Hot summer (garbage) days

It was garbage day in my neighborhood and I thought something that I’ve thought every summer garbage day that I’ve lived in New York: This city is kind of gross.

Growing up in the suburbs, our garbage was always encased in those heavy-duty giant bins that we (well, my dad) rolled out to the curb on garbage day. Sometimes, if we had a lot of garbage that week, we might have a smaller plastic bin like the ones my landlord has. But as far as I remember, no one in the suburbs puts their trash out just in a bag.

Here in New York, though, I sometimes put trash out in just a bag, and so do a lot of other people. Mostly I do it if it’s late the night before trash day, or early on trash morning, if my landlord hasn’t put the can out. I don’t want to risk my trash sitting in the can for a week, and I don’t know that he’d want me to pull the can out myself. I fully admit that I am part of the problem.

The problem of course is this: On hot garbage days, the streets of New York stink. Stink as in hold my breath as I walk by because I really don’t want to smell your rotting food or whatever else you’ve thrown out that smells bad in the heat. And since we New Yorkers do a lot of walking, and garbage day is different all over the city, often from block to block, sometimes every day is garbage day.

But on the bright side, garbage isn’t the only thing people put on the side of the street. In Park Slope, at least, people often put out furniture they don’t want anymore, or books, or all the other stuff you might sell at a stoop sale, the NYC version of a tag sale. I’ve scored a beat-up but serviceable end table and a copy of Quiet by Susan Cain (highly recommended) by the side of the road.

How do you avoid stinky garbage days in your neighborhood? And have you found anything worth salvaging by the side of the road lately?


Free Saturday at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

My dad came to visit this weekend and on Saturday morning we knew we needed to spend time outside. It was a gorgeous day, in the upper seventies, and after brunch at a diner we wandered over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Famous for its cherry blossom festival each spring, the Botanic Garden is located in the northeast part of Prospect Park, near the Brooklyn Museum and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. When we got there, we made a lovely discovery: admission is free on Saturday mornings between 10 am and 12 pm.

We wandered into the park and found ourselves in the native flora section, where some of the bushes smelled like the ones we had in our old backyard. There were wide paths and narrow ones, and while we could hear traffic and catch an occasional glimpse of it, this little bit of woods could have almost been a trail in a park upstate. At the head of one of the narrow paths we came across a young couple and their tiny twin toddlers. One of the girls was walking sturdily along until she saw us, at which point she hid behind her mother’s leg.

We emerged out of the flora paths and passed a pond, complete with turtles and lily pads, then walked into the rose garden, my favorite part of the Botanic Garden. I took picture after picture, trying to capture the vibrant colors. There was a couple who looked to be taking engagement photos, and a little later a woman asked me to take a photo of her in front of the roses.

Alongside the rose garden was a beautiful lawn that I think was the esplanade where the cherry blossoms would have been in early spring. Families were sprawled out on the grass, and while you’re not supposed to bring food into the garden, it looked like a perfect place for a picnic – or at least for a quiet afternoon with a book.

Our last stops were the Japanese Tea Garden and the Shakespeare Garden. The pool of water the Japanese Tea Garden sat on was lovely, but the flowers in the Shakespeare Garden were lovelier. There’s also something especially neat about a garden populated with flowers and plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. I went to a Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park a few weeks ago, and while it was bigger, more like one of the private courtyards at the end of the movie Notting Hill, it didn’t have quite the impact that this smaller garden, packed with flowers, did.

There are other times when the Botanic Garden is free, so check out the website to plan your visit! Has anyone else spent any time there? What’s the best season to go?

Sunday in Williamsburg and Greenpoint

At a party recently someone asked me if I lived in Brooklyn . When I said yes, he said, “Williamsburg?” and I scoffed, then felt bad. He lived in Williamsburg. Oops.

I haven’t spent much time in Williamsburg. Some of my reasons have to do with the fact that I’m not a hipster, but more of myreasons have to do with the fact that it feels very far away from everywhere I’ve lived in Brooklyn, and getting there involves the G train. Since i lived on the G train exclusively for two years when I first moved to NYC, I have a higher tolerance for it than most people – yes, it doesn’t come often, but it reliably doesn’t come often – but I still avoid it when I can.

A few weekends ago my friend and I headed to an event in Greenpoint, Williamsburg’s neighbor, a mini craft fair that we were not super enthusiastic about. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t anything exciting. But en route we did see something worth the trip: Brooklyn Mac. After ducking out early on the fair, we picked up some mac ‘n cheese and headed to McCarren Park to bask in the sun, eat delicious cheesy pasta, and talk about life.

From there we decided to head to the Williamsburg Flea. We’d both spent plenty of time at the Flea in Clinton Hill, but neither of us had been to the Williamsburg version. It had a lot the same vendors, and some of the same Brooklyn-y crafts as the craft fair, but there was also a ton of miscellaneous stuff, which is what I go to flea markets and tag sales for.

My old roommate once got a set of really neat silverware at the Flea for about $25, and my friend picked up a great coffee table there. I’ve mostly stuck to buying food – People’s Pops has awesome popsicles – but I love checking out all the random jewelry and keeping my eyes out for old Nancy Drews among the books scattered in the stalls.

After a lap around the Flea we noticed that the sky was filling with clouds and it was time to head home, but I plan to give Williamsburg and Greenpoint another chance to win me over – if only to go get some more delicious mac n’ cheese.

Anyone have favorite places in Williamsburg or Greenpoint to share? I went to Beacon’s Closet a few years ago and had a lot of fun trying stuff on.


PS On hiatus next week, back the following! Happy almost June!

Sunday in the park

It’s my first real Prospect Park Sunday ramble of spring. I’ve been here a couple times over the last few months on those weekends where we’ve gotten a taste of warm weather or sunshine, but today I’m in shorts and a t-shirt and flip flops.

I’m regretting the flip flops, but everything else was the right call.

I met up with a friend for pizza, then convinced her to put off her to do list for a little while and take a walk. We meandered from about 6th Street down to 15th and then she left to buy groceries and I walked down to the lake.

The lake is my favorite part of the park, probably because it was the first part I really got to know. My roommate and I used to bike down from Clinton Hill, and when you’re riding the bike loop, the lake is a perfect place to stop and take a breather.

Today I’m sitting on a bench right near the water. On any other day this summer that’s not the first lovely Sunday we’ve had, this little nook might be a quiet spot, but I had a lucky break finding this empty seat – and now there’s a kid standing directly in front of me, maybe two feet away, fishing.


There’s also a large group of kids with a couple of moms standing nearby, and now the fisher boy’s dad or grandpa is sitting next to me. I’m a little annoyed, but as long as I don’t get hit with a pole it’s fine.

I’m glad, though, when the group of kids leaves. There are ten or so of us now and yet it’s much quieter. All the people noise is on the other side of the trees and hedges and I start to hear birdsong, and dogs barking, along with planes overhead and cars far away.

There’s an Eastern King bird flying over the lake. I only know because a dad pointed it out to his kids, noting the white fringe at the bottom of its tail. There are also geese, and ducks, and turtles sunning themselves on a log. If I watch the water carefully enough sometimes I spot a turtle poking its head above water and then going back under.

The sky is bright blue, fading to a paler color by the horizon, and what clouds there are seem delicate against the blue.

There’s a swan in the distance swimming alone, parallel to shore. It turns and now it’s swimming towards us slowly, looking side to side as if unconcerned with us and curious about better prospects. It sticks its head under the water, long neck bending, and when it comes back up it shakes its head like a dog. A few minutes later a black bird with orange on its tail starts dive-bombing the swan and the swan turns in circles a few times like it’s chasing its tail, before the bird leaves it alone and the swan swims away.

The man catches a fish and when he notices a girl, maybe eight years old, watching in fascination, he calls her over to look at it. She comes, but politely declines when he asks if she wants to throw it back for him.

My allergies are acting up a little, but not enough to make me leave. Not quite yet.

