August 31, 2009

Rental, Sweet Apartment Rental

No, your eyes don't deceive, that is indeed a one-bedroom apartment for $2500 a month. To rent. Which is what most of us do here. Why? First, NYC is a transient city for many so it doesn't make sense to buy if you're only here a year or two. Second, the average home price in Manhattan is $975,000. Third, please see the second reason.
So where do you start when you want to rent an apt in NY? With this:
• What's your budget?
• Do you want roommates?
• How important is location to you? (want to be near the subway, live in city or outside, etc)
Regardless of your situation, start by asking friends if they know of available apartments, people looking for a roommate or if they know of a good broker.
Broker: If you'll live by yourself and your budget allows for a broker contact a brokers office (you pay a fee if you rent one of their listings, usually equal to a month's rent). If you know what area you want to live in walk around and you'll find broker's offices with apartment rental postings in the window. Or look on craigslist under housing > apts/housing > all apartments.
No broker: Not impossible, but harder to find. Start with craigslist, the most popular aparment listing site in NYC. Look under housing > apts/housing. You can filter it by "no-broker fee" apartments, but even some of those are listed by a broker and you'll pay a fee if you rent it.
Roommates: Craigslist is the way to go if your friends don't know of anyone looking for a roommate. Look under housing > rooms/shared.
Location: A general rule of thumb on most pricey to least pricey: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island. Also, usually the closer you are to the subway, the higher the rent.
Paperwork: There's no set rules on what you'll need, but here are guidelines:
Roommate: reference letters and a letter of employment - along with security deposit, first, last month's rent (so monthly rent x 3).
Your own apartment: A letter of employment, pay stubs, W-2, bank statements, a copy of your ID, reference letter from current landlord - and you'll need to pay for a credit check ($50-$100). If it's a broker-listed apartment you'll typically need monthly rent x 4 (first, last, security, broker fee). Ex. if your monthly rent is $1550, have $6200. And many times they'll require that you make 40x the monthly rent so if your monthly rent is $1550 you'll need to make $62,000 a year.

Finally, know that unless you have unlimited funds you'll have to make sacrifices. It can be in size, neighborhood, distance from subway - and many other things you'll discover. You may not have a sink in your bathroom, your shower may be in your kitchen - oh, where there's no oven. You probably won't have a dishwasher or washer/dryer--but what you will have is NYC. And trust me, she's worth every penny.

August 27, 2009

A New Yorker's Fridge

Three bottles of water, seltzer, eggs, a lime, a stick of butter, and some hotdogs. Wow. My fridge is kind of overstocked in NYC terms! Sad, but true - for the fridge, anyway.
NYC is known for it's vast array of cuisines, fusions of cuisines, hyped (and over-hyped) openings of restaurants, lamented closings, food trends and dinner clubs. There are countless NY foodie blogs, food walking tours and enough friends to entice you out to dinner.
So now you see that NYC is all about food. NYC is also all about tiny apartments so we don't usually entertain at home, we meet out. Because first you'd have to have room for a table. Then you'd have to have extra chairs. Then you'd have to convince your friends to travel to your apartment when in the end, everyone is going home in different directions. Much easier to meet at a central locale.
My mom kids me when I call her after work and say i'm going to the grocery store. "To buy a tomato and some butter?" Yep, pretty much. NYers food shop like Europeans. Besides big grocery stores and delis, we're lucky enough to have small, family-run speciality stores (meat store, cheese store, bakery, etc) so we can pick up individual items, on an as-needed basis. Most of us don't have cars so it's easier to make a few small trips a week (if you actually do decide to eat at home) then to load up.
And last, kitchen space, two words that don't belong together here. An apartment I looked at to rent had 4 inches wide x 12 inches deep of counter space. That's it. In the entire kitchen. I told the broker I sometimes cook so that's not an option for me. He said "It's not a problem for most people who see it, they eat out or order in." And this is true, many NYers don't set foot in their kitchen except to throw away delivery containers or fill up a glass of water. I've even heard of people unplugging their fridge and using it as storage space. I wish I was kidding.
Now if you'll excuse me, I must see what I can make with eggs, lime, butter, seltzer, and hotdogs. A delivery call to my favorite Indian restaurant, I would imagine.

August 26, 2009

Uptown, Downtown, North, South, East, West?!

NYC is easy to navigate - once you get the hang of it. Like any other city, it takes time to get comfortable with directions, landmarks, and shortcuts. I carried a big subway map my first 2 years. I missed stops, got off at the wrong stop, walked the wrong direction after getting out of the station. But I learned some tricks that will hopefully help you too:

• Most of the city is based on a grid system, divided into streets and avenues. If you start south and walk north you'll find 1st St., 2rd St., 3rd St., etc. East to west is 1st Avenue, 2nd Avenue, etc. We also have lettered avenues (A, B, C, D) that start east of 1st Avenue.
• Below Houston St. (The Village, Soho, Financial District, Little Italy, Chinatown, Lower East Side) is NOT based on a grid system and has name streets so...take a map.
• Coming out of the subway can be disorienting so a) look for the next street to tell you whether you're going north or south or b) know that the traffic flow of the avenues alternate going uptown and downtown, so if you figure out one avenue (6th Ave. flows uptown) then you know you need to walk with the traffic flow to go uptown/north. From that you'll know that 7th Ave. traffic flows downtown, 8th Ave. uptown, etc.
• Streets are distinguished by "east" and "west," as in "E. 16th St." or "W. 53rd St.," with the dividing line being 5th Ave. So E. 16th St. becomes W. 16th St., west of 5th Ave.
• Also, starting from 5th Ave. are east/west addresses. 5th Ave. to 6th Ave. has "west" addresses 1-100. So 65 W. 58th St. would be between 5th and 6th Ave. Need to get to 325 W. 58th St.? Add 100 for every avenue's between 8th and 9th Ave.

