On moving to Brooklyn

Editor’s note: Many visitors are arriving on this post after searching for “Manhattan map” or “New York map.” If that sounds like you, some resources you might want are a subway map or Manhattan bus map. The New York State Tourism site might also be helpful. After you check those out, I hope you’ll come back and spend some time with Newvine Growing!

As I write this, I am surrounded by cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and old newspapers. We are preparing for a move in about two weeks and living in chaos in the meantime.

Manhattan map

Google "New York City map" and you're likely to get an image like this -- Manhattan, with perhaps the hint there there's something else.

We are leaving the city. Not New York. Just Manhattan.

For those of you not well-versed in New York geography, the city of New York is actually made up of five boroughs — Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. But informally, when someone refers to living in “the city,” what they usually mean is Manhattan.

Meanwhile, just across the East River is Brooklyn, which has about 2.5 million residents — about 1 million more than Manhattan. If it were its own city, Wikipedia says it would be the fourth biggest in the country. But since it doesn’t have Broadway shows, Central Park, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree or Ground Zero, you might assume “New York City” and “Manhattan” are interchangeable and not think of the most-populous borough.

Borough populationWhen we moved to New York about three years ago, I felt strongly that if were were moving to New York, I would regret it if we never lived in Manhattan. Though many of my colleagues commute in from the suburbs, I was set on having the city experience.

That’s meant paying an astronomical amount of rent to live in an apartment smaller than where I lived my senior year of college.

Now three years in, we’re looking to make a change. It’s partially driven by finances, but it’s also motivated by a desire to have a different kind of New York experience.

There’s a sense that all the creatives have been priced out of Manhattan by years of booming real estate escalating both rents and purchase prices. Curious? Check out this search for three-bedroom rentals in Manhattan on Craigslist. A three-bedroom would hardly be considered indulgent in much of the country but here, if you learn that someone lives in that much space in Manhattan, you might ask in a whisper whether they got it under rent control in the ’70s or if they’re a trustifarian. It’s not uncommon for a decent one bedroom to go for $3,000 or so in Manhattan, and with bigger apartments more rare, they command premium prices.

Where have the creatives gone? Many of them are in Brooklyn, though now there’s talk that gentrification is pushing some of the pioneers out into Queens. But a story on NPR-affiliate WNYC a while back noted that for the second year in a row, Brooklyn had more winners in an arts grant program than Manhattan, which would seem to say that at least some artists are still there.

We feel that choosing a place to live isn’t just about square footage or the amenities inside the front door. Where you live determines much about your lifestyle. How long is your commute? What kinds of grocery stores and restaurants are nearby? Who are your neighbors? Do you socialize with people nearby or have to travel a long distance to spend time with people you like?

So while we were checking out new apartments, we were also shopping for neighborhoods and lifestyle. We want to unpack our boxes into an improved quality of life, not just a slightly bigger apartment with lower rent.

Have you chosen where you live intentionally? Does your neighborhood suit you well? How about your city or state? If not, would you consider leaving or are you held in place by family, friends or your job?

A previous blog post I wrote on relocation: There’s no place like home

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Categories: home and family, lifestyle

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10 replies

  1. Choosing where you live is a big part of living! It sounds like a good move.

  2. Thanks, all, for your wonderful, thoughtful comments. You excellent Brooklyners — Brooklynites? Brooklyganders? — are a big selling point for our relocation.

    The neighborhood feel and the mellower vibe that you mention are definitely appealing, and Mary Jean, I love your point that it’s not like you have to give up Manhattan — it’s there to enjoy it when you want it, just a 2 train ride away — but then you get to go home again.

    There’s something about the scale — so many fewer skyscrapers, many more buildings just a few stories tall — that seems to lend itself to the front stoop culture Eleanor mentions.

    Just a few days from now, we’ll be there!

  3. Dear! Can’t wait until you’re here.

    Ditto much of what’s been said already. I never lived in Manhattan, so I can’t make that comparison. And of course our selection of where to live was heavily determined by what would be good for kids, also not a concern for you (though I happen to believe neighborhoods that are good for kids are good for everybody). I also don’t commute every day. All that said, I think I can weigh in.

    I love Manhattan. Love love love it. I love going there and don’t get to do it nearly enough. Aimlessly trundling around the streets of Manhattan is one of my favorite things to do on the planet. It’s a singular place.

    Still, I’m never sorry to come back over the bridge to Brooklyn, and I’m not sorry we don’t live in Manhattan. Brooklyn doesn’t have that center-of-the-world sense that Manhattan does, true, but it’s hardly the boondocks either.

    We know our neighbors and are friendly with a good number of them. The street life is bustling. Enough restaurants and cafes to suit me fine. Grocery stores took a little work. The artists’ scene, you know about. There are beaches! (The Midwesterner in me still can’t believe that.) And I love the variety of neighborhoods. Hop on the Q and spend an afternoon walking around Ditmas Park or Flatbush, or hit the Chinese restaurants in Sunset Park, and you’ll feel like you’re in a different city.

    And I also totally feel like I *have* Manhattan. The Broadway shows, the Village bars and clubs, Central Park, the museums, the wonderful mashup that is the Lower East Side? I used to have to get on a PLANE to enjoy those things. A half-hour or 40-minute subway ride? Heaven! And if I feel that way as infrequently as I make it into the city (what we out here call Manhattan), I’m sure you will a lot more, being there every day.

    And hey, you can always stash away your rent savings toward buying a tasty little spot in Tribeca a few years down the road, if Brooklyn doesn’t turn out to be your taste.

    So, welcome to having Marty Markewicz as your borough president. Put the tree-lighting at Grand Army Plaza on your list of Christmas activities. And I’ll meet ya at Sahadi’s.

    Now get back to those boxes.

    MJ

  4. A tale of two Boroughs

    Being raised in Manhattan in the late 70’s early 80’s I would never even think of going into Brooklyn. It’s just the way it was back then.

    Now as a father I wouldn’t consider raising my son in Manhattan and find Brooklyn the better for me now borough.

    There is a sense of community in Brooklyn steeped with history that is flourishing here. Something that the Towers on MANTAN Island have shadowed into extinction in over the years. It really hit home when the third oldest bar in Mnahattan McGlades was turned into a Starbucks. One thing I can say is though cities are man made they are organic. Ever evloving for better or worse. Most of the schools I attended are no more and many of the places I hung out in are gone, Manhattan has lost its grit that was my home. Now Times Square is a roofless shopping mall.

    In Brooklyn I find the community and the pace more in tune with a healthy life. People say hello back while the neighborhoods have real flavor. Once again I have nothing against Manhattan its just not where I am right now. Hopefully over the next twenty years Brooklyn won’t fall victim to becoming the next Manhattan. If by some great misfortune it does, I guess we will always have Queens?

  5. Colleen –

    Brooklyn is gaining a fun and brilliant woman – you!!! So glad you will be here.

    I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn 4 years ago. I love being in a more neighborhood-y, front-stoop culture where folks say hello to each other and often know each other by name. I like being around lots of artists. I like the small parks.

    It has been fun and pretty easy to build community and friendships here.

    Welcome!

  6. Hi Colleen
    We love Fort Greene/Clinton Hill and we chose it only based on the place we found- but are really happy we ended up where we did. We are both artists and find a ton of other artists in Brooklyn too. Everything is just more laid back here and I feel like you actually can find time to do studio visits, meetups in parks and spend time having meaningful conversations.
    So glad you are moving here!

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