Tips for NYC (Brooklyn)
August 7, 2017 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I'll be moving to Clinton Hill in just under two weeks for a new job (thanks to Ask for the apartment hunting advice). I've visited NYC briefly a few times, and feel pretty confident about moving there, but would be interested in small tips that people wish they'd known before they moved there.

In terms of living situation: I'll be here for 1 to 2 years, will have an NYU ID, and will likely be walking or taking the bus to work regularly, with a train ride once a week to the Manhattan campus. I'm in a six month sub-lease, and will not have roomies.

In terms of recreation: I like museums, movies, board / video games, hiking, exploring the (reasonably priced) restaurant scene and low-key bars. I'll be busy once the semester starts, but will have about half a month from when I move to when that happens where I'd like to get in a decent number of key experiences that might not be as possible with a full time workload.

I'm really curious about:
>Travel tips. I haven't had a major problem navigating the subway on my previous trips here, but also have only made short trips in off-peak hours.

>Shopping and day to day. I know that there's a premium for living here, so I'd be curious about tips for buying cheap (but still quality) groceries, doing laundry, and other quotidian aspects of life. For example, are there any clothing items I might not think to buy, but would make life a lot easier?

>Meeting people and finding stuff to do. I'm not super effusive with strangers. I'm outgoing once I get to know people, but just meeting strangers is hard for me. I'm also not that into social sports, which I know is a major way that people meet each other. I'm interested in good ways to start building a social network that give me a way to ease into the process instead of just jumping in with both feet (the bar scene for example).

>Budgeting and management. I feel like I'm going to be on the lower end of comfortable with my salary and rent. I don't have a car, so I'll be saving a few thousand dollars a year in payments, gas, and insurance. What can I expect in terms of other added costs (laundromat and subway, obviously) that come with city living, and is there anything hidden or surprising that I should start accounting for?
posted by codacorolla to Work & Money (28 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You should check the MTA website every time you are getting ready to take the train somewhere. I never used to do this, but the trains have been especially bad lately, and it's really helpful to know what lines are delayed/rerouted/broken before you get to the subway so that you can chart an alternate course.

Oh, and if you are living in Clinton Hill, you will be relatively close to the new Trader Joe's at City Point. It's not great for everything, but for staples it will definitely save you money on groceries.

Meeting people here is tough at first, you have to give it some time. Good luck and welcome!
posted by cakelite at 8:12 AM on August 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

NYC has a local city income tax, so make sure you take that into account when budgeting.

Familiarize yourself with the location and schedule of your local greenmarket.

The biggest thing with not having a car is probably figuring out how to get stuff home, so a few thoughts on managing that: You may want to get a granny cart! An awful lot of brick and mortar stores (perhaps more than you're used to) do same-day delivery for a fee. Postmates and Instacart are robust here. Think about paying for Amazon Prime.
posted by lalex at 8:26 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don't discount the cost of convenience when factoring in you day-to-day decision making. Only you can value your own time and frustration, but for us, even as decidedly-not-super-rich brooklynites, grocery delivery and occasional use of drop-off/delivery laundry service is great. (Fresh direct will give you a discount as a first time user and were generally very happy with their quality even though ive had non-nyc based friends look at me like I was crazy for doing delivery groceries).

Without knowing exactly where you'll be in Clinton hill you should definitely check out Mekleburgs for an awesome neighborhood bar/sandwich shop/specialty grocery, we like Speedy Romeo quite a bit too although Ill say were more frequently at the location in the city. Further down across fulton on Washington Atoradero has some really very good Mexican.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:29 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

You'll need to work out getting your mail if you don't live in a doorman building. Postal delivery is not always the most reliable and going to the post office to pick up packages as a home delivery customer is rough. If you don't have a doorman, it'll be good if you can get things delivered to a campus address or look into getting a UPS store box at a convenient locations so they can hold packages for you (or get a PO Box, which makes dealing with package pickup somewhat easier depending on where you do it.) Another way to deal with this is to become familiar with the Amazon lockers accessible to where you live and work.

I'm interested in good ways to start building a social network that give me a way to ease into the process instead of just jumping in with both feet (the bar scene for example).

Meetups (both and Metafilter meetups).

If you're at all religious, a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, etc. can be a good way to meet people. They often have social activities even if you only rarely participate in worship services and most communities are made up of people of varying levels of observance (and even if you're not religious, there are groups like UUs and the Ethical Culture Society in NYC that might interest you.)

