Don’t move to Brooklyn

13 Jul

Before you flip out at the title of this post, let me say this: Every new New Yorker should do what they want upon moving here. Some people are in relationships and don’t crave the bustle of Manhattan like a single person might. Some need more space or simply don’t have a desire to live on this tiny island. That’s more than OK. But if that’s not you — and you’re considering Brooklyn or Queens as a new New Yorker merely because of the expense or a perceived intimidation factor of Manhattan — then get a place on the tiny island!

My logic is as such: You’ve come a long way for this New York dream of yours. Everyone I know who lives outside of Manhattan (and is new to the city) laments the back and forth on some level. They’re on subway for an hour or more every day, the idea that other people can pop home after work to change, and so on, creates a degree of frustration for them. (Not to mention it’s really, really hard to get any of your Manhattan friends to come to Brooklyn.)

Some people will take a morbid joy in telling you there are no afforable places in Manhattan. Especially lately, that is just not true. I have my own room, a decent bathroom and a great neighborhood (Murray Hill) at my doorstep. It’s not a “fabulous” Lena-Dunham-in-Girls apartment, but I keep my things organized and my space clean, and I can afford it. Living within my means feels better than waking up in a sweat worried about how I’ll make rent.

In the end, you have to decide what it’s worth to you. You’ll pay a little more to get a little less — but only in square footage. Manhattan, to my mind, is worth every penny. Daily life is remarkable, convenient, safe, at your fingertips.

**My latest book, The Guide for New New Yorkers, shows newcomers how to survive and thrive in your adopted city, with advice on everything from apartment hunting and salary negotiation to meeting friends and avoiding debt. Want more insight into what it’s like to build a New York life from the ground up? Check out Two Years in New York City, a memoir in snapshots of 20-something New York life, written as they happened.


23 Responses to “Don’t move to Brooklyn”

  1. Lauren @ LifeStyler 07/13 at 2:32 pm #

    As someone who previously lived in Manhattan and now resides in Brooklyn, I think people seriously exaggerate the importance of living in Manhattan.

    I used to live in the East Village, and it takes me less time to get into midtown from Brooklyn than it did when I was on E. 2nd Street. The obvious benefit to living in BK (or any other borough) is the affordability to live alone. I pay now for a one bedroom apartment what I paid for a small rented bedroom in the EV, and my neighborhood has a great nightlife with tons of restaurants, bars and great shopping all within a 3 block radius.

    Furthermore, I think that worrying about the expenses of Manhattan is a totally valid reason for choosing a borough. It’s not smart to pay more than you can afford just so you’ll feel like you’re in a “trendy” area.

    I’m not totally dissing Manhattan, but be smart, and don’t go into debt trying to “live the dream” — unless that dream is homelessness.

    • Kishauna 05/17 at 12:45 pm #

      Hey Lauren! I’m trying to move to New York and I would like to move to Brooklyn, do you have any advice on good neighborhoods?

    • Rose 04/28 at 4:56 pm #

      I completely agree. My husband and I subletted deep in Alphabet City, which is not directly served by any train lines. You need to walk a ways to the F, or to the J/M/Z, to get anywhere. By contrast, I now live on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, and I’m a 6-minute walk from the J, M, Z, and L, not to mention two steps from two express buses that get me to Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO in under half an hour.

      Unfortunately, Brooklyn, N. Brooklyn anyway, is becoming less and less affordable, and in some cases, costs more than Manhattan. You can choose from a couple less-expensive neighborhoods in South Brooklyn, but the tradeoff is a longer commute. If we stay here, we will eventually settle in Queens, because it offers at least a half-dozen neighborhoods that I feel are the perfect compromise: 20 minutes to Manhattan, spacious for less money, family friendly, and vibrant without being co-opted by the indie/artisinal/foodie culture that has jacked up prices in N/ Brooklyn.

      The Upper East Side will also be affordable for quite some time due to the Second Avenue Line construction. It’s up to you as to whether you want to deal with the noise and dust in exchange for lower rent. And, there is always Inwood/Wash. Heights, as well as many parts of the Bronx, and Staten Island. I regularly see listings in Staten Island going for less than our old apartment in the Midwest. Most people under 30 don’t seem to like the idea of living in Queens, let alone the other two boroughs, so I think each person needs to balance different factors and decide what is most important to them.

  2. Jeffrey Wilson 07/13 at 6:16 pm #

    ” Daily life is remarkable, convenient, safe, at your fingertips.”

    The very same thing can be said of Brooklyn. There are several lovely areas where you dont ave to worry about being clubbed over the head at 3am. Only difference is that the Brooklyn apartment is probably more spacious–and you can live alone without 4 people to an apartment!

    I can get to Manhattan in 40 minutes. Not a “go home and change” commute, but not horrible. Express train can shave 10 minutes off. Real friends will make the trip, not the Facebook “friends.”

    I think people drop the ball bigtime in thinking that NYC =manhattan. Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park, BK was named the place to eat in NYC (i think it was the times). You have the cute and varied shops on Atlantic ave. And no park in NYC is as beautiful as Prospect. You walk through, and you actually forget youre in the ciry because no skyscrapers jack up the view 🙂

  3. Brian F. 07/14 at 2:39 pm #

    I agree with every word of your post, Sarah. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same spiel I’ve been laying down on people for years… while living in Brooklyn.

