Moving to New York City
Get some perspective to all aspects of living in and moving to New York City. This guide will help you prepare for everything The Big Apple throws at you—from its varied employment opportunities to its night life.
The line from the Frank Sinatra song about New York City is as true today as it was when it was written (maybe more so!): “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
If you’re thinking about moving to New York City, it’s important to examine your “why” and to have a strong plan for succeeding.
There are many amazing success stories in every field of people who came here and made it big. Blogger Ben Popken writes about it for the Consumerist and offers some pretty good tips for moving to New York City without going broke and losing your sanity.
For some people, moving to New York represents a challenge, a thrill and a dream-come-true. If this sounds like you, read on for some practical moving advice that can help you prosper in the Big Apple.
Housing: Don’t Try to Wing It (Too Much)
- A careful plan, even if it goes astray, will help you avoid bad areas with high crime or even homelessness. You don’t want to move to New York without some sort of housing lined up, since apartments are hard to come by.If you don’t mind sharing your space, New York offers some affordable options. You can:
- Rent a single room in an apartment building, typically with a community bathroom on your floor that you’ll share with other tenants.
- Find a roommate through Craig’s List or word-of-mouth. The more people in the space, the lower the rent. Just be sure to find the right person, to avoid the potential conflicts that may arise when living with rommates.
- You can sublet an apartment from someone who is going to be away. Sublets can last for up to two years or for as short a time as a few weeks. If you are subletting, make sure it is a legal sublet or you could find yourself evicted. Get it in writing from the landlord (not the subletter) that you have a legal sublet apartment. You’ll find more tips about subletting at MidManhattan.com.
- Using a real estate broker is the easiest way to find an apartment in New York City, but you’ll pay hefty broker fees, usually equal to at least one month’s rent. Average rent for a studio apartment in New York City is more than $3,000; average rent for a one-bedroom is approximately $3,800. Fortunately, there are ways to bypass a real estate agent by using Craig’s List and word-of-mouth. And if you are moving for college, check with the school to find out about affordable housing.
- If you don’t yet have a place to live, join forums for New Yorkers and speak with other New Yorkers before your move. You never know what you might find. Check out more moving tips to find an apartment from the New York City Housing Authority.
Visit the City, Walk the City, Talk to Others
- Take several trips to the city—not as a tourist, but as a local. Shop in the grocery stores. Neighborhoods change suddenly; one block is beautiful and the next is a slum. Walk through the parks at different times of day. Ride the subway, take a cab and absorb the culture. Look into groups and organizations to join because, as big and crowded as it is, New York can get very lonely if you don’t have a support network.
Line up a Job
- With unemployment rates at 8.8 percent as of December 2011 (the highest in the state), it’s important to find a job before moving to New York City. If you don’t have work lined up, be sure to have hefty savings to survive in the interim. As an added bonus to moving with a job already in place, apartment-finding assistance should be part of your relocation package.
Professional Movers Can Help
- New York City movers specialize in navigating the traffic of the city, parking to avoid tickets (permits are not required or provided when moving to Manhattan), and getting all your belongings to your New York City apartment in one piece. They will also know the street-cleaning schedule—you don’t want to schedule a move if one side of the street is blocked! You also want to make sure there are no special events, parades or celebrity visits on moving day, as something like a visit from the President can complicate traffic across the city.
- Ask about Additional Charges
- Most of Manhattan’s bridges and tunnels have tolls that may be added on to your moving quote. Additionally, movers may charge more if you live in a walk-up apartment. Ask about these charges before moving to Manhattan so you don’t incur any surprise costs.
- The easiest and least expensive way to move to New York City is to bring as little as possible. New York City rents are high and space is scarce. There’s a good chance most of your furniture won’t fit in your new space anyway. Limit yourself to the bare essentials, including clothes, a few favorite books, basic cookware and what you may need for your job. Look into shipping anything else you know you’ll need and won’t want to buy, like a mattress or a small dinette set. To fill your new apartment on a budget, check out the NYC Stuff Exchange, a website with information on where you can buy, sell, rent and repair gently used items.
- Adopting a “less is more” attitude will help you achieve true happiness and success when moving to New York City. Be sure to declutter your home before moving day.
Sell Your Car before You Leave
- A parking spot in New York City can cost as much as rent for a one-bedroom apartment elsewhere. Selling your car should be the first step to trimming your belongings. Subways and buses are affordable and easy to use, and you’ll find all the necessities of life within walking distance, too.
Check out our downloadable planners and checklists.
From Battery Park to Harlem, New York is made up of a collection of small neighborhoods within the five boroughs. Some, like Little Italy, span just a few city blocks. Each has its own unique culture. If you are moving to New York City, you’ll have a diverse set of neighborhoods to choose from.
Many neighborhoods are known for the ethnicity of those who settled there, while others are known for the main industry in that area, such as the meatpacking district, the garment district and the financial district, which sits at the southernmost tip of New York City.
Cost of Living
A report in the New York Daily News reported that you need a mid-six-figure salary to qualify as “middle class” in New York.
While the cost of goods and services, including food and entertainment, are higher in New York City, New Yorkers really get hammered on necessities like housing and daycare. The Daily News report said that full-time daycare for one child averaged more than $2,000 per month in 2009.
A Daily News report paints a grim but realistic picture of life as a New Yorker: “Income levels that would enable a very comfortable lifestyle in other locales barely suffice to provide the basics in New York City.”
If you’re going to survive and thrive, rather than simply struggle to eke out an everyday existence like so many New Yorkers, you need to be amazing in your field. Technology and healthcare are two industries where it may be easier to find work, and you’ll earn more in these jobs in New York City than practically anywhere else in the world.
Car insurance and parking are two more areas that can drive up the cost of living in New York City.
But the city is extremely public transportation-friendly, with a subway system that covers all of Manhattan and part of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, an extensive public bus system, and taxi cabs that will pick you up curbside and take you virtually anywhere. A car is an expensive luxury, not a necessity.
If you want to save even more money, you can walk. It’s easy to find your way after moving to New York City because of the grid system of numbered streets, but the numbers vanish when you reach Greenwich Village.
Broadway runs diagonally across all of Midtown until you reach the Upper West Side, and you’ll find tricky spots like Columbus Circle across the city. Lost? Simply duck into a subway station and you’ll find a map.
If you’re new to the city, the fastest, most cost-effective way to travel is with a MetroCard that lets you use the buses and subways. Public transportation doesn’t take cash anymore; you need a Metrocard. You can pay per ride or buy an unlimited MetroCard (a money-saving idea after moving to NYC) for 7 days or 30 days of use. You can refill this card every week or every month. A pay-per-ride card lets you pay for multiple riders by swiping your card multiple times, but an unlimited MetroCard can only be used once every 18 minutes at the same station. If you’re entertaining guests in the city, you might consider treating them to a pay-per-ride card. Find more detailed MetroCard pricing from the MTA.
Subway stations marked with a green ball let you buy a MetroCard inside; stations with a red ball do not have an automated kiosk so you’ll need to have your MetroCard already to ride.
It’s also easy to leave the city using public transportation, but you’ll need a car or cash for a taxi once you reach the suburbs. Penn Station is home to New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad, while Grand Central Station houses Metro-North, which rides to upstate New York and Connecticut.
Leaving the region? The subway has a stop right at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens.
One of the first things you’ll learn when moving to New York City is that there’s never enough time in a day to see all there is to see and do all there is to do. For this reason, getting your hands on the most informative newspapers available will be an important step in staying updated on local headlines.
Here’s a list of the most frequently read newspapers in The Big Apple, as well as a roundup of local TV channels.
The New York Times
In business since 1851, The New York Times is the third most widely read news publication in the country. In its long history, The NYT has become a name synonymous with critical acclaim, having won 108 Pulitzer Prizes.
The The Times covers local and world news, covering politics, business, jobs, arts and entertainment, sports, and events.
Daily publication is approximately 1.5 million, with its Sunday edition reaching more than two million readers.
The Wall Street Journal
Dating back to 1889, The Wall Street Journal focuses on U.S. and world financial news. With a daily readership over 2.1 million, it is the most widely circulated news publication in the country. The Wall Street Journal is published six days a week and is one of the most respected publications in the country.
New York Daily News
Published seven days a week, the roots of the New York Daily News date back to 1919 when a fledgling launch nearly caused it to go under. Today, it is the fourth-largest newspaper in the country, with over 575,000 readers during the week, nearly 475,000 readers on Saturdays, and approximately 660,000 on Sundays. Highly regarded for having no political bias in reporting, the New York Daily Times covers local, national and international news, in addition to sports coverage, business pages, jobs listings, arts and entertainment, and promotion of other citywide events. Its main competition is the New York Post.
New York Post
Considered a conservative-leaning publication, the New York Post is the principal competition of the New York Daily News, reaching similar numbers in terms of circulation. The Post is published seven days a week, with weekday readers numbering over 550,000 and weekend readership falling below 450,000. Founded in 1801, the New York Post is often credited with being the longest continuously running daily paper in the country. Coverage includes local and world news, politics, arts and entertainment, sports, business and jobs.
