Princeton by NJ Transit as described above. But people all the way out to Princeton commute to NYC, so it depends on what sort of experience they want. They could even live in New Brunswick home of Rutgers * The State University.

I thought the Dinky was the PJ&B, Princeton Junction & Back. Perhaps that's obsolete.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:46 PM on July 31, 2016

North Brunswick, NJ near the Jersey Ave station would work, but it's not very walkable.
posted by sockermom at 4:48 PM on July 31, 2016

In talking about NJ, if they want to be near NYC, they might be more interested in Jersey City or Hoboken or some other place "just across the Hudson." The whole area from Newark to NYC very ugly a few decades ago and has had gentrification here and there mostly because of proximity to Wall Street (and therefore NYU). They might find a place they are comfortable with, or they might just find it too iffy.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:09 PM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I thought the Dinky was the PJ&B

This recent archival blogpost holds both nicknames in equal esteem; I had never heard PJ&B. (I just asked a friend who's both a campus tour guide and a Princeton Junction local, and she said she has only ever seen PJ&B in the tour guide "Guide for Guides," so maybe it is obsolete.)

Blog also points out that it is the shortest passenger rail route in the United States!
posted by little onion at 5:19 PM on July 31, 2016

if you're not married to manhattan, you can get a much better place for well within your budget in bayonne, nj and the commute is right about equal for both locations - an hour on public transit, according to google maps. i have friends who live there, and they love it.
posted by koroshiya at 6:03 PM on July 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Jersey City or Hoboken (or Staten Island, or Secaucus or most of Bergen County) would also be fine if they can get access to a car and drive to Princeton every day. Against traffic it'd be not bad at all.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:33 PM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Jersey City and Hoboken are both pretty thoroughly gentrified these days, if unexciting. Newark I would really not recommend, especially to visitors from abroad. Although if the budget given is the total for the four months, there may not be many more options!
posted by praemunire at 8:40 PM on July 31, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. Interesting options. I think they want to have as much of a "NYC" experience as possible, so they will probably stick as close to Manhattan as possible and deal with the commute to Princeton, which will only be sporadic.

How do New Yorkers find good sublets? Does everyone just do air bnb now?
posted by sic at 4:54 AM on August 1, 2016

Just to set some realistic expectations, if they are looking for a two-bedroom short-term sublet* on that budget (assuming that is the total monthly budget for both of them, not individually) they will be priced out of large swaths of Manhattan, including many of the neighborhoods that they are probably imagining when you think of a classic " 'NYC' experience."

At that price, there *might possibly* be some stuff available in the East Village, Lower East Side and Chinatown, but it's likely to be far from the train and in poor condition and repair. Otherwise, you are looking uptown (roughly north of 96 St on the East Side and 110 St on the West Side) which are perfectly nice places to live, but can be a bit far to commute to NYU and especially Princeton, and quieter than neighborhoods downtown (which maybe is what they're looking for, but when people talk about the "NYC experience" I assume they're usually thinking about either brownstone cute-store West Village or high-rise Midtown, neither of which uptown Manhattan really is.)

Most of "brownstone Brooklyn," very roughly the parts of Brooklyn that are due north and west of Prospect Park, are also going to be quite difficult at that budget. Otherwise, Queens is generally cheaper, but I haven't really looked much there, and I don't know anything about the Bronx or New Jersey real estate, and they should not live in Staten Island.

(This stems from my very recent experience looking for a 2br at the $2500 price range -- and I was looking for a full-year lease. Short-term, furnished sublets are going to be even more expensive per month as well. There are always deals, but October to January is not a peak sublet season like the summer is, and it's difficult to deal-hunt when you're not already in New York.)

*Obviously, if they are willing to flexible in other areas (renting individual rooms, renting a converted 2 br or 1 br or studio, being very flexible with the quality of housing stock, doing some other creative stuff) then that budget will go farther.
posted by andrewesque at 5:18 AM on August 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, my answer is assuming they are looking entirely on the free housing market -- forgive me if this is obvious, but they should inquire and see if NYU and/or Princeton has any subsidized housing available for visiting scholars and the like. While probably still expensive, it'll be cheaper than what's available on the open market.
posted by andrewesque at 5:19 AM on August 1, 2016

For a time period of several months, I'd use Craigslist vs AirBnb. You can definitely get a studio - 1BR in Hells Kitchen, which is close to Penn Station for that amount. The question is whether they like living in midtown.

