Thinking of making a move to NYC...

sebsmom's picture

So, NYC Mamas, talk to me - what are the good, relatively inexpensive areas to live (preferably within one of the outer boroughs)? What are some of the best and worst things about living in the city with little ones?
I lived in the Bronx for a few years in the late 90s-early 2000s so I am familiar with the city to a degree but have been away for a while (since '02). And I certainly have no clue what it would be like to live in NYC as a single, working mom. Still, I have basically decided that I want to move there and as soon as possible (like, as soon as I can find a job and a place to live). I HATE living in Boston - always have. I moved back here after college because I thought maybe my aversion for the area was based on my experiences in childhood living in my parents house - I wanted to see what it was like as an adult on my own. I realized pretty quickly that this is not where I want to be. But in truly cliche fashion, I met BD within my first month back here and the rest is history.
For the longest time I had my sights set on L.A. The original plan was to make a sort of pit stop in Boston before heading out there. And I thought it was perfect because BD always said it was where he wanted to go too. But it never happened. I let myself get totally absorbed by BD and with all his issues focusing on anything as big as a cross-country move was next to impossible (which I've only really realized in retrospect). Even when I got pregnant and had Sebastian L.A. was the long term goal. To the point that I basically had tunnel-vision of that as my desired destination.
But lately the more I've thought about it the more that kind of move scares me. I have never been to L.A. The farthest west I've even travelled has probably been Pennsylvania. I don't know anyone out there so either I would move WITH BD and be forced into a scenario where he is the only person I know (and as evidenced by the resent thread on introversion meeting people is definitely not my strong suit) or go on my own and know no one. Not only would I not have friends to hang with - but no one at all to turn to in an emerency, etc. I'd have to save up several thousands of dollars just to make the move and it is fully possible that I would hate it but then I'd basically be fucked until I could pool enough resources to get my shit together and move again. Doing all that with a 3-year-old is not something that I want. I know people do that kind of thing successfully all the time but I strongly feel it's not the right move for me.
I've been planning a trip to visit friends in NYC and have been super excited about it. Then it just hit me- I could move there. I had my personal ups and downs when I was living there back in the day but I always LOVED being in New York. And I know that I was such a better version of myself when I was there. I'm sure part of it was being in school but part of it was just being THERE in particular. I've got good friends there so a support system to start with- it's relatively close so I can visit family easily and often. I've lived there before and know I like it. It makes sense. I can't believe I haven't even considered it. I've only been considering it for a few days really but my entire mood has changed dramatically in that time. I'm hopefull. I'm excited. I'm motivated... for the first time in as long as I can remember. I mean, I don't want to make it sound like making this move will be some magical cure-all for my problems - I'm not delusional - but it's what I want.
So yeah... any perspectives from mamas living in New York City or who have lived there in the past - I'd love to hear anything you want to share about your experiences: advice, encouragement... whatever.
Thanks! :)


quadriviis's picture
Submitted by quadriviis on

I don't live anywhere near NYC so can't offer anything in that regard, but something you said struck me: "I was such a better version of myself when I was there." [...huge sigh...] That is quite lovely, something I often contemplate in my seemingly constant struggle to get where I want to be. I haven't been able to pinpoint exactly where "there" is, and I'm not sure why I keep that better version of myself out there in the future at some other location...but I sure enjoy looking at craigs*list housing ads in some of my preferred locales!

Good luck to you, cheers to getting there!

yoginisinglemama's picture

I have two girlfriends with new babies who live in Brooklyn. Don't know neighborhoods sorry. Well actually I do, one is in Williamsburg - that is hipster town I guess. When I visited last summer I was stunned by all the adorable young couples walking around with babies strapped to their chests in baby carriers. My girlfriend, then not even pregnant, said, "this is where people in the city come to have babies". It's cheaper and you get more apartment space. I personally wouldn't do it. It's still so expensive and you still don't get enough space. Now I have another girlfriend who lives in Manhattan and in a studio apartment no bigger than my very small living room. She her husband and her four year old have lived there since before she got preganant and they have gotten "used to it" but she is visiting her parents down South as much as possible because they are on top of each other in the city. Her husband is obsessed with living in the city so they'll probably stick it out forever. Also, she pays 16k for one year of preschool. No thank you.

If you do it it will be good to have family not too far away. I would recommend saving as much money as possible to have for your safety net once you get there if you were to lose your (soon to be) job in this economy.

suzbean's picture
Submitted by suzbean on

I live in brooklyn. There are a few things to consider here.

Do you have a great job that pays you truck loads of money?

If the answer is yes, NYC is easy.

The Bronx does have some good low rent and if you can find a nice building with some urban homesteaders in it, awesome! Schools? Not sure about that part...

Brooklyn is best with a housemate to help with $$. PSPSingleparent yahoo group sometimes has other single mamas looking to co-house.

Are you homeschooling?

If the answer is yes, welcome!

The schools are mediocre at best and abhorrent often. Unless you live in a good zone which varies. I have taught in both kinds...

The Kennsington area is getting pricey but has a school, P.S. 230, that is good.

I could go on but i have to go to work! Feel free to ask questions or Message me.

