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Moving To NYC From Conneticut

Moving to New York From A Surburban City of Conneticut


I had always dreamed of living in NYC. I had been living in New Haven, Connecticut, for a few years, having grown up in the state my entire life. I had heritage there. My mother’s family were New Yorkers who grew up during the Great Depression, so we visited NYC often. The only other place I lived was in Philadelphia, but that was for college.

As Spring arrived and the antsy hyper feelings of excitement and anticipation for the Summer grew, I was motivated to look for a new job that would allow me to make my big move. After weeks of speaking and interviewing with headhunters, my break finally arrived. I was offered a contract-to-hire position in Midtown, Manhattan, for $50K and took it immediately. I didn’t want to waste any time, and I rationalized the quick decision with the notion that if I didn’t end up liking the job, at least I was in New York. I could look for a new opportunity more easily since I already lived there. 


I Accepted My New Job In NYC


I accepted the job! One of the guys I knew from New Haven also wanted to move to NYC but needed a roommate to afford it. It seemed fate had given us our answer, and we decided to move in together, given my news. We immediately began to scour apartment listings. As our search continued, we incrementally kept lowering our bar and standards as the dream of having a lovely, airy, spacious apartment began to wither. New York was not New Haven, where large apartments and houses were available for moderate budgets. Quickly we realized that places that fit reasonably within our budget either did not exist or flat out looked decrepit. Our move to NYC was clearly going to be challenging, and we would need to adjust our expectations.


  As the search began to push further and further out of the ideal zone, which at the time was central Manhattan between Chelsea and Tribeca, we began to find some luck on the Upper West Side in Morningside Heights, just below Harlem. In 2000 — Brooklyn, FiDi (Financial District), Hells Kitchen, and Harlem had not yet begun to be regentrified. For a couple of young, pale kids from the suburbs, most of those locations were rough and posed a much greater risk, so we avoided them to keep our drama to a minimum. FiDi, on the other hand, simply didn’t have the amount of residential housing it does today. Morningside Heights was an ideal neighborhood because it was already on its way to changing, relatively safe if you didn’t stray too far north past 125th Street. Central Park was not far, and the apartment was close to the Red Line subway 1 and 9 trains. We lost count of how many places we took a look at and missed out on for one reason or another. One apartment was rented out before we got to take a tour of it. For other apartments, our credit wasn’t good enough, we couldn’t come up with the deposit, dates were wrong, the place smelled, weird people were hanging around the building, or we just didn’t like the place. 


 After a couple of months of searching, visiting, and having no luck, we finally found a deal that seemed too good to be true on Clairemont Ave, one block west of Broadway and one block south of 125th Street. It was a first-floor apartment, two bedroom, large living room with the added bonus of a finished basement the entire size of the apartment! It rented for $3,300. This listing was a complete steal for the amount of space! 


My First NYC Lesson


Living in the city was a complete dream for us. Warm Summer nights with the windows open and the sounds of the city, a roomy and comfortable apartment, close to transportation, short 10-15 min walks to Central Park, and some cool new bars and restaurants right around the corner on Broadway. It was a struggle to make ends meet, but we were on top of the world. My first lesson on living in New York City came when I got curious about Harlem and all the cheap stores and restaurants that lie just on the other side of 125th to the north.  


I was hurting for cash and really needed a cheap meal that filled me up, but nothing in the local “safe zone” would be adequate other than some cheap snack-type food at the local corner mini-mart. I decided I would make the trek and check things out. After all, I lived here, and I was technically a New Yorker now, right? I took my regular route as if going to the 125th and Broadway subway station and paused at the foot of the stairs. Being foreign to me, it looked like a demilitarized zone.


Trash was on the streets, shady characters walking in every direction, giving you the side eye, and homeless people asking begging for money. Run-down or dilapidated fast food restaurants like Popeye’s and McDonald’s were also present. The local bodega can also be found, but no grocery stores. It was like a whole other world. I worked up the nerve to start walking north on Broadway, straightening my posture, puffing my chest, and walking as if I knew where I was going.  


It felt as if everyone was watching me when in reality, no one probably cared other than the fact I was the only white kid on the street and clearly out of place/looking nervous. With every new block I crossed, I became increasingly anxious and concerned, like someone might feel scuba diving for the first time, getting farther and farther away from safety. Finally, I turned around to make my way back before something terrible happened. As I approached the subway station on 125th again, a sense of relief started to take over me and also disappointment that I didn’t do anything but walk into the area, so I decided to stop at one of the fast food places by the station. As I looked around, nothing looked inviting, but I settled on McDonald’s because it was the most familiar. When I entered, it felt like all eyes were on me, and the fast food restaurant was filled with all kinds of characters.


  Some people were eating, while others were loitering, arguing, or just horsing around. There seemed to be many people waiting in line to order, and I felt like I kept getting stares as if to say, “What are you doing in here, kid?” I pretended to act like the place was too busy for me to waste my time waiting in line, so I turned around, walked out, and went directly into the mini-mart just one block from my new apartment. That evening I had a fine dining experience in my living room consisting of a Sobe drink, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, and some cheap Voortman cookies.  

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