Moving Around New York City

Moving Around New York City

Honey, sit down and let me tell you the story of my life. Or more specifically, the story of all my NYC moves, and the gray hairs I have earned over them.

As anyone who knows anything about New York City knows, apartment shopping here is no joke. What is the opposite of a joke… maybe a funeral? If so, apartment shopping here is a funeral. Besides the small fact that everything costs as much each month as your great-grandparents whole house cost to buy, there’s also the element of everything moving so, so fast. If you find something you want, you have to sign your life away for it that very day, because if you don’t, somebody else will probably get it. And even if you do find a “reasonably priced” place, and even if you do apply as fast as humanly possible, most likely five or thirty other people have also applied, and some of them are definitely more qualified renters than you are. I would rather have a month of acid reflux than have to find an apartment here.

Still, I’ve done it three times, with a fourth time looming on the horizon as I approach committing matrimony. Alas, much as I love my current place, it is too small for two people such as Ian and me, and much too far from his work, so once again, we are searching Zillow and for the perfect spot. But let me tell you about the first three…


When I first got the job offer in Queens, I of course scoured apartments as hard as I could, but I couldn’t really rent anything without seeing it first, so I bookmarked a few spots, and rented an Airbnb for the first three weeks of my stay here. A windowless room with a shared bathroom and kitchen, which was pretty depressing after the first week, but it was a place to sleep while I made my rounds and looked at spots. Living alone was out of the question financially, and a roommate is such a unique kind of relationship; it’s a scary thing to find on the internet. Fortunately, Redeemer Presbyterian Church has a classified section on their website where they list wanted ads, and I reached out to several promising situations. My logic was, if my roommate is going to be a psychopath and watch me while I sleep, maybe the ones from the Redeemer website would at least be Christian psychopaths and be praying over me or something.

I viewed a couple places, and ended up being won over by the very cheap (relatively) rent and safe neighborhood in Elmhurst, Queens. Only $600 a month for a tiny room that would fit my tiny bed and my not-tiny bookshelf? Yes please! Never mind that the kitchen looked like the seventies threw up in it, with its brown linoleum and yellow walls and olive green appliances, and that the carpet was so old you literally could not tell its original color. Never mind the bathroom was a horrid yellow with moldy corners, and the stairs were so narrow I had to go sideways past the chair lift. At least my own little room had nice hardwood floors and a little closet and a little window with a tree outside.

I ubered my stuff over from my Airbnb, and spent a few Very Cold Nights on a borrowed air mattress, covered in only the thinnest little fleece blanket and my fur coat and any other articles of clothing that seemed like they would help. If you’ve ever slept on an air mattress without sufficient bedding, you will understand how the mattress just sucks any remaining body heat right out of you, until you feel you might never be warm again. Fortunately, I complained to the internet and my friends sent me a luscious fuzzy blanket, which to this day is my favorite for curling up in. It kept me alive till my parents arrived a few weeks later, hauling most of my belongings up from North Carolina on a truck. There we were, myself and my little Mother and Father, and a whole lot of books and clothes and a bed to haul upstairs, past the irksome chair lift, with nary a soul to help us. I considered pleading with the Mennonite strangers down the street to help, but of course was far too embarrassed. I considered asking a random homeless person to help, hoping they would kindly steal a bunch of my stuff so I would have less to carry. But in the end, my parents and I trekked up and down those narrow stairs ourselves, trip after trip as our legs almost gave out, until my kind (and still a stranger) neighbor came home and promptly offered his assistance and carried all the heaviest things up without complaint. God bless Robert, and God bless my parents. During the move, I laid my phone down on the chair lift as I carried something upstairs, and the tiny little old lady who used it sat on it unawares, completely smashing my (almost new) phone to oblivion. I cannot tell you how grateful I was my parents were there to take me to the nearest Apple store, because I was brand new in the city, and couldn’t have found anything without my phone, not the Apple store, not my job, nothing. And I was even more grateful when the Apple store kindly replaced my whole phone for the price of a new screen.