Again, these are things I've learned over time so don't worry if it doesn't all make sense right away. And last, one of my favorite pieces of advice: put away the map, wander around and get lost. Because sometimes the best experiences are the ones you find by accident.

August 25, 2009

Laundry Day. Sigh...

In this picture we see beautiful trees, a building dating back to the late 1800s and a guy carrying his...laundry down 6th Avenue? That is correct.
In NYC you'll find three things on just about every block: a deli, a nail salon, and a laundromat. The last because most old apartment buildings aren't equipped to handle a washer's water pressure so sadly, it's a no-go on the washer. But do people still do it? Sometimes, yes. (Bad people, baaaaaaad.)
But for those who play by the rules, your nearest laundromat becomes your friend. Some people use bags with handles (see photo) others use a big drawstring bag and throw it over their shoulder and others use a push cart. Or, for a little extra money, you can either call a laundromat to pick up or you can drop it off and they'll have it ready for pick up at the end of the day. The key there is 1) making sure everything can go in the dryer and 2) picking it up before they close - easier said than done with busy New York schedules.
Now I'll paint you a picture of laundry day in August: walk down five flights of apartment stairs with 30 lbs of laundry; carry it across an avenue and up a block. Get to the laundromat to find four housekeepers filling up all the washers, grab your 30 lbs, head to the next one, three blocks away. Sit in the unairconditioned room with 15 dryers going and when yours is done, head back to your non-central air apartment and hope the window unit cools your room down fast enough to put away your warm laundry so you can take a nap from all the lugging and the heat. Yeah...laundry day.
This isn't a complaint, it's just the way it is here. There are many things that go on in New York that become "normal," but once you're elsewhere you realize "oh right, hamburgers aren't supposed to cost $15 and laundry's not supposed to be an ordeal."
So if by chance you're lucky enough to have a washer and dryer, please cherish them. Say thanks for being so convenient. And give them a little hug - for me, and the rest of laundry-slinging NYC.

August 24, 2009

Brunch. Lunch? No, Brunch.

Me: So, I'll meet you guys for brunch.
Gemma (visiting from London): Um, okay so...see you at lunch.
Me: Oh, did you want to meet on Friday for lunch instead of Saturday for brunch?
Gemma: No, Saturday works. Wait...what's "brunch?"

Ah yes, brunch: the marriage of breakfast and lunch. That magical time when it's perfectly acceptable to consume three Bloody Marys at 2pm while catching up with friends. Oh right, and there's food. Lots of fantastic food. Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, pancakes, muffins, bacon, sausage... Why oh why can't it be the brunch-friendly weekend right now instead of stinky 'ol regular menu Monday?!
Yes, brunch gets a special menu and it only comes out on the weekends. And bonus, no one is hovering over you, with the usual "are you DONE" look, waiting to seat the next guests. I do believe that brunch and flea markets are the only occasions that NYers function at a leisurely pace. (Just remember to tip well if you're on a three-hour, all-you-can-drink mimosa spree as you are keeping the waitstaff from other tips.)

Things to know:
--Many restaurants serve brunch, but not all. Google "brunch NYC yelp" or "brunch NYC chowhound" to start
--The most popular brunch time is 1pm-3pm, oftentimes expect an hour or more wait
--Brunch can range from $10-$75, depending on where you go

So the next time you're visiting NYC with friends ask if they want to "do brunch." They may be confused at first, but it's nothing a few Bloody Mary won't help clear up.

August 21, 2009

Subway Etiquette

In yesterday's post you learned the basics of navigating the New York subway system. Now you'll learn how to make the ride more enjoyable for you - and others. The MTA provides a set of written rules (posted at stations), I'll provide a set of unwritten rules.

In the station:
• Have your Metrocard ready when you get to the turnstile so as not to slow down others
• If you're lost ask for help, NYers don't mind
• Don't stand too close to the platform's edge while waiting for the train

On the train:
• Don't stand in front of the the doors. Let passengers off first, then board the train
• Hold onto something. A pole, the railing above, your sister
• Don't stare. NYers are suspicious by nature so glance around, but don't stare
• Don't talk loud/be obnoxious. Remember that it's a public train, not your car

Getting off the train:
• Step lively, keep moving. This also applies at the top of stairs and station exits
• If in a group, walk up the stairs single file so that those entering can get through

It may seem like a lot, but really it's just common sense. New York is a crowded, bustling city so if you remember to keep moving and be aware of those around you you'll be fine. (Letting go of the pole and exiting this post lively...)