There’s a bird perched on the branch of a fallen tree, its wings spread like it’s trying to get a tan. I wish that dad would come back and tell me what it is.

The buoy floating nearby says, near as I can tell: “Danger Thin Ice.” They’ve got that right.

There’s a kid leaning over the water, his face six inches from the surface, and I’m relieved when he sits back up rather than toppling in. Once we saw parents hold a tiny toddler near the water to “meet” a swan and I wanted to go yell at them. Swans can be mean, and even if they aren’t, why put your kid that close to a wild animal?

A little boy wearing a Rainforest Café shirt has walked up, saying “Ducks!” and carrying a roll. He tosses pieces of it at the two ducks nearby, who ignore it at first. The woman next to me tells her children that there’s a sign saying not to feed the water fowl, and that while we can’t control what others do we can control what we do.

The quiet’s been broken – more people again, lots of talking. I’ll try putting my headphones on and reading for a bit, but it’s almost time to go home, and soon I do.

PS New piece for Effed in Park Slope here.

Biking through the five boroughs

When you were out and about this Sunday, did you notice thousands of bicyclists riding through the city? I was home sleeping in and after a busy Saturday, but apparently it was the annual Five Boro Bike Tour.

The first spring I lived in NYC, my dad did the Five Boro ride. It was far from a perfect experience for him (I think even the organization admitted that it was not a great year, with problems including the simple but critical one of too many riders) but he enjoyed it enough to suggest we ride it together the following spring.
The Five Boro ride is a forty-mile bicycle tour through NYC. It’s like the marathon, only it’s not a race, and instead of starting in Staten Island, it ends there. The ride begins early on a Sunday morning in May near Battery Park, and goes through (surprise, surprise) all five boroughs.
I agreed to do the ride with my dad the following spring—but first, I needed a bike. 
So not long after my dad rode the Five Boro ride, I bought (with a little help from him) a Downtube folding bike at a local bike shop. It’s light turquoise, and it only weighs about twenty-four pounds—perfect for carrying up the stairs to my old (and new) third floor walk up. I’ve seen too many bikes without wheels, seats, chains, to want to leave my bike outside long term.
I took short rides that summer and fall, the longest being about eight miles. The next spring I got a few longish rides in before it was time for the ride with my dad. The most impressive was a ride from Brooklyn to Astoria to see a friend. I’d ridden to Williamsburg with friends before, but beyond that I had to follow my written directions (I don’t have a smart phone). It was uphill, and something was weird with my gears (I got it fixed before the Boro ride), but I made it there…and took the subway home. Hey, it was late!
I woke up early on the morning of the Boro ride. My parents had stayed in a hotel near the starting point, but I wanted to sleep in my bed.  I rode my bike to a subway line that’d get me to the Battery area quickly and met my parents at the hotel. After a quick, light breakfast my dad and I rode to the starting point. My mom went off to explore the city on her own.
The beginning of the ride was stop and start—it’s too crowded to be anything else—but once we got better spaced out, cruising up 6thAvenue was incredible—all bikes, no cars. If you want a similar experience check out Summer Streets, three weekends each summer when a route from the Brooklyn Bridge up to Central Park is closed to cars and open to cyclists, roller bladers, and pedestrians.
Around midtown I spotted a friend who lived in the area, waiting to cross the street, and I waved and said hello as I whizzed by. In a crowd of cyclists, even with some stops to allow cars to cross 6thAve, I felt fast. The ride passes through Central Park, and while some of the hills there are tough to get up, going down is pure joy—well, pure joy spiced with the danger of going just a little too fast.
The ride lets out at the upper west corner of the park, and after a stop and go ride north it heads east. There was a bathroom stop along that route, where my dad and I called my mom to check in.
There were groups of riders who had come up with themes to make it easy for them to spot each other in a crowd. Some had simple t-shirts, others had flowers attached to their helmets, and it was around that rest stop that we spotted our favorites: Muppet heads. Nothing like a disembodied Miss Piggy head on your helmet to make it easy for your friends to find you.
The ride dips into the Bronx, but only briefly, something like turning a corner, going over a bridge and finding yourself back in Manhattan again just like that, ready to ride south on the FDR. The FDR. Can I stress here how awesome it is to ride downhill on a highway? Remember this for later when I talk about riding the BQE. The FDR was somewhat shady and occasionally passed through tunnels (or it did at least once—my memories are a little fuzzy on these details). But the ride on the FDR is marred only by what waited at the end of our time on it: the Queensboro Bridge.
This was the first major bridge of the ride, and it was steep. If you were having trouble you were supposed to get over to the side and walk up. Great in theory, but in reality the faster riders kept pulling to the side, to pass us slowpokes, and so I rode all the way to the top and gratefully coasted down.
The queens portion of the tour wasn’t as pretty as the ride through Manhattan and the park, but there was a lovely rest stop in Astoria Park, with pretzels and fruit, and then the trek to Brooklyn—which exactly reversed what I’d ridden on my own earlier that spring. It was a lot easier this time, since not only had I gotten my gears fixed, I was now riding downhill.
It was when Dad and I reached Brooklyn Bridge Park, another rest stop, that we had to make a decision. There were still thirteen miles ahead of us. We were hot, and tired, and Mom would’ve liked some extra time with me.
But my completist nature—the part of me that usually reads all of a series and makes my stories overladen with more details than hearers (or readers) need to know—decided we should push on to Staten Island.
So we did.

