New York is diverse: energetic and alive, mixed with small, sleepy towns; geographically flat in some areas, mountainous in others; home to farmlands, and also the most famous concrete jungle in the world; sparse towns next to populated cities. But it is beautiful and rich in culture everywhere you go. If you’re thinking of moving to New York State and looking for advice, there’s a lot to consider.
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Moving to New York
You’ll find moving to New York more or less challenging depending on where you move. Rural or suburban areas present fewer difficulties in regard to moving truck regulations. Most private homes have driveways and parking on suburban streets is permitted—just be courteous of your new neighbors!
Moving to New York City, on the other hand, could bring surprises if you don’t do your research. For example, New York City does not issue moving permits, but parking regulations are stringent. Speak to your building manager before the move to determine if there’s space for a moving truck to park, and what size truck you can reasonably fit. Commercial moving trucks have special restrictions in New York City.
Another tip for moving to New York: If you’re moving large items into a city apartment, find out if the building has a freight elevator—or any elevator at all! If you’re moving to a walk-up and you’re on the fifth or sixth floor, you may opt to pack light. That’s okay, because New York City apartments are small and pricey. Consider holding a big yard sale or posting on Craig’s List before you leave to sell your furniture. Buy pieces to fit your New York City apartment once you arrive.
June is one of the most popular moving times. While this creates challenges scheduling moving trucks or finding an apartment, you’ll have good weather—if it’s not too hot and humid. May is perfect if you don’t have kids to pull out of school, since school ends in mid to late June. Avoid moving during the dog days of August. September, October and November are good months to move, and also make up prime tourist season for New York City.
Since New York is so diverse in regard to climate, population density and average income, it’s imperative that you visit an area, perhaps a few times, before you make the decision to move. Drive around an area, shop in the local stores, and decide if it’s a place you would feel safe and comfortable settling down. Both suburban and city neighborhoods change within blocks, so don’t assume that if one street is nice, the next street over will be suitable, too. Meet your prospective neighbors if possible before making your decision.
Check out our downloadable planners and checklists.
Cities and Metro Areas
Whether you want a moderate-size college town like Syracuse or Binghamton, or you want to see if you’ve got what it takes to make it in Manhattan, you’ll find options moving to New York State. You can choose an apartment, a room, a home, an apartment within a home or even a McMansion (prices are still down, right?). Regardless of your income, you can find somewhere to live within driving distance of the more desirable areas of the state.
Speaking of finding an apartment in Manhattan, here are a few more tips:
- Consider crashing with friends or relatives for a while if you intend to move to one of the more expensive urban areas; housing prices are so high, in part, because real estate is scarce. It could take time to find a suitable home or apartment in your price range.
- Prepare to have a roommate (or three) if you expect to live in New York City with a (somewhat) affordable rent.
- Think about less expensive outlying areas, such as Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Queens, which have nice neighborhoods for less money. But if you’re working in Manhattan, make sure to consider the costs of commuting, which could involve a train from Queens (the Long Island Railroad) or a long subway ride from Brooklyn.
Cost of Living
Wherever you choose to move in New York, it’s one of the more expensive states in which to live, work and play. You can find out specific details about moving to New York, as compared to your current hometown, by using an online cost of living calculator.
From November 2010 to November 2011, the CPI-U (Consumer Price Index-Urban) for the region of New York, Northern New Jersey and Long Island increased by 3.0, representing significant inflation.
If you live in New York, and especially in the metro area, you can expect to pay more for goods like:
- Energy, including gasoline
- Car insurance
As with most states, prices in rural regions will be lower than in urban areas. This difference is especially broad in New York State, since prices are so high in the metro area.
Highways and Public Transport
Two words sum up one of the top reasons for moving to New York: public transportation. This doesn’t hold true in any of the suburbs, where a car is virtually mandatory for a sense of freedom or to hold a job. But if you are moving to New York City, Brooklyn or Queens, the massive (and world-renowned) subway, bus and train system can get you anywhere. And if that’s not working for you, just hail a cab.
Driving a car after moving to New York? The roads aren’t terrible and signs are clear. Avoid rush hour, if at all possible, in the New York metro area. Locals joke that if you don’t leave Long Island to head into the city by 3PM, you might as well wait until 7PM; that’s how long you’ll sit on the Long Island Expressway, the Belt Parkway or at the entrance to one of the many bridges or tunnels that connect the five boroughs of New York with each other and their New Jersey neighbors.