NYU students (not sure about other NYU statuses) get free tickets to MoMA where I found a few years ago that people who attended their film screenings were friendly and talkative in line and I think I could've developed this into a way to meet people if my schedule hadn't changed to make it difficult to attend their films.
posted by Jahaza at 8:35 AM on August 7, 2017

Get an IDNYC card. It'll give you a year's free membership at a number of museums and such, including the Met and MoMA.

I use an Osprey Porter for schlepping items too big for my Tom Bihn Shop Bag but not so large that I have to take a taxi to transport them. The front-loading system is MUCH better for groceries. Granny carts are no fun managing in and out of subways. A truly realistic monthly budget will allot for a taxi ride or two. Sometimes there's just no alternative.

Unlike in many cities, the MTA monthly unlimited card will be the best value unless you don't use the system at all on the weekends.

If you're already feeling pinched, the greenmarket will be no more than an occasional treat for you.
posted by praemunire at 8:47 AM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you are living in Clinton Hill, you are pretty much on the C line which I've found to be fairly reliable except on weekends. There are a lot of apps you can download for checking train status. I have NYC Subway and Weekender. You say you will be relying on walking or the bus to get to work, so it will also be important to download an app for bus times. I use MTA Bus Time, which is really accurate.

The Key Food on Fulton is a pretty good grocery store (look for the picture of Notorious B.I.G. who was a bag boy there), supplemented by trips to the Farmer's Market at Fort Greene. Before the City Point Trader Joe's opened, I used to make monthly treks to the one on Atlantic & Court and also go to Sahadi's and Damascus Bakery while I was there - so worth the trek! You can take the G at Clinton/Washington to Bergen Street.

Take advantage of first Saturday's at the Brooklyn Museum. It's a pretty fun atmosphere and people are really friendly.

Most of your friendships will probably be made at work and school though. Possibly from your building or block. It's really hard to meet people randomly in NYC.
posted by maggiemaggie at 8:50 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Laundry: there is probably a place near you that will do pick up/drop off. In fact, there are probably a dozen. If you like that kind of service/the time tradeoffs, try them out. Note that many places wash everything hot/hot and use A LOT of detergent. If your building has washers and dryers in it, always have enough on the laundry card to do a load. You never know when the refill machine will be broken and you're desperate for clean knickers or whatever. Ditto quarters. Guard quarters like they are gold nuggets if you need them for laundry. I find the price of laundry detergent here to be absurd, so I'm always on the lookout for a good deal (luckily I have friends with a house in Connecticut and I grab a tiny bottle at the dollar store up there where it's...a dollar. Instead of $5). Make friends with stores like Lot Less and whatever your local dollar store is.

Autodebit those car related savings into an account you can get to, but not tooooo easily. This money will make renting a car for a long weekend much less painful. When you rent a car for a long weekend, check out the travel time to Newark or another city in jersey, and maybe rent the car there. But not at an airport rental place. (Because the prices are better outside the city.)

There is a costco in brooklyn, if you make friends with a person who has a car, they might appreciate tagging along for bulk items. Beware, it's not always cheaper. Cook as much as you can. Dual is a great spot in the east village for spices, but I'm sure there's a place convenient to you.

If you don't already have Amazon prime, get it. Amazon tip: if they lose your order, you can ask them to tack a free month on the end of your term. Groceries are also not always cheaper on Amazon, and they're moving over to a grocery specific subservice.

The fruit stands have pretty good prices on some things because they need to be eaten right away (I'm thinking of this weeks $1 quarts of strawberries!) greenmarkets are not generally cheap but the quality is amazing, and there is usually a compost collection on market days (check before younhaul your compost over). Get the little rectangle simple human can with the lid and the pedal, because the plastic bin part has a lip on the side that you can use raise it and to prop the lid open. It's also the perfect size to hold a grocery bag so you don't have to buy can liners.

You might want rainboots and you definitely want snow boots. Bill Cunningham had a nice photo compilation of men in office shoes trying to avoid puddles. Warm socks. For summer, shirts for hot weather that look decent. There's something about all this concrete...

Pick your park. A place you like to sit on a bench and watch the world go by. Bring a snack. I like the ones with dog runs. I love love love my matador blanket (matador.up) that fits into a tiny stuff sack and has the folding sequence sewn into itself in red thread so I don't have to think about which direction I need to fold next. Machine washable, mine is into its third summer.

Entertainment: todaytix,, timeout New York and some other resources have lists of free/cheap activities fairly last minute. There's a good chance there's a bar near you with a decent music night, drop in. If you catch the first two ferries to governors island not only is it a more comfortable time of day, you save the $2 fare.

