Help my friend find an apartment in NYC
December 26, 2006 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: Help me find a cheap, safe, and convenient apartment in the Big Apple.

My friend needs a place in NYC starting in January. We know Craiglist is the best place for finding specific apartment, but as Native Texans, we have no idea about what areas to love, what areas to avoid (Brooklyn?, Queens?, Harlem?, New Jersey? It's all the same to us), etc.

Here are the requirements:

1) Safety. Young female who doesn't know her way around New York, so area should be near major subway/other transportation lines.

2) Price: <= $1600 a month

3) 1BR or Studio. Desperately trying to avoid the random roommate search on craigslist.

4) Convenience. Workplace is in downtown Manhattan. This is last on the list, but it'd be a bonus if place was close to work (commute-time wise, we know it's going to be impossible to find a place in Manhattan in this range)
posted by unexpected to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Park Slope in Brooklyn is very nice, and should be only a 20-30 minute commute to downtown Manhattan if you choose the right subway line to live next to. I don't know whether or not there's a good selection of 1BRs, though--I had roommates when I was there.

P.S. Is it possible to get a better description of the workplace location, like maybe a pair of cross-streets? Knowing which subway lines are feasible will make a huge difference.
posted by equalpants at 4:05 PM on December 26, 2006

It's not impossible to find a place in Manhattan for that price if you want to, but your choices are limited. For example, Yorkville, which is the Upper East Side in the 70s and 80s east of Third Ave. or thereabouts, has plenty of places for about $1400-1600. It's not my cup of tea, because it has a high concentration of post-college baseball cap and beer types, but it does have a really nice grocery and you don't have to stay in the nieghborhood. I bet you could find a place in that range in the Columbia University area as well (around 110th St. and Broadway).

A lot of people would suggest Astoria, Queens, where our own jonmc lives. It's convenient to most places in Manhattan, very diverse, lots of young people moving there.

It's going to be hard to find a very dangerous place, as long as she takes the usual precautions. New York is one of the safest cities in the country.

One other tip: I've found the Times listings to be somewhat more useful (closer to the truth) than either Craigslist or the Voice (but the last time I was looking myself was more than four years ago).
posted by lackutrol at 4:13 PM on December 26, 2006

I always recommend that people moving to New York secure a sublet for a month or a few months to get their bearings. There are an overwhelming number of choices for someone brand new to the city and it's better to take a little extra time than be stuck in some place you don't like for a year. Just my thoughts though. Good luck!
posted by bdk3clash at 4:19 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Astoria is a long haul from downtown Manhattan. I'm seconding Park Slope-- safe, nice neighborhood in Brooklyn. I work downtown and have a number of collegues that live out there. If by "downtown" you mean "financial district", living near the 2/3 is your best bet for that neighborhood.
She is planning on seeing the place before she takes it though, right? I would really not recommend taking a place sight-unseen. At the minimum a trusted friend should see it first.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:21 PM on December 26, 2006

I was in the same place five years ago, except I am from TN. Your categorization is a bit broad (for instance, parts of Brooklyn are not safe, and others are well out of your price range, ie Park Slope). Here are some places to explore that I have experience with.

Washington Heights (my hood)- generally anywhere west of Broadway from 168th on up is pretty safe. Columbia Presbyterian is at 168 and lots of med students and professionals have taken over that area. Specifically the area from 178 to 190 west of Ft Washington is very safe and becoming gentrified... but is a nice mix of families, young folk, and is ethnically diverse. The A line will take you straight downtown in about 35 minutes. Great prewar apartments in that price range.

Inwood (northern manhattan)- again west of Broadway is better. Beautiful parks, great buildings, rents in your price range. The A and the 1 lines are convenient

Upper east side in the 70's 80's and 90's. I have friend getting good deals in this neighborhood.

Jersey City- easy commute by PATH train, has a personality of it's own, and good deals can still be had.

Astoria/Long Island City- Have friends in this neighborhood. Safe, incredibly diverse food, and cheap rent. Longer commute, though.