August 20, 2009

A,B,C,1,2,3: Subway Fun

Although the best way to see New York is via your feet, you're never far from your destination with the elaborate 22-line subway system, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's fairly easy to navigate, but here's some insider info to help:

1) We call subways "trains" (1 train, A train).
2) Train lines: There are number lines (1,2,3) and letter lines (A,B,C), each has it's own color.
3) Local/express: There are local trains (make all stops) and express trains (stop at certain stations, allows you to transfer to a local). For example, the A/C/E run along the same line (it's blue on the map). The A is express, the C and E are local.
4) Uptown/downtown: Subway lines generally run north and south, but stations are labeled "uptown" or "downtown." If you're at 68th St. and you want to go to 14th St. you take a "downtown" train because you're traveling south - or downtown.
5) Metrocard: the card you'll need to swipe at the turnstile to ride the train. Purchase one from the agent or vending machine at the subway station. The kind you'll need depends on how often you'll be riding. There are one-time, daily and unlimited use cards.

Now you have the tools to navigate the NYC subway system. So when someone says, "Take the uptown A to 14th St, then transfer to the C local," you'll know what they're talking about. Right?
6) (nods head) Right!

August 19, 2009

NYC = Five Boroughs. (Five...what?)

New York City role call: Brooklyn! Queens! (The) Bronx! Staten Island! Manhattan! Yep, the gang's all here.
Here's how it works: 8.2 million people live in New York City, but not all on the 22 sq. mile island of Manhattan. Instead, the population is spread out over "boroughs" (or counties), created in 1898, each with its own elected president. But no matter what borough you live in, you reserve the right to call yourself a New Yorker.
Now for fun insider info: we call Manhattan "the city." So if you're in Brooklyn and a friend asks "do you want to go to the city?" they mean Manhattan. However, if you're addressing a letter to someone in Manhattan you write "New York, NY," not Manhattan, NY.
And last, we call Bronx, NY "The Bronx." It's named after Jonas Bronck, the first recorded European settler in that area (1639). He acquired a bunch of land, but besides him and his family there wasn't much around, so the only reason people would go was to visit "The Broncks."
So there you have it. Five boroughs, one city, endless history.

August 18, 2009

The Corner Deli

Me: I'm going to the deli to get cash.
Mom (in Texas): Why would you go to a national sandwich chain instead of a bank?
Me: No, not like Jason's Deli. It's like...a tiny grocery store, with an ATM machine.

Need cash? Go to the deli. Need laundry detergent? Deli. Need a six-pack of Sam Adams Summer Ale, turkey and swiss on a toasted onion bagel, and some cat food for Mr. Mittens? Right you are: the deli.

There are seemingly thousands of delis in New York (eight of them are within a few blocks of my apartment). Not all are on the corner, but a good portion are. You're never far from a deli, but the best ones are your local ones, whether near work or home. They're run by the same three or four friendly faces and oftentimes they know what you want when you walk in. "Coffee, two sugars?" Yes, please. "We got a new flavor of Doritos in." Sigh...they know my weakness.

So the next time you're wandering around New York and need a cold bottle of water and a pack of gum, you know where to go. Just beware, they may try and tempt you with a new flavor of Doritos. (Yes, please!)

August 17, 2009

NYC Breakfast: Egg on a Roll?

Day two in New York: Breakfast. In Texas we have breakfast tacos. Figuring that wasn't happening here I asked a hotel employee what people do for breakfast. He said, "Go to a deli." A what? The only deli we had back home was Jason's Deli (a sandwich chain) and that was just for lunch. So I found a deli. I stood in line and listened as people ordered "egg on a roll," "egg and cheese on a roll," "bacon, egg and cheese on a roll." Like...a fluffy, buttered dinner roll that we use down south to sop up gravy? Why would you put an egg on that?!
Turns out it's a kaiser roll. Ooooooh.
Also popular for breakfast here are bagels (with or without cream cheese or butter), pastries and donuts. Oh, and coffee. Lots and lots and loooots of coffee.
So I've come to realize this:
Hyperactive people + oodles of coffee - breakfast tacos + egg on a roll = a New Yorker.
Good morning!

August 16, 2009

If I Can Make it Here...

June 29, 2000: three suitcases, no apartment, no job, didn't know anyone. That's how I moved to New York.
I booked a room at the Chelsea Lodge (pictured above, but sadly, now closed) for nine days where I used my a/c window unit as a refrigerator, balked at the price of canned tuna at the grocery store, and shared one toilet with eight other hotel guests. I was off to a memorable start.
My move was made easier with a savings and a list of friends of friends to contact. I found a job and two couch stays (until I found an apartment share for August 1) through that list. Since then I've spent nine years telling non-NYC friends and family stories of life here to which the response is usually "No! Really?!" Yes. Really.
So whether you're thinking about moving, visiting or you're just browsing, this blog will give you insight into what 'Ol Blue Eyes meant when he said, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." (Exiting this post with high kicks...Neeeeeeew Yooooooooooork...)