NYC2K5 – THE SAGA

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Well, we’re back. Our excursion to the East Coast went off swimmingly, and fun was had by all. Beer was drunk, clams were fried, steaks sliced, streets walked, hoods navigated, photos popped. It was a blast.

As I had mentioned earlier, the wife and I were there not only to recreate, but to check out the semi-affordable areas for real estate, and get a flavor for some of the areas I’ve never really visited.

Today, I will present to you my findings, loosely grouped by area in the order which we visited. A word of caution – especially to the NYC natives out there: just because I didn’t like your hood doesn’t make it a bad place. Just realize that one man’s paradise is another man’s Cleveland, and everyone has different comfort levels.

So, let’s start up top – in the BK.

There was this moment, where I was sitting in a cafe on Brooklyn Heights, drinking OJ, thinking: “I could do this”. Sheer beauty, the promenade, unbroken blocks of grand 19th century buildings… It’s a time machine with a view of the future. Unfortunately for us, this area is virtually unaffordable.

Cobble Hill / Boerum Hill / Carrol Gardens was also rad. Smith Street is a solid mile of restaurants. Park Slope was amazing, rows and rows of primo brownstone rowhomes. DUMBO was a complete trip, but I can see the appeal.

I had really high hopes for Fort Greene / Clinton Hill. But my views are mixed. I did not feel unsafe in these areas, but the reality is that these neighborhoods… and for miles beyond… is a predominantly Black area.

Crossing Flatbush and heading down Myrtle, on a hundred-degree afternoon. The projects are bustling with activity. People all over the street.. all over the park… lots of action. Followed Myrtle all the way to Bedford or so… it’s Bed-Stuy now… the houses are looking shabby and some boarded up ones too.

The south side of the park is an excellent area, especially in Fort Greene. However there are spotty blocks throughout this area. The main drags of Clinton Hill have a bit of a ways to go. The borders are fairly wide, maybe 20 blocks, although the reality seems that I would have to be on one of the landmarked blocks. I think the same thing applies to Prospect Heights, although the blocks with proximity to Grand Army Plaza seemed perfectly safe to me.

We liked Ditmas Park and much of the Victorian Flatbush area in general but it is spotty. The main problem here was that the local commercial district is really
filthy and really packed, this was kinda true of most of Flatbush. Windsor Terrace, Prospect Park South, Ocean Parkway… it’s really kinda hit-or-miss.

Bay Ridge was nice. No surprises. Given what I can afford, If I was going to buy in Brooklyn that’s probably where I’d be. Nice skatepark, NYC. People complain about the commute – but the reality is that even today it takes me a minimum of 30 minutes to drive 12 miles to Sorrento Valley.
Had high hopes for Sunset Park, but alas it is a barrio neighborhood, and as a frequenter of Barrio Logan here in the SD, I say ‘nay’. Saw some great blocks down here too.

Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Stuy Heights… no way. I know the ghetto when I see it. Saw some amazing houses in there!

Williamsburg, Greenpoint … not my scene, man. Saw some decent hoods but overall just not pretty.

And so we crossed the bridge into LIC & Hunters Point, Queens.

The area is going condo real fast… 2 big towers and a nice waterfront park in place. The whole area is a clean slate.
To the north is some generally blighted industrial areas and some waterfront projects, but a few more blocks and you end up in Astoria

Astoria, busy, crowded, great energy, some ugly-ass houses, some cute ones. Not sure how I feel about Northern Queens in general at this point.

We liked Jackson Heights a lot. Queens is just a different vibe, a little country sometimes. Contrast the Woodside Houses with Farragut Houses on a hot sunday .

After figuring out how to get across Queens Boulevard, we headed into Kew Gardens, Forest Hills and related. Forest Hills Gardens is especially verdent this year.
Like Bay Ridge, this is a nice area, that is still affordable, just very far out. I would probably end up here too.

Ok, so we moved on to Jersey the following day.

Downtown Jersey City is a very interesting place. A small city with a historic but somewhat unkept downtown, this seems like the best value for the money in the NYC area.

We did see some crappy blocks, some projects and indeed JC is somewhat self-contained by the Hudson on the east and the NJ Turnpike on the west. They have a brand new modern downtown, and there are new condos going up on former industrial sites every day.

Hoboken is a pleasure. Great waterfront views and lovely brownstone blocks. It’s as expensive as a nice hood in Brooklyn, and I’d probably prefer Brooklyn.

Union City was pretty much a bust, and most of the area north is either riverfront condos on the riverbank, or suburbia up on the palisade. So we crossed the GWB into Northern Manhattan.

From GWB/180th north, west of broadway, all the way to the tip of Manhattan is a very well-kept neighborhood which resides on one of Manhattan’s few real hills.
The area is called Hudson Heights south of the Cloisters and is called Inwood further north. Given that this is a relatively affordable area, this was the surprise of the trip. Inwood is lower on the hill and a bit less
isolated but still very nice, esp on on Park Terrace E / W. The basic problem with this area is that it is basically surrounded by the rest of Washington Heights and the Bronx.

We wrapped it up by checking out Riverdale, which was pretty much mansions overlooking the Hudson river, and a couple of huge co-ops.

So, that was it. 4 days of driving, map navigating, searching for blocks.

Later in our trip, we visited Boston, which we completely loved. I could do a whole other post on Boston.

I guess the final question is “when are you moving back?” – the only thing I can say is “probably not this year”. I feel I have some stuff to do, some money to make, and it’s going to involve me being here for a couple more years at least.

There is a part of me that feels as if I will always return, and eventually live somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. There is an energy and excitement in the eastern cities that just can’t be matched in the West.
I guess I will just have to settle for being a tourist for a while.

But, if I could line up a job and was able to buy a place, here’s a stab at my preferred list of hoods in order of preference.

Cobble Hill / Boerum Hill / Carroll Gardens
Hoboken

Forest Hills
Bay Ridge

Hudson Heights
Downtown Jersey City
Fort Greene / Clinton Hill

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