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Living in NYC

Stories for Friends. Advice for Strangers.

I have recently spent some time across the East River, more so than normal, and it has me thinking about Brooklyn. What a fantastic place, composed of many diverse neighborhoods and microcosms of society. There are few places in the world that compare to that borough.
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For the first 5 months of my adventure in New York City, I lived in Prospect Heights. It’s really one of those little neighborhoods the real estate industry made up. Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant (part of New York’s most dangerous precinct) meet Park Slope, one of Brooklyn’s most charming (and expensive) neighborhoods. That intersection has transformed over time, and as Park Slope became a yuppie-turned-parent safe haven, Prospect Heights became an inexpensive, hip neighborhood with its own name. Named in part after the gorgeous park on its southern border, the neighborhood has unfortunately become expensive like Park Slope.

My friends Alan and Dan lived on Dean Street just east of Bedford Avenue. When I came to New York on January 1, 2010, I took up residency on their floor. Eventually Dan moved out, and it was just me and Alan (No, not Alan and I).

Helping Alan move out of that tiny apartment is what makes me think of those cherished months living there. It was not safe. It still isn’t safe. But I think back to times when I felt more alive than I ever had before just walking home late at night. As we carried boxes down the stairs, Alan and I recounted moments of terror when we fell asleep on the train (independently) and woke up at Far Rockaway (near JFK airport) at 4 a.m. Move to New York – it will happen to you. There were days when I would go up to see my friends Scott and Lena in the Upper West Side at Columbia University – traveling home by subway on the late night or weekend schedule meant 2 hours underground. There were timid trips from our stop on the A-C (Nostrand) to our place that felt like an eternity. I’ll never forget one night I passed a couple of guys around 2am. They just watched me and talked to each other in hushed tones. Later that week, I read a crime report in our district that detailed a rash of serial muggings. Those men matched the description perfectly, and the perpetrators acted in the range of 1 to 4 a.m.

Even if I didn’t always feel safe out there, I always felt alive. I firmly believe that we afford ourselves way too much comfort – Brooklyn helped me step out of my comfort zone in many respects. And for that I will always be grateful.

If you aren’t interested in stretching yourself in that way, there are still plenty of places to consider. Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope are great if you can afford them. You will spend just as much there as you will in many neighborhoods in Manhattan. On a budget, you can check out Bay Ridge. It’s a jaunt, for sure, but apparently a vibrant, safe area. Finding a place in New York is all about compromise. What do you want? What can you afford? Make a list, and figure out where you can get those things on your list in your budget. You won’t win them all, but there is something for everyone in a borough this big.

For the true budgeteer, you should probably start out in Queens (I recommend Astoria or Long Island City). But I’ll save that for another post. Or I’ll just ignore it entirely.


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