You can drive through many parts of New York without paying tolls. But prepare to carry a wad of cash—or get a well-loaded EZPass—if you want to cross the Verrazzano Bridge from Queens into Manhattan. Insiders know the way to get into and out of the city by car for free—over the 59th Street Bridge or other lesser-known bridges. Surprisingly, traffic isn’t much worse on these thoroughfares.
The New York metro area is home to four easy-to-access airports, including LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airport. Buffalo, Albany, Rochester and Syracuse all have international airports, as well.
As with moving to any state or region, it’s best to move to New York with a job lined up and have your employer cover all (or at least part) of your moving costs. There are certain areas, like New York City or the Bronx, with exceptionally high unemployment rates, and if you don’t already have a job it could be challenging to find one. The exceptions would be in the fields of IT and healthcare, which have good employment prospects across the country. If you don’t have a job lined up, search New York job listings before you move.
There are some industries in which New York City is simply the place to be:
- Publishing and Other Media: Although this is changing with the new self-publishing model, and as print publications are rapidly replaced with websites, New York is still considered the top market for broadcast television and radio.
- Theatre and Music: If you want to make it in theatre, there’s no other place to live than New York City. Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and other venues make New York a top market for performance music, too.
- Advertising: Top agencies still call Madison Ave. home, but telecommuting is making it possible to make a living in advertising or marketing anywhere in the US.
- Investment and Finance: Two words: Wall Street.
- Fashion: While top designers often come from the Left Coast, New York City is the East Coast home for clothing design.
Moving to New York means you’ll get to experience all four seasons. Floridians might like their “shorts all year” lifestyle, but New Yorkers thrive on different wardrobes for different seasons.
Just as the lifestyle and cost of living varies in each region of New York, so does the climate. Western and Central New York have long, cold winters that begin in early November and taper off in late April; Buffalo routinely gets close to eight feet of snow each year. Fall brings gorgeous foliage and a time to appreciate the outdoors. Summers can get hot, but not as hot as the New York City area or even the Midwest.
Lower New York State has more moderate winters, but humidity makes it brutal in the summer. Eighty-five degrees on Long Island or in the city gets a lot more uncomfortable than Arizona’s 110 degrees. If you’re moving to New York from a high altitude or drier climate, think of walking through pea soup and you’ll know what to expect.
Depending on where you’re moving in NY, the quality of education varies. Long Island has some of the best schools (with the high property taxes to pay for it). Across New York, K -12 schools have been recognized nationally for their music programs, arts, athletics, math, science and more.
If you’re looking at higher education, moving to NY has advantages. New York is home to many top colleges for students entering a variety of fields. State schools, which include Cornell University, Binghamton and others, are more affordable to residents than private universities. A number of SUNY schools rank high in the 2011 US News & World Report college rankings. SUNY Geneseo was listed as a Forbes Magazine “Best Buy” College for 2011.
Depending on what area you select when moving to NY, you can get a lot for your tax money. A recent report, summarized in the Poughkeepsie Journal, showed that taxpayers in NYC and surrounding suburbs pay more in taxes but get less in return. On Long Island and in the suburbs of Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties, the discrepancy is huge. Taxpayers paid 27 percent of the state’s total tax bill and got back only 18 percent in programs and services.
New Yorkers pay state sales tax and taxes on many other goods. Some exemptions are available to lower property taxes. Don’t forget to apply for the STAR tax exemption and follow directions carefully. It takes just minutes and can lower your school property taxes by 40 percent or more. If you’re unsure about finding an application or how to apply, ask your real estate agent when you’re moving to New York. Once you apply, you don’t have to re-apply unless your income situation changes or you reach the age of 65, when you’re eligible for a greater discount.
In most areas of New York, collection of garbage and recyclables is included in taxes; unless you live in a multi-family apartment, condo or co-op complex, you won’t have to schedule and pay for garbage collection. Regulations exist and you could face fines for putting trash and recyclables out too early or in the wrong containers.
A trip to the local DMV can be worse than a visit to the dentist or as simple as a trip to the beach. Choosing your day, time and DMV office is key to an easy stop. The New York State DMV offers services such as registering your car or renewing your license by mail or online, which helps reduce lines. Expect to pay a premium for vanity plates. You can also register to vote when you change or renew your driver’s license or register your car.
Don’t forget to file your change of address online with the USPS to make sure you receive mail at your new home, including coupons for local stores. If you’re moving to a suburban area, you’ll be within easy driving distance to all the popular chains and big box stores.