Thursday, September 27, 2007

Youngins' guide to living well in NYC

Over the weekend, I visited my friend P in Astoria. She is also a mid-20 something, not too far out of college with a decent paying job at an advertising agency. Her boyfriend S works for the NYC offices of one of the four big sports and also pulls in decent pay.

So I was a bit surprised when they admitted to me that they are broke. It was after dinner and we were sitting on the roof of their building, looking at the Manhattan skyline and listening to the N/W cruise by. P and I were talking about past shopping extravaganzas in NYC, the kind of all-day trips that left you exhausted from shopping and hauling shopping bags. S and my boy chatted about LCD HDTVs with HDMI and blah blah the mirrors. And then it just came out - P and S said they were barely breaking even each month. After rent, bills, utilities, and transportation, it barely left enough for groceries and Internet, let alone clothes and sporting events. They were hurting enough to get a roommate for their 1 BR apartment. The roommate was living in a long, pretty wide hallway between the living room and bedroom proper that had been converted. And they sounded miserable about it.

The next day, I was retelling the gist of the story to my friend D, when his friend chimed in that during grad school at NYU he lived with 5 other guys in a 2 BR! They literally had bunk beds in the bedrooms and shared one bathroom. Yuck! But you do what you have to do. When D himself first moved here, he crashed on a sleeper sofa in a friend's studio in Brooklyn. That almost sounds resort-y by comparison.

One of the reasons why I love living here is because everyone wants to live here. The city is so diverse because worldwide people know this is the city that never sleeps. And what better time to live here than in your 20s? You're young and presumably you can afford to make mistakes. The risk and reward levels seem to be about the same.

That being said, you can live or you can live well in New York. Over lunch I asked my coworkers what they thought you needed to live well in New York. Who should live in New York? Who should wait? I used input from my friends to finalize the list.

For 20-somethings, don't move to New York City if....

1. You can't afford it.
No, really, this is a big one. With the current real estate market you need to have at least $7,000 saved assuming you want a studio apartment that rents under $2000/month. Also an extra $1000 is a good cushion to have for post-moving expenses. When I got to New York I realized my old storage solutions wouldn't work. I needed to buy taller shelving units, more wall-mounted shelves and storage-based furniture. I needed to buy storage to keep my food bugger-free and a new kind of trash can. I anticipated some expenses but probably not as much as I should have. Does your unit come with an air conditioner? If not, you'll need to buy that for the summers, etc. If your parents are rolling in it and can help you, super. If not, think long and hard.

2. You are a social butterfly who hates being alone.
Even if you move here with your partner, chances are your schedules will include lots of long hours. Your home time may not overlap. Or if you're here on your own, know that it really takes at least a year to meet people here. You spend the first 6 months wide-eyed taking everything in, the next 6 months figuring out where you fit in and only then are you comfortable enough to make lasting connections. If you know people who live here, don't count on them. It's not a rudeness thing. It's an everyone is really busy trying to make ends meet thing.

If you're afraid to eat alone in public, see a movie alone, or walk around alone, don't move to New York City. You may be miserable.

3. You have public phobias or anxieties or if you are a germaphobe.
I HATE riding the subway and having strangers knock into me, bump me with their bags or step on my feet as they walk by. During rush hour we are literally packed like sardines, with personal space non-existent. On the street, I have taken the attitude of 'get out of my way,' because otherwise people will bump into you left and right with blatant disregard. Oh and you know that doorknob you just used? 500,000 other people used it today and most of them haven't washed their hands at all today.

4. You can't deal with noisy neighbors, thin walls, or music being played after 10 PM.
There's a line of course where no one wants to deal with noise. But if you aren't willing to give in to a lot of gray area you're setting yourself up for disappointment. A friend who lives in Williamsburg gets a hard time for having parties that last past midnight. He uses the roof of his building and likes to play music. As soon as the clock strikes 12 AM, a neighbor opens her window and starts yelling for the party to shut up and go the hell to bed. Once she threw a vase. It crashed to the ground below and hit a car. Unbelievable.

And unless you live in one of the more solidly constructed pre-war buildings, expect to hear your neighbors and their TV. It's probably not on purpose. Walls are just very thin. Also expect to hear sex, arguments, loud phone talkers and phones ringing. Goes with the territory.

5. You're a packrat.
We're sorry but there is no room. A mutual friend's mother has a lovely 1 BR down in Gramercy. It's not small yet everytime I'm in there I feel cramped. Why? Because the apartment is packed to the brim with crap. Bookshelves overflowing onto the floor. Stacks of magazines in corners. Boxes full of paperwork taking up a kitchen table chair. Projects on the couch; clothing on the bed; it's all too much! Listen, I'm a slob sometimes but there is a difference between messy and just having too much shit. If you can't part with it you may not be cut out for 250 sq. foot apartments. Just sayin'.

6. You're indecisive.
Want some time to think about the apartment you just saw? Too bad, it's already gone. Not sure whether to take the local or the express? You'll have to wait for the next trains now. Unsure where to eat dinner? Your friends made up your mind for you. There is no room for waffling in New York City.

7. You're passive aggressive or can't stand up for yourself.
That stuff does not fly in the city. If someone has done you wrong you'd better be able to speak up! Try being passive aggressive and people in this town will walk all over you and then come back to inspect the damage. Basically don't let people take advantage of you.

No comments: