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I'll be attending Columbia this fall as well and am a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of finding housing. Many of my friends (all of them native New Yorkers) have suggested that I use a broker, especially since I will be won't be leaving my job until August 10 and will only be able to take off one or two days maximum to look at apartments. For neighborhoods, I'd like to be within an 1 hour's commute by train and be somewhere relatively safe. My max budget is probably $1300-1400. Anyone have any suggestions on places that fit that criteria? I'm currently in DC and most renters here live in units in row houses (i.e. brownstone units) and I would love to do something similar in NY, but all I've really seen is larger apartment buildings. Is renting a unit in a brownstone or even a smaller building, possible? And where would be the best place to be able to do that in the city?

Thanks!

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I have not read every post in this, but I get the sense most people are worried about money. On living cheaply in NYC, I'm an expert. I've been here four years, spending anywhere from 8k-12k a year. S

Hi.  I'm a Columbia grad student.  I've been here for 6 years.   -Campus housing: I will grudingly admit that the campus housing prices are a pretty decent deal for what you get and especially for t

I've been in NY for the past 6 years doing undergrad, working, etc. Never with any real amount of money. It's worked out fine for me and a lot of other people I know. 1. Apartments: Cheaper apart

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I'll be attending Columbia this fall as well and am a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of finding housing. Many of my friends (all of them native New Yorkers) have suggested that I use a broker, especially since I will be won't be leaving my job until August 10 and will only be able to take off one or two days maximum to look at apartments. For neighborhoods, I'd like to be within an 1 hour's commute by train and be somewhere relatively safe. My max budget is probably $1300-1400. Anyone have any suggestions on places that fit that criteria? I'm currently in DC and most renters here live in units in row houses (i.e. brownstone units) and I would love to do something similar in NY, but all I've really seen is larger apartment buildings. Is renting a unit in a brownstone or even a smaller building, possible? And where would be the best place to be able to do that in the city?

Thanks!

I mean a broker makes it easier, but is the cost really worth it on that sort of budget? The brokers I talked to were asking for 15% on the full years rent which on your upper limit is about $2500. I used craig's list and was able to secure a place by Columbia for August. I think one or two days is plenty. If I were you I would try and figure out where you want to live or can on your budget. Then contact people from any ads and try you best to look at as many units as you can in one day. The prospect of paying a broker that much turned me right off.

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Hi guys, I'm an international moving into NYC for this fall. I'm looking for housing as well and it's so damn hard to find affordable/okay ones and I'm starting to consider Brooklyn and Upper East Side Harlem into my search criteria. Is that a good idea? I haven't been to NYC before and I won't call myself exactly street smart. :/ If there are any who lived around these areas, please tell me how was it? Thanks.

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The M60 drops you off directly in front of Columbia's gates. Astoria is a neighborhood on the western edge of Queens.

Strangepeace: I think using a broker could be a good alternative if you can afford it, but as was already pointed out, they typically want 12%. There are some brokers that get their fees from the the apartments themselves, but I doubt that they will be showing apartments in your price range. If you want to be less than an hour by train, there are a lot of relatively safe neighborhoods in that price range. Harlem (the western part OR the eastern part, really), Washington Heights, and Inwood are all in Manhattan and would take you 40 minutes max to get to Columbia. I used to live on 172nd St and it took me 20 minutes door to door to get to Morningside Heights. You could easily find a studio or even a one-bedroom for that price in Washington Heights/Inwood. Harlem is gentrifying, but I contend that you could still find a nice studio for that price there and could certainly find a nice place sharing.

I think if you want to keep it down to under 1 hour most parts of Brooklyn get a little dicey; the closer parts to the city are more expensive. Prospect Heights or Flatbush would be pushing it (if the trains are running well and you don't have to take a bus, you could make it in about an hour) and you could definitely find a place there in your range. Bushwick could also be affordable and workable if you lived on the L or were willing to switch trains twice.

