Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Search (for our new home) Narrows (Part 2)

A couple of days ago I shared some of our narrowing down process that we used before the trip. Today I wanted to write about the visiting and evaluating we did on the trip. For starters, we did not plan ONE thing that we had to do on this trip besides visiting neighborhoods. In other words to all those friends asking us if we saw a Broadway show- we did not.

I had sort of mixed feelings about this. I knew it would help me to keep things minimal, but leading up to the trip I thought we'd do something like that at least one or two nights. [And we did have a couple of nice dinners!] I was just a little sad because I knew that we wouldn't have many, if any, opportunities once we moved because of the childcare situation. I don't care how highly you come recommended, if I don't know you or know someone WELL who knows you WELL, you can't watch my kids. We've had very few non-grandparent babysitters and they are young girls I love dearly and trust completely. However, two days before we left my mom called me about to bust saying she met a college friend and her precious college aged daughter in T.J. Maxx and how she is moving to NYC for school. Minnie was gushing and her momma kept telling Minnie how she was a believer and how she (the mom) had been praying for a family to mentor her and she would love to babysit for us some. Whatever comes of it, it gave me the peace to let go of trying to do a bunch of stuff because THIS IS OUR ONLY CHANCE.

It turned out to be great because we were so tired every night and I wanted to blog and just chill out anyway (I know I'm a weirdo). I love traveling, but sometimes it can be so tiring when you try to pack a lot in. There will be time to see a lot of things, but this was perfect. I can honestly say it was one of the best trips I've EVER been on. I think I loved it so much because pretty much all we did was eat out and talk to people and basically learn their stories. Those are basically my favorite things in life.

Someone asked me how we were doing this- did we have specific plans of places to visit or were we just going to walk around and talk to locals the whole time? Well, sort of both. Peyton and I both made lists of places (restaurants, shops, ect.) that we wanted to hit in each area and a couple of events (the Brooklyn flea and Fort Greene farmer's market, for example) and those were sort of our framework. We punched them in on Google maps in our phones so we could tell how far apart they were and figure out a good order. It was helpful because it just gave us various destinations so we weren't wandering aimlessly, even though the actual places weren't terribly important.

Anyway, here are the neighborhoods we saw (fifteen total) and our overall feelings about them:

There were some great spots in Manhattan that we really liked and some other places that we just didn't feel like we'd fit at all. 

1. East Village
Peyton gave the East Village 7 out of 10 for diversity and friendliness of people. I gave it a 6 out of 10 for the same reasons, plus community resources. However, I felt like the housing stock was a bit lacking. 

One thing about looking back on this is that you realize after having seen it all, you probably wouldn't have scored things the same way you did towards the beginning. We got a generally great vibe about the area and talked to some super friendly people. It seems SUPER laid back for Manhattan and I enjoyed it a lot. I felt safe, but not always right in my comfort zone (there were quite a few homeless people at the park in the afternoon). So I guess our ratings were pretty accurate for this one. That said, there were definitely neighborhoods we liked better. I think some of it, for me, comes down to it just not feeling as "clean" as other places. It was by no means trashed, but it just wasn't aesthetically pleasing. Also, while I think it's about the best we could do, Manhattan-wis (aside from Harlem) to meet our "family feel" qualification and still have some semblance of diversity, areas in Brooklyn seemed much more geared toward our stage of life with two little ones. 

2. Hell's Kitchen
Peyton: 4/10 for lack of attractiveness and community interaction, few young children; however it felt safe
SD: felt safe, however very few things to do, park was dirty, and streets were busy and cluttered

We weren't too impressed with it. It did feel really safe (probably moreso than the East Village), but there just wasn't much to it. We stopped at one park and there was a lot of trash and very few children. In fact, the one family we talked to, the mom was in the area for work. There were lots of auto places (like tire stores)  around and main streets seemed cluttered and not super interesting. I don't know that I would say it's "gritty" so much as "grimey" :)

3. Morningside Heights
Peyton: 6/10 for beautiful sorroundings, serene atmosphere, and community; lacked enough diverity
SD: 6/10 for quaint atmosphere, sweet families, and racial diversity; drawback is lots of college students, not as many families.

I really have this feeling that if we choose Manhattan this will be our neighborhood  See what I mean about the ratings? We gave it the same as the East Village and in my mind it's hands down a much better place for us. I think I'm drawn to it because it feels manageable  The pace is slow and it's beautiful. I told Peyton that in many ways, it feels like a little Brooklyn. I do think we kind of got an unfair picture, though, because all the Columbia students and faculty weren't there yet. And I get how living in the bubble (one we're not really a part of) might get annoying.

4. Manhattanville (West Harlem)
Peyton: 2/10 because it seemed unsafe but it was very affordable
SD: 1/10 because it felt pretty sketch (NYPD presence at the subway station, lots of graffiti, ect.), no pretty housing, no green space, and it just felt like a concrete jungle

I've got to honest- this was the one area we truly didn't give enough time to. We made it a priority to revisit everything we felt that way about but this one. But Peyton felt slightly unsafe and that's rare and that was enough for me to write it off (and by slightly unsafe I don't mean he felt like there about to be a drive by or a gang rape while we were standing there; I mean I don't think he'd feel comfortable with me and the kids being there alone at night or with himself taking a stroll back from the train at midnight). Columbia has bought up a large chunk of this area though, and I think it's going to change rapidly, if it hasn't already started to. 

5. Lenox Hill
Peyton: 5/10 for safety and affordability, but loud 
SD: 3/10 because it was very loud and overwhelming and it felt so business like

We eliminated this one pretty quickly. It was just so "hustle and bustle" and although nice, it just felt so business-like. One guy wouldn't let Peyton charge his cell phone in a (very casual) restaurant and there were tons of outlets. Not that that is the hugest deal, but it felt a lot like what the unfortunate stereo-type of New Yorkers looks like (busy, rude, only looking out for themselves). This was SO not our experience over all, and I'm sure it could just be a bad vibe we got from the area. The pace alone was overwhelming to me. 

6. Yorkville
Peyton: 6/10 for affordability, safety and accessibility; but lacked cohesive community 
SD: 5/10 because it was family friendly, but not very diverse and I felt like it had aspects about it that were a little pretentious

Yorkville was decidedly better than Lenox Hill, but it still didn't feel like much of a fit. It seemed to be  a pretty good spot for families, but it was definitely lacking the diversity we wanted and I felt like I would struggle with being self-conscious around super wealthy people. 

7. Upper West Side
7/10 for safety, amenities and diversity in some areas 
SD: 7/10 for safety, and accessibility; however there was a lack of a community feel 

It keeps getting better. This is pretty much the Manhattan neighborhood people recommended to us. And I can see why. The park is accessibly, lots of museums. And in some areas it felt more diverse. Then we realized it was because we were getting near some public housing. Which, I'm not saying is just the worst thing ever, but we wanted an area where the diversity seemed

8. Harlem
Peyton: 7/10 for diversity, gorgeous buildings, and rich cultural history; however still not a widespread sense of safety 
SD: 6/10 because I love the culture and the history, but (and this varies block to block) I still struggle with feeling uncomfortable, out of place, and unsafe (This one was the hardest to evaluate yet) [P.S. Peyton was upset with me because Harlem has some gorgeous parts and I used a couple of crappy pictures, but to me that's the reality of it.]