Arranging nyc mertups is a good way to meet nyc mefites. had thousands of events. Social science research suggests that effective friend making happens in places where you run into the same people often. Which is why so many people make lifelong friends in school. So take a class (even a six week knife skills class, maybe you make a friend, you definitely get more efficient at chopping carrots, either way you win. Time is one of the big reasons people give for it cooling more. Solid knife skills save you time!). You could also join a book group or other hobby related group. Once you've got a few friends you can start something like Friday night meatballs (I would link, but I'm on my phone) and have your friends bring a friend.

Finally, volunteer. Pick a time and a place to be a few hours each week to support your community and make it sacrosanct. Read to kindergarteners, tutor adults, stuff envelopes, anything, be a guardian ad litem or CASA.
posted by bilabial at 8:54 AM on August 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh. And if you're schlepping your laundry, don't carry a huge bottle of detergent. Use a tiny bottle. Feel free to buy a huge bottle and decant into your little bottle.
posted by bilabial at 8:57 AM on August 7, 2017

Come to Mefi meetups to meet people (and try new bars)!
posted by ferret branca at 8:57 AM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I use MTA Bus Time, which is really accurate.

Yes! I forgot to mention this. If you are a regular bus user, BusTime is gold. You can hit a button and it will show you all the nearby buses and their routes as well as timings.

The Costco in Harlem is accessible via transit (though a long way from Cobble Hill!). I don't think the one in Brooklyn is.
posted by praemunire at 8:59 AM on August 7, 2017

You might want rainboots and you definitely want snow boots. Bill Cunningham had a nice photo compilation of men in office shoes trying to avoid puddles.

I think this is the key thing to know about New York: you are going to be walking all over the place in ALL kinds of weather, so you have to be as prepared for that as if you were a farmer.
posted by maggiemaggie at 9:17 AM on August 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

Get a Zipcar/Car2Go membership!
posted by functionequalsform at 9:29 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh. And also find a way to keep spare shoes at work. Because the rains will sometimes sneak up in you. Or you'll gamble that an 11:00 rain forecast won't interfere with your day. But then nature decides that 8:30 is a better time for rain.

And besides, if you're walking to work it can be nice to have shoes for the office and shoes for walking, generally. Giving shoes time to breathe is good for them.
posted by bilabial at 9:37 AM on August 7, 2017

(It's raining today, which probably explains some of the fixation with the topic of weather)
posted by bilabial at 9:38 AM on August 7, 2017

Embrace the use of headphones for creating personal space within public space, but don't isolate yourself so much that you don't notice what's happening in your surroundings. I suggest starting with just one earbud when new to the city and when it's late at night.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:50 AM on August 7, 2017

Also, approaching strangers for directions is completely fine but be very clear about what you want - no "excuse me, I'm so sorry, do you have a second" which sounds like the prelude to a scam or sales pitch but instead go directly to "do you know which way the C train is?" and most people are perfectly happy to help. I firmly believe that the stereotype of the rude New Yorker is just a misinterpretation of social norms.

Carry cash, you'll need it for bodegas and similar places. City council rules say that credit card minimums are legal in New York anyways.

Try to build awareness of where your body is - it's hard to explain but in crowded places, sidewalk movement can be more like traffic flows than like walking is in other places. If you're standing in the middle of the subway platform and people keep bumping into you - you're probably the problem. This goes double if you're with other people - the shape and pace of your group should change organically within larger traffic flows.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:55 AM on August 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

I firmly believe that the stereotype of the rude New Yorker is just a misinterpretation of social norms.

This, very much. I'm a born-here New Yorker, and I swear we're not cold and mean, we've just got a different set of standards about when to make eye contact or to address an utterance more than two syllables long to someone (in both cases, not unless you're embarking on a genuine social relationship. If you're just buying a pack of gum, keep it to minimal speech.)
posted by LizardBreath at 10:00 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing simply asking the ? instead of starting with asking if you can ask it, which is often a precursor for begging or harassment.

I prefer detergent pods because I can take just what I need instead of schlepping the whole box/bottle.
posted by brujita at 10:12 AM on August 7, 2017

Social stuff - it's been a while since I've been, but Sunday Night Dinner is a great way to meet people. There might be 5-6 people there and there might be 25, but people are friendly, kind, and open-minded. Ages tend to be 20s and 30s, though it's a really welcoming environment to all.
posted by taltalim at 10:13 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depending on where you in are Clinton Hill, check out Mr. Coco, Mr. Melon or Mr. Mango for cheap produce. You can find some great deals on fruit.