Remember the FDR? What a lovely ride. The BQE was nothing like that. Except for the very beginning of it, little of the BQE portion was in the shade, and much of it was uphill. And of course, we’d already ridden twenty-seven miles.

This might also be a good moment to mention that I’d forgotten to put on sunscreen on this lovely, sunny May day.

The BQE was torture. We stopped often to rest, and I remember walking my bike up a small hill.

And at the end of it was the Verrazano Bridge.

Neither the Verrazano nor the Queensboro usually allows cyclists, so like riding the FDR and BQE, this was a special experience, and the view of the water was spectacular.

But the Verrazano is a tallbridge, with a deceptive incline. I poured the last of my energy into the climb, then coasted down the bridge and part of the way to the end of the ride.

There was a party—music, food, the works—at the end, but Dad and I headed straight for the long line for the ferry. I stood, half asleep on my feet, leaning on my bike, until it was our turn to board the ferry. I sat down on boards and promptly fell asleep.
It’s been a couple years since I did the Five Boro ride, and I haven’t done that much biking since— and certainly nothing that epic. I am a casual cyclist. I have friends who ride their bikes everywhere, and my dad sometimes bikes to work during mild winter weather. If I could do that I wouldn’t need my expensive gym membership.
But riding those forty miles was exhilarating, and thinking about it makes me want to get back on my bike. And it’s spring! Maybe if I ride a bunch this summer and fall, I can even do the Five Boro Ride again next spring.
Has anyone else done a long bike ride? Any favorite biking destinations or routes in New York?

Say yes in NYC

You know that longstanding piece of advice, “Always say yes”? It gets applied to everything from career opportunities to dating, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a good life policy for life in New York. Look, I’m not saying go crazy – I’ll say no to drinks or other evening outings if I need to be up early for work the next morning, or if it just doesn’t sound that interesting to me. But if something sounds moderately interesting – and it’s free or inexpensive – I say yes. I’ve gotten to see shows for free, seen advance screenings of movies, gone to a taping of a panel TV show, heard Renee Fleming speak about her career, gone on an after-hours visit to the Natural History Museum…

