As a traveling performer I have moved in and out of New York City a number of times, and I’ve also lived in many different places around the city. The first time I moved here was in January of 2010 and it ended up being pretty stressful at the start. I knew people here but only a few were able to offer help while I got my feet on the ground. Years later I have realized how easy it is for me now to move in and out of this city. In reality, it’s not so much easier as it is less stressful. I do remember my fears from my first move though and thought it could be beneficial for some people out there to have a couple pointers if they are mustering up the courage to make the move themselves.
When I first moved to New York, I spent 6 days between two couches and then moved into my first sublet. Those 6 days were crazy searching for jobs and searching for that eventual sublet; but I made it happen.
- Buy a One-way Ticket
- Find a Sublet
- Find a Job
Here are my tips on the different parts of moving to New York.
Taking the Plunge
New York is so amazing. I still think of Time Square as the center of the Universe and there just so much more life and energy here. Of course if you are reading this I probably don’t need to sell you on New York.
If you have never visited New York or been away from the tourist areas, you have to realize that New York is filled with ordinary people living in apartments just like anywhere else. You may not know where to start but it’s just like moving to any other place. You just have to do it.
The minimum I would want to move to New York with is $1000 plus a credit card for emergencies. This is based on knowing I can find a place and hustle my way into a job pretty quickly. Obviously, the more money you have saved the better. If you want more peace of mind I would say $3000-$4000. That will cover a month or two of rent, cheap food, a monthly metro card, and a few trips to the bar.
Buy a one-way ticket! Feel the fear before you buy and then the rush of excitement once it’s purchased and you realize it’s really happening! (Tip: Flight prices go up and down all day and I find that they price them the best around midnight. I’ve seen prices around 5pm/6pm be close to being twice as expensive as midnight!)
The easiest option is that a friend or a friend-of-a-friend has a room to sublet and you take it. But if you don’t have that option, start looking! Craigslist and Facebook groups are filled with sublet opportunities. It is a tedious process of sifting through crap, but you just go online everyday and see what’s new. If you see something you like you send a message and pray they respond. Now when you ask about a room to sublet, they are going to want to meet you. This is why it’s helpful to have a friend’s couch to stay on a couple nights while you go around interviewing for a sublet. I once made it work without a couch to stay on, so if you know no one in New York, know that it can be done.
It was about 2 years ago that I was doing a somewhat impulsive move back to New York and needed a sublet waiting for me once I got there. I found a sublet listing on a Facebook group and spoke to the owner of the room. When they brought up meeting in person I just simply explained that I wasn’t in the city yet but that I really liked the room and location and would be glad to speak over Skype or FaceTime. That way they could see I was a real person and ask me any questions they had. I didn’t know if this would work but it did! I was just another actor moving back to the city and they were actors so they knew my situation well. Keep in mind this is true for more than just actors. I’ve met many people working to make a life in New York for business or medicine, so really you can relate with anyone.
I should add that some people don’t want a sublet and want to jump into a lease. I have never done that in New York, but if you do, be sure that you DON’T USE A BROKER. I’ve heard horror stories about those fees. You can find something yourself if you just look for it.
It terms of a realistic budget, most people will move to Upper Manhattan (Washington Heights, Harlem), the Bronx, Queens, and parts of Brooklyn. I have lived in each of those places except the Bronx. I’ve never really been to much of the Bronx, and I’ve never heard anything particularly good about living there. Brooklyn has a lot of fans, but I don’t particularly like it because I like fast access to the theatre world near Times Square. I have had some wild nights in Brooklyn, but I would only move back there with a group of friends to spend time with. Otherwise, it’s too far removed from most of my friends and the places I like.
Between Upper Manhattan and Queens, I would say Upper Manhattan has more of a city feel while Queens has more of a neighborhood feel. Both are about the same travel time from Time Square so I usually end up where I can find the best deal.
There are a lot of safe options and I think that the main thing is to find a place near a subway stop. Life is a long time and you can try all the Boroughs if you like!
Finding work is all about friends and hustle. By default, I like to just go to as many bars and restaurants as I can during the day with resumes. Nothing will come from most of it, but I usually get a job somewhere in the end. At night, hop on craigslist or other websites to look for odd jobs that you can apply to online. Aside from that though I get half of my work from friends recommending me somewhere. Just go out to a bar with friends after a day of job searching and ask around! People are always happy to help you out if they can because everyone here knows the fight to find work.
Make It Happen
Back in 2010, 6 hours before my flight to New York I found out the person I was going to stay with wasn’t available any more and I didn’t have a couch waiting for me. Days later I was staying with a friend whose roommate said I had to move out the next day. I thought I was going to be homeless in New York. I ended up finding a sublet and a job. If problems come up you can figure it out. Move to New York and just make it happen.