After we finished hauling my stuff up, we three walked up Queens Boulevard to a little Szechuan place I had found, not an Americanized one, but the kind with delightful cumin-crusted lamb and super-spicy cabbage over white rice, and to this day I think about that wonderful meal. “This is why I moved here!” I thought.

I spent three years there, muttering dark things at the chair lift every time I had to squeeze my laundry past it on my way to the laundromat, and avoiding buying watermelons because they were too heavy to carry home all those blocks and up all those stairs. I loved the spacious living room – a rarity – and the little balcony where I could hang laundry, and the Target just a few blocks away, with a fantastic Asian supermarket which sold things like duck tongues and tendon balls just a few blocks in the other direction. Commercial and niche, the best of both worlds. I loved my proximity to soooo many delicious restaurants of every ethnicity one could want. If I avoided thinking about how hideous the kitchen was, I could make the other corners of the house sort of decent by throwing rugs over the carpet and faithfully watering my many houseplants. Although my roommates came with plenty of quirks (don’t we all), they did not watch me while I slept, and although they fought with each other while I hid in my bedroom, I got along with both of them individually. Workable situation, really.

Just before Covid, the roommate who worked from home and who needed us to be out of the house during work hours moved out, which turned out to be a Godsend since we other two were now stuck in the house day and night. We found another roommate, which ended up to be a dumpster fire of a situation, but eventually everything got sorted out, and the correct people left, and my friend from church ended up moving in. It was the craziest drama of my time here, and I’m pretty sure at least half of my gray hairs are due to that, but God did provide everything, and the new roommate group had a great time together.


After arranging it to my liking. 🙂

Around the end of 2021, I started hankering for a place of my own. Correction: I had always hankered, but hankering and affording do not always come at the same time. But after the rather dire financial straits of the pandemic during which my job got shut down and to this day I don’t know how I afforded living, my situation improved. I started working for my current employer in 2021, and finally had a steady and sufficient paycheck coming in. So when I found this darling solo-apartment listed in Brooklyn, I knew I had to go see it.


I trekked to Crown Heights all by myself to view this apartment, on a lunch break from work. The neighborhood skeeved me out just a little, but I figured maybe I just walked from the wrong direction. The apartment was smack between two train lines, and probably walking toward the southern one would be a little less sketchy, right? The apartment itself, I LOVED. It was airy and sunny and cheerful, with a large bedroom and a large living room and beautiful crown molding and little built-in shelves in the galley kitchen which would be just the thing for my pretty dishes. And it was affordable, just so. I’d have to eat mostly rice and beans, but I would have my own, glorious space, all to myself, with as much alone time as my hermit soul craved. I could host my out-of-town family without worrying about inconveniencing roommates, and I could keep the kitchen exactly as I liked it, and I could be as loud or as quiet as I liked. I am of the opinion that everybody should have roommates at least once during their lives because it’s terribly good for you, but that nobody should have to forever. No matter how much you love them, eventually, you want your own place to make home.

So, without anybody else to ask for a second opinion (I still didn’t have very many connections here, thanks to Covid “ruining our lives and eating all our steaks”), I signed the year lease and set to work, cleaning the place and getting ready to move in. The stairs were so much broader, and I was so relieved at not having to edge past that vexing chair lift anymore. Even the neighborhood, although it felt a little iffy, was gritty and cool and so very Brooklyn. Instead of rows of homely two-family houses, there were tall brick apartment buildings with fire escapes and beautiful pre-war architecture were everywhere. Wide sidewalks, little West Indian grocery stores – it felt not like moving a borough over, but like moving to a completely different city.

My brother Roman and my friend Camille, both of whom are angels, helped me move my stuff once again, packing it into Roman’s van and Camille’s car, trip after trip, and hauling it up to the third floor walkup until we could barely move. I seemed destined to live on third floor walkups, as this was my second in a row. I rued my huge book collection, as I do every time I move, but eventually we got it all inside, and the Lord placed several golden stars in each of their Heavenly crowns, I’m sure. Moving is never just the MOST fun, but when you have to carry everything you own down three floors, out across the street and up the block to the car, then back out of the vehicle, across a broad courtyard, and back up to the third floor, well, you just want to stay in your new place forever and never move again.

