Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nothing can prepare you

I took a mental break from moving to grab drinks with the girls only to find out that all they wanted to talk about was the move. The most common question I've gotten over the past couple of weeks is 'What will you do with all that spare time?'. Fair question. I'll gain about 2 hours of not having to commute anymore.

My answer: explore. I grew up in the tri-state area and have stayed in the city for extended periods of time before, but it's not the same as living here. I still enjoy doing the touristy things like staring up at the sky to see the tips of skyscrapers (though unlike tourists I do this from the side, not in the middle of the sidewalk). I don't mind paying to take the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty, dropping $17 to go to the Top of the Rock or the top of the Empire State Building, or unseemly amounts to ride in a taxi. It's all part of the experience.

Once I move down here it will be a kick to get to know the neighborhoods. Right now I know Gramercy very well since I work nearby and chill there a lot. I'm looking forward to learning about Lenox Hill - a neighborhood few seem to have heard of - and the UES in general.

When I was narrowing down my neighborhoods/blocks to search in, I considered the following:
- proximity to a subway line, preferably a line by work
- or a place within walking distance of work
- are there groceries nearby?
- is there shopping nearby?
- is there a park nearby?
- what kind of culture (museums, etc.) are nearby?
- are my friends close by?
- is the neighborhood safe? (in NYC these days, pretty much all of Manhattan is very safe)
- am I comfortable walking alone at night?
- will I like it there?

Since I couldn't possibly walk all of Manhattan's neighborhoods in their entirety, I supplemented my search online. I found some help from the usual suspects as well as a few hidden nuggets.

- Halstead Properties neighborhood map: their properties were way out of my range, but their site was very helpful. Each neighborhood gets a summary graph and they've broken out groceries, banks, etc. nearby. Take it with a grain of salt though - the Wachovia at 73rd in proximity of Gramercy? Not so much.

- New York Magazine's neighborhood map: This page takes awhile to load but it's worth it. Each neighborhood has an outlook, places to hit, and apartment data. The data is sometimes outdated (studios for $1000 in 2003 - depressing). I highly recommend this whole site as an excellent resource to find restaurants, shopping, etc. with a bit of snark for visitors or perspective residents.

- New York Times real estate section: The 'Living In' stories are nice informational anecdotes about many NYC areas. Look up a specific neighborhood and you can read topical stories (subscription sometimes required). The rent classifieds are also less likely to be populated by scams, though the downside is there are far fewer ads here than on Craigslist.

Those three proved valuable for me, and are great for people who've never been to the city but want to live here. Nothing beats walking around if you can swing it. With the apartment market the way it is it's impossible to see what the place is like morning, noon and night, but if you know the area you want to live in you can hit it at different times.

I have a friend who lives in Chelsea - high 20's between 7th and 8th Ave. During the day it's pretty quiet. There are shoppers who walk by her building but the residents are all pretty much at work. At night, totally different story. Loud until all hours. She wishes she knew that beforehand and will move when her lease is up. You never know what you're going to get unless you do a lot of walkbys.

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