What do I need to know to live in NYC for the summer?
April 26, 2006 2:17 PM   Subscribe

MovingToNYCFilter: I'm soon to be a college grad, and I'm in the running for a 6-week internship in NYC that may become long-term employment. Please help me figure out what I need to know to live in the big city.

I assume that for the time frame I'm looking at, I'll need to either rent a room from someone, or short-term sublet all or part of someone's apartment. I don't know where exactly in the city I'll be, but I know I'll be working long hours (6am-9pm .. ish) five or six days a week, and I'll need access to my car.

I've never rented alone, or an apartment -- for the past three years, I've been renting various houses in my small college town, with a close-knit group of relatively like-minded friends.

Where can I look to find out about commute times, distances, etc so when I find out where I'll need to be, I can have some idea of where I want to be looking for housing around there? Besides Craigslist, where should I be looking? I hope I'll know within about a month if I get the gig, and where I'll be working; theoretically the internship begins the week before July 4th, and runs through the middle of August.

What other questions am I not asking that I should be, and what are some possible answers?

I feel pretty overwhelmed with everything right now, but I know I need to take this internship to get my foot in the door in my industry of choice, and I want to avoid looking like an idiot and not making it to work on the first day or something crazy like that.
posted by Alterscape to Work & Money (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you absolutely need a car? Having a car will be a real bitch.

I assume your job will be in Manhattan- you should be looking for rooms and shares in Brooklyn or Queens.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:24 PM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Forget about bringing the car.
posted by mullacc at 2:39 PM on April 26, 2006

ThePinkSuperhero is right--Unless you're ready, willing, and able to drop at least $1,000 a month on rent, look to Brooklyn, Queens, and if you must, Jersey. All have great neighborhoods with short commute times and reasonable rents.

If you're living in an outer borough, your foremost concern--aside from the neighborhood, etc.--should be how close your apartment is to the nearest subway station. You might find a place very near the river, creating the illusion of being closer to work, but if you have a ten or fifteen minute walk to the train your proximity to the city makes no difference.

As long as you're not living too far out into Brooklyn or Queens, your commute should be less than an hour, most likely less than half an hour. BUT, until you know where you'll be working, it's not really worth concerning yourself with neighborhoods and all of that (though I can say, without hesitation, that the best neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens are Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, Astoria, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Long Island City, Jackson Heights, and debatably Williamsburg. Roughly in that order).

Regardless, when you know where you're living and where you're working, take the train from home to work, see how long it takes, and plan accordingly for the following day (add a half hour to account for any delays).

As far as where to look besides Craigslist... I dunno. Village Voice? The Times? That's about all anyone ever uses. Googling "Brooklyn neighborhood guide," "Queens neighborhood guide," etc. should get you results to find out what neighborhoods might be to your liking.
posted by incomple at 2:41 PM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I know people who live in Hoboken, NJ, which is a short train trip into Manhattan.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:43 PM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Consider Hoboken as well, especially if you'll be working downtown. The rents are lower the NYC and the PATH train is just a quick ride in.
posted by gfrobe at 2:48 PM on April 26, 2006

I disagree on car. I've had a car in the city for three years, and though it may often be a real bitch it is feasible, and comes in real handy when you get the itch to get out of the city. (or in my case any time I want to cross a river). In my experience, people bringing a car to the city for the first time can expect to pay a couple hundred dollars in parking tickets their first month, but after that you won't make any mistakes. Certainly Brooklyn and Queens are easier places to park than Manhattan, but I've lived in Chinatown for 2 years now with it, and been able to deal. The key is, when you look at the place you're looking for be sure to take in the local alternate side parking signs. In my hood I have to move the car pretty much everyday as the streetcleaners come through midnight to 3 am MWF or TRS. I'm lucky, my schedule is flexible, I can stay up till 2:45 am to move the car if need be. But it doesn't have to be that way. In my GF's neighborhood (astoria) its a MW or TR regulation from 9:30 to 11 in the morning, and I've always been able to find parking within 5 blocks of her house, within 20 minutes of arriving in the area. Other friends live in places in Brooklyn where they only have to move a car once a week (parts of Williamsburg). I'm looking to move myself and actually found places in brooklyn and queens that are UNSIGNED and thus have no regulations (Redhook in Bklyn, and a small block in Hunter's Point in Queens). Everyone's experience with the car is different, I suppose is my point, and you'll know within a month of arriving in the city if its utility outweighs its expense (both in time and money). For me it does, and if you need it you need it. Feel free to contact me directly if you want more car specific advice.
posted by jrb223 at 2:54 PM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yea, don't count Jersey out, it has equally short commutes (at least for Jersey City and Hoboken; past that it doesn't get nice again till where I live which is another half hour away) and often cheaper rents. One of my fiancee's former co-workers has a decently sized apartment in JC and pays the same rent we do ($900/mo) and he takes PATH.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 2:56 PM on April 26, 2006

For someone working an internship, though, money will probably be real tight, so having a car in case they feel an itch during the 6 weeks they'll be in town might be too big an expense.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:57 PM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Very true, pinksuperhero, very true... But I inferred from the post he needs it for the job...
posted by jrb223 at 3:03 PM on April 26, 2006

A company that makes its *interns* use their own cars for company business... that's just cruel. Not unbelievable, but really mean.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:07 PM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

(1) Buy a STREETWISE NEW YORK map and a STREETWISE BROOKLYN map if they have them at your local bookstore. Look at the lines that are near your work and get an idea of where you want to live. Look at straphangers to learn more about the efficacy of different subway lines. See also Hopstop and Googlehacked map.

