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Living in NYC

Stories for Friends. Advice for Strangers.

Category Archives: Moving to NYC

It is a well-accepted practice to save money every month by living above the third floor in a building with no elevator. How much money can you save by renting a walk-up? In our building, a nearly identical apartment one floor below our fifth-floor one bedroom was almost $400 more a month. So it’s worth it. But what are the downsides? Beyond the obvious hassle of walking up and down 4 flights of stairs every day, there are some things I have noticed that no one told me before I moved here.

First, the temperature. We get all of the heat from the apartments below us, no matter the season. That will probably come in handy in the winter. In the rapidly approaching summer, though? I can only imagine how hard our air conditioners will have to work to keep us alive at night. And I cringe at the thought of people who either lack an air conditioner or the finances to run it.

Another downside is that you are often precluded from delivery services that others take for granted. Our laundry service will not deliver to the fifth floor. And they won’t even let you pay them extra like IKEA. I have no problem carrying my own laundry up the stairs. After all, I didn’t have to actually do the laundry. But the option would be nice. Restaurants and grocers are more than willing to deliver to us, which is great. I just tip them extra and give them a commiserating look when they deliver our things, panting and loathing our existence.

Moving up all those flights of stairs is not to be underestimated. You will suffer. Your friends will suffer. My advice: pay someone to suffer for you. It might save your relationships. An old friend helped our neighbor Kurt move in 16 years ago; they haven’t spoken since. That’s a long time to hold a grudge, and I can’t say I blame the guy. Hire movers, and make sure you packed well.

Should you rent a walk-up? If you’re able to walk, absolutely. All in all, we love our place. All of the downsides of uptown are worth it.

If you have any questions, I’m happy to do what I can. Just leave a comment here.

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My wife and I love movies. At this point, I am not even ashamed to say we watch one almost every night. When I got to this city, I looked at the price tag for viewing a film on the big screen. Averaging $13 for an adult, paying for the movies here is no joke. But going to the movies here is like being reborn. Let me tell you why.

The screens are huge and clean. Most of them are DLP, which means there are no blemishes and scratches on the picture associated with a spool of film being used several hundred times. The seats are comfortable, and the theaters don’t smell like vomit. Amber and I went to Times Square to see “Date Night” just before the bomb scare the weekend before last, and our theater had large, memory foam-padded captain’s chairs with leather headrests. I didn’t move an inch the entire hour and half, and I usually writhe around in agony as my tail bone gets more and more sore. IMAX theaters abound, and they are well worth the average of $17 you will pay for the experience. There are other reasons, I’m sure.

We just got a TV at our apartment, and it’s a good thing because I would gladly bankrupt us on decadent cinema experiences in this city.

New York City is cutting lots of jobs (up to 11,000) to close a budget gap of several hundred million dollars. Bloomberg’s blaming Albany, D.C. is blaming Wall Street. Most of those cuts are going to be teachers and firefighters. Thanks to the failed bomb attempt in Times Square last weekend, our police force will not shrink.

So what? Watching all of this go down and talking to Amber as she pursues a teaching career, I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately. Why do we work? What motivates us to do it? And in the end, what’s the point? So you’re thinking, “Really, Chris? You’re going to get philosophical on us?” I know. I can’t help it.

People work for a variety of reasons I guess. But what are they? Satisfaction is a start. Maybe it gives someone satisfaction to pursue a dream. I know Amber has wanted to teach all her life. Or maybe the act of producing something is satisfying. Unfortunately, the production of tangible things in the US is becoming a foreign concept. But we can add value by providing services or by channeling information in a useful way. Money is another one. We work and get paid for it, and this is a necessary exchange, because we live and pay for that. While it’s necessary, I can’t say it’s that much of a motivation for me and for many people I know – but there is the old school that’s still trying to get rich (my problem is, most of the time someone else has to get poorer for you to get richer). Greed is powerful, and I am greedy – I’m just not sure I’m greedy for money. The problem with working for money is that its actual value isn’t determined by what we do, but what we do is given an arbitrary dollar value. This becomes a problem when global economic uncertainty can make the Dow dip 1,000 points in a single day and looming inflation makes me wonder if a $20 bill will be able to buy a sandwich in 10 years.

Where am I? I have a daily activity. It satisfies some of my desires and many of my physical needs. Still, I see people in the city who do not work. Their daily activity is survival, much like that of the developing world, and they live by the generosity of other people and by the accommodations afforded every American citizen, regardless of motivation or ability to work. And their mental and emotional state is largely unrelated to their vocation. When I look at these people, I see some who are happy – happier than most of New York’s workforce. I also see some who are apparently more miserable than anyone I have ever met. In these cases, I find it hard to believe that a steady job and an apartment could do anything for them, anyway. I just went in a circle.