This is one of the hardest (if not the hardest) for me to evaluate. There was so much we loved about it. I love the history and the culture and some of the people we met seemed truly wonderful. Salt of the earth kind of thing. But I was a little disappointed I've read Annie several books about this area and it just intrigues me with all it's history and stories. Even though people are kind of shocked we were looking there, I couldn't not.  I  felt uncomfortable in a lot of areas, to be blunt. I was prepared to feel unsafe. But it wasn't always "unsafe" uncomfortable (sometimes it was). It was just that I didn't feel like we'd fit, or that in just a year's time we'd fit. At first Peyton asked me if it just bothered me that we were pretty much the only white people around. It wasn't that. It's hard to explain, but I thought at first there really wasn't much of a sense of community. Then I realized there probably was, we just weren't part of it. People didn't smile and nod at us when we smiled the way they did most other places. I just knew it would be very difficult to assimilate our little white suburban upper middle class family into that environment. For example, some of the areas in Brooklyn where we looked seemed to have a reasonably sized African American population. But it's different to try to fit in with people sitting on their stoops than with people throwing loud boom-boom Summer parties late at night like Harlem is sort of infamous for. Peyton and I talked a good bit about it and it's still an area I'm interested in. If we don't live there, I hope we'll visit a lot because the interactions we did have were some of the best on the trip (but they were in very specific areas of the neighborhood that we had heard were safer) and I do want to try to experience more of the culture. 


I was kind of blown away by Brooklyn. I really feel like it's where we'll end up. I sort of had a feeling going in that I'd fall in love with it, but I knew Peyton had his eye on Manhattan (and has forever). I'd literally been praying for months leading up to the trip that we'd not only get some clarity, but that we'd be on the same page. I was so terrified we'd love different things. It turns out, though, that we're both leaning pretty strongly toward Brooklyn. 

1. Fort Greene
Peyton: 8/10 for beautiful architecture, open sky, and weekly markets
SD: 9/10 for gorgeous housing, tree lined streets, and young families. It seemed pretty hipster but we loved it

We really liked Fort Greene. It was the first neighborhood we saw in Brooklyn and I just adored it from the start. We stepped out of the train station and it was like another world- a really lovely world. The skyline is obviously lower and it just felt like a good balance. That's how I came to see Brooklyn in general- a perfect middle ground between "the city" and home. It just seemed so manageable. Fort Greene specifically had a lot to offer- super accessible to Manhattan, it's own park in addition to Prospect Park, and the farmer's market and flea market on Saturday. Just a lot going on! 

2. Clinton Hill
Peyton: 8/10 for lots of friendliness, diversity and safety. 
SD: 9/10 for a "neighborhood" feel, friendliness, huge smiles and lots of little ones. 

By the end of the trip we established that Clinton Hill was our favorite neighborhood and it's where we'd really like to live. Probably the thing that set it apart more than anything else was the way that its residents touted the community feel- several used the word "neigborhood-y" to describe it. Additionally, it was the most diverse of the areas that we still felt very safe in. NOW, when I say we felt very safe- there are areas of the neighborhood I wouldn't be comfortable in. Gun violence is not entirely unheard of. It's surrounded by some neighborhoods that we decided we needed to stay away from. But the neighborhood  itself, for the most part, seems safe. It feels just far enough outside my comfort zone to be okay. 

3. Prospect Heights
Peyton: 7/10 for library and park access. 
SD: 7/10 for the same reasons and nice, well kept housing.

There is a lot to love about this neighborhood  the library, the park, the zoo within the park. Just so much great stuff. That said, I think we maybe rated it a bit too high. There were a lot of other areas of Brooklyn that we just felt a more cohesive community vibe and honestly, in the ones we are looking at, the park and library are pretty close anyway. 

4. Prospect Lefferts Garden
Peyton: no score because we didn't have time to revisit and our visit was super short 
SD: 3/10 because I've heard some good things and prices were reasonable but overall I didn't like how urban it felt and the streets we saw didn't seem very family friendly. Proximity to the Botanical Garden is pretty cool, though!

Peyton: 6/10 for beautiful houses and friendly people; probably where we'd go if we were buying, but not the best neighborhood for kids 
SD: 5/10 loved the homes and people, but few restaurants and groceries aren't easily available; also, I was a bit nervous on the main commercial street 

We didn't give this one a fair shake the first time, so we went back and revisited on a day when we had more time and weren't so exhausted. We still felt a little weird on the main street, not as unsafe as the first visit but I wasn't entirely comfortable. We talked to several residents (one who invited us into her home!) and got a better feeling for it and honestly, in some ways we were drawn to it. It has a big West Indian population and for some reason, I think it would be easier to assimilate in that community than one that's almost exclusively African American. I think some of that is my own prejudice and some is the actual nature of the culture or what we heard about it. Either way, I don't think we'll wind up here. It's still just a bit too far out of my comfort zone, the feeling (of being safe) varies block to block, and honestly the lack of grocery/restaurant access would be rough. 