I don't know what your situation is, but it's really hard to find apartment if you aren't in NYC. Don't use the big broker companies that are online, they will rip you off. In my case, I found a short term sublet for a month on Craigslist, and then looked for more permanent digs.

Oh, and the rental process is NYC is a million times more complicated than anywhere I lived in the south. Unless you are renting from an individual, or a mom and pop operation, be prepared to provide tax returns for two to three years, letters of reference from previous landlords, proof of income, and utility bills.
posted by kimdog at 4:25 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

if nyc itself is too expensive to live in, your friend could live in hoboken or downtown jersey city (which is really nice now) and take the path trains into nyc.
posted by rubberkey at 4:26 PM on December 26, 2006


posted by mkultra at 4:40 PM on December 26, 2006

Look North of 110th street on Broadway.
posted by jek at 4:55 PM on December 26, 2006

You can probably find a one bedroom in any neighborhood in brooklyn with the exclusion of Brooklyn Heights or Dumbo. Park slope is not out of your price range. However, the places you find in the nicer areas may offer much less than what you are used to.

Brooklyn obviously will be a better commute than queens if she works downtown.

My tip: your first New York apartment is a throw-away. You won't know where you want to live until you've been all over the city. You're most likely not going to get a great place unless you're prepared to pay a broker and treat it like a second job. Go into this understanding that you may be disappointed at first and hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised instead. Next time you'll know the ropes.

Of course, getting a sublet until you know your way around isn't a bad idea if you don't have a ton of things to move.
posted by miniape at 6:35 PM on December 26, 2006

Avoid Bushwick, no matter what the hipsters say.

Astoria and Long Island City are good bets, but can be a long commute unless you work in midtown.

Williamsburg can be a fine place to live, but be careful when people tell you that a place is in "Williamsburg." To a real estate broker, "Williamsburg" is roughly the area between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Remember that the deeper into Brooklyn you go on the L train, the less likely you are to want to live near that stop.

Manhattan, in general, is pretty safe, as long as you aren't near any of the housing projects on the lower east side or too far above 125th st.

Park Slope is a nice, familyish neighborhood, but it's kinda pricey in places. I've heard that some of the other neighborhoods around Prospect Park are becoming decent places to live, but I can't personally attest to that.

There are nice places to live in Jersey, but then you have to tell people that you live in Jersey.

Greenpoint is a cool neighborhood, and is pretty affordable. Unfortunately, its also inaccessible to most trains.

Oh yeah, and in most neighborhoods (even the really shitty ones) you're probably going to have to pay a broker's fee. Real estate brokers are total scum, and should be strung up by their toenails, beaten with a length of barbed wire, and forced to listen to Modern English's "I'll stop the world and melt with you" on continuous repeat. They'll try to get you to pay 15% of your annual rent as a brokers fee. Try to get them down to 10%. You may have to compromise on 12%, but try not to. Remember, these people are scum and don't deserve your money.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:33 AM on December 27, 2006

Seconding nearly everything that's here. Broker's Fees are a PAIN, but get ready to pony up. I ended up paying out an entire month's rent as a fee, plus security on the place.

That said, they signed the joint over to 3 college graduates with no refrences, no paystubs and no cosigners. So, you know. Check Craigslist. It's obvious advice, but nearly everyone lists there. The advice to sublet for a month or two is fantastic. It'll give your friend a chance to acclimate and figure out where she needs to be.

As to where she should live, well, 1600$ a month is a nice chunk of change. I live just off the Grand Street L stop and I'm paying 483$, but I'm living in the living room of a 2br apartment with 2 other roommates. Depending on the age of your friend, Brooklyn, especially Williamsburg, is a nice area. It can feel a little, uh, seedy as you get towards the warehouses, but it's actually pretty quiet. I've never had a problem and I've been trapsing all of the over place at odd hours. She could probably swing a nice pad over in the Bedford area and that would put her 1 stop from Manhattan on the (Ugh) L Train, with which she will develop a love/hate affair.

