I know I talk a lot about my time overseas and while most of my adult traveling has been done outside the US, the summer of 2004 was spent in New York City. It was the summer before I finished school (December 2004) and I had blown about 3 years of savings on a 12 week trip to Europe the year before, so I had a lot less saved in 9 months. Plus I was finally buckling down in my last year of school and doing a bunch of internships. I wanted to get out of LA, but still do an internship and have wanted to live in NYC long term, so I decided to try it out for a summer.
My mom grew up in the city, so I had been there more times then I could count throughout my life, but this was going to be the summer I lived there. I arranged an internship at a tv production company (nothing I couldn’t have done in LA, but a change of scenery makes it even more exciting!) and everything was set. I knew a lot of people in the city and surrounding boroughs where I could stay for a short time, but nothing long term, so about a week before I was to leave, I started looking at sublets on Craigslist. It got quiet frustrating very fast as real estate in New York City can be. One place fell through before I left LA and I was devastated. One place dragged me a long for a long time and actually I don’t even remember what happened, I probably gave up. I arrived in Brooklyn and stayed with my sort-of aunt until I found a place. Arrived on Memorial Day and started my internship that Wednesday and looked for a place all that week, while working. I found a place I loved in Brooklyn and it fell through and I got so frustrated that I started crying on the street. I remember calling my mom and wanting to come home. Even though I had only been at my internship 1 day, I could tell I didn’t love it either. Throw it all in, plus the crappy humid weather, it was a hard week for me. I gave myself 2 weeks to find a decent place and if not, I would just leave it all and come home, no harm done. The first Saturday I lined up about 5 places to look at and found an awesome place around lunch time. With my checkbook in hand, ready to write a deposit right then and there, I think I was a little pushy for the student who was subletting her place, but I had learned my lesson during the previous 2 weeks. You gotta get in or it will be gone. They didn’t want to take the money then, so I left my number and went out to Queens to look at another place. On my way there, they called me and offered me the room and I said YES! I’ll be in later that day with the deposit. Since I was nearly at the next place, I went anyway and the guy subletting was fantastic and we hit it off really well, even though it was his room I would take. I felt sort of bad stringing him along, but I had learned my lesson. He had other people who were coming to see the room and I said fine and as soon as I paid my deposit at the place I loved, he actually called me to tell me, forget it, he wanted me to take the room and I felt a little bad that I had to say no. But such is the life of NYC reality!
When looking for a sublet, know what you want. Ideally I wanted to pay $700-800 a month and for it to include everything (remember, this is in 2004 dollars). I needed a bed (you’d be surprised how many sublets in NYC don’t come with it!), shared bathroom, tv and ideally A/C but a fan will do for the apartment. I needed it to be realistically walking distance from the subway. You should have seen what some people were trying to offload! $1000 (plus utilities!) for a room that only could fit the girls bed in the East Village. Just very weird people out there. I don’t remember what else I saw. I was shooting for Manhattan (of course) but totally open to Brooklyn and even Queens, but no Bronx, too far. I looked at a lot in Brooklyn but oddly, the place I ended up getting was not only in Manhattan, but in my favorite neighborhood, the Upper West Side!
I know people my age should hate the UWS, but I love it. It’s not as loud as downtown and I see being away from everything as a plus. The apartment was owned by Columbia University Grad School and the girl was an international student going back to Hong Kong for the summer, so I was definitely not legally supposed to be there. The other people in the unit were a Spanish girl, who unfortunately ended up going back to Spain and subletting her room to a Spanish guy who spoke no English and an Asian-American girl who grew up in Florida and was working at a law firm all summer and was hardly ever home. It was slightly more then I wanted to pay (they smartly priced it at $880/month) but it included everything as well as the most awesome cable tv package that I have ever seen! (I saw the bill and it was like $250/month!) This was the summer that on-demand started and I thought that was the most amazing feature ever! The room didn’t have A/C or a fan, so I just bought one and it worked fine. The room had simple dorm room furniture and it was perfect. The best thing about the room is that it was HUGE! It was by far the largest room I looked at and besides that and the neighborhood and the utilities included, I was sold.
Another tip is don’t bother looking more then a week or two in advance. Most sublet postings are looking to fill immediately so there is no point in getting stressed about it far in advance. If I hadn’t known anyone to crash with while I looked, another idea is to stay in a hostel for a few days while you find a long term place.
Moral: A great place to visit and even stay for a semester or summer while in college even when you are broke, but I wouldn’t want to live there now.