5. Park Slope 
Peyton: 7/10 for safety, beauty, and wonderful restaurants and shops, but pretty expensive and less diversity than some neighborhoods 
SD: 7/10 for gorgeous brownstones and fun shopping and proximity to Prospect Park; drawbacks same as Peyton's 

This one is *the* neighborhood for young families in Brooklyn. We liked it, there were beautiful shops and great restaurants  But again, we didn't get the community vibe we had elsewhere. It seemed like people were busier running errands and such and it didn't seem to have the diversity other Brooklyn neighborhoods had. I will say that one thing that draws me away from it is similar to what draws me away from living in Manhattan. While I know that if we live in Brooklyn we will go into the city frequently, I don't know that the reverse would hold true. It just seems weird to live on "the island" and say hit up the Fort Greene farmer's market on Saturdays. In a similar way, I can see us enjoying all that Park Slope has to offer (playgrounds, restaurants  ect.) while living elsewhere. But we probably wouldn't live in Park Slope but venture out to say Cobble Hill to wander and talk to people in that neigborhood. 

6. Carroll Gardens
Peyton: 8/10 for somewhat diverse, well developed neighborhood and beautiful homes 
SD: 8/10 because I love the front gardens (funny because our yard in Mississippi looks like Hell) and friendly people 
I just adored the front gardens. I think this is my runner up behind Clinton Hill. Really Fort Greene would be, but it's much more expensive than any other Brooklyn neighborhoods we looked at, excepting Park Slope. 

7. Cobble Hill
There wasn't anything super distinctive about this one, but we got a good feeling. There was pretty, affordable housing and friendly people, so we liked it. 

That's everything we saw, fifteen neighborhoods in total. I feel like we have a pretty good feel for things and have some options. We're so excited about seeing where we'll end up.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Search (for our new home) Narrows (Part 1)

Okay, I promise I'm going to move onto something else soon, but I kind of wanted to consolidate my thoughts and sort of put all that we say in one place. Also, I wanted to write up a couple of posts to summarize the trip for my main blog. I already sort of did this with my Weekly Happenings posts over there, but I wanted to share more about the individual areas we visited and the process of it all. To me, this has been such a fascinating journey already and I've enjoyed it more than I thought was really possible.

So, there are a LOT of areas to look at when it comes to living in New York. You may remember my initial list here. When we started looking at different neighborhoods to visit, we decided to first make a basic list of priorities, find neighborhoods that seemed to fit all or most of those, eliminate ones that wouldn't work for whatever reason, and visit the remaining.

Here is our basic list of priorities, somewhat in order (that's kind of hard to do):
1. Affordability- Here's how this works. We aren't touching our savings. But we also aren't saving at the rate we have been for the first five years of our marriage. We're trying to do this responsibly, while realizing there will be a cost of living adjustment.
2. Safety- This has as much to do with where we feel safe as anything else. There are probably areas that are fine, but because Peyton's job requires late nights and because I'm not the most street savy gal, I just don't feel good about them. That said, we made it a priority on the trip not to rule out areas on the "edge" simply because they were out of our comfort zone.
3. Diversity (Cultural, Racial, Generational)- This wasn't something we thought a lot about a few years ago (of course we've been talking about this for years and years), but it's grown increasingly important to us.
4. Overall Sense of Community- I don't think either of us realized how much this would matter until we were actually on the trip. There was one neighborhood where people would not stop touting this particular characteristic and we realized it was pretty important to us.
5. Family Style Entertainment- There are great areas in NYC that we eliminated simply because they are more hubs for young singles and that's just not our life now.
6. Space- I put this really low on the list because it's relatively unimportant to Peyton. He would be FINE in a one bedroom and that was really what I thought would happen all along, but once I realized we could likely afford a two bedroom apartment in several of the areas we were looking, it started to look really, REALLY nice. I've realized a lot about myself in the past year or so and one of those is that I really value my space and I have a side to me that is pretty introverted. I know there will be a level of "urban stress" that comes from not being able to have the amount of personal space I'm accustomed to in many public settings, and I feel like having more space in our home will help to balance this.
7. Proximity to Manhattan (if in an outer borough) and Accessibility to Peyton's Work- We don't know where Peyton will work yet, and some of where he works will be dependent on where we live. That said, it's to our (his) benefit to pick a neighborhood that's serviced by multiple trains so if there's a problem with one he won't have an issue getting to work.
8. Aesthetic Appeal- Look, we're only doing this once and we'd rather live in a brownstone than a high rise, okay? ;)