I like my job. I know people who like their jobs. So I’m not talking about going off the reservation here. But I do want to remind myself (and any of you who haven’t thought it through), that work is a small element of a much bigger and more complicated picture. Around the time that jobs start disappearing (albeit slower now than last year), it’s probably a good time to look at what you do and imagine what your life would be like without your vocation. If you live in New York and you work for the city, I would do it sooner than later.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Some friends invited Amber to a Hanson concert (and she went), and Alan and I met up in the east village for a show Wednesday. We went to Webster Hall to see Frightened Rabbit. Last year, they hooked us both at Pitchfork in Chicago. The show was highly anticipated, and I won’t say they disappointed us. One of the openers blew me away. Maps & Atlases is some sort of progessive indie rock band. Call them what you will, they are worth a gander. So take one if you’re so inclined.

Cheers.

My wife and I watched “You’ve Got Mail” a couple of nights ago. Beyond giving me an odd sense of nostalgia for the lost days of AOL (dare I say, a simpler time?), the movie almost made me wish I had found us a place on the Upper West Side. The film casts a warm, amber hue on that side of town, and I have found myself gazing at those apparently greener pastures, just across the park and out of view. We live in the Upper East Side, in a beautiful neighborhood called Lenox Hill. East 76th at 2nd Avenue, to be precise.

Clearly I’m a sucker for movies, and I know that every neighborhood has its ups and downs. So rather than wish our life was like a mid-nineties dramedy, I have decided to look for the some more “ups” on our uptown digs. 

1. The people. Every time I walk to and from the subway, I am surrounded by people that I like. Many of them are old, most are professional, they dress well (but not too well), and they make eye contact with you. People are courteous on the train, and they are not in a hurry. The culture up here is very different from Brooklyn, and it is even distinct from residents downtown.

2. No tourists. I had never visited this neighborhood before I came to preview the apartment. As far as I can see, few people make it up here who don’t have a destination in mind. Given the lack of touristy destinations, we seem to end up with a feeling of community that is uninterrupted by the influx of visitors to the city this spring.

3. Convenience. Everything we need is within walking distance of our apartment. There is a fantastic hardware and houseware store on the corner called Rainbow. Restaurants and cafes line the avenues on either side of us. A park on the East River is only two avenues away, and Central Park is only four.  Bed Bath & Beyond has a huge store ten blocks south of us, and that is particularly handy when you have lots of gift cards from there.

4. Atmosphere. UES is clean, relatively quiet and relaxed. We both feel comfortable walking there at night. I’ll admit I was uncomfortable at times while living in Crown Heights.  

As I think of more, I will post them. Look for some pictures of our neighborhood soon, too.
I hope you are having a wonderful day.

Any time you go to a new place, it is a good idea to make a note of municipal law. Things might be very different where you are going, and breaking the rules often has unexpected consequences. In New York City, there are a few that I have come across that would have been helpful to know before I got here. First, if you are driving here, don’t talk on your cell phone. It’s illegal, and they will pull you over for it. When you are driving, don’t honk your horn, either. It’s illegal, and you will be fined up to $350. Always yield to pedestrians when you are turning. I know it seems like a nobrainer, but they have right of way and will excercise said right to their deaths. So what do you do when you need to park in New York? That’s a question I can’t answer completely; we got a $125 ticket for parking our moving truck in a way I thought was legal. Street parking is supposedly free unless there is a meter, in which case you must strictly adhere to the signs posted in that zone. A quarter should get you 5 or 10 minutes (the meters only take quarters), and the machines often only last for 30 minutes. Look for the large machines that handle an entire block – here you can pay for an extended period of time. Something tricky to look out for is fire hydrants. They are all over the place and often difficult to spot, but parking in front of one is worth actively avoiding. Beware the City of New York. They were allegedly placing dummy hydrants along fifth avenue for a while to boost revenue. Check out these links if you need more information:

http://www.newyorkparkingticket.com/
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/parking/park_tickets_violations.shtml

There is no shortage of parking garages, especially in our neighborhood, so if your vehicle will clear the height of the garage entrance, consider that. When it’s time to move in, though, just find a good spot in the middle of traffic, right in front of your building. It may be illegal, too, but law enforcement will turn a blind eye as long as people can get around you. In  my experience, they will allow this to go on for at least 5 hours. Just remember to keep someone with the truck at all times. My advice is to hire movers.

Oh, and don’t chew gum in Thailand.

My friend Dave just sent me a message. “Hmm…to judge a town on its Thai food or not?”

My answer is ABSOLUTELY! If a town doesn’t have good Thai, it’s probably not worth living there. Honestly think about it and tell me if you can disagree. Gainesville has outstanding Thai food. New York obviously does, too. I will never forget the day we got to Cafetasia in the East Village to find out that their daily special of $5 pad thai and $2 beer was gone.

If you think in terms of Thai, it makes all of the other complicated criteria that we base our decisions on seem trivial. If nothing else, you know you can cope with the less-than-ideal attributes of your city over some delicious dumplings. Well played, Dave. Well played.