I loved that apartment. Boy, did I love it. It was my first time truly living alone, and I had so much fun making everything my own. The apartment had windows in either side, so I got both morning and evening sunshine, and it had so much room for just one little person. Never mind that the shower liked to go from completely cold to scalding hot and back again with no notice. Never mind that I had a hefty walk to the train every day for my commute. I loved that little place. I hosted my first solo dinner party shortly after moving in, which I’d say was a smashing success, since Ian started texting me immediately afterward and has never stopped to this day. I hosted family in my capacious living room, spreading them out on the couch and floor. I fell in love there.

But unfortunately, all was not sunshine. I frequently heard loud cracks outside, which I told myself were rogue fireworks but which definitely were not. The mailroom was constantly being robbed, and packages disappeared regularly. The neighbors right next to me were squatters, I found out through the building group chat, and were prone to disturbances and mischief. I didn’t feel safe going out at night, and my job required me to often come home alone very late at night, and of course I couldn’t afford Ubers because rent alone was stretching my budget a bit.

The real kicker came when people started loitering and passing out in my hallway, and I’d have to walk past strange men stretched out on the floor outside my door, or cautiously climb over them on the stairs. The building group chat was full of complaints and “be careful!”, but nobody had a solution, only kept complaining about how management wouldn’t do anything. Then there was the holiday when I was trying to leave my house, and the stairs were blocked by an aggressive, strung-out man yelling at me, not letting me pass. I fled back to my little haven and double locked the door, and even called the police on him, which only made me scared he’d know it was me and try to retaliate. I spent the whole day inside, avoiding the aggressor, talking to the police when they came, and feeling unsafe.

By this time Ian and I were together, and one night his dad came over to install an AC unit for me (bless him). He saw a stranger passed out right outside my door, and his protectiveness kicked into high gear. “You are not staying here, and that is the end of that,” he basically told me. My little “I’m fine!” did not convince him, and he took the bull by the horns and decided I needed to move somewhere safer. And so the wheels of moving began to turn once again.


I won’t bore you with all the details, but in the fall of 2022 Ian found another place on Zillow, and I went to see it, all the way at the other end of Brooklyn. I remember I stepped off the train and smelled fresh baked goods instead of weed, and thought, “Am I really still in New York City?” The streets were quiet and peaceful, with friendly little families and elderly folks walking about, and even greeting me on the sidewalk. The building itself was nothing that special, and the apartment was small and rather dark, but the neighborhood sold me. Not to mention the rent was even cheaper than I was currently paying! A steal for Brooklyn, really. I applied, and after I was accepted out of the throng of applicants by some miracle, I went to war with my crummy Crown Heights landlord till he let me out of my lease early. I guess the Brooklyn attitude had rubbed off a little by now. Hah.

I packed up my precious, sunny apartment into boxes and Target bags and every receptacle I could find, and awaited the lovely group of people who had volunteered to help me move. David and Kim, Pearl and John, and Ian and Noah all showed up, a big group and a far cry from the two or three saints that helped me both the previous times. And guess what, although I was once again moving to the third floor, this new place HAD AN ELEVATOR. What wealth!! As the day progressed, I felt sicker and sicker, but I valiantly kept trying to work, because all these people had come to help me! We got everything out of my old place and across Brooklyn to my new place, only to find that the elevator was out of service. Nooooooo. So once again, it was down three flights of stairs and up another three with all my books and junk. I tried to help, I did, but when I carried a box up the stairs and found that even that one trip left me unable to breathe, I stayed upstairs and these blessed people carried all my crap up to my new place. Of course, the very afternoon after they finished, the elevator cheerfully started working again. sigh. I made it through the move, I took them out for lunch, and after everyone left I unpacked until I absolutely crashed headfirst into bed where I stayed for days, sick as a dog, and feeling so guilty for exposing everyone to the plague. But how could I know!