If you look back at the initial list, we eliminated several sight unseen. Brooklyn Heights seemed really pricey compared to other Brooklyn neighborhoods that seemed more distinctive anyway. We scratched Sunnyside (and Astoria, which was also highly recommended) when we decided to forgo the entire outer borough of Queens. We went back and forth leading up to, and even during, the trip but ultimately we decided it didn't seem like it was for us. For one, it's not as accessible to "the city" (Manhattan) as any of the places we looked in Brooklyn. Also, it seems like it would be pretty necessary to have a car. Paying insurance on it up there would just be another (relatively large) expense and honestly the stellar public transportation in the city is one of the things that hooked Peyton on it long ago. He's always looked forward to that aspect of life up there. We also crossed Tribeca/Soho and Greenwich Village off the list basically because they didn't fit our qualifications in #5 and #6 (and lets be honest, #1).  Finally, we ended up not checking into the Lower East Side. It just seemed too loud and crazy for our purposes.

Tomorrow I'm going to blog about the neighborhoods we did visit (fifteen in total, I believe). I already did that each day over here, but like I said I want a concise post about it for my main blog and honestly I think it'll be fun to show things back to back, compare each one and give a few more details about our thoughts.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Operation Search for Our New Home: Day 8 (Departure)

Thursday was our last day in NYC. Our flight out wasn't until five, though. We got up and got packed up and checked out and then headed to Warby Parker to try on some glasses. We had lunch and then took a rather long (and expensive!) cab ride to the airport. We were still really early for our flight, so we just hung out for awhile. We flew into Washington D.C. and then from there home. Peyton's dad picked us up at the airport and I the kids were asleep when we got home. I was so happy to see them, though!

Saying farewell to the Chelsea Lodge. 

Warby Parker fun!

ByeBye, Big Apple (for now)!

Sentimental texts from Minnie are the best. 

He spent the entirety of our in-air time on the first flight configuring a budget for our year in the city!

Tiny people, huge blanket bed.Operation Search For Our New Home has concluded. Tiny bit of sads for such a great experience to be over, but huge amounts of happiness to be under the same roof with these people. The next time I fly into La Guardia I'll have them on either side of me and the next time I see New York, we will have found the home we've been searching for. I'm a bit teary, to tell the truth. 

I forgot to mention it before, but my friend Mallory, who knows how much routines and rituals help me combat my anxiety, suggested I choose a couple of "keystone habits" to practice in order to have a sense of familiarity and consistency while we were on our trip. It was so helpful and I'm adding it to my mental/emotional health toolbox and for sure using it for the move.

I'll probably write more about my general feelings about the trip, but it was SO good, guys. I felt so much more joy and peace about the move than I ever have and it helped me get really excited. I know it won't be easy, but I feel more strongly than ever that it's going to be a great thing and a beautiful part of our story. 

