So You Wanna Move to New York? Here's How to Do It

Purists will argue that you can only be a New Yorker by birth. One thing’s for sure, you can’t just move to New York; there are certain rites of passage you must endure before anyone can call this city home.

Here are a few things to look forward to: Eating brunch at an outdoor café -- and paying $15 for a salad; getting hopelessly lost in an outer borough; waiting an hour for a subway train; and not finding a public toilet when you really really need one.

But even before you get a chance to experience all the city has to offer, there's the challenge of physically moving here. Some quick things to keep in mind when moving to the Big Apple:
* City streets aren't made for moving trucks. So if you're moving yourself, don't drive that rental truck if you are claustrophobic or uncomfortable on narrow streets.

* NYC moving companies won't voluntarily scale the stairs to your fifth-floor walk-up – they'll charge extra for the sweat. Find out what the company charges for New York-specific challenges that you might face. Additional fees might include a long walk from truck to house; lots of stairs; or if they need to use a smaller 'shuttle' truck to get through narrow city streets when a big truck won't fit.

* Parking signs in NYC are pretty explicit. I've seen one that said "Don't even THINK of parking here!" Though reading signs may be the last thing you're thinking about when you're parking your moving truck, it may save you a big ticket from an unforgiving cop. A long day of hard labor is best topped with a cold drink, not a fine.

* Moving always takes longer than you estimate, so if you're renting a truck, rent from a company that allows after-hours drop-off. I've watched two housemates frantically throwing the last of their belongings into the living room so they could return the truck on time.
Just like everyone who's moved to this city, you’ll experience a lot of the frustrations that are unique to it, but hopefully, with my advice, you’ll get fewer “you’re not from around here" looks than I did.

When I moved to Queens, I saw a constant supply of those black livery cabs -- conveniently perched at every corner. After taking one or two, I quickly realized that $10 isn’t a reasonable fare for driving six blocks. Whenever you have the choice, go yellow. If you have to go livery, ask for a set price before you get in. I get scowled at, but hey, that $5 can get me a beer in Queens, or bottled water in Manhattan.

Security Deposit
I paid mine when I moved in, assuming it would go into a bank account where it would sit until I moved. This is idealistic thinking.

When my first housemate moved out and wanted his security deposit back, the landlord couldn’t give it back right away due to “complications with their bank," otherwise known as – they spent it on a plasma TV.

This site ( will help you make sure you know where your deposit is going before you sign a lease.

To help you avoid parking tickets, The Department of Transportation has graciously laid out the alternate parking rules in calendar form. (

This map is for when you’re desperate enough to go for a no-parking zone or expired meter and want to asses the risk. (

Double-parking is a guaranteed ticket anywhere.

My friend drives to and from work in Queens. On the weekends she doesn’t mind driving to Coney Island or Brooklyn, but after 5 years, she still won’t brave Manhattan.

I tried it once and dissolved into a screaming wreck right around Times Square. (There are no right turns on red here.) In short, avoid driving into the city at all costs. You’ll almost never find parking (or it’ll take you 2 hours), and garages are generally for suckers and tourists.

There are usually alternatives to driving – even if you have to buy new kitchenware at Ikea. (There’s a free shuttle from the Port Authority to their Elizabeth, NJ location on Saturdays and Sundays, and a new Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn.)

Subway reliability
If you’re used to efficient public transportation, forget about it when you move here – it’s too painful to remember. Always factor in an extra 20 minutes if you have to be somewhere on time. While most people will sympathetically excuse lateness due to subways, a job interview will not. If there’s rain, snow, or otherwise inclement weather (the MTA only operates well in sunshine), give yourself 40 minutes' extra.

Staying mobile
Cat hair. It was the first thing I encountered when moving into my first apartment. I picked it off my clothes on the way to work, I drank it in my beer at night and chocked on it in my sleep. Within two weeks I found a new apartment.

Two morals here: Don’t house with pets unless you’re the one taking care of them and (pets or not) make sure you can move whenever you want to, because chances are you won’t fall in love with the first place you pick.

This means knowing the parameters of your lease. Signing a year-long lease might not be the best idea. Instead, find a monthly or half-year lease.

If you join a gym, pay attention to what membership entails. Mine, for example, won’t let me quit my membership unless I prove (via a new lease) that I moved out of Queens.

Overly generous landlords
There’s a selfless landlord out there somewhere, just not in New York City. So if they’re too nice to you when you move in, take it as a warning.

A friend of mine was thrilled when her landlord re-did her rooftop and even put up folding chairs for tenants to lie in. A week after it was finished, her rent crept up, justified, said her landlord, by the building’s “increased value" due to the new roof.

When it concerns New York real estate, look at this website for what qualifies as a “major capital improvement": (

Finding stuff
Criagslist. Use it. Especially in New York, it’s one of the best ways to find anything, including people. It brought me my current housemate in under a week. It also found me a slightly used but dirt-cheap bike.

60 minute subway wait
As the announcement says, “Please, be patient." There is nothing else you can do.

Cursing will only make you feel better for a few seconds and throwing things doesn’t make the train come. I’ve tried … many times.

Annika Mengisen is a freelance writer who edits the Freakonomics Blog for The New York Times.

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