Also I'm in Clinton Hill (and your age-ish) if you want an introduction to the neighborhood--drop a MeMail :)
posted by greta simone at 10:21 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Zipcar or other similar car service highly recommended. In Brooklyn there are some local car services that might be cheaper than UBER (Aricebo, etc) but they take cash, so be sure to have that around.
If you want to save money and have the time to do the work required for membership, the Park Slope Food Co-op is excellent.
posted by eusebis_w_adorno at 11:00 AM on August 7, 2017

Food: If you know someone with a car & can hitch a ride, an occasional run to the Fairway in Red Hook can be a great way to stock up on reasonably priced staples & some specialty foods that won’t be at your local Key Food or C Town.

Cultural & social stuff: So much happening at and around BAM--(downtown Bklyn listings link here)--keep an eye out for both performances & activities at Urban Glass, BRIC, & BAM itself. Some of these may have admission deals with your NYU ID, I’m not sure. Also: If you’re already going to school, you probably won’t need the organized activities of Brooklyn Brainery or the Secret Science Club, but they may appeal as something different. I’ve liked events I’ve been to at both.

Subways: Seconding the idea of checking the MTA info before you head to the train, and would add the idea of signing up for the NYC MTA service advisory emails/texts. Also: A perennial recommendation I make is for the smartphone app Exit Strategy NYC. It’s a subway map that also tells you which train car you want to be on in order to be closest to the specific staircase you want at the other end. (E.G., front of the 4th car to get out at South Portland; back of the last car to get out at Hanson Place.) And it's got little neighborhood maps showing all the subway entrances. It really helps you get a feel for the subway stations and how they relate to the grid of streets above.

Good luck, & welcome.
posted by miles per flower at 11:15 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Moved to Brooklyn 15 months ago, just got in the groove about last 3 months (mostly around friends):

Couple key things: You know those people you remember from high school that you're facebook friends with, but you haven't seen in 10 years? They will have no problem meeting up with you. I've met up with friends that I hadn't seen in 13,14, 22 years. They all have moved to NYC before.

If you have a good friend who's reliable, maybe also single but has a group of friends? Try being open if he/she invites you to events. The really only way to keep friends (real friends, not acquaintances) is through friends of friends. I've not made too many new friends in NYC, but have expanded and deepened my relationships from nothing.

People in Clinton Hill, especially potentially long time residents, will say hi to you and may be open to learning about you (this is not case in many neighborhoods in NYC, especially the tonier ones)
posted by sandmanwv at 11:50 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I want to emphasize that even if you are not outdoorsy, you will be outdoors walking and waiting all the time, more than the average suburbanite, because you're not doing it for fun, it's how you get around whether you want to or not. It's not like in the country or the burbs where you can run from your heated car to the heated store on an awful day; I used to live in NH and I found I actually need more gear here. Truly comfortable walking shoes, truly waterproof shoes and jackets, and truly warm and waterproof jackets and boots all get regular use from me and make my life easier. A quality purse-sized umbrella has saved my ass on occasion too.

NYers get a lot of stuff delivered. Basic groceries, take-out, basic drugstore stuff from Amazon. I haven't lugged pet food in years. You can supplement the basics with a "market" approach, when your bread comes from a bakery and vegetables come from the farmer's market.

Get to know your neighborhood-- your pizzeria, bagel place, coffee shop, bar, bodega, etc. will feel like extensions of home.

Get on a first-name basis with a couple of people in your building; great for emergencies and feeling like you're part of something. Get on a nod-hello basis with neighborhood folks. Make nice with your super.
posted by kapers at 1:10 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you are living in Clinton Hill, you are pretty much on the C line

....IF you are in the southern part of the neighborhood. If you're in the north part, like me, not so much (but the north part is well-served by a couple of bus lines and you can take the bus to a subway line and transfer between the two for free; my commute takes under an hour, from Myrtle Ave. to Midtown).

I've lived in that part of Brooklyn for 10 years, and have very customized info:

I like museums, movies, board / video games, hiking, exploring the (reasonably priced) restaurant scene and low-key bars.

* Museums: The Brooklyn Museum has free hours on the first Saturday of every month. They will have a roster of special events planned that night, which you can join in on, or you can also just walk around the regular galleries. It's about 30 minutes away, and you can take the B69 bus up Vanderbilt to get you close by.

