Where to live in COVID-era NYC with toddlers?
November 3, 2020 12:29 PM   Subscribe

We’re thinking of moving back to NYC to be closer to my parents but are having trouble picturing life in the city during COVID. Where are some better places to live within NYC from a COVID perspective--with very young kids?

Our very active child is nearly two, and we’re planning on having another in about a year. Where we’re currently located, we’re outside 3 to 4 hours a day and walk to everything: groceries, library, playgrounds, bookstores, outdoor spaces that are covered (where our kid can run around on a rainy day), amazing food options, and childcare. We’re in the middle of everything, can walk anywhere we go on a daily/weekly basis within 20 minutes, and have multiple options of places to go—so not one grocery store, but four, not one library, but three, not one playground, but two, etc. These places are very, very rarely over-crowded by pandemic standards.

In NYC, we’d love to be similarly right in the middle of everything and able to walk everywhere we would go daily/weekly. It’s especially important to us that we have places to take our kid(s) without being over-crowded, both covered and not covered (in case of rain/snow).

We’d like this all for under $3k per month, preferably under $2.5k per month, and we’d need a 1BR at minimum. A bigger place would be nice, but we’re budget-conscious and would take a smaller place for less in most cases. We may buy but only have $100k to invest--not sure how our dollars would stretch in this market.

Does a neighborhood or area like this exist in NYC, or is this a pipe dream?

Also--my husband and I do not drive and do not want to start.
posted by saltypup to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In Brooklyn, absolutely. Most neighborhoods west and immediately north of Prospect Park fit your requirements. Look at Prospect Heights and Carrol Gardens to start.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:51 PM on November 3, 2020

Clinton Hill in Brooklyn (my neighborhood) might also appeal. I live within 5 minutes' walk of one grocery store, 15 minutes' walk of another, about 10-15 minutes walk to two different library branches and a 30-minute walk to the central branch (but I usually hop the bus for a 10-minute trip), 15 minutes away from two great indie bookstores, 20 minutes from an Alamo Drafthouse, I'm near 2 parks, and there are tons of public transit options as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:09 PM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Brooklyn is great, although I'd be curious what your standards for over-crowding are based on where you are coming from. I have two kids less than 6 years olds and Prospect Park has been a god-send during Covid times. We had quarantined out of state, however, and when we came back to Brooklyn, it was jarring how many more people we were interacting with compared to where we were coming from.

You can definitely get a 1BR for < $2500 in Park Slope (see, e.g., here)
posted by buddha9090 at 1:14 PM on November 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Windsor Terrace for sure - park and cemetery and bike lane to Coney Island.
posted by mahorn at 1:40 PM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

You want Ditmas Park, the place in Brooklyn where people who live in Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and Carroll Gardens move when they have kids. I'm exaggerating a little—none of those places are bad for kids and I like all of them! But Ditmas feels a little more relaxed and neighborhoody while also being an easy subway ride from Manhattan. You also get a bit more space for your dollar down there—it's Brooklyn so rent isn't cheap, though your budget is reasonable, but places at equivalent price points are a little bigger in Ditmas than they are in Clinton Hill (and cheaper in both than they are in Prospect Heights or Park Slope). And there's a section with beautiful big Victorian houses that's so nice to walk around in and has street parties and a Halloween parade.
posted by babelfish at 2:32 PM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Where we’re currently located, we’re outside 3 to 4 hours a day and walk to everything: groceries, library, playgrounds, bookstores, outdoor spaces that are covered (where our kid can run around on a rainy day), amazing food options, and childcare. We’re in the middle of everything, can walk anywhere we go on a daily/weekly basis within 20 minutes, and have multiple options of places to go—so not one grocery store, but four, not one library, but three, not one playground, but two, etc.
Um. Where is this? Asking for a friend.
posted by caek at 2:44 PM on November 3, 2020 [26 favorites]

In NYC, we’d love to be similarly right in the middle of everything and able to walk everywhere we would go daily/weekly.

I feel like you could throw a dart at residential Brooklyn or Manhattan and most neighborhoods you hit would fit the bill, but the trade off of having this much stuff in such close proximity is that the foot traffic is there to support it - e.g., it might be overcrowded by your standards. I can never, ever go outside without a mask because it is impossible to stay six feet away from anyone at any time of day. I tried to take the trash out at 2:30am the other day without a mask and ran into people.

You mention moving "back" to New York. How long ago did you live here?
posted by unannihilated at 6:38 PM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also knowing where you are now would help us ascertain what you’re looking for. I think it sounds pretty sweet. Is there any reason you don’t want to move your parents to your town/city?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:42 PM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the encouraging answers above--I will definitely look into the places mentioned. I think @unannihilated has it: a lot of areas in Brooklyn/Manhattan do fit this description but would have considerably more foot traffic than I would like. Not sure we can get around that in NYC.