Gay City News
Gay City News is New York City’s premiere free LGBT periodical. With a growing readership verging on 50,000 with every issue, Gay City News is the most widely circulated and read newspaper for the gay community in the country. Published once per week on Thursday, the paper regularly provides coverage on breaking news and politics impacting the LGBT community of New York City, and is also a respected resource on the city’s arts, entertainment and nightlife scene.
Local TV News Channels
Tune your TV to the following local New York City TV stations for the best local news coverage:
- WABC TV 7 (ABC affiliate)
- WCBS TV 2 (CBS affiliate)
- WNBC TV 4 (NBC affiliate)
- WNYW TV 5 (Fox affiliate)
- WXTV TV 41 (Spanish-language Univision affiliate)
- WNET TV 13 (PBS affiliate)
- WNYE TV 25 (PBS affiliate)
- WLIW TV 21 (PBS affiliate)
If you like the four seasons, you’ll love the weather when you move to New York City. With rare exceptions, the city and surrounding suburbs don’t experience temperature extremes…
You can expect to use your air conditioner in the summer. In July and August, the humidity can be intolerable without AC. (Remember, you are on an island!) Winter temperatures rarely drop below 10 or 20 degrees, with averages closer to 30, but you can expect to need home heating from November into March or April, depending on your personal tolerance for the cold. Don’t forget to walk through Central Park in September and October and appreciate the leaves changing color and temperatures in the 60s or even low 70s. Autumn in New York City is the favorite season of many residents—with good reason!
Because of the high cost of living and lack of space, New York City isn’t an ideal place to raise children, as evidenced by the average family size of 3.32 people…
The average household is just 2.59 people.
However, you do have choices in public, private or charter schools when you move to New York City, and some of the most renowned high schools in the country. The city received a 5-out-of-10 rating for its schools from GreatSchools.org. Amongst the top-rated New York City schools are:
- Beacon High School
- Columbia Secondary School
- East Side Middle School
The top 10 New York City schools, according to GreatSchools.org, are all part of the public education system.
Private schools, even private preschools, often have long waiting lists and are costly. This problem is exacerbated by Manhattan’s mini “baby boom.” Since 2000, the number of children under 5 in the city has grown by 32 percent. If you have children and plan to put them in a private school, begin investigating schools at the same time you begin your home and job search—before moving to New York City.
In order to live in what many think is the greatest city in the world; you need one of the most efficient and expansive city governments in the country…
Recycling & Trash
The NYC Department of Sanitation‘s Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling (BWPRR) is active in reducing NYC waste and encouraging composting and recycling.
New York City has an extensive recycling program, which includes paper and cardboard, cartons (such as milk cartons), plastic containers, glass bottles and jars, metal cans, aluminum foil, household metal (such as metal hangers), and even bulk metal appliances. You’ll find complete details on the Zero Waste website.
Garbage collection is included in your taxes so you don’t have to pay for it separately or hire your own garbage company. Here are a few interesting facts about throwing away garbage after moving to New York City.
- You must place a mattress in a large plastic bag to throw it away, otherwise you can be fined $100.
- Each residential building may place out six “bulk items,” such as furniture, for collection. In addition, each building may place out six recyclable metal bulk items. If the items contain CFC, you must call for special collection.
- To throw out prescription medicine, mix the medicine with used coffee grounds or cat litter, put the mixture in a coffee can or plastic bag, and place it in the garbage.
- If you are throwing away bedding, mattresses or furniture that has bed bugs, put a sign so that no one will take it to use before the sanitation department can collect it.
You can register to vote after moving to New York City in person at a government office or by mail. Voter registration forms are available online, at government offices, at the post office and at public libraries. The NYC Board of Elections compares its file of registered voters with USPS records, so it’s very important to file your change of address with the USPS after moving to New York City.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles offers a number of services online. You may not have to visit a DMV office to change your license after moving to New York City or for any reason in the future. For an added fee, New York offers Enhanced Driver’s Licenses, which permits travel between the US and Canada, Mexico and some countries in the Caribbean without a passport.
Here’s some good financial news about moving to New York City: Beginning January 1, 2012, the state lowered personal income taxes by anywhere from 1/4 to 1 percentage point. You can read about the changes at NY.gov.
New York State and New York City sales tax, along with the “commuter tax” gives New York City a combined tax of 8.78 %. From this percentage comes the tradition of simply doubling the tax to tip wait staff at restaurants.
If you’re buying clothes in New York City, though, you’re in luck. Clothing, footwear and diaper purchases under $55 (per item) are exempt from state or city sales tax until March 31, 2012. At that time, any clothing or footwear item less than $110 will be exempt from tax.