This will be a two-part series on finding the perfect neighborhood for you in New York City. Today I’ll talk about why where you live matters and tomorrow I’ll share tips for finding the right neighborhood.
This blog is all about having an honest discussion around what it’s like to move to New York, so I’m about to get real honest with you right now.
It’s easy to, at first, ignore how much location can affect happiness. Your living space, your home, your community, it’s all so automatic and so very much on autopilot, that it can fade into the background of things that are important to your health and wellbeing.
It’s likely that if you’re reading this blog, you already may be more aware of how location affects your happiness, because you’re considering moving to New York or you’ve already moved. But when I first moved to New York, I really didn’t have a great grasp on this concept. After all, I just made this huge, life-changing decision to move. The city was supposed to bring me tons of happiness, right? All of it was supposed to be great, regardless of borough or neighborhood.
When I picked a final place to stay in NYC, I didn’t think the neighborhood I choose would matter that much. I just wanted something cheap and safe. I knew it would be further away from Manhattan, since that’s what I could afford. I assumed I probably wouldn’t be spending that much time there anyway.
I settled in Crown Heights – a rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. I had no idea what living in a gentrifying neighborhood would mean to me. I was chronically uncomfortable. I faced daily street harassment. There was shouting on the street at all hours of the day. I saw racism everywhere and it broke my heart (Crown Heights is famous for its race riots). I often felt guilty for pushing locals out of their homes and certainly didn’t feel like a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.
There also just wasn’t that much to do in Crown Heights at the time. I had to walk about a mile to the closest bar, which isn’t terrible, but proximity is a big deal in NYC. Good food wasn’t easily available. There weren’t that many trees or parks. It was a really bad fit for me. (Side note: this was a few years ago, and I’m told there’s a lot to do in Crown Heights now.)
I was so depressed. I felt like all of my ambition and hard work backfired and all the sudden I landed in hell. Both my boyfriend and my roommate didn’t seem as affected by it as I was, which made me feel more alone. I was accused of being perpetually unhappy, regardless of where I lived and I started to believe that.
I recently talked with my therapist about how my first year of sessions were all about coping with my new environment. I don’t even want to think about how much time, tears, and money I could have saved if I just picked a new location when I moved here.
Living in New York is tough, so if you’re planning on moving, either to New York for the first time or to another neighborhood within the city, be sure take as much time as possible in the neighborhood to see if you’ll like it. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share tips on how you can be sure to pick the best neighborhood for you.