* Movies: BAM has a great schedule, and the Alamo Drafthouse is close enough that you could walk there. But there is a much cheaper Alamo-type place in Bushwick called Syndicated Bar Theater: tickets are $7 for most movies, $4 if it's a "rerun".

* Hiking: There is rather good hiking to be had within NYC city limits; Pelham Bay Park and Van Cortland Park up in the Bronx have decent trails, as does the "north 40" down in Floyd Bennett field (you can even camp out there). Staten Island has a 7-mile trail right through the middle as well.

* Low-key bars - If you look through my browser history I refer frequently to a Clinton Hill place I call "Best Bar In The World". this is Putnam's and it is in Clinton Hill. They also have an awesome brunch.


The nearest greenmarket is in Fort Greene Park, and is every Saturday, all year. Ostensibly it is from 8 to 5, but people start packing up at like 4. I particularly recommend Wicklow Orchards, the guys who have their stall at the southernmost end of the market.

There is also a very active CSA I can tell you more about if you are interested (memail me).

The Trader Joe's is in the same building as the Alamo, and it is acutally right next to my subway stop so it's super-convenient to pick things up on my way home from work.


There's a few in the neighborhood. There is also a place in the southern part of Clinton Hill that is a drop-off only spot - and for a very reasonable price they will also come to your apartment and pick your laundry up FROM you, and then deliver it back TO you when they're done. I discovered them after breaking my foot, which would have meant no laundry becuase I wasn't going to be able to schlep things up and down stairs.

Oh - and another good tip for schlepping your detergent: get some of those single-dose pod things instead. Then it's just a matter of grabbing two or three and sticking those in your handbag next to your quarters.


Nthing I found a book club on there that I fell instantly in love with and I've been with them for a year and a half now.

I'm older than you and greta simone, but feel free to memail me too if you want more location-specific info.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:26 PM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Came in the suggest the NYC ID, someone beat me to it. Make sure you get a library card-- you can get one for Brooklyn, NYPL, and Queens, and having all three gives you really superb access to a wide variety of free resources.

My only other wisdom is: the secret to consistently OK avocadoes is Costco.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:24 PM on August 7, 2017

Also, approaching strangers for directions is completely fine but be very clear about what you want - no "excuse me, I'm so sorry, do you have a second" which sounds like the prelude to a scam or sales pitch but instead go directly to "do you know which way the C train is?"

Asking for directions on the subway platform is how I met my first boyfriend in New York. :) So that is also a way to meet people. In general, I found that everyone I met when I first arrived was happy to help a newcomer.
When the train is full, if you're crammed near the entrance when you come to a stop, the polite thing to do is to step off temporarily to let people exit rather than forcing them to squeeze by you. Not sure if that's the kind of thing you're looking for here, but it's not obvious if you're not used to riding on extremely crowded trains (also, don't wear your backpack in a very crowded train).
I love the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. If you have time on a Tuesday or before noon on Saturday it's free to visit.
posted by pinochiette at 3:17 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yay and welcome!

One thing I regret was waiting so long into living here to see Coney Island. If you like hiking, you might enjoy a loooong walk from Clinton Hill down to Brighton Beach and over to Coney Island (and the nice part is you can hop on the subway if you get tired). You don't even have to go in the water or on any rides, it just has this vibrant, incredibly diverse, happy feeling to it that is really special.

Related, I'd say, if you have time, it's nice to walk places. You can walk almost anywhere, given enough time. Try a course along a subway or bus route so you can poop out if you need to. Neighborhoods transform as you go and you just get a really different sense of things than as discrete stops on a subway map.

This may not be fair of me to do, but I feel like Ferret Blanca is our local Metafilter Meetup macher, and there should be a Meetup, and it should be while I'm not out of town. Maybe at 4th Avenue Pub...

I think one change in living in NYC for a lot of people is that you have to physically carry with you and on you the things you want. That means maybe larger bags, heavier loads, more thinking ahead, than you can get away with if you have a car as a secondary storage facility.

One ongoing surprise to me is how late people here think brunch ought to be. In general NYC seems to function about an hour behind other cities. In midtown the prime lunch time starts at 1pm, where I heard it was noon in DC.

I agree with comfortable shoes and good rain gear. I've sworn off of umbrellas and stick to rain boots (rain shoes in the summer) and raincoats (rainhat in the summer - there are days when it's just too hot for even a light rain jacket and I'd rather just let my clothes get wet).

Always check the subway advisories if you're going to take it on a weekend, and leave yourself extra time.

Now there's reception at basically all subway stations, which is great, but only in a few places between stops.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:59 AM on August 11, 2017

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