We live in a beautiful spot in the Northern Catskills of NY. Our little parcel of land is surrounded by acres of farmland and untouched forest. The waterfall down the street is a great place to cool off in the summer and a stunning ice palace to look at in the winter. So why leave?
Well, the North East gets cold. I love the fresh snow – the winter wonderland of it all. The juxtaposition of frozen landscape while drinking hot tea and wrapped in cozy blankets is sheer pleasure to me. But just the talk of snow and cold gets my husband, Allan, down.
Our house is so charming to look at and think about. It was one of the oldest buildings in our town. Built in 1792, it has been owned by 5 families including the people for whom the road was named. Over the decades, people have added rooms to fit their needs. As a result you have a rambling home unlike any other. The oldest part of the mill house still has the original stacked stone foundation and crawl space. During rainy weather, a stream runs beneath the house. In the winter, any standing water freezes and icicles form on the stones. Unfortunately for Allan, as the weather turns cold, the damp seeps up from below and aggravates his asthma. Seasonal mold tickles the sinuses and triggers allergies. He gets into a cycle of coughing and wheezing that is no fun for anyone. Our move to NYC was this year’s solution to the ills of February, March and early April.
We are not strangers to Manhattan. We have given concerts there for a number of years. Whenever family and friends come to visit, we take them on day or overnight trips to see the major sights. However, this is the first time we’ve been here for so long without a social agenda.
Our apartment was located in lower Manhattan, the Financial District – FiDi, right between South Street Seaport and the World Trade Center. The newly renovated space was empty and deliciously dry and hot. The building’s boiler was turned on by maintenance at the start of winter and roasts everyone whether they like it or not. The apartment was 80 degrees or more. Even Allan who often complains of the cold left the window open most of the time to get some cold fresh air. During our stay, his lungs sound great and aside from the colds we had at the start of our trip, he hasn’t had a cough.
FiDi and the South Street Seaport are the oldest neighborhood in the City. It took me four weeks of living here to get out of the neighborhood! My remote job coupled with my work-a-holic tendencies kept me in my chair until after dark. When I was done, I would leave the apartment, get lost and try to find my way back.
The streets are narrow and cobbled. The super organized grid of Manhattan gives way to curves and alleys. A few turns and oops, I didn’t mean to go there – as I arrive at a darkened plaza filled with people smoking cigarettes, huddled in the coats, rushing out of doors on their way to the trains and water taxis.
This is the first time I have spent any length of time in the FiDi. Before, it was just day trips for school or the quick stop when family members came to town. Much of the area is being rebuilt after hurricane Sandy and 9/11.
On the colder or rainy nights, I take our daughter SB from Fulton Center to Battery Park city through a series of underground shopping centers. She is fascinated by the “Up-Downs” or elevators and escalators we need to take to get to each connecting level.
Finally our 4th weekend here we broke away and took the subway uptown to SoHo and then walked back. Since then We have walked up the Hudson River to Greenwich Village, explored Chinatown and Little Italy and museums all over the Island.
Reflecting on our time, the 5 best things about our move have been, excellent socialization for SB, independent from our car, easy access to events, lean living and diversity of everything.
Excellent Socialization for SB
Our apartment is in a complex built in the early 1970s. Generations of families live here. There are two parks in our apartment complex, an indoor playroom and a pre-school within our complex. There is always someone her age for her to socialize with.
Easy access to events
There is always something happening in the city. Traveling with a 2-year old, we kept our consumption of events to things like story time in the evenings at Barnes and Noble, Saturdays at the Strand and Sunday art projects at museums.
Ditch the Car
I love the freedom of not having to use a car. At home, I need a car for all of my errands.
Load the baby in the car, get in the car, drive, take the baby out of the car, put her in the stroller etc etc etc. so many steps! I often will cut my errands short just so I do not have to put SB in and out of her seat again.
In Manhattan, I just put her in the stroller and go everywhere on foot. It is a luxury to walk to a nearby place to grab ingredients, fill prescriptions, find a good restaurant and meet friends.