Astoria will be a long commute, but the rents are good and the neighborhood is nice, if boring. Too many chains sneaking in for my taste, but it's a little more reliable and safe than other neighborhoods. Park Slope is great if you can afford it.

I guess the bottom line is that if she has the cash, she can move into Manhattan. But why not save the money and add 20 minutes to your daily commute? I actually like the free time in the morning, it's a nice chance to get yourself in order before the 9-5 slog. But, hey. Good luck!
posted by GilloD at 9:06 AM on December 27, 2006


LIC (Long Island City): Very easy hop to Manhattan (like 1 or 3 subway stops, depending) and easy transfers downtown from the east or west sides. The area around Court Square is nice, but quiet. Some spots closer to the East River have views of water and Manhattan.

Lower-East Side / East Village: You might find something in your price range down here. Cons are that her commute might be a bear if she'll work on the west-side (because you can't really walk and the trains don't do east-west down that far). It's safe and fun. People are out at all hours, so that's safer than quiet IMO.

Hell's Kitchen (Westside in the 40's-50's). This is getting pricey too but used to be cheap. I think that there are places under $2k, but I don't know how close to $1500 you can get in a 1 bed or studio. It's quieter than some neighborhoods, and I've never lived there, so...
posted by zpousman at 2:32 PM on December 27, 2006

I don't know if you are still reading this, but if so, be sure to check out Chinatown.

It's fun. It's quiet at night. It's VERY safe. It offers cheap groceries, etc. It's affordbable relative to the rest of the city. And, you'll be able to walk to work.
posted by milarepa at 11:14 AM on January 3, 2007

I'm in Astoria and have clients I have to see all over the city at any given time. From here down to Battery Park area is about 20-25 minutes or so, unless it's late at night (N/W train to the 4/5, easy as pie). The only time it's really "kinda far" is when you've been out and about until 3 or 4 am and just want to get home. A cab ride is about $15-20 usually coming from below 14th St. somewheres. Astoria can be a trifle boring, but I also suppose that's what you're into doing as well. I don't really go out here, but there seems to be a fair amount of bars and such for those so inclined to that sort of scene. There's restaurants of every flavor and Steinway is a mini-shopping district though a bit pale when compared to SoHo/Broadway. I've been here a few years, but pay ~$1200 for a full on one-bedroom with a real kitchen, dining room, backyard, etc. Of course, your results may vary, but I don't think prices have gone up too much.

A little confusing is the LIC/Astoria distinction. From what I understand, LIC is the immediate area right after you cross the 59th St. bridge, if you then jog north and head up along the river you're entering Astoria. Sometimes my mail comes addressed to LIC, sometimes Astoria, and I'm a few stops past the 59th St bridge (aka Queensboro Plaza) stop.

Ultimately it's definitely going to depend on what they're after in NYC. I work a lot and have done the whole "going out" thing, so it's not a big priority for me to be near all the action all the time. All the same, it's not too far away if I get the itch. For some people though, 20 min. is an eternity and they need that immediate access to "the action".

More info than you ever need to know about Astoria

Prior to that I lived in Williamsburg, and my personal opinion was blech! Lots of vinyl siding and overpriced dumps, emperor's new clothes IMO, but some people love it. I'm sure there's gems to be found there, though these days with it's rep of the "new lower east side" . . . On top of that, they're still messing with the main train in and out of W'burg (the L train) and most weekends it seems to be "off" more than "on". That's a pain as you end up taking a bus to another train line, and or taking a cab ride for about $20, depending on destination.

When I first moved to NYC I sublet(ted?) a couple places, one in Spanish Harlem (mostly safe, super boring), and another in Clinton Hill in Brooklyn (extra boring, to/from was a pain). I would agree on the comments about doing this to get your bearings before you're locked into somewhere you don't want to be though.

The little I've seen of Jersey City, it doesn't seem too bad. Has some breathtaking views and is about as close as Astoria or Williamsburg, etc. Then again, it's Jersey. = ]
posted by teemo at 6:14 PM on January 23, 2007

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