You can also live in Queens, which would be a closer and better commute, honestly. Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Astoria are commutable within 35-45 minutes. Woodside would be more like 50 minutes but it's nice there, too.

Could you rent a unit in a brownstone? Sure, but it's likely to be more expensive. I had a friend who shard a 2-bedroom in an apartment in the 130s in central Harlem. It was newly renovated, with stainless steel appliances and exposed brick - really nice. She and her roommate paid $2,000 for it. There are a lot of those type of deals in Harlem, and they are less expensive the further north into Harlem you are willing to go. I found a studio in one of those for $900 in the 140s when I was looking for apartments. It also depends on what you mean by "smaller building." My building on 172nd wasn't very small (I'd say smallish/medium - about 5-6 units on each of 5 floors) but it was still quiet and I knew a lot of my neighbors.

Pianoise: I have a lot of friends who live in Harlem and East Harlem (although not too far into East Harlem). I would consider regular Harlem (which is the west side of Harlem) first. It's closer to Columbia, if you are going there, and there are many affordable apartments that are actually walking distance to Columbia. I had a friend who shared a luxury apartment with a roommate - granite countertops, doorman, elevator building, laundry room inside, in the nice part of Harlem, walking distance to campus - and she paid $1200 with utilities for her half of the apartment.

Edited by juilletmercredi
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As someone who has lived in NYC for most of my life I'd like those outsiders looking in to get a clear picture of the good and the bad.

NYC is a great place for restaurants, clubbing, nightlife, museaums, etc. New York is RELATIVELY safe. However, the city has seen a rise in gun violence over recent years and keeping the city safe is becoming increasingly difficult. Manhattan is one of the safest boroughs due to the massive number of people and high class restaurants, shopping, etc. However, at night time some areas get a bit dangerous, and areas NEAR to Columbia(not directly around) get very dangerous at night. The massive influx of people has also brought a spike in prices of housing, so you will likely be paying quite a lot for a litte apartment or even a room. If you want something cheaper as in most other college towns, you will likely be living in a less than prime location in terms of transit and/or safety.

NYC is becoming very UNDRIVABLE. If you own a car and intend to drive be prepared for obscene amounts of traffic. While the city's highways are generally tolerable, during rush hour it can take you 2 hours to go 3 or 4 miles in some areas. Furthermore, parking at meters is becoming ridiculously expesnive at $1.00/15 minutes in some places. The public transportation system works, but not great. The subways are quite dirty, can be dangerous, and run very inefficiently. You need to leave yourself time to be late when plannig your schedule.

All being said, NYC is a massive city and variations in neighborhoods vary greatly within just a few minutes. There is a lot to be experienced in New York but it comes at a price(both literally and figuratively). Many people come to the city and love it. Others come and hate it. Since I have been traveling I hear that people say NYC is a great place to visit or be young but not a good place to live. It is really up to you and what you like.

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Thank you shockwave, I was born and raised in NYC also (Queens) and outsiders deem NYC a very tolerable city. But then again, most students ONLY stay in their designated borough (Columbia with Manhattan, NYU with BK/Manhattan) and never see the vastness of NYC.

Setiadi, commuting from Queens is a cinch as long as you live near an express stop (Jackson Heights, Jamaica, Forest HIlls, Union Turnpike, LIC, QB Hill), usually only 2 express trains from those areas to Columbia. Or from Astoria, the M60. I'll be putting in my advice here from now on.

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CCNY has a considerable Biomed/Bioengineering department. Living in Upper Manhattan is a cheaper than anywhere else in the borough, though you are 20-35 minutes away from Midtown. However, since it's being slowly gentrified by Columbia students and folks from downtown, the area is getting more safe as we speak. But still it has its reputation where most New Yorkers still won't venture into Upper Manhattan, unless it's a necessity.