Operation Search for Our New Home: Day 7 (Prospects Lefferts Gardens Take 2, Harlem Take 2, Clinton Hill Take 2)

We got up late as usual and headed back to Brooklyn on Wednesday. It was our last day and we had several places to revisit. We hit up Prospects Lefferts Garden. We hadn't gotten off the main road on Saturday and it kind of creeped me, to be honest. But when we started exploring, we found it to be a very safe, friendly atmosphere on the side streets. We talked with an older black lady and Y'ALL- she invited us in her house to look around! It was older and very dated, but beautiful. She kept telling us how she never did this but she had a good feeling about us. I called her "Ms. Dorothy" on the way out and she asked me to be "please not be so formal". It was a precious experience and one I'll remember for the rest of my life.

We also visited with Zoey, who was covered in tatoos and walking her pug. She told us that when her and her husband moved in, they were the only white people and now that's changed. She said it's still an up and coming neighborhood and not a lot of grocery stores, ect. but that she felt very safe (and had only been mugged in much "nicer" areas!). She also said there was a big West Indian population. I talked to Peyton, and while I think this is sad and partly my own fault, I think I would have a less difficult time assimilating with that sort of culture than one that is entirely African American. I'm not sure why- I know some of it is my own prejudice, just to be honest, which is something I hate.
Peyton: 6/10 for beautiful houses and friendly people; probably where we'd go if we were buying, but not the best neighborhood for kids 
SD: 5/10 loved the homes and people, but few restaurants and groceries aren't easily available; also, I was a bit nervous on the main commercial street 

After that, we went back to Harlem. Well, first we ate lunch in the Upper West Side. Then Harlem!

We walked around and as much as I love the culture and history of Harlem (and as much as I loved the friends we had met the day before!), I could tell we'd have a hard time fitting in there. In every neigborhood, we'd smile and nod and just gauge people's response. Overall, in some parts of Harlem people were welcoming but in some parts they weren't at all. In fact, Peyton nodded at one momma who had a screaming child and said "Hard day, huh?" and she didn't even acknowledge him. NOW, that could easily happen. In fact it sort of did with the white lady our age in Cobble Hill a few days before. But we got that response repeatedly.

We did have some good interactions, though, but it was pretty much in the areas we had been told were the best (they were the ones I felt most safe in, for sure). We stepped in a foster child advocacy service office and the woman there was so friendly and happy to explain what their orginization did (basically educated foster parents and children of their rights). We also met a guy at a coffee shop and had a great time talking with him about growing up in the area and how it's rapidly changing (improving, by most accounts).

He mixed water, lemon juice and sugar to make "free" lemonade and I could tell it was a daily ritual. There are few things I love more than watching people and hearing their stories.

We noticed that some apartments were having an open house the next day and stopped at the real estate office around the corner to ask if we could see the apartment that afternoon since we were leaving town the next day. We ended up realizing there was one going on then and stopped in. The apartment was AMAZING.

 Too bad when we got on the subway we saw a cop. I asked him how he felt about the neigborhood (I always think asking a policeman is helpful) and he said he was there because there "was a robbery going on". One one way I was super disapointed because I had realized we could get some awesome space for our money, but in one way I was glad because it drew me back to where I really felt my heart going. 
Peyton: 7/10 for diversity, gorgeous buildings, and rich cultural history; however still not a widespread sense of safety 
SD: 6/10 because I love the culture and the history, but (and this varies block to block) I still struggle with feeling uncomfortable, out of place, and unsafe (This one was the hardest to evaluate yet) [P.S. Peyton was upset with me because Harlem has some gorgeous parts and I used a couple of crappy pictures, but to me that's the reality of it.]

After that, we made one more visit to Clinton Hill (the third!). We had some drinks at a bar and visited with the bartender and decided it was definitely our favorite neighborhood.

Favorite drinks in our favorite neighborhood. 

Definitely no/hopefully so. The former (Bed Stuy) is getting a lot better but still has a bad reputation for crime, the latter (Clinton Hill) is a relatively safe, awesome neighborhood  But they are right next to each other and the vibe changes FAST. I've noticed that a LOT in this city. 

A neat thing happened. As we were walking down the street we saw a cop and someone came out of an apartment to check. He told the woman that someone had "called 311 for a blocked driveway". Clearly, a hugely different dynamic. BUT, there's still a lot of diversity and it doesn't feel as safe and comfortable as some of the neighborhoods we visited. There's still a bit of edge, but it's just a tiny bit outside my comfort zone. 