To answer some of the questions, I last lived in NYC in 2018 and grew up in Manhattan so know it well. I don't know how it is in the pandemic, though, and haven't spent much time in the outer boroughs.

I would love to move my parents to my city, but they are pretty much determined to stay in NYC for the rest of their lives. Also, NYC may be better for our careers in the long-term, though my husband and I are both disgruntled at the idea of working NYC hours with two kids. We left high-powered careers with very long hours in NYC and do not want to return to that, but we fear that we won't be able to live comfortably if we don't work the long hours typical in NYC.

If you really want to know my current location, feel free to message me directly. Don't want to post it here for privacy reasons.
posted by saltypup at 10:23 PM on November 3, 2020

I live in Upper Manhattan. I do not have kids. My impression is that it's... much like it was pre-pandemic, except with far fewer people on the subway and most of the places you'd go for entertainment are closed/online. (Theatre people have been out of work the whole time with no real end in sight. Apparently film/television is starting to come back ever so slowly.) There's no in-person kid's programming at the library or anything. My two closest libraries are closed, so if I want a physical book, I need to request it and go collect it from my third-closest library (a mile and a bit away--I have two libraries under a mile). Libraries are not open for browsing. The subway is still closed between 1am and 5am, but I'm guessing "parent of toddler", "late night subway rider" and "Metafilter user" don't go together.

There are a few more unhoused people in the area now, as a temporary men's shelter opened up early in the pandemic to get people off the street, but... then dumped them back on the street and some folks stuck around. I want to say evidence of injection drug use is down, again because a lot of marginalized people got bounced around the city at the start of the pandemic.

Mask usage is near perfect indoors and good outdoors. (I was working the polls yesterday, maybe 1% of people approached the door sans mask and 90% of them were pulling one out of their pocket or up off their chin without being reminded. There were one or two people who drove, hopped out of their car and forgot and went "Oh shit, sorry" and dashed back when reminded.)

I basically know of zero covered outdoor spaces (in my neighborhood or further afield). You just have to get wet.
posted by hoyland at 6:04 AM on November 4, 2020

How about living next door to your parents? If you're moving to be near them why not see how it is to live that close, at least it will completely remove the commute to visit them regularly. If they love where they live do you think you would too?
posted by waving at 6:05 AM on November 4, 2020

Depending on how risk-averse you are, moving may not be the best idea, especially if you don't drive. As a parent of very young kids, I 100% would not take them on the bus or subway right now because there's no way we could do it without them touching the seats or poles and then touching their faces or my hand or fixing their masks or whatever. Which means you may need to be able to walk almost everywhere you're going to go until the pandemic is over.

As mentioned above, there is very little, if any, indoor programming for kids right now in NYC beyond preschool, and those that are available don't appear super safe from casual observations. Assuming you have more space now, a 1 bedroom apartment will likely feel especially cramped in the winter, particularly if you have another kid. And then there are your neighbors to consider. Depending on your neighborhood, you may or may not find your neighbors are great about mask compliance indoors. When you share an elevator or stairwell with them, this starts to really matter, especially if you have a baby.

All that being said, NYC feels increasingly like its old self, just with masks. And it's great that it does feel that way and it absolutely can be done with kids if you find the right spot.
posted by luckdragon at 7:18 AM on November 4, 2020

A general comment based on your update - I think that people whose experience of NYC is primarily Manhattan 1) tend to overestimate how difficult and expensive it is to live here and 2) can't fathom the idea of living outside of Manhattan. In case it wasn't apparent, these two ideas are related. One corporate lawyer friend honestly believes that you can't live decently here unless you make at least $100K, which I find downright offensive. I'm not saying that it's cheap (and obviously "comfortable" is very personal) but I promise you it is entirely possible to raise a family in NYC without being a high-powered lawyer, tech/finance bro, doctor, or consultant.

If it's at all possible I'd really strongly encourage you to spend time getting a good feel for what you can get in a bunch of different neighborhoods before you commit, there's so much variation even within a single borough. Overcrowding is probably the most difficult thing to advise you on, both because we don't know your standards and also because I think it's a street by street thing even within neighborhoods. I'd also think more about how you'll get around, both now and for the eventual post-pandemic. Unless you're also planning on walking to work and to your parents (which would limit your options more than anything in this question), life is so much easier if you have a simple commute to the places you know you're going to frequent.
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:46 AM on November 4, 2020

Seconding Brooklyn - I lived in Clinton Hill from late 2019 until a few months ago, and it checks off most of the boxes you're looking for. I lived right on top of the Clinton-Washington G stop, which is right next to a playground and a library, a short walk from Fort Green Park, a slightly longer walk to Prospect Park, and near several grocery stores and bodegas. It might be slightly on the expensive side for you (I was paying $2.5k for one room in a townhouse with a ton of common space, so I don't know what the 1br situation looks like). Like showbiz_liz says, anywhere near Prospect Park is probably a good place to start.
posted by wesleyac at 12:01 PM on November 4, 2020

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