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I am in the midst of law school apps and awaiting replies. CUNY is slowly moving up the list because of my interest in public service, namely, environmental regulation. Also, as a musician, I have always wanted to live in NYC for a spell and use some of the creative enrgy there for some inspiration. I am fully aware of the costs and would plan to live in Harlem, Brooklyn, or even with some friends in Hoboken, NJ. Any current students there have anything to say to someone contemplating CUNY? The new campus looks beautiful and very up to date. I have questions about the following:

-Travel time to Long Island City from, Brooklyn, Harlem, or Jersey...

-Expected loans to take out for living. (I will eventually work some, just not the first semester, I don't think)

-Any information on public service jobs and possible loan repayment for going that route.

-Any other suggestions for living arrangements, school considerations and anything else that people with NYC knowledge can pass on.

Thank you!

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Hi ofe1818, I can't answer your questions about CUNY but I live in NYC (brooklyn specifically) and can pass on this advice: travel times in the NYC are entirely dependent on whether or not you are near the subway line that you need. It looks like there's a G stop near CUNY law so you could possibly have a commute of around 30 mins if you lived off the G in say Greenpoint brooklyn- alternately it could take hours if you don't have an easy connection. There are buses but I'm not a huge fan. My advice is to look at the subway map and plot your apartment search around the train lines that you'll be using.

As to cost of living...well, rent is really expensive as I'm sure you know...but food and public transport are relatively cheap. You can significantly reduce your rent by sharing a two bedroom and a lot of the universities have boards to help students pair up with roommates. Oh, and a lot of students choose Astoria Queens for the cheapest rents- its a nice neighborhood, a bit quiet compared to Brooklyn though. Hope this helps. If you want more specific info down the line about neighborhoods or anything else you can PM me.

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There's a whole thread on NYC. Check it out. I'm born and bred here in NYC. NYC's food is not cheap whatsoever. And Astoria is a very cramped neighborhood where students flood in and flood out so prices are not cheap whatsoever. Expect to pay 800-1100 dollars on  a tiny 15 x 10 bedroom, 4 friends of mine lived in Astoria and that was the average room. This is NYC, not Wyoming. Not here to bash Ablukhov but NYC is not to be underestimated in terms of prices and expenses. 

For cheaper rents, Jackson Heights, Woodside, Sunnyside in Queens, the further east in Queens, the cheaper and of course the longer the commute. As for Brooklyn, I'm not sure. 

 

Travel time to LIC from BK is around 30 minutes to 1 hour, Depending on what trains you take, the G train being the fastest.

 

Then again, check the thread!

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It's all relative Hanyuye. I wrote from my experience based on places I've lived. My grocery bill in NYC is half that of what it was when I lived in PA. I'm no expert on Queens but I have several friends living in Astoria for much cheaper than your quoted prices. Of course NYC is expensive, though, no one is denying that.

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http://newyork.craigslist.org/search/aap?query=astoria&srchType=A&zoomToPosting=&minAsk=&maxAsk=&bedrooms=

 

If you check out the average prices, I highly doubt anyone can get prices cheaper than I quoted at all. I'm not calling you a liar but even in the main NY thread, the prices I stated were about right. I have no clue how your friends had it for MUCH cheaper, perhaps it wasn't Astoria, could be College Point.

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you could always live in Long Island City. I've heard (can't confirm) that it is nyc-affordable. Have you looked at Padmapper.com? it's a pretty great app and I use to to kind of scope out areas. Are you from a city originally? If you are, don't be afraid of moving outside recently gentrified areas. Public transit is very good, runs all night, and even I can get out to the 'hipper' areas of Brooklyn from the SBX fairly easily. 

 

Do yourself a favor and get an unlimited metrocard. It hurts the wallet when you first get it, but trust me, you can easily spend $7-10 a day on mass transit here if you are not careful, so you could find yourself spending anywhere from 150 to 200 on mass transit monthly without even realizing it!

 

Talk to others and see who has landlords they like - my dad's a property manager in the BX and he leases most of his open apartments from referrals and people who call. Paying a broker is definitely not necessary here!