We visited with a lady outside her beautiful brownstone and she told us about the area, how here family had been there for years, and how everyone took care of each other. It was a huge confirmation because our neighbor that I adore here in Flowood, Prentiss, told Peyton the exact same thing when he moved in. And he's been true to his word- he's the one who helped me get Graves out of the car when I locked him in it. 

That night we went out to a swanky bar in the trendy West Village. It's an area we could never afford right now, but it's fun to hang out there :)
Urban Traveling Proptip: Even if you don't have a fridge, get your leftovers boxed in case you see a homeless person on the way home. You likely will see a homeless person on the way home. 

He told me that when he went exploring by himself last night he put $20 between a homeless couple who were asleep and snuggling at the subway stop because he just thought they were so sweet. I cried. I hope I'm tough enough for this city (and good enough for this man). 

We came back to the lodge and talked and went to bed super late. 

Operation Search for Our New Home: Day 6 (Lenox Hill, Yorkville, Harlem, and the Upper West Side)

Tuesday we knocked out the Upper East Side, Harlem, and the Upper West Side (or tried to- we ended up revisiting Harlem the next day).

We had lunch in Chelsea after getting a late start and getting caught in the rain. It worked out well that we had slept late because it was so rainy that morning.

We headed to the Upper East Side. Lenox Hill is part of the UES and was our first stop. It was very business like and fast paced, sort of what you think of when you think of career people in New York.
Upper East Side. It's strange because some of the apartments in the Manhattan neighborhoods I thought were more affluent are more affordable than the ones in the more diverse, rapidly gentrifying, community feeling Brooklyn neighborhood we loved (where gun violence still isn't unheard of). This city is sort of an anomaly, it seems. 

Peyton goes: "look, this is great...that one has nice lighting". He meant the flippin chandelier. Dude, really?

 I wasn't a big fan.
Peyton: 5/10 for safety and affordability, but loud 
SD: 3/10 because it was very loud and overwhelming and it felt so business like

Our next stop was Yorkville. It was better. We stopped at a park by the river and visited with a few nannies. They were sweet and basically said that there were some nice people in the area, but a lot of snooty ones, too (they were more diplomatic than that, of course!). We also stopped in a grocery store for a bit.

This ain't your Kroger's olive bar!

Yorkville was definitely a step up from Lenox Hill, but it still wasn't my favorite at all!

Peyton: 6/10 for affordability, safety and accessibility; but lacked cohesive community 
SD: 5/10 because it was family friendly, but not very diverse and I felt like it had aspects about it that were a little pretentious

It was late afternoon at this point and we took the subway to Harlem next. We got out and I was a little nervous. We walked around Central Park, which was fine, and then went further into Harlem and I got more nervous. There was just a lot of graffiti and a lot of people sort of hanging around on the corners and more housing projects. We made our way back toward the park that borders it and Morningside Heights and visited with a super sweet older black man and his granddaughter. He told us some about the area and I got a better feeling about where we were. Michela, the little girl, was SO smart and kept telling me a lot about leaves and insects and stuff (she told me science was her favorite subject). I ended up finding out that her grandmother homeschools her and I thought that was so cool! She was so adorable and SO articulate. We also talked to a (for what it's worth, young white) couple with a baby in the grocery store. We decided we needed more time in Harlem.

We walked through the Upper West Side a bit and then came back to the room. On the way back we ran into a drunk guy (like he literally bumped into us) who was having "partner issues" and kept using the word "existential". He was interesting. He talked about everything from his status in the city to race relations and what it was like to be a black man (and a gay man). Whew!

The Upper West Side seemed like an easy, safe area. Maybe not edgy enough, though.
7/10 for safety, amenities and diversity in some areas 
SD: 7/10 for safety, and accessibility; however there was a lack of a community feel 

Peyton got a shower and went back to the UWS for more scouting and I stayed in a chilled out and wrote a blog post and such.