Some of these opportunities have come through friends, ones with tickets they couldn’t use or needed to share – or through work, like most movie screenings I’ve been to. But others are just from paying attention, and, when presented with a chance to do something, saying, “Sure, why not”. When I went to that Harry Potter event a few years ago and saw Daniel Radcliffe, it was because of a posting I’d come across on Twitter. I got a free ticket to Pitch Perfect because I was a fan of the Varsity Vocals Facebook page (the group that runs the real-life competition, ICCA, that Pitch Perfect was based on) and I noticed when they posted about an advance screening. I heard about the Renee Fleming talk because I’m a Facebook fan of Thirteen, the local PBS channel. The call for extras for “Love is Strange” was posted on my college choir’s Facebook page.
Time Out magazine is of course a great resource – I’ve been receiving it for free for years without knowing why, but I suspect it’s because I signed up for HIPTIX a while back. HIPTIX is a program for people ages 18 to 35 who want discount tickets to theater productions put on by the Roundabout Theatre Company. I’ve only used it once, to see The Importance of Being Earnest, but I hope to go see Cabaret in the fall – and to pay only $25 for it. Apparently signing up nets you a TimeOut subscription, so if you don’t already get the magazine every week, consider putting your name down for HIPTIX.
Local blogs that are bit more timely than mine (I mostly post about outings that aren’t tootime-sensitive, with a few exceptions) can clue you into upcoming events. I learned about the singles night at Brooklyn Game Lab through F’ed in Park Slope (and then wrote about it for them). If you live in Brooklyn, consider putting yourself on the Brooklyn Brainery mailing list. They have inexpensive courses and some free events. I haven’t gone to one yet but am planning to soon, and all of their listings sound interesting!
What’s the best thing you’ve said yes to doing, and where do you hear about random-but-awesome opportunities?

How to start to get over an ear infection (or, how this weekend didn’t go as planned)

  1. Notice your ear is feeling a little funny, mention it at your physical at your office’s wellness center on Friday, but don’t make a big deal of it since you’re sure it’ll feel fine tomorrow.
  2.  Wake up Saturday morning with a plugged ear. Walk twenty minutes to an Urgent Care center because the office’s wellness center is effectively your primary care doctor and is closed on the weekend. Realize that maybe you should get a primary care doctor in Brooklyn.
  3.  When Urgent Care confirms that you have an ear infection, proceed to CVS for an antibiotic.
  4. Spend the weekend alternating between coddling your ear with warm and cold compresses and waiting for your fever to arrive after dinnertime and depart around bedtime. Spend ten minutes walking in circles with a warm compress against your ear to distract yourself from the pain.
  5. Cancel your weekend plans. 
  6.  Ask a friend to buy you more ibprofun and snacks and visit with you for an hour on Sunday so you don’t feel totally isolated.
  7. Watch a lot of TV.
  8.  Have a fever-free Monday, but notice that your ear really isn’t clearing up at all and in fact your other ear is starting to feel a little tender too.
  9. Call the office’s health center on Tuesday and make an appointment for that afternoon. Get yourself to work for the appointment and stop by your desk first to pick up the Easter candy your mom sent you.
  10. Take the ear drops they gave you (along with the news that another infection is brewing in your other ear) and head home, stopping only to get some food at the store, because you need to eat something that’s not cereal.
  11. Use ear drops four times a day as directed and hope for the best.
Will try to write about something more fun on Thursday, if I’m feeling better! In the meantime, please share some funny stories in the comments!

In the limbo between winter and spring

Yesterday I bundled up like it was winter again. The temperature was in the upper thirties in the morning today as well — not terribly cold when you figure in all the weeks of temps in the twenties and even the teens, but I pulled on my gloves and covered my ears like there was a Polar Vortex, because I don’t do well when the weather changes quickly. A thirty-degree drop in temperature or a quick shift from dry weather to wet can bring on an attack of the sneezes. A quick Google search shows I’m not the onlyone to deal with this.

So far I’m sniffle-free, with only a hint of a sore throat, so I’m hoping to stay allergy-free for a little while longer, but I’ve been thinking about the way the seasons impact my motivations.

I’ve been going to the gym on and off (mostly on!) since last summer, even through some of the very cold weeks this winter, but after experiencing the warmth of last week it’s been easy to give myself a pass these cold mornings. It should get easier as the weather gets nicer, but I’ve also known myself to become inert once the weather’s been nice for a while. Too many hot, busy days and I’ll stay at home in front of the AC even on a perfectly pleasant day because I’m too lazy to leave home.