 

Food. Ah. Food. This is a contentious one. Some people can do it for cheap, but i find if i am hanging out in gentrified areas I can spend up to $20 on a 'good but not like, gourmet' meal with food and drink (for a dinner) The good thing for you is that there are a lot of areas that have delicious food from different countries - again, occasionally a trek but what are you moving to NYC for if not to explore? for less expensive than their 'elevated ethnic cuisine' counterparts. As for groceries, there is a trader joes on 14th at union sq, Met, Gristedies and Pathmark are your friends.. Pathmark has some really good sales. 

 

As for coffee, stick to the cart coffe and away from starbucks, easily save like $4 a day depending on what kind of coffee you get. Starbucks does have free wi-fi though and many of the "indie" coffeeshops are now into the whole "we don't do wi-fi" thing...

 

Don't bring your car unless you wind up in what is commonly referred to as the "outer-boroughs" (usually this means 35-40 minutes out of manhattan into a borough but, like most things here, everyone will tell you differently) 

 

Depending on what music scene you are into, a lot of the indie rock scene is in west brooklyn, along the L line of the subway. There's punk and rap almost everywhere, though. As a teenager I pretty much stuck to the Bronx for punk shows and lower manhattan (RIP the 2nd iteration of the Knit!).  

 

Ok. That's all i can think of right now. Any other questions feel free to pm me!

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Since the law campus is in Queens (not Manhattan), I wouldn't recommend living in NJ unless you had a very good reason. It's too far and there's no reason to do that commute when there are many decent neighborhoods in Queens. There is a range from quiet residential areas to artsy neighborhoods to dangerous/not nice places too. I have been to Queens often but have never lived there, so I'll let others comment on specific places. 

 

Yes, NYC is expensive in general, but in my experience, it's most expensive when you first arrive; you don't know where to find affordable grocery stores, restaurants, furniture, used books, happy hours, etc. It takes some time to know where to shop, but you'll figure it out after awhile. If you're into music, there is always something going on here. If you like diversity, ethnic food and energy, it's a great city! 

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http://newyork.craigslist.org/search/aap?query=astoria&srchType=A&zoomToPosting=&minAsk=&maxAsk=&bedrooms=

 

If you check out the average prices, I highly doubt anyone can get prices cheaper than I quoted at all. I'm not calling you a liar but even in the main NY thread, the prices I stated were about right. I have no clue how your friends had it for MUCH cheaper, perhaps it wasn't Astoria, could be College Point.

True, like I said, I don't know Queens that well, and it seems like rental prices have gone up dramatically everywhere in NYC in the last two or so years...

 

Since the law campus is in Queens (not Manhattan), I wouldn't recommend living in NJ unless you had a very good reason. It's too far and there's no reason to do that commute when there are many decent neighborhoods in Queens. There is a range from quiet residential areas to artsy neighborhoods to dangerous/not nice places too. I have been to Queens often but have never lived there, so I'll let others comment on specific places. 

 

Yes, NYC is expensive in general, but in my experience, it's most expensive when you first arrive; you don't know where to find affordable grocery stores, restaurants, furniture, used books, happy hours, etc. It takes some time to know where to shop, but you'll figure it out after awhile. If you're into music, there is always something going on here. If you like diversity, ethnic food and energy, it's a great city! 

That's a great point languages-etc. That's been my experience too. 

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^I agree with Ablukhov re: the trains.  There's a reason so many Craigslist ads list the subway lines different apartments are by; they play a huge role in how much time your commute will take.  It looks like the CUNY School of Law is nearby the E, M, 7, and G.  If you live in Brooklyn along the G the commute should be relatively easy, and Long Island City itself is a pretty affordable area in which to live and is becoming more popular.  Hoboken can be a relatively easy commute - you can take the PATH train in to the 33rd St stop and then get on the E at 34th.  I'm not really sure how long that would take.  Harlem would be longer - you'd have to ride down into midtown and then probably switch trains at 42nd or 34th to take the 7 or E there…doesn't make much sense, honestly, when you could live just as affordably in Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside, etc.