    I lived in Manhattan for one day– the first day I lived in NYC (long story.) Ever since, I’ve been trying to get an apartment there. It’s just ridiculous– why would anyone move to New York City to live in Brooklyn? You work and go out in Manhattan every night… why would you live in another borough? Of course, as Lauren stated, sometimes it’s better to give up that (Far) East Village pad for one in Brooklyn that’s actually more convenient to the subway/work/etc. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying to get back to where the action is.

    I grew up wanting to move to New York and be a part of the cool scene and community here, so maybe that’s just me.

  4. Lauren @ LifeStyler 07/14 at 4:20 pm #

    Understandable. I think the main differentiating factor is whether you are living alone or with roommates.

    If you’ve got roommates, and you’re paying around the same in Manhattan and Brooklyn for a bedroom, then by all means, choose Manhattan.

    When you’re looking for a place solo, there’s such an enormous price difference, that it’s nearly impossible to swing Manhattan prices unless you’re making six figures. The only hood I’ve seen drop in price recently is the UES, and you’re still looking at around 1400 for a tiny studio.

  5. Sarah Protzman 07/14 at 4:36 pm #

    Actually, it’s absolutely possible to live on your own making less than $100K.

    The math: If 50% of your monthly take-home is $2,000 (the average price of a Manhattan studio), you’re taking home about $4K a month, or $60K a year.

    Thus, you can be making under six figures (even after taxes), and if you choose to spend up to 50% on rent, afford your own studio.

  6. Lauren @ LifeStyler 07/14 at 4:45 pm #

    While many people in NY do spend 50% of their take home income on rent, I don’t think it’s a smart idea — at least for the long run. That’s an entire paycheck, and unless you’re incredibly good at budgeting the other paycheck to cover the rest of your living expenses for the month, you’ll be pretty screwed if some unexpected expense comes up at the last minute. It’s also a good way to ensure that you’ll be living paycheck to paycheck for the rest of your life.

    I lived in Manhattan for four years, and it was definitely fun and convenient, but my main pain was that while I was living in the city, I didn’t have any extra money to do anything else besides pay rent. I also loathe having roommates, so being able to afford a one-bedroom while maintaining a social life was of the utmost importance to me.

    • Rose 04/28 at 5:03 pm #

      Agreed, and also: When you get older, you may face the dilemma of layoffs for being too experienced, and thus “too expensive.” I am set to make six figures at each of the jobs I am interviewing for and to ensure my family’s future financial stability, we are going to live as if I’m being paid less than half of that. 40 is not far away, and that’s about the time companies start giving you the side-eye and thinking about trading you in for a younger counterpart. Sad, but true, especially in STEM, which I work in.

      Of course, to each his or her own, etc.

  7. Lauren @ LifeStyler 07/14 at 4:49 pm #

    Another thing to note is that you have to account for are NYC taxes, which are notoriously high. If you’re making 60K and filing single status, you’re most likely only going to be bringing home around $3,230 a month.

    This is a good tool to figure out what your pay is going to be:

  8. Sarah Protzman 07/14 at 5:22 pm #

    Good points. I expect most who read this blog are going to be brand new to the city and have a tiny income — around $30K, which was even more than my first salary when I moved here! — thus won’t be able to afford living alone for a long while. (I still can’t!)

  9. Jocelyn 07/23 at 7:11 pm #

    I love living in Brooklyn! It feels more like a community somehow, more authentic. But I’ve never lived in Manhattan, so I’m probably just saying that since my office is on Broadway and the tour buses are going by constantly. I’m glad to have a wider experience of NYC than just Manhattan, since if I lived on the tiny island I’d probably never come out to Brooklyn except for the token visit to Coney Island. I feel like I have the best of both worlds. But you’re right, Sarah. It’s a pain to drag myself to Manhattan on Saturday nights.

  10. Kristy 05/20 at 2:56 pm #

    So I’m moving to NYC in August to attend NYU Law. I’m married, so built-in roommate, and he’ll be working and I’ll have some student loans. We could spend up to $2000 on rent we figure. The only people we know live in BK and say it’s the way to go, but I’m not sure the commute is worth it.
    Any opinions? Is Manhattan only worth it if I can live really close to school, otherwise the commutes are 6 of one half dozen of the other kind of thing?
    Also my husband is a musician (after hours) and definitely needs a music scene and wants a new band, not sure how much that affects things.
    Any input is appreciated!

  11. Leah 06/20 at 11:57 pm #

    Im planning on moving to NYC after I graduate college next year. Im a photographer and ill be studying under a photographer with a studio in Brooklyn but its not a well paying job. Im hoping to find a serving job at night. I really would like to have my own place with no roommates or should I start trying to find someone to move up with me? Any advice

  12. Toronto to New York City 04/07 at 12:33 pm #

    Hey! After reading your blog, you’ve inspired me to move to new york from toronto. By choice, I’ll be living in Brooklyn. Why? because i absolutely LOVE BROOKLYN! It was hard, expensive, tedious… but I’ve managed to do it. I’m chronicling the move with my blog, just for fun:)

    • New New Yorkers 04/09 at 2:59 pm #

      That’s great! You’ll be so happy to have kept a blog of your experiences, too. Mine became a book!

  13. JadeOrchid 06/16 at 11:56 am #

    In Brooklyn I want to be near the literary and performing arts culture area. I am a drama teacher, dance instructor and writer. What areas of Brooklyn will put me near this, (not Broadway) but Brooklyn arts specifically.

    From DC to Brooklyn

  14. smidbeach (@smidbeach) 03/09 at 6:23 pm #

    I’m in Manhattan and still find excuses to go to Park Slope in Brooklyn, where I spent a heavenly summer. Consider anyplace within a 90 min. subway ride to Manhattan.


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