Tag Archives: Living in the Boroughs

“A Tale of Three Boroughs, or Where to Live while in Course Work”

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!

Peter

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Housing Feature: Manhattan—Washington Heights / Hudson Heights / Inwood

Whats a poor grad student to do when they want a Manhattan zip code and to eat? Live in the Inwood area. This area is gaining popularity with graduate students, especially those who work on the west side or value quick access to a subway line. A lot of students make the move to Inwood in their second or third year, making a change from the Bronx or even stepping out on their own for the first time. GSA Vice President, Malkah Bressler, discusses her experiences living in the neighborhood.

The two northernmost neighborhoods of Manhattan are Washington Heights and Inwood. Washington Heights extends from 168th up to 190th and Inwood starts at 190th and goes all the way up to the tip of Manhattan (220th). Both neighborhoods are easily accessible via the A and #1 train. Although busses (namely the M5) connect Upper Manhattan to the rest of the city, the train is the most efficient method of transportation. Washington Heights and Inwood feature a healthy mix of ethnicities and the restaurants and takeout eateries reflect the area’s diversity. Many students and musicians live in the area as well as families that want to stay in Manhattan but cannot afford the more expensive Upper West and Upper East Sides.

 

Why Live Here?

Both neighborhoods are within a 30-40 minute commute to campus; an average commute generally involves a brief train ride and a slightly longer bus ride. Washington Heights and Inwood offer the most affordable Manhattan rents. In 2011-2013, I paid $760 per month to live in a spacious three-bedroom apartment with two other roommates. We each had a decent sized room, more than enough closet space, a big kitchen, and a huge living room. The neighborhoods share a large park, Ft. Tyron Park, which offers spectacular views of the New Jersey Palisades, lawns for lounging, flower gardens, and the Cloisters Museum. The neighborhood also has a host of restaurants, bars, bakeries, and cafes. Thanks to the large population of Latino and Jewish residents as well as the many artists and graduate students, the area boasts a diverse cultural blend. Washington Heights and Inwood are also very safe. My old roommate said it the best when she stated “if you want to live in Manhattan, but if you can’t afford the busy city, then Washington Heights and Inwood are the place to go. You’ll have that city feel, but without the city price!”

 

Transportation Concerns:

Although Washington Heights and Inwood are barely five miles away from campus, it can take anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour to get there via public transportation. The route isn’t bike friendly either; although biking in Washington Heights and Inwood is safe enough (I would watch out though), the minute you enter the Bronx and start biking on Fordham Road, you will wish you hadn’t. Walking to campus is safe enough during the daytime, but I would watch out in the evening; also, the walk is not that pleasant either (especially on Fordham Road). Also, grocery shopping isn’t always easy in the Heights. That being said, since I moved out, I have learned that there was a Target close by! I left the Heights after a year because although I enjoyed living there, it was a pain to travel anywhere but the upper west side. The A train is not always reliable and the #1 train runs local all the time.

Note for drivers: It’s much easier to scoot around from Inwood if you have a car. It’s a straight shoot up the A-9 to Westchester and Rockland or down to Manhattan and on the weekends there’s plenty of parking in both places (but be careful of meters Mon.-Sat.). Be aware that it’s constantly a parking lot from Inwood to Fordham road however—the bridge crosses over a major highway (the Deegan)—which means a weird traffic flow. You’ll get there; it’ll just take a while.

Overall, Inwood’s a popular location for car owners who want to live Manhattan, because you do have non-metered parking and there plenty of cheaper priced garages if you want to splurge on keeping your vehicle out of the sun. Parking can be difficult to find but it’s doable even on weekdays, especially if you’re willing to walk.

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Housing Feature: General NY House Hunting Tips + Living in the Bronx: Pelham Parkway, Morris Park, Williamsbridge, etc.

General Housing Search Tips

When I first moved here I had the glamorous Manhattan apartment in my mind—forget that! First of all, those tend to be crazy expensive, so unless you’re willing to live in a walk-in closet expand your search to non-traditional spaces. Look for private rooms or floors in family houses, basement spaces, and apartments above business. I’d suggest making a list of what living requirements are deal-breakers and what you’re willing to be flexible on.