Living Lean… sort of
Knowing that we were going to be living in a drastically smaller space than we currently occupy, we knew that we would have to travel light.
three interchangeable outfits and one dress
Two sets of place settings
While here we bought:
Office Chairs – because you gotta work pay the bills
Wine glasses – I didn’t want to drink wine from a mug. It just feels wrong
A water bottle with a filter – New York City’s water may come from the beautiful Ashokan Reservoir upstate, but the old city pipes make it taste disgusting
A data modem – Our apartment was unfurnished without a cable hook up. If we wanted internet connectivity, we either had to use use a data modem or install cable. At the time we did not think it was worth the effort to install cable. We probably should have looked into it – but we needed internet immediately for work.
Children’s clothing toys and books – I bought winter boots and snow suit for SB after the first snow. We also acquired toys from moving piles.
Diversity – of everything!
I love that I am surrounded by people from all walks of life. We can hear multiple languages and accents a day. There are people young and old, rich and poor and everything in between.
The 5 Worst Things for me were that there was no nature – at least not in the abundance that I’m currently used to. There was no quiet and no darkness. We were never alone and the city is quite expensive.
I Miss Nature
I miss seeing the trees through my windows. Here in the city, when I stare straight out my window there are walls and windows. The outdoor construction elevator goes miles a day, up and down – up and down. When I see the the Asian Ambulance rush by sirens blaring and I wonder, “would it pick me up if I needed help?” I can watch the action at the photo studio across the street on the seventh floor. On sunny days I can see the blue sky when laying down. On foggy days, I can barely see the tops of buildings around me. When the snow falls, it’s like we live in a snow globe swirling up and around, caught in the drafts between the buildings. All of this is captivating but it is not the peacefulness of the trees.
Our apartment faced Fulton Street, a main thoroughfare in the Financial District. On the east end is South Street Seaport. On the West is the World Trade Center. There was a 24 hour McDonalds across the street. Every night you can expect to hear giddy people experiencing some part of their exciting night. There are two highrises under construction across the street. Around the corner is a hospital and police precinct. During the day, there are siren calls every couple hours at least. To top it off, the apartment above ours is undergoing a renovation. Hammer hammer hammer, drill drill drill.
I can count the nights where there was almost no noise on one hand. One night the road was closed while filming night scenes for a TV show. Another weekend the street was blocked of for the unloading and construction of a crane. No traffic or sirens -Ahhh.
Our apartment had just undergone renovation and we were the first people to use it. Because of our short stay, we did not want to make too many alterations like drilling holes in the walls for curtain rods, so our windows were bare. The lights are always on in the office towers across the street. The weekends are slightly darker than the weekdays but only slightly. One of my first purchases was an eye mask so that I could sleep peacefully.
In this move, we went from a sprawling house with no neighbors to a 700 square foot one bedroom apartment. By city standards this is spacious. However, during the day it was three of us in the same space. As both my husband and I both work from home, we are on top of each other all day long.
As I walk the streets of my section of town, I can see the familiar faces of my neighbors in the courtyard near our front door. I nod to the same homeless guy who sits at the steps of the discount shop, which used to be a really great book store. As I walk through the crowds, I imagine the energies of millions of people who tread these streets and subways throughout the history of this great city. Even on the quietest of nights, I am not alone.
There are no bones about it, Manhattan is expensive. The sticker shock came the first day when we almost bought a 5 lb crate of clementines. Just the week before, we bought a crate, the same size and brand, from our local store upstate for $3.99. The grocery downstairs had it for $12.99. Ummmmm no! We did not buy clementines that day.
I know that when we go back home, I will miss some things, like the fact that I can walk everywhere and the instant community, whether I want it or not. But, I can incorporate some of the best things like living lean. I have also made a pact with myself to force me or Allan to take SB out to find more activities and events for kids her age. Making the effort to ping those who mean so much to us and creating community. As for the things on my “worst” list, they make me appreciate our little spot of home that much more.