If the commute to Princeton is only occasional, then pick whatever neighborhood you want. A studio for 2500$ is doable in most of Manhattan. The previous commenter is talking about looking for a 2BR, which is vastly different. All your friends need is a studio if they're a couple.
posted by hyperion at 5:29 AM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think Craigslist > Airbnb. Also try the Listings Project.

It's also possible that NYU has some kind of private housing classifieds—those would be a good bet because sublet listings would probably be on the academic calendar. Columbia has this; I just don't know about NYU.
posted by the_blizz at 7:31 AM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

NYU does for students. It would be weird if faculty didn't have access, but I haven't checked.

Harlem is "a classic NYC experience," and "quiet" isn't the word I would generally choose to describe it. You'll also get more space for your money up there, if (usually) fewer neighborhood amenities. The real drawback is travel time to Princeton--a friend used to commute from far north West Harlem just to NJ for work, and the commute was a bear. Obviously, this problem would be worse in East Harlem (no easy NJ Transit transfer).

But $2500/mo. for just a studio, with low expectations, should probably suffice to get them something in almost any neighborhood, except maybe the fanciest parts of the West Village.
posted by praemunire at 8:44 AM on August 1, 2016

Jersey City is a really good suggestion: I've done the commute from (Grove Street) Jersey City to Princeton, as have a lot of other people I know, and it only ends up being around an hour door to door. If you're weighting ease-of-commute to Princeton highly and don't have a car, this is far and away the best option. The Grove Street area is also very accessible to the southern part of Manhattan by PATH, which, like the MTA, is a legit subway operating 24/7 (albeit with somewhat lower frequencies, esp. at night). It's also definitely still an urban area, though more like Brooklyn or outer Manhattan than downtown Manhattan: lots of brownstones and rowhouses with some larger towers mixed in.

As far as other options in Manhattan go, basically, you want to be as close as possible to 34th St. Penn Station. A lot of Princeton commuters who can afford it live around the Hell's Kitchen area; a studio or 1br in that neighborhood may actually be do-able for $2500 (certainly it'll be cheaper than Chelsea). If you're venturing out of that area, you want something directly on the 1/2/3 or A/C/E, especially the 2/3 and the A because those run express.

Other people I know who've done this commute lived in the area around Columbia, or in Downtown Brooklyn, both of which are on the right express lines and can be around 20 minutes to Penn Station. If you live right by the A, there are a couple of places in Washington Heights that are within a 20 minute trip of Penn Station as well, but at that point you're arguably not really having the canonical "Manhattan" experience anyway. I also have done this commute regularly from Williamsburg, but with a 30 minute trip to Penn Station you hit the 2-hours-door-to-door threshold which is pretty grueling.

The area around NYU is not particularly affordable but if they're actually working at/for NYU then the suggestion to look into NYU-specific housing is a great one; their housing is really convenient.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

(Hmm, I should revise what I said earlier -- there are a couple of express trains from Penn Station NYC that are even faster than a trip from Newark Penn Station. Also, I guess an hour door to door from Jersey City is optimistic; 75 minutes is a best-case scenario and 90-95 is a more typical one. That's still better than most places in NYC, though, where you're typically looking at 90-120 minutes each way.)
posted by en forme de poire at 4:39 PM on August 1, 2016

From Manhattan to Princeton you could also take the bus. It goes right near Princeton University.
Mr Sunpower commutes everyday to work from Princeton to Manhattan and it takes between 90 and 105 minutes on an average during peak time. Check Suburban Transit for timing and fares. The adult round trip fare is around $26.00 and monthly pass is $410.00. Ten one way tickets is $111.00. There are express buses from Princeton in the morning and New York in the evening during peak times. The express buses take the HOV lanes that are faster and have an exclusive bus lane through the Lincoln tunnel.

You could also take the train as others have suggested. You get a break in fare if you are a student and buy the monthly pass for train. The train fares between new York Penn station and Princeton are:

Adult One Way : $17.75
Child/Senior/Disabled One Way : $8.20
Weekly : $152.00
Ten Trip : $177.50
Monthly : $499.00
Student Monthly : $374.00
posted by SunPower at 8:35 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Co-signing Suburban Transit; one of the nice things about it is that as SunPower said, it doesn't depend on the Dinky, yet it still runs pretty late (1 am is the last trip from NYC, not sure about the reverse direction) so you don't have to take a stupid $25 cab ride to the Junction.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:04 PM on August 5, 2016

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