For example, if you’ll be teaching or at a job all day, and direct sunlight isn’t that important to you, a basement apartment might be a good fit. These tend to be cheaper than other one bedrooms and are often larger than above ground spaces. If you look in the neighborhoods off of Pelham Parkway (a main road which turns into Fordham Rd. as you travel west), you can find fully furnished spaces beneath family homes. They usually have separate entrances and often come with some utilities, like internet or heat, included.

The transition to living in New York (if you’re not from an equally big city) can be rough and you should keep it in mind when apartment searching. When I’m apartment hunting I always try to keep track of two things—one, how intense is traffic in the area and two, how much green is on the streets or in the area. If you’re from a place that has lots of trees, plants, and plenty of lawn space, going right to a city apartment might be tough. You may want to make sure the apartment has a window box so you can brighten the space or make sure you live close to a park or green space to decompress from the concrete jungle.

A great benefit of going to Fordham and being a GSAS student is the Rose Hill campus, which is a gorgeous oasis from the streets outside. Campus is always bright with flowers in the summer and provides plenty of great picturesque spaces in the winter. Plus across the street (and free for Fordham students with ID) is the New York Botanical Gardens, one of the best botanical spaces in the US. And if you want to live off Pelham Parkway, there are more green spaces the farther from Fordham Road you venture.

Traffic is something you should think about whether you have a car or not.  High traffic patterns usually mean noise 24/7 and while honking is technically illegal except in emergency, it’s not a rule that’s enforced regularly in the Bronx. If you live off a main drag be ready to hear horns and general traffic noise all night; because apartments and houses are closer to each other and the roads here, the noise won’t be muffled the way it is in more suburban areas.

 

Why Live Here?

Living in the Bronx but away from the immediate Fordham area can be tough. There’s less media chatter about Bronx neighborhoods, and what information there is tends to be more of a scare tactic than actual fact. However, don’t let NBC dramas influence you! There are a lot of great Bronx neighborhoods out there, you just need to find them and have an open mind about what kind of housing situation you’re interested in exploring.

The Morris Park/off-Pelham Parkway neighborhoods are great for young couples (cheaper than Manhattan, house-y feel, not restrictive), families (lots of parks and schools), or someone who just wants a quiet place to study off the (usually) beaten path.

My first apartment was a non-traditional apartment scenario, in a family home in the Morris Park/Williamsbridge area. I rented the first floor of a house, with the owners above me and another renter in the basement. The benefits were enormous—I got free cable, huge rooms all to myself, and a neighborhood feel that helped me transition from small resort town to city.

The area is quiet, mostly families consisting of owners and long time renters, which means cleaner, safer streets, and a sense of community ownership that’s comforting and pleasant. These streets/neighbors tend to have a lot of neighborhood or block parties, so if you’re not a joiner, or aren’t into that sort of ‘everyone knows your name’ scenario, you might want to look into a more traditional housing situation, like the larger apartment buildings that scatter the area.

 

Transportation Concerns:

For you car owners, living in the Morris Park or Williamsbridge area is great, because parking is more plentiful, but you still may have to circle your block a few times if you’d like to get a spot close to your apartment. It’s also a great solution for students who are married or have families and want a more suburban or neighborhood feel while still being close to campus.

There’s no obviously convenient subway but buses run through these neighborhoods and can deposit you on the parkway so you can catch the BX12 express to campus, and there are plenty of Bronx-Manhattan buses that will deposit you downtown if there’s no subway nearby. In a pickle it’s not a terrible walk or bike ride to the Rose Hill campus.

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Housing Feature: Brooklyn – Crown Heights (Crow Hill) / Clinton Hill / Bedford-Stuyvesant

An attractive and popular living option for Fordham grad students is commuting from the Brooklyn area. The growing borough has a hip reputation, is close to Manhattan, and offers a variety of entertainment options, but be aware that it and its reputation are growing quickly.

While far from Fordham, the benefits may far outweigh the commute for many. Below, Malkah Bressler, GSA Vice President, provides her take on a couple Brooklyn neighborhoods commonly sought out by graduates.

Why Live Here?

These two neighborhoods lie to the East of Park Slope and Prospect Heights and to the South of Williamsburg and Bushwick. The best parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant lie between Franklin and Utica Avenues; the neighborhood’s southernmost border is Atlantic Avenue.  Most residents prefer to live close to Atlantic because of accessibility to the A and C trains.  Clinton Hill is just West of Bedford-Stuyvesant; it is bordered by Vanderbilt and Franklin Avenues.  The A, C, and G trains run through Clinton Hill.  Crown Heights rests on the South side of Atlantic Avenue; residents tend to live between Atlantic and Eastern Parkway, but recently, they have been pushing south of Eastern Parkway.  Washington and Utica Avenue border the area, and the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, and C trains service the neighborhood.