Emile's picture
Submitted by Emile on

Where in NYC do your friends live? You will probably need to be near them to get the benefit of their support, especially in terms of the unexpected "Can you please stay with with Seb for 1 hour while I go do X" kind of situation. I live in Queens, but all my NYC friends are in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and frankly that sucks. It takes on hour on the subway to visit most of them. If you think you might be interested in Queens, I can write more about it, but most people aren't, so I won't bother unless you ask!

sebsmom's picture
Submitted by sebsmom on

I'm interested in all the outer borroughs so bring on the info about queens! :) The only area in Manhattan I would consider is East Harlem because I've got a couple of friends who live there and rent is semi-affordable (relatively speaking). I like the idea of Brooklyn but none of my close pals live down there so you make a good point in that regard. I used to live in the Bronx so I'm very familiar with pain-in-the ass distances involved in getting to things and people in other borroughs.

sebsmom's picture
Submitted by sebsmom on

I make a decent living. Nothing I would clarify as tons of money but I've been looking on craigslist and I've seen some 2br apartments listed in Brooklyn for only $100 more than what I pay in rent now with heat & hw included which I do not have currently in which case it ends up being less expensive. Should I be wary of those as too good to be true? The last time I lived in NY was in '02 when I shared a 3br apartment with a total rent of $1150. I had a huge room and was only paying $384/month. I know I need to consider inflation and I wouldn't expect rents in Brooklyn to be as cheap as the Bronx but still...
I don't homeschool - can't. The school thing is one of my biggest concerns. I'm trying to research but there are SO MANY public schools in NYC and the ratings/opinions on various websites are SO varied in their determination of the "best" schools that it kind of makes my head spin. That said, I grew up in an area where public eductaion was considered "mediocre at best" by most people. While I certainly have BIG problems with some of the ways the school system is run, academically I think I received an education that holds up pretty darn well in comparison with people from other areas and those from private schools in the same area. I actually attended a private school my freshman year of high school that you had to test to get into and was supposedly superior to the publich high school - not only did I BREEZE through that school year like never before with all A's and almost no work but I felt far less challenged and found there were far less resources available than what I was used to from the "mediocre" public school system.
Of course I'm going to be concerned about any claims that a school or school system is sub-par but I think that the general consensus is not always accurate. Although as a teacher your opinion is probably more informed. Can you say a little more about what some of the biggest problems are within the public schools in general?

sebsmom's picture
Submitted by sebsmom on

Well... I'm coming from the Boston area which, the last time I checked, has the second highest rents in the country (first being San Francisco). I don't think New York City is third but of course that's all 5 borroughs of NYC and not just what people tend to mean when they refer to "the City" which is, of course, Manhattan. So yes, there are some pretty low rents in places like the Bronx, Staten Island, etc. that definitely bring down the average rent for NYC but the rents in Manhattan, especially certain parts of Manhattan, are so ridiculously HIGH that I think it all balances out. Meaning that while rents in Brooklyn sound exorbitant to some, they're actually around what I'm used to seeing. You'd probably never believe what I pay in rent - I'm willing to bet it's even higher, with around the same amount of space, than what your Brooklyn friends pay without the benefit of being IN NEW YORK CITY! And as far as I'm concerned there is no comparison between New York and Boston - coming from a lifelong Bostonian. My friends who are baseball fans would probably crucify me for saying that but it's true (speaking strictly of the cities themselves and not thier respective sports teams which I really couldn't care less about).
Also, my son goes to a private family daycare - one of the cheapest ones around, by far - and I pay around $11K per year with nothing like gov't vouchers or anything. It sucks.

Emile's picture
Submitted by Emile on

Well Queens is huge, so it's hard to generalize. There's Astoria, where there are lots of new condos being put up, which is just a short 1 stop train ride to Manhattan. There are lots of vibrant immigrant communities, like Flushing (Asian), Corona (Spanish speaking), Jackson Heights (Indian). There are lots of neighborhoods in the Eastern part that are culturally Long Island/suburban. In general, unless you live right by a train stop and mostly plan on traveling to Manhattan I'd say that after Staten Island, it's the borough in which you are most likely to use a car to get around (and where you're more likely to be able to find a spot to park). My own neighborhood, Ridgewood, is OK -- no more and no less. It's safe, and relatively quiet, we're near a nice big playground with lots of trees and a gorgeous view of Manhattan. We can walk to get all of our basic necessities. Our zoned school is decent. We pay $1100 for a two bedroom (railroad layout) apt. in a private house. What I don't like is that in the middle of the city I feel very isolated -- the immigrant groups (around here mostly Eastern European) are very close knit, and the people who've been here a generation or more tend to be Archie Bunker-ish. If I want to take a yoga class, I'm not going to find it locally. I'm sure there are lots of amazing socially-progressive people all around me, but so far I haven't figured out how to find them -- and we're been here 15 years (holy shit), although until 6 years ago when I had my first son, all my focus and interests were in Manhattan, and Ridgewood was just were I kept my stuff and came home to sleep.
For researching schools in NYC, I trust this site the most:
Oh, and if you come to NY, can we be friends? :)

huffifer's picture
Submitted by huffifer on

another queens mama extoling its virtues-- I am in western queens, and while it's getting pricier there's still affordable and nice housing to be found in astoria/jh/LIC/sunnyside/woodside.