I think this means I should always live somewhere that has seasons. If I lived someplace where the weather was nice all the time, I’d eventually get complacent and never leave the apartment, knowing I could always do it the next day. And if the weather was terrible all the time – well, you get the picture. I can be a bit of a homebody when left entirely to my own devices, so it’s good I have the contrasting seasons to remind me to step outside.

I’ll be getting out this weekend to go see a show with a friend, but I also want to take a walk and see how the tiny park near my apartment is doing. I spotted some daffodils last weekend; I hope the frost hasn’t hurt them. About a year ago, on a warm, sunny, April morning, I had an appointment to see my apartment for a second time and ultimately to put down a deposit. On my way over I walked by this tiny park. I’d walked by it many times before, but I’d never been there in spring, and I managed to catch it while it was in full bloom. There was a full palette of colors and flower varieties, and I just sat on a bench and took it all in. By the time I got to the apartment, my vision was a little rosy, and the sunlight streaming in through the windows didn’t hurt either. It was a good decision even so.

The temperature is supposed to climb back up to 63 degrees on Saturday. I can hardly wait.

Has everyone recovered from the winter? What are you most looking forward to about spring?

And, a post by me about that Toughest Job in the World video over at F’d in Park Slope.

A trip to Ikea in Brooklyn

My mom was in town this weekend and one of the fun things we did during her visit was take the Ikea ferry. We’d spent several hours in Manhattan and were sitting in Bryant Park deciding what to do next when she reminded me not only that I’d said that I wanted to go to Ikea but that there was a ferry that would get us there.

She was right on both counts. In a rare moment of wishing I had a smartphone (NB: my mom doesn’t have one either, but 99% of my visitors in New York do, so this usually isn’t a problem), I called information and got connected to Ikea so I could ask what pier they left from. The Ikea automated message was really unhelpful: Unless you knew your party’s extension, they assumed you wanted to talk to Customer Service and rattled off an 800 number.

So I texted a friend, who looked it up and texted me right back. (Carly, you’re the best.)

The ferry costs $5, but you can apply that cost toward your purchase (and there’s something about getting a free ride back if you purchased something, but it was confusing, so look it up yourself). Even if you don’t feel like buying any furniture at Ikea, you can get yourself a hot dog and a soda or some pizza, or, better yet, FIVE CINNAMON BUNS with that $5. I wouldn’t recommend eating five cinnamon buns by yourself, but what I’m saying is, you can’t go wrong with taking the ferry to Ikea.

Why did I want to go to Ikea? I needed a rug for my living room. I’ve been in my apartment for nearly a year and I’ve wanted to buy a rug for that long. This weekend I did it. It’s a round 51 inch rug, with mixed brown and grey and white fibers. When we got it home and looked at it, my mom and I both agreed it wasn’t perfect – slightly bigger, and less grey, would’ve been better – but it’s decent, and the grey is helped by some grey-and-beige patterned pillows I picked up at Ikea, too.

During my first month in New York my roommate and I went to Ikea to buy shelf brackets to put up a shelf in our long hallway. We had to call our other roommate and have her talk us out of buying cheap bar stools to put beneath the shelf. In retrospect, bar stools would have been a really terrible idea. We were drunk on the exhaustion that comes from wandering the Ikea showroom.

Pro tip: If you more or less know what you’re looking for, skip the showroom. Get yourself to the second floor (my mom and I turned left at the bathrooms and snuck past the registers) and you’ll be able to go straight to the items you’re looking for. Who needs to see the rugs laid out with furniture you’re not buying?

So who has made the Ikea pilgrimage, and what have you taken home with you?

How to find an apartment in NYC

It’s spring! The temperature is rising, the days are getting beautifully long, and pretty soon, people will be moving apartments.

Obviously people move year-round, but spring and summer seem to be especially popular times to hunt for a new apartment, probably since so many people move to New York each summer after they graduate from college. I found my current apartment around this time last year and while I plan to stay because I love my place, I thought I’d share some of the apartment-hunting advice I’ve come up with since moving here. Some of it is probably applicable for other cities, but from what I’ve heard about other cities, New York is an especially complicated place to find a place to live.