Like I said, the new Bay Ridge apartment is tiny – a junior one-bedroom. While it is nothing like the shoeboxes in Manhattan, I was used to a little elbow room from my darling, sunny Crown Heights apartment. But I do like the concept of tiny-living, and I do relish a good challenge, so I made it into a cozy little haven – emphasis on “little”- where I live to this day. I may never get any direct sunlight, and there may barely be room to walk between the table and the couch, and I may have exactly one drawer in the whole place, but it’s mine. And oh, do I love the neighborhood. I am conveniently only a couple blocks away from a promenade that stretches for miles beside the bay. It’s a shame I hate running, because the promenade simply begs to be run upon. The sunsets are beautiful over Staten Island, and I have developed a deep affection for the nearby Verrazano Bridge, which stands like a beautiful bulwark during the day and spans the water like strings of shining pearls every night. The nearby avenue bustles with convenient bagel spots and restaurants and coffee shops, but my own street is quiet and filled with trees, and I seldom hear any traffic from my apartment except the occasional ship horn, passing through the night.

Although October 25 can’t come soon enough, I rue the thought of leaving Bay Ridge. It’s by far my favorite of the three neighborhoods I’ve lived in here (four, if you count the initial Airbnb), and it’s the kind of place where you could happily settle for twenty years. For the first time here, I have an elevator that mostly works- besides moving day of course-, and I have laundry in my building which is an unprecedented convenience. It’s close enough to the bustle of the city to keep life interesting and not a terrible commute to work, but so quiet and peaceful and with everything you could want (except an Aldi, but nobody’s perfect) within easy access. I have often wished I could transport my Crown Heights apartment to Bay Ridge, to have the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood. But if I could do that, there’s no guarantee I’d be convinced to move yet again…


Nothing lasts forever, and so I contemplate my last few months in this spot until my husband whisks me off to Long Island. It’s my last spring here, my last time stopping by the lilac bush every evening on my way home from work for a sniff, my last summer of glorious sunsets over the bay, and my last few months of the best bagels I’ve ever tasted just down the street. Not only that, it’s my last time living alone, which I’ve been doing for a few years now. I am firmly entrenched in all my solitary habits, and Ian is going to have to exercise much patience with me as I grease my rusty roommate skills once again. Only it won’t be a roommate, it’ll be a HUSBAND! imagine that.

We are searching for a place on Long Island or possibly the very edge of Queens, somewhere that neither he nor I have too atrocious of a commute, since our work takes us in opposite directions. Although I have loved living in Brooklyn and the heart of Queens, I am looking forward to a different adventure, to having so many trees around to rest my eyes, to having a car again (mixed feelings, TBH, but mostly looking forward to it), and to the convenience of grocery shopping without having to haul watermelons home in my arms and up three stories. If you think of it, say a prayer that we can find a good place we can afford and which we don’t have to leave for a good span of years.

3 thoughts on “Moving Around New York City

  1. Ahh the solid lil kitchen aid mixer in the corner of your cute tiny kitchen, lol, that would be my priority too!

  2. We have met before at events with BT Singers/Choir – I began following you when I read your post about joining the BT Choir. My husband and I started traveling to NYC in 2007. We came to see The Color Purple on Broadway and of course, to visit BT to hear our favorite pastor. (he is still my all-time favorite… EVER). Having dealt with bad situations with our last two pastors, listening to webcasts of the BT services is how I get fed. We have traveled to NYC several times a year almost every year with the exception of 2008, when we were still paying off our 2007 trip, (HA!!) and 2020, for obvious reasons. I think the total is 25-26 trips. I say all this to say – I’ve enjoyed reading about your apartments etc… you have lived my dream. I’ve had a wonderful life in a small town outside of Birmingham, Alabama, but the tiny apartments and various things that come along with living there are things I would have loved experiencing. Please pray for us as my husband is seeking a church to serve in after being in the same one for nearly 30 years… I hope it is in time for us to plan a trip around the end of October!! LOL!!! We might just show up at your wedding… and you’ll be like “who are those people??”

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