Friday, April 19, 2013

The Search (for our new home) Begins

I say this a lot but words matter. Most people who know me know how strongly I belief this. And I have to act like I do. I have to live my life in that truth.

I can't act like this is a "trip"-- a brief three hundred and some days interruption to our lives. It is our lives. For a year, maybe more. Part of me likes the former mindset of it being an extended trip. It's more comfortable. It's what I held on to for a long time. But it's really not fair. To Peyton or to our kids or to myself.

So, while in part this will always be my TRUE home, there's also a different, contrasting dynamic at play here, too.  I find myself, unnatural as it may be, attempting to refer to an approximately five hundred square foot apartment in a neighborhood I've likely never seen in a city I've visited exactly once and my children have no real knowledge of as...home. As I should. 

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the neighborhoods we've looked into so far.

Because of their proximity to Manhattan (the epicenter, for Peyton's purposes) we're limiting the search to only two of the outer boroughs plus Manhattan itself. So, the first real decision will be deciding between Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. Brooklyn would be more similar to home, though that's really, really relative. It would just be similar in that we'd have a bit more space, could have a car if we wanted to, and could enjoy things like say, a patio. However, Manhattan has the "experience" and that's really what we're going for.  In talking with a friend who has lived there she said it was a place "like nowhere else on Earth". Which, I fully believe her. Some neighborhoods in Queens would frankly be the most economical options and it has the diversity that we're interested in. But the distance is a factor. Anyway, here are a few of the neighborhoods we've looked into, just so you can kind of have a feel for what we're looking at.

Brooklyn Heights (Brooklyn)
This is probably my favorite so far. The term I'm going to go with is "charm". It's got a lot of history and is full of pre-Civil war houses that have been restored. It a very "short" area, as I've decided to call it in that it's only got a smattering of high-rise buildings and is full of picturesque rowhouses. Not only that, but from certain spots you can see the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, and the firework displays across the East River. It's a really short commute to Manhattan and is super safe. A couple of drawbacks for us are the lack of diversity and the lack of a more fast-paced city culture.

Park Slope (Brooklyn)
This is another neat neighborhood. It was actually ranked as the number one neighborhood in New York by New York Magazine in 2010. It's also been included in a list of "America's Ten Best Neighborhoods" in Natural Home magazine. I think it's sort of a middle ground between a place like Brooklyn Heights and a neighborhood in Manhattan. Actually, in recent years it's become home to younger, childless professionals who in previous decades would most likely have lived in Manhattan. Also, because through the years there has been a big immigrant population in this area and because of rent stabilization I would think it would offer some of the diversity we're looking for. In addition, Park Slope has a sizable Jewish population. It's has ample green space, lots of fun bars and restaurants (not that we'll be frequenting bars often) and a nice retail sector. There's a food co-op, a few museums, and a nice library system.  Lastly, it has a stellar public school system. Obviously since this experience was the initial force behind the drive to homeschool, in some ways that doesn't seem very relevant. The one way I see it being relevant, though, is that it likely makes the area more "family centric" than it otherwise would be (i.e. it's not full of only "younger, childless professionals").

Fort Green/Clinton Slope (Brooklyn)
This is right next door to Park Slope. It's similar, but more diverse and less expensive. However, it's crime and public school rating are below average. I'd just have to learn more to see if I'd be comfortable. [Quick sidenote: unless I believe it's a call from God, I will likely never raise my family in a high crime area. That said, I think I could tolerate a slightly higher crime rate if it weren't for Peyton's hours. If he was working a normal eight to five job, that would be one thing, but many nights he won't be home until after ten. Anyway, that's something we have to take into consideration.]

Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn)
Since we won't have a yard per se, the idea of a "beautiful brownstones with front and back gardens" is deliciously appealing.
Sunnyside/Woodside (Queens)
I think we've about crossed this one off the list. The main factors that are appealing are the diversity in population (communities of Armenians, Romanians, Indians, Bangladeshis, Chinese, Koreans, Colombians, and Ecuadorans are sprinkled throughout) and the financial element- it's a super cheap option. Both those holding true, it's still very safe and we'd be comfortable there. I think it's just a bit too far from everything, though. 

Tribeca/Soho (Manhattan)
These would be some of our initial "city" options. The culture and the is really appealing. However, to do this in a financially responsible way, I know we'd have to sacrifice space. Probably to an extent I'm not really comfortable with. I'm not even sure why we had them at the top of our "Manhattan" list initially.

East Village (Manhattan)
From what I can tell, this seems to have the most diversity of the neighborhoods in Manhattan.  The price seems moderate (for the area- this is really, really relative). It seems like there's good eating and good shopping. Schools are not great, so there'd be an issue with finding other families there, but truthfully that's going to be an issue in Manhattan period, I think. Also: SO MUCH CULTURAL HISTORY.

Greenwich Village (Manhattan)
This one is on the list solely because I'm fascinated by the cultural history, which is a little bit irrelevant to its current state. It's expensive and I don't think it will really be our style. I'm confident  it won't make the short list.

Lower East Side (Manhattan)
Apparently "the housing stock is pretty run down". So...that sucks. However, there's still hardly any crime. And it's super cheap (by Manhattan standards) and pretty diverse (again by Manhattan standards). It's also a really noisy area with a big nightlife, which could be problematic with kids.  But as one article stated, "...few other neighborhoods offer such a complete New York City experience at this price point", so I think it's worth keeping on the list.

Morningside Heights (Manhattan)
 I'm drawn to this neighborhood largely because while it's in Manhattan it seems like more of a family area. However, it's not hugely convenient, so it might make more sense to just pick something in Brooklyn or Queens if we go this route.

Upper West Side (Manhattan)
This is probably our number one right now. It's close to Central Park, which I know AP will LOVE. However, it's pretty expensive and by some standards "lacks street life".

We're planning a trip up, but that probably won't be until around early Fall. Peyton keeps telling me that I need to be prepared for LOTS of walking. Anyway, I want to do as much research as I can on the front end so we don't waste time on our trip. I'd love to hear opinions if you're familiar with the area.

[ETA: I kind of had to laugh because I realized how (almost absurdly) different some of the options we're interested in are. It almost seems like we've picked out one or two of every possible option. Probably because we sort of have ;) I think that's probably the most fun part to me is that we're getting to do something SO different from our normal. Maybe that means living in a brownstone with a teensy garden. Maybe it means living in a really eclectic, artsy area. Maybe it means living in a mostly immigrant community. I can't wait to find out!]