In honor of our inaugural Google Hangout today (join us at 5:30 pm EST), we thought we’d bring you a more personal take on housing from GSA President, Peter Murray. Peter’s post below takes you from his first year and first city housing experience to his move all the way out to Brooklyn. Tips about commutes, rent prices, and neighborhoods abound!
Hello, my name is Peter Murray, a doctoral candidate in the English department and the Graduate Student Association President for the upcoming academic year. First, let me congratulate you once again on your academic achievements that have earned you a spot in Fordham’s incoming cohort. On behalf of the graduate community, welcome! I look forward to meeting you at Orientation on Tuesday, August 25th. We have an exciting day in store.
The summer before I began my studies at Fordham, I was equal parts excited and overwhelmed, and the cause of many a sleepless night concerned finding housing in New York City. Rest assured, it will all work out! In what follows, I want to share my experiences of living in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan while I was enrolled in coursework as well as teaching. Each location had benefits and drawbacks, and the moral of this story will be to keep in mind what living (and commuting) situation will best enable you to succeed at Fordham.
Year One: Grand Concourse Ave. (The Bronx)
Having attended a small liberal arts university in Massachusetts, I assumed that everyone at Fordham lived near the campus. Since we have three campuses, however, it turns out that not everyone lives near the Rose Hill campus. Nevertheless, I was assigned to work at the Rose Hill campus and all of my classes were being taught in the Bronx so I opted to live in the Bronx. Instead of University housing on Arthur Avenue, I lived in a Boarding house on the corner of Grand Concourse and Bedford Avenue.
The rent was cheap and the room was furnished, which made my move to New York City much easier. An added bonus was that I was a two-minute walk from the Bedford Park stop on the D and a block from the 4 train. Living near a subway stop is incredibly important should you decide to live in the city. The walk from my building to campus totaled 10 minutes straight down Bedford avenue, which ensured that I could attend lectures and events regularly, and this was a great benefit during my first semester as it allowed me to meet fellow graduate students and faculty.
This specific boarding house, however, did have drawbacks. There were strict rules about having visitors, and my room was quite small. In addition, commuting from the Bronx to other boroughs in New York City can be tedious, especially on the weekend when the MBTA runs on a much slower (and often sporadic) schedule.
The University’s motto is “Fordham is my school, and New York is my campus,” and while the two are not mutually exclusive, do consider how to balance the two in order to guarantee your success.
Year Two: Bushwick (Brooklyn)
Having spent a year in the Bronx, I decided to move to Brooklyn. I had many non-Fordham friends living in this borough, and its active social scene attracted me. While still in coursework, my class schedule and graduate assistantship required me to be on campus only twice a week. As such, I found a room on craigslist in Bushwick.
Craigslist, as I am sure you know, is very hit or miss. My Boarding house provided me with a lease and that ensured more stability, but I subleased a room in Bushwick, which meant I had no lease, and could be forced to move on a whim. In retrospect, I would not advise subleasing because having to move during the semester will severely impact your studies. Luckily, I did not have to move, but the living situation left much to be desired.
Commuting from Bushwick to Rose Hill required three transfers (from the L train, to the 4 train, to the Bx12 bus) and took anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. Sometimes I was able to get a lot of reading done during my commute, but other days there was barely enough room to stand let alone pull out a book!
I lived in Bushwick before it became the new hipster paradise (even before it was featured in “Girls”), but I did like the neighborhood. There was easy access to Williamsburg, Lower Manhattan, and I spent many days that year working at the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Bryant Park.
While the commute and the room were major drawbacks, living in Bushwick was fun and it introduced me to different opportunities throughout the New York City.
Year Three: Hamilton Heights (Manhattan)
In my third year, I finally found a roommate and the two of us rented an apartment together in Hamilton Heights (at the 145th Street Subway stop that serviced the A, B, C, and D trains). Sharing the cost of an apartment versus renting a single room did mean my rent increased, but this neighborhood was quite reasonable in terms of Manhattan real estate (my half of the rent cost $825). In signing a lease, however, know that you will be required to present a lot of paperwork (copies of photo IDs; social security card; proof of income; paystubs for the past six months; 1-2 years worth of tax returns) and the upfront costs add up quickly (first, last, and security as well as a Broker’s fee if you used a broker).
The location is perfect for commuting to either Lincoln Center or Rose Hill (12 minutes express train to 59th Street for Lincoln Center and 20 minutes local up to Rose Hill). The neighborhood has lots of family owned restaurants and businesses, and more restaurants and bars have been opened in the last two years. In addition, you will find lots of Columbia Students and CUNY Students in this neighborhood, which is great for meeting new people.
My roommate and I stayed in this area for two years, and many Fordham graduates gravitate toward this location because of its accessibility and lower rent costs. It was by far the best place I had lived in New York City at the time.
I hope you find these summaries helpful in making your decision about where to live in the upcoming academic year. My overall piece of advice would be to think about what living situation best suits your needs. If you hate commuting, then live near campus. If commuting doesn’t bother you that much, then consider Manhattan and Brooklyn.
See you all soon!