Over the past seven years, the rising rents of Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Williamsburg have pushed young professionals south and east rendering the Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods the new frontiers of Brooklyn.  Traditionally, the neighborhoods are home to people of Caribbean descent; also, the area features a substantial Orthodox Jewish presence.  Thanks to the new influx of young professionals, the neighborhoods are witnessing an unprecedented influx of coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and gourmet grocery stores to meet the rising demand for craft beers, organic produce, and mixologists.  The location is great; the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, and G train all pass through the neighborhood and most stations are serviced by at least two of these lines (some even are serviced by 3 or 4!).  The area is close to the Atlantic terminal and the Barclays Center where one can catch the LIRR as well as concerts, games, and even, a real mall.  Moreover, the neighborhoods’ proximity to the well-established Park Slope and Prospect Heights areas means that residents have limitless options when it comes to nightlife, shopping, etc.  Moreover, Prospect Park, which rivals Central Park, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are within walking distance of the area.  Living in Brooklyn is not to be downplayed.  Neighborhoods boast a variety of ethnicities and activities; prices range from incredibly expensive to incredibly inexpensive.  Most Brooklynites agree that there are few reasons to travel to Manhattan unless one has to work / go to school.  Also, unlike Manhattan, Brooklyn offers a slower pace of life; one can bike through the streets, but at the same time, enjoy the same cultural and gustatory delights of Manhattan.  The commute to Lincoln Center is under 40 minutes and the commute to Fordham Rose Hill is about 1.5 hours if you rely on the MTA.  If you take the MTA and the Metro North, the commute is cut down to exactly one hour door to door.

 

Transportation Concerns:

The commute between any of these neighborhoods to Rose Hill is substantial, and one ought to be prepared.  Although the regular MTA commute is bearable, if you’re not one for reading on a train, I wouldn’t recommend it.  If you choose to take Metro North, you will set yourself back $6.75; it is doable but you must budget transportation costs.  Finally, the area is undergoing rapid gentrification, and although crime is minimal, it happens from time to time.

Note for drivers: Driving and parking is much more pleasant here than in other boroughs; however, while you may not find a spot close to your apartment, you can always find one—you just might have to hike back. The drive to campus can be problematic if your work or class schedule falls into rush hour but otherwise the bridges remain open and clear for most of the day.

 Another thing to consider is that, like the Fordham campus itself, Brooklyn is a favorite filming spot of many production crews, and entire streets may be closed off to parking and driving from early in the morning to late at night.

 

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Dun, dun, dun… HOUSING!

It’s that time of the year; time to take a deep breath after the chaos of the year and start panicking about the problems of the future. One of the pressing problems of June and July is housing. Where are you going to live? Are you going to re-up your lease? Are you going to finally move out of your parents’ basement, and if so, who is going to do your laundry?

In order to lessen the looming panic attacks, this month, we’ve decided to feature overviews of some popular neighborhoods for Fordham graduate students, and the challenges and benefits of those areas. This might be more useful for incoming students (CONGRATULATIONS!) but it’ll also serve as a nice primer for continuing students who’ve always feared leaving their comfort zones.

Those of you looking to move to a new borough, I salute you! Get ready for a new restaurants and bus routes, new neighbors and bars, and hopefully good study nook of your choosing. Incoming students, get excited for the city, which despite its occasional ups and downs, is one of the most interesting places to live and I’m sure will introduce you to new food, culture, and art.

As graduate students, you need something a little different than the usual Fordham housing intro, and we’re hoping to provide it here. The posts that will follow this month will cover cost of living, commutes to different campuses (remember you may have to teach or work at different locations), and the sense of Fordham community you’ll get from both places. We’ve asked current Fordham students to assist us with this task, so look for posts from Graduate Student Association president and VP as well as other graduate leaders.

Look for future posts discussing:

  • Bronx: Grand Concourse Ave., Arthur Ave., Off Pelham Parkway
  • Queens: Astoria, Long Island City
  • Brooklyn: Bushwick, Park Slope/Crown Heights
  • Manhattan: Washington Heights/Inwood, Hamilton Heights

Let’s get ready to sign some leases!

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