(2) I feel like everyone I know who's under 30 lives in downtown brooklyn (Park Slope, Carrol Gardens, Red Hook, etc.). In addition to looking there and in craigslist, I'd recommend: looking directly at the real estate agency sites; the village voice (updates every wed); your friends; NY college dorms: NYU has summer dorms that cost around 13-1500 a month and SVA has some crappy ones that are about that much for the whole summer.

(3) Don't get a car.
posted by kensanway at 3:07 PM on April 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

(though I can say, without hesitation, that the best neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens are Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, Astoria, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Long Island City, Jackson Heights, and debatably Williamsburg. Roughly in that order).

Carroll Gardens is nice too.

Manhattan is extremely expensive.

I also know people who have cars. But if you're gonna be working that much, what'll you need it for?
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 3:09 PM on April 26, 2006

Find out which of your close-knit group of like-minded friends is going to be living nearest the city and keep your car at their house. Or, sell it and join ZipCar. I'm a life-long NYer and the only person I know who keeps a car on the street here is a cop.
posted by nicwolff at 3:22 PM on April 26, 2006

Another vote for Jersey. Both Jersey City and Hoboken are affordable, have their own charm, and would be much more car friendly than Manhattan. You can easily commute into Manhattan on the PATH ($1.50 each way, and about 15 minutes depending where in the city you want to go). You really don't want to be trying to drive in everyday.

Affordable and safe areas of Manhattan are on the west side above 125th. I also know people who found deals in the east side in the 90's. Astoria, Queens is also pretty affordable

When I moved here 5 years ago, I found a short term sublet for 2 weeks. This served as a base of operations to look for something more permanent. It's really hard to find something when you are living in another city... unless you are prepared to be raped by brokers.

In addition to CL and VV, pounding the pavement in neighborhoods that you are interested in can be fruitful. Especially in student areas, I see flyers for sublets and shares on posts, bus shelters, and bulletin boards all the time. Look up. Many buildings will have numbers posted for the management company, and you might see the occasional For Rent sign. Also, have some cash in hand. If you find a great place, paying part of the deposit up front is a good way to make sure you don't lose it (use your best judgement on this though... there are plenty of scammers).
posted by kimdog at 3:29 PM on April 26, 2006

Do you really need a car? Honestly, you're moving to one of the only cities in the US where living without a car is actually possible. Take advantage of it! Using the subways and busses is also a way to save you some money (I mean, have you seen gas prices and/or researched what it might cost to park your car here?). An unlimited MetroCard (unlimited access to both subway and bus) is $76/month. That's cheap in comparison. Trust me. Leave the car at home. (And for those times you really need a car, there's ZipCar.)

How much money are you willing to spend on rent? Start checking craigslist for ballpark prices in areas. If you're planning on living in Manhattan, resign yourself to the fact that you're going to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a ridiculously small space. But on the plus side, living in Manhattan can be great. I recently moved here and found that for the best compromise for upper west side price+size vs. location was around from 100th - 116th street. I'm paying $1800/month for a 2BR apartment that's about 800sqft. The me that existed 6 months ago nearly shit himself paying that. The me that is sitting here now thinks that's a pretty good deal. The difference is now I've seen many other apartments, and realized what a dollar buys you here. For some perspective, I looked at a 350sqft apartment on W.82nd that was going for $1800. Someone told me a similar story before I moved here, and I didn't believe them until I spent a long hellish weekend seeing apartments (3 days, 20 apartments -- yeowch). Some things you just have to experience for yourself.

You're probably in a better position than I was, because you're looking for a room, rather than a whole apartment (for reference, a room on W 81st and Broadway, 10ft x 8ft = $950). If you're determined to find like minded people, trying a roommate-locator service like roommates.com might be a good bet. If not, there's always Craigslist.

Let me leave you with an optimistic thought: Things here are expensive. On the plus side, though, whenever you move out of this city, your views on what's normal will be so warped that everything will seem like it's on sale!
posted by jeffxl at 3:45 PM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: First off, all these answers have been great; thanks for the tips!

To clarify: the internship is likely to be as a location production assistant for film. I've heard that in many cases, film people like their PAs to have ready access to transportation available. However, this isn't heresay specific to NYC, or to big-budget pictures, so I'm just trying to be prepared in the event that I am asked to have a car handy.

For any NYC commercial film people here -- am I likely to be expected to have a car on hand if I'm a location PA for a relatively large film?

I realize these are a lot of naive questions; thank you for your tolerance!
posted by Alterscape at 5:40 PM on April 26, 2006

I have a friend who interned as a PA on a big TV show filmed in NYC- she wasn't expected to have a car. In NYC, having "ready access to transportation" means having a subway pass- or the cash for a taxi :-)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:27 PM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I moved here last year and before I left home, I asked MeFi for some assimilation advice:


You might find some of that stuff useful, though not directly related to your question.
posted by secret about box at 12:30 AM on April 27, 2006

Yeah, unless they specifically tell you that you're going to need a car, I wouldn't bring one. It's expensive, and driving is very rarely the fastest way to get somewhere in the city, anyway. I left my car behind when I moved here from Massachusetts about seven years ago, and I've been very glad that I did.

As far as finding an apartment or room, if there's one that you're thinking about taking, make sure you visit the neighborhood it's in more than once, at different times. A street that seems fine when you view an apartment at 10am on a Wednesday might be a very different place at 11pm on a Saturday (and, indeed, all weekend long). I once spent a very miserable year living in Washington Heights thanks to an oversight of this nature.
posted by emmastory at 6:43 AM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

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