 

However, I do disagree with the food.  It's not cheap.  However, I do live in the Upper West Side (blech) so that may have a lot to do with it.

 

Only get an unlimited Metrocard if you find yourself using the trains a lot.  I live near my campus and don't take the trains as often anymore and so I do not get an unlimited Metrocard anymore.  If you decide to move to LIC, you may not need one.

 

As for loans…look at the cost of attendance estimates from your college.  I would say that if you keep your living costs low you could comfortably get by on $25K in loans per year.

 

The income-based repayment with the public loan forgiveness option stipulates that if you work for 10 years in an eligible public service job and make all of your IBR loan payments ON TIME every month, you can have any remaining balance of your federal loans forgiven.  Only federal loans are eligible (Direct loans and graduate PLUS loans, as well as federal consolidation loans and federal Perkins loans).  However, all of your payments have to be on time.  If you miss even one payment, you can render yourself ineligible.

 

My only other thing…I took had dreams of moving to New York and feeding off the creative energy and excitement (not a musician, just love cities).  I quickly grew tired of it.  Not that it wasn't (and isn't) fun - it is, and there's tons of arts and cultural things to participate in.  I love that, and you will enjoy it.  But the thing nobody tells you is that it's all so expensive, and a lot of times you aren't going to be able to do everything you want to do as a grad student - unless you take on a lot of debt, or a lot of extra work.  Plus I'm tired of living a shoebox arranged on top of and surrounded by other shoeboxes for the same price that I could be paying for an entire 4-bedroom house in my hometown.

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Is it actually possible to live in NYC on a grad student stipend?

 

Yes, if you live like a student should, just fulfilling necessities and nothing else. But you just have to know the nitty-gritty of your neighborhood to get the best deals as noted above. 

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I am a born and bred San Franciscan and am wondering how the two cities compare, specifically in terms of cost of living. Does anyone have any experience with this? Rent seems comparable or even in some cases cheaper than in the city (in terms of one bedroom apartments) but I am also wondering about public transport costs and groceries. I know I will have to give up my California fresh produce and 60 degree weather year round, which is sometimes annoying anyways, but are the two cities that different in terms of expense?

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I can't say anything about SanFrancisco, but I know a bit about New York.

The transit system was built properly for the most part - subways aren't too crowded, and if you live far enough away (long commute), it usually means you get a seat (sleep, read, study).

 

Rent is horrendous in Manhattan, and usually not worth it. Brooklyn and Queens strike a good balance of safety and rent, as long as you stay out of the worst neighborhoods (Bed-Stuy, Brownsville), and areas that are "up-and-coming" for absolutely no reason.

 

http://mta.info/maps/submap.html

 

A good indicator for wealth in Brooklyn - if you live along the number lines, you are probably not good for one reason or another. Either because it is super expensive (Prospect Heights), or you are in the projects (East Flatbush)

Along the letter lines, south of Prospect Park (but just outside of Coney Island), you are actually okay. You know what, do yourself a favor - avoid anything north of Prospect Park, east of where the M-line turns north. Bed Stuy, Brownsville, Bushwick are all places to avoid.

Queens is also nice in most areas, but transit is a pain, so that will be more of a consideration. 


Good news is, there's a bunch of cheap food, including Chinese, Tex-Mex, Pizza (I promise you will be in heaven compared to California) or if you go into the ethnic neighborhoods, their delicacies (Russian, Polish, Italian, Caribbean, Indian), or for the lunch-rush, the Halal food carts (which have a lower chance of rat feces and roaches than most of the restaurants). 

And no, you don't lose out on your produce - I still get my avocados for a buck, Pomegranates are around. Actually, you might have a nicer selection because we have different groups that can guarantee demand for supplies, so we have a constant steady stream of foods that would otherwise be unavailable. 

 

 

It is possible to live here, you just need to pinch pennies and room with 2 or three other people, and accept that you will not have space for your belongings, so take the bare minimum you can. 

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