Most listings go up about a month before the apartment is available. June listings, for instance, won’t go up until May 1. You can start looking earlier than that, but you probably won’t find anything, unless you’re willing to pay for a month’s overlap — not always a bad thing if you want extra time to move! Craigslist and Padmapper are my favorite sites to use, since they both have a map feature. The map is useful because realtors will often say something is in one neighborhood in the listing title, but the actual address makes it clear that it’s in a different neighborhood.

Know your neighborhoods. If you have specific neighborhoods that you’re interested in, make sure you know what the borders are. When I first moved to New York, we were looking to live in Clinton Hill while my roommate went to Pratt for her MA, and we quickly learned that Classon Ave is the eastern border of Clinton Hill, despite many listings to the contrary. If something looks too good to be true (way under-priced for the neighborhood or for how nice it looks in pictures), it probably is too good to be true. But if something is a little under-priced and quirky, check it out — that’s how I found my apartment!

Use your resources: the internet + friends. Looking up information about neighborhoods online is helpful, but friends and coworkers are also a great a resource when you’re apartment hunting. Not only do they know the neighborhood’s boundaries, they usually have an idea of what the going rate is in their neighborhood, and they may even be able to put you in touch with their landlords, who might have openings nearby, or with brokers who know the neighborhood. 

If you love a place, hold on tight. When you find an apartment you like, you have to move fast. Often you’ll need to put down a deposit the day you see a place. Make sure to bring someone with you, preferably someone who will be even tougher on the place than you and will notice things like mouse poop or roach traps, will remember to check the water pressure and outlets, ask about how utilities are handled, check the locks, etc. Google the address and if possible the landlord before signing the lease, in case other people have already taken to the internet to talk about how terrible the building or owner is. There’s a site called, where you can sometimes see if there are 311 complaints about a building or a landlord – definitely worth a look.

Get your documents ready in advance. Ready to commit? Then be prepared to put down a deposit, in cash or cashier check — but never let a broker rush you if you’re feeling nervous. Brokers and landlords will often ask for a packet of application documents, like a scan of your photo ID, proof of employment and salary, your last couple bank statements, and a credit check. Having all these in order, saved in your email and ready to send along, can make applying for an apartment a much speedier process. If you’re a student or not yet employed, make sure you have guarantor lined up and be prepared to provide their financial information. The process for renting in a co-op is even more complicated, and I believe usually involves an interview, so make sure to ask what’s required of you when you fill out an application.

Be prepared to put a lot of money down as a deposit. At the application stage, you’ll be asked for a good faith deposit (often around $500). When you put down a deposit, the owner or broker has to the place off the market. If your application isn’t accepted for some reason, you should usually get the deposit back – but make sure to clarify that (and get in writing!) when you do put down your deposit. If you change your mind after placing a deposit, you usually cannot get your money back. 

Once you’ve committed to an apartment, you’ll hand over the rest of the deposit. By-owner rentals usually only require first month’s rent and a security deposit. If you have to use a broker, you’ll find that most of them charge a fee on top of that. One month’s rent is pretty standard, but some brokers (usually the more established ones, like Corcoran) charge anywhere from 10 to 15% of the year’s rent. Unless you really love an apartment and are committed to staying for a couple years, these expensive brokers often aren’t worth it. 

Read your lease carefully before signing it. Once your application is accepted, you’ll get a copy of your lease. Read it carefully, and ask questions about or Google any clauses you don’t understand. 

After the lease is signed, congratulations! You’ve managed to rent an apartment in NYC. Now you have about two or three weeks to pack up all your things and move. Moving between places in Brooklyn? I’ve used Greenbaum Expert Moving a couple times and found them to be reasonably priced, friendly, and very fast each time. All movers are very busy right around the first of the month, especially on the weekends, so if you can move in a little early or late, or midweek, you might get a better rate. 

For those who have done the NYC apartment hunt before, any suggestions to add? For those looking to move here, leave your questions in the comments!