These little people had a great day playing with Peyton's parents and picnicing with their cousins!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Operation Search for Our New Home: Day 5 (Park Slope, Carroll Gardens,Cobble Hill)

What a day! Yesterday (Monday) we probably did the most walking. We left our room around nine thirty and got back about ten hours later. Whew! But we knocked out the rest of Brooklyn, which was the goal.

I have to say I'm so glad I wore my legit tennis shoes. I know I'm so lame and out of shape, but I feel like I've been training for some sort of athletic event.

We had an amazing brunch in Park Slope to start out the morning.

We spent the next couple of hours walking around Park Slope. The brownstones are GORGEOUS and it was nice. But people did seem a little busier and less talkative than in some of the other areas we'd visiting, like Clinton Hill. I think some of that may have been the time of day- moms and nannies out running errands int he morning. I'm just not used to doing my errands with a stroller, ha!

Peyton: 7/10 for safety, beauty, and wonderful restaurants and shops, but pretty expensive and less diversity than some neighborhoods 
SD: 7/10 for gorgeous brownstones and fun shopping and proximity to Prospect Park; drawbacks same as Peyton's 

Anyway, after that we took the subway to Carroll Gardens. We talked to a police officer in the train station and he was very kind and very helptful. He basically said to stay away from East New York, which we were planning to do anyway! Right after we got off the subway, we ran into a couple of ladies and ended up talking to them. They both seemed to be working class and I loved hearing a bit of their story. We walked around Carroll Gardens and I loved the beautiful front gardens. 
Peyton: 8/10 for somewhat diverse, well developed neighborhood and beautiful homes 
SD: 8/10 because I love the front gardens (funny because our yard in Mississippi looks like Hell) and friendly people 

We talked to a big bearded guy named Jeremy and he was very friendly and helpful, too. He told us how Brooklyn natives loved to talk about their neighborhoods because it was such a source of pride for them.

We headed to Cobble Hill and had lunch in a little sandwich place and it was so good. 

We asked a lady about the neighborhood and she was a little terse and short (to be honest, I think she thought we were selling something/prosletzing at first and just had her guard up). 
Peyton: 7/10 for pretty housing and nice people
SD: 7/10 because it was a great neighborhood, but nothing super distinctive 

After getting some ice cream, we headed back to Park Slope by train and then went back to the neigborhoods we had visited on Saturday. We went through Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and a little bit into Bed Stuy (which is an area we were cautioned about).

It was an interesting little tour! We walked through Prospect Heights and then crossed Atlantic Avenue, which has a lot of shops on it. Right after you cross that big road you go through a bunch of projects. It was a little unnerving, but not terrible. We talked to a lady who needed her car jumped off. We also talked with a man in the area right after the public housing, which looked really nice. He told us he was going to see a play and that he loves Fort Greene. It's amazing how things can change so fast! We went through another set of projects and this one was a bit rougher. A guy crossed the street and started walking behind us and Peyton told me later that he had heard him jingle something in his pocket. It turned out to be a phone, but Peyton was unnerved and stopped for a minute to sort of throw the guy off. After that we waked through Clinton Hill and into Bed Stuy. That made me a little nervous. It looked a little rough, but we talked with a guy who lived there and he was really chill. We made a block and came back around to Clinton Hill and talked with a middle aged guy who was sitting with his family on his stoop. He said he had been there for thirty years and the neighborhood has always been good. He didn't really seem like he wanted to talk and Peyton and I discussed it later. While gentrification can be a great thing, it can also take families out of their homes by making rent unaffordable. It was sad to think that could happen to this guy. We talked about how difficult it is, too, because it's not something we felt comfortable discussing with him and likely he didn't feel comfortable talking to us about it because not only would it be awkward, but it would put him in a very vulnerable position to have to be so honest like that.

We came back to the room and Peyton picked up take out. I went to bed happy for the experiences, but also a little sad for that guy and with an understanding of what a spoiled, naive white girl I am.

We're having such a good time, but such a huge chunk of my heart is back home with these people: