So you’re thinking about moving to New York City, and you want a real honest look at the positive and negative aspects of living in NYC? Well, as a native New Yorker (and long-term NYC Airbnb host), I gotchu! Here are some eye-opening things to prepare yourself with before living in NYC.
Table of Contents
Important NYC Resources
- Craigslist for short-term gigs, hiring professional movers, finding apartments, buying high-quality furniture and almost everything else.
- Citibike is an amazing way to get around on bike in NYC. Buy their annual pass to save money.
- Use the Citizens App if you ever want to figure out what’s happening in your vicinity. Everything from fires to protests.
- Ultimate NYC Renting Guide on Reddit.
- Renting a short-term sublet on Airbnb can be a great way to “try” different neighborhoods until you find the right fit for you.
- Trader Joes is a great budget-friendly alternative to Whole Foods.
- Subscribe to our New York newsletter for all things New York State travel.
- New York Slang Words & Lingo – learn the local vocabulary before moving.
The Bad Things to Know About Living in NYC [Cons List]
This article is divided into a very honest list of pros and cons by a native New Yorker who grew up in the Bronx, went to school in Manhattan, and currently lives in Brooklyn. In a classic fashion, we’ll start with the downsides to living in NYC followed by the list of good stuff further below.
The latter (pro list below) explains why we put up with the crazy things about living in NYC! So I hope we don’t lose you before then! If you have any feedback or questions, please share them below in the comments.
1) Most NYC Apartment Buildings are OLD
Most of NYC’s infrastructure is so extremely antiquated that the median age of our buildings is 90 years old. I’m currently writing to you from one of those buildings!
As a result, tenants and landlords face a myriad of ongoing issues including moldy walls and leaks from a dilapidated internal infrastructure that requires constant attention. Unless it’s something like a broken boiler, most landlords will just paint over issues to keep it out of sight rather than spend thousands of dollars truly trying to fix something.
This leads to my next point…
2) Construction & Scaffolding Are a Part of NYC Living
Clink! Clank! Pow! NYC is constantly under construction or renovation. There are new condos invading the skylines and popping up like mushrooms regularly. This means you’ll often walk through scaffolding structures surrounding new construction sites or old buildings that are being worked on. Every few blocks you’ll see tall metal polls and a wooden frame surrounding a sidewalk for your protection.
NYC is always changing at a fast pace. So ongoing construction is a way of life here. Remember to mind your step everywhere you go and be prepared for the symphony of construction sounds outside your window.
Related Post: When Am I Getting Kicked Out of My Brooklyn Apartment?
3) This is Why Summer in NYC is EXTRA Hot
Summers in NYC often reach the high 90s. In a suburban area, this would normally drop at night. And in the suburbs, you’d likely have more fresh air and drafts of wind to help cool you off. However, NYC’s infrastructure can make the city feel extra hot and sticky in the summer. Why?
Picture this: millions of air conditioners working overtime, pumping cool air in and hot air out into the city. Below ground, the hot subway rumbling underneath us (producing more heat). On the street level, the fumes and smog from cars sitting in traffic. And all of that hot air trapped between the tall buildings which block out wind drafts. Summers in NYC can be STIFLING hot.
4) After Our Christmas Winter Wonderland
On the flip side, the temperature during our winters can drop below freezing. Especially in January and February. As the city holiday cheer dissipates, New York is left with our least favorite months of gray skies and ice-cold weather. And on those extra cold days? You can feel the icy chill seep into your bones. This is because we New Yorkers walk outside a lot. And if you work near the Hudson River, that icy-cold wind will slap you awake in the mornings on your way to work.
The cure for this?
- Keep walking quickly so you can stay warm. Even when you’re waiting for the light to change at a cross stop, keep moving your legs.
- Wear thermal layers. I love buying layers from UNIQLO, their heat tech has been a game-changer for me.
- All the cool finance bros love these $1,000+ Canada Goose coats.
- If that’s way too expensive for you, consider getting a coat like this one or this one, both are popular in New York and provide neck/partial face coverage from the ice-cold wind that blows from the Hudson River on your way to work in the Financial District.
- Invest in waterproof/snow boots to stomp over those tall snowbanks after a snowstorm.
5) Extreme Indoor Climate: Old Air Conditioners & Radiators
In our century-old, “traditional” buildings, most of us New Yorkers do not have the luxury of central air conditioning/heating. That means that in the wintertime, we have old-school radiators that are controlled by the BUILDING. That means you have NO control over the heat in your building. The super/landlord does. So some winter days, that 100-year-old radiator is screeching and dinging loudly as it blasts gusts of dry heat into your room. There are days I wake up with a parched mouth and a nose bleed from how dry it can get.
The trick? Keep your window cracked open. And place a wet towel over the radiator to humidify the air a little bit. I like to add a few drops of essential oil to that wet towel to get rid of the radiator’s dusty smell.
In the summertime, most of us have to install air conditioners into the window. It is one of my worst New Yorker fears. Do not attempt to do this yourself. Hire a professional for about $100 to drill a bracket in and ensure the air conditioning is properly installed. You do not want to risk your air conditioner falling on someone. That could be manslaughter!
6) Laundry is a Luxury in NYC
Most of us New Yorkers can only DREAM of having a washing machine in our homes. That’s because most New York buildings do not allow washing machines. There is no infrastructure or space for it. Therefore, the laundromat industry is booming in New York City. Every block has a cleaners or laundromat, it seems. You’ll often see New Yorkers dragging carts of clothes to be washed. It’s honestly one of the worst things about living in New York City.
It feels almost degrading to be dragging my dirty laundry and sifting through it in public as I divide them into different machines. Then wait 30-40 minutes and transfer it all to the driers for an additional 30-40 minutes. While your clothes are in the drier, anyone can open it and steal your stuff. So you have to linger closely. Then you spend an additional 20 minutes folding all your private belongings on a shared table.
Caution: NYC has had a bed bug pandemic for years, and one of the best ways to get rid of them is by burning them all alive in the driers. That means you must be very careful not to catch bed bugs in laundromats. Do you see why this is one of the worst things about moving to NYC?
7) USPS: Getting Mail in NYC is a Headache
The United States Postal Service (“USPS”) in New York City is notorious for its inefficient service. I have suffered from their lack of reliability since I was a kid. And the mailmen are often so underpaid that they don’t care or are exhausted from dealing with an overcrowded neighborhood’s mail problems.
Your best bet to receive a package is by using FedEx or UPS instead of USPS in NYC. I can’t tell you how many of my packages they’ve just “lost”. And on top of that, none of the mailmen will ever go up any stairs to deliver your package.
So this means you’ll be left with an orange slip in your mailbox that says “we missed you”. Lies. They don’t even bother ringing you. You’re then forced to go to the post office between 9 AM and 5 PM, stand in a very long line, and hope that the next post office representative is in a good mood.
This type of inefficiency is applicable to many other government offices in NYC like the DMV and public offices where the staff is underpaid and under-resourced.
8) We Are Underrepresented on TV Shows (Which Portray NYC as Almost All White)
According to the census, only 42.7% of people in NYC are white. And that number doesn’t include the fact that people of color are systematically undercounted in the U.S. census especially in urban areas of the country like NYC. So if at least half the inhabitants of New York City are not white, then why are almost all the characters white on popular TV shows like Friends, Girls, How I Met Your Mother, Sex and the City, etc?
Because we are WILDLY underrepresented in most of these TV shows about NYC. They fail to accurately portray just how diverse we really are in NYC.
And don’t get me started on where are all the Dominicans? We are the largest minority group in NYC. We run this city! Latinos make up about 30% of NYC’s population. So how can there be NO Dominican or Puerto Rican character in ANY of these popular TV shows/movies that take place in NYC?!
9) Spectrum: NYC’s Internet Monopoly
Due to the old infrastructure in NYC, most of us live in buildings that can only be serviced by ONE internet provider. This means that for many of us, there is only ONE company we can choose for internet. ONE company who has a monopoly on our internet services.
And what’s the problem with that? They can get away with terrible service while overcharging us for it because we have no other choice. That is the tale of Spectrum in NYC. They are so bad that Saturday Night Live (SNL) even made a skit about them. You know it’s bad when even rich people are suffering from this.
If strong, fast, and reliable internet is important to you, make sure you look into which ISPs you can choose from when you move to NYC.
10) Train-Induced Anxiety Lifestyle
I’ve had this theory that the reason so many of us New Yorkers are “grumpy” and stressed out is that so many of our livelihoods depend on an antiquated subway system that frequently fails us with delays and other issues.
In New York City, one minute can make the difference between you arriving 45 minutes early… or missing that subway train and being 45 minutes late. That kind of pressure on one single minute really affects the way we feel and move around. This is partially why we often have that “get out of our way” mentality. Don’t take it personally!
Side note: Please NEVER linger around the train doors or block people’s ability to get into or out of the train. Ever.
11) Saftey & Eye Contact in Public Spaces
It’s imperative that you avoid making eye contact with most strangers in public NYC spaces (especially at night) to ward off any unwanted or potentially dangerous attention. The mental health crisis in this country is growing exponentially and this is glaringly evident in the overpopulated cities. The pandemic, of course, has also made this crisis worse.
We New Yorkers joke about it a lot, but for your safety, it’s important to avoid eye contact as some unhinged people can suddenly lash out. This is not to scare you but to prepare you. Just a simple Google search will show you the slew of dangerous attacks by unwell or homeless people that we often hear about on the news.
For this very reason, many people may have a hard time making friends in NYC. Because we tend to keep to ourselves out of self-protection and this can make it harder to meet new people and when everyone is more closed off.
12) Very Few People Can Afford to Live in NYC Without Roommates
Only “rich” people can afford to live in NYC without roommates. With a few expectations such as:
- you live in the ‘hood
- are living paycheck to paycheck
- got lucky with a rent-controlled/stable apartment
Getting roommates can drastically lower your rent from like $3,000 to $1,000. That’s approximately $24,000 a year that goes back in your pocket when having roommates. But living with roommates during a pandemic where most of us are working remotely can be really difficult. So choose your roommates wisely!
13) NYC is One of the Most Expensive Cities
The cost of living is probably the most notorious thing about living in New York City. It’s expensive. Especially if you’re a single person. To live in a one-bedroom apartment in New York City without roommates, you’re looking at about $2,000 to $4,000/month for an apartment.
You may be able to lower than price if you live in an affordable neighborhood which is usually an area with higher crime rates or that is 90+ minutes from Manhattan.
Other factors: Remember that the type of apartment you live in (whether it is prone to rodents or a new condo) will also be a factor in the price. And the proximity of your place to the nearest train is another important element to the cost of your rent.
Taxes: The good news is that the pay in New York City is higher which can help with housing costs. The bad news is that the State and City income taxes are painfully high compared to other parts of the country.
14) NYC is Overpopulated
Almost every issue I’ve mentioned is at the root of how overpopulated New York City is. There are just too many people here. During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-2020, I experience one of the best moments in New York City. I biked for the first time, up and down the streets as I had them to myself. I biked between Burroughs and bridges. There was finally room to breathe.
But at the same time, the 8+ million people that live in New York City is why our city is thriving with restaurants, events, businesses, and opportunities that are overflowing.
15) Living in NYC is Rarely Like the Movies or TV Shows
For almost a decade, I’ve hosted hundreds of Airbnb roommates from around the world in my New York City apartment. Most of them arrive starry-eyed, expecting life in New York City to look like a glamorous episode of Suits or Sex and the City. But, unless you’re making six figures, that’s not what living in New York City is truly going to look like.
Fun fact: Many popular TV shows based in New York City, were actually NOT filmed in NYC. Such as: How I Met Your Mother, Suits, and Friends. That’s how much you shouldn’t rely on a TV show’s portrayal of NYC living. I think Broad City kinda comes closer.
Bonus fact: None of us native New Yorkers call NYC the big apple. Cringe!
17) It’s Not Quiet in NYC…Ever
You’d think this is a very obvious one, but I’ve gotten some Airbnb roommates who’ve complained that it’s too loud outside their window. But after a few weeks, they get used to the sounds which become white noise. But if you are an extremely sensitive sleeper, here are your options:
- Buy these earplugs and this air purifier fan that also acts as a white noise machine. That’s my key to undisturbed sleep.
- Move away from major intersections and the subway stations. Choose an area that’s in a residential area, far from bars/restaurants. (Personally, I love being next to everything I need including the train station. Not only does it feel safer but I don’t have to walk 25+ minutes to the nearest train/bodega.)
- Pay up. Spend the extra money on a newer place with better sound-proof windows or on an apartment that’s 10+ floors above ground.
The Good Things About Living in NYC [PROS]
Hopefully, I haven’t lost you by now. But rather, PREPARED you for the realities of living in New York City. And at this point, you may be asking “But if New York is so bad, then why do you live there? Why do so many people hype it up? Why is it so great?” Here are the reasons that NYC is so special and why despite all the crazy stuff we have to deal with, it’s the good things that make it so hard to leave NYC!
18) NYC is the Most Walkable City in the USA = No Car Expenses
This is huge. When I first left NYC, I was shocked to see how un-walkable most of the United States actually is. So many places in the USA barely have a public transportation system. On top of that, I realized that our living expenses aren’t all that different from someone living in the suburbs.
Hear me out.
New Yorkers get to save money on insurance, gas, car maintenance, and car payments. All of which usually amount to an average of $1,500/month. That’s around 18,000 a year. So we could also argue that living in NYC is not that much more expensive than living in some suburbs!
19) A Winter Wonderland
The holidays in New York City are truly magical. The streets light up with holiday decor, iconic corners of the city bring holiday cheer, Christmas markets open up, and holiday performances take place. Here are some of the many iconic things to do during the holidays in NYC:
- Watch the Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center
- Go see the massive Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center
- Try ice skating at different New York City ice skating rinks, perhaps at Bryant Park or Central Park. You can do this as early as fall in New York City.
- Check out the holiday market in Columbus Circle or Union Square
- Grab some drinks at Industry City over a fire place
- Go to the Bronx Botanical Garden’s holiday exhibit (one of the most popular things to do in the Bronx)
- Stroll through Dyker Heights in South Brooklyn
20) Major International Airports
New York City is home to three different airports: La Guardia (domestic), John F. Kennedy (international), and Newark (international). That means we have two of the biggest and most popular airports in the world, just a train ride away. This convenience has allowed me to travel the world easily and at a very low cost. We get some of the most and best international flight deals in the country here. And we can almost always get a direct flight to popular destinations. Wow! Where else in the USA can you do that?
21) Native New Yorkers are Actually Nice!
There’s that pesky reputation many of us New Yorkers have for being rude or standoffish. That’s not true. We just don’t look “nice” at first glance because we’ve been trained to have a resting grumpy face and avoid eye contact in public spaces for our protection.
But once we know you’re not an unhinged person, we melt and warm up to you!
This stereotype of the mean New Yorkers is actually based on the transplants. The more privileged out-of-towners who move to NYC with a snobbier sense of self who tend to be so mean. Even to us locals! A perfect example of this would be taking a stroll through gentrified Williamsburg.
22) You Can Almost Always make Money in NYC
It’s corny. But NYC really is the land of opportunity. You can make money here in an endless amount of ways. Every day someone is looking to hire help ranging from full-time to part-time gigs. Growing up in NYC, I worked as a: caterer, sous-chef, photographer, assistant, event planner, Airbnb host, and much more until I eventually got hired in corporate law. The opportunities are truly endless here.
So while living in NYC might be expensive, many salaries can help offset those costs.
23) We Can Use Craigslist for Everything
Craigslist in NYC is on a whole ‘nother level. I’ve lived in dozens of cities around the world, and NYC’s Craigslist is top-notch. You can find, hire, sell almost anything! I’ve used Craigslist to furnish 95% of my apartment with some of the best high-quality designer furniture at a fraction of their retail cost. From West Elm couches to hand-made artisan wooden tables. Anything you can dream of, you can probably find someone selling in NYC.
You can also hire people on Craigslist for just about anything. One time, I was out of town and my Airbnb guest had an issue in the apartment. So I quickly ran to Craigslist and put up a post: Need someone to help my roommate with X problem for $25 bucks. I was inundated with emails. Within the hour, I had hired someone and he came through to fix the problem.
I’ve also sold computers, phones, plants, exercise machines, and gotten work off Craigslist since I was a teenager!
But the best way you can use Craigslist? To hire movers! Do not attempt to move all that furniture into your new NYC apartment. Between the winding steps, small doorway entrances, and small elevators, it’s best you leave that work to the movers you hired and spare your back muscles.
24) NYC is Especially Amazing When You Have Money!
You can probably cross out like 90% of every item on the con list if you have money. With enough money, you can dine like a queen, live in a beautiful brownstone or condo with views that will brighten up your morning every day. You can get the best healthcare, heating/cooling, have laundry at home, and live with ZERO roommates! That’s the NYC dream reserved for the top 1%. Sigh.
25) Safety in New York City vs. Suburbs
Safety in Numbers: I often feel terrified for my safety when I’m sleeping in a rural/suburban area. I think of those podcasts where kids go missing. One morning someone goes for a run, only to never be seen again. [Insert scary podcast opening tune].
Unlike the suburbs, New York City is almost always busy. There are 24-hour businesses (see bodegas below) and people on the popular streets almost constantly. The train never stops. The cars don’t either. And the lights are never turned off. That to me feels much safer than walking home at night in the dark where you can disappear without a trace!
Apartment Buildings: On top of that, our buildings usually only have one entryway: a metal door with two locks. One of those locks is usually a double cylinder, jimmy-resistant deadlock. I feel so much safer in an apartment than in a house where someone can just throw a rock into one of your many windows/doors and enter your home instantly.
26) Bodegas are Open 24/7
In NYC, there is always something open. And that something is usually a bodega. Bodegas are corner grocery stores that offer anything one might need at 1 AM. Candy bar? Gallon of milk? A sandwich? They are opened 24/7 and usually “managed” by a cat. What makes bodegas special is that you don’t have to go far to find one. Mine is literally downstairs. So if I ever need eggs or a lightbulb, I just put on my chancletas and head downstairs and in 2 minutes I have what I need. Amazing!
27) More Progressive & Free-Thinking People
New York is socially 100 years ahead when it comes to many types of progressive intellectualism (when compared to most of the USA). This is a result of having 9 million people coming together from all parts of the world and exchanging ideas and information. On top of that, we have about 110 universities/colleges with over half a million college students in NYC. That includes the ivy league Columbia University and the prestigious NYU. We also are home to three major airports: JFK, Newark, and La Guardia. This2 means we have access to affordable world travel just a train ride away.
All of this together has cultivated a space where some of the brightest minds have lived and met like Malcolm X and James Baldwin who left us with masterpieces of thought and books centuries ahead of their time.
My Manhattan arts high school sent students to Cuba and Venezuela in 2005! How many high schools in the world do you know that have done that? One in NYC.
28) It Can Be a “Safe Space”
For the reasons mentioned above, NYC has also been a safer space for many artists, creatives, free-thinkers, and those of marginalized communities. Black Americans, BIPOC immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community have migrated to NYC for decades because they knew it would be safer for them here than in other parts of the country. This has resulted in the flourishing of communities and cultural spaces that help support and empower.
That’s not to say that there is no discrimination in NYC, of course. But that there are more spaces and movements to challenge bigotry here.
A personal example: My mother is a black woman and in the 90s, when I was a kid, she specifically expressed feeling safer in the Bronx than moving to the white suburbs. She experienced too much discrimination in white spaces and thus decided to stay in NYC.
29) Birthplace of Revolutionary & Cultural Movements
If you love cultural heritage, then New York City may be one of the best cities for you to live in. Our city is the birthplace of many pivotal cultural movements such as the Harlem Renaissance, hip hop, abstract expressionism, salsa, punk, and certain forms of jazz. Today, you can always catch a show or performance of some sort in NYC every single day. And it’s easy to stumble across others who are passionate about “revolutionary” social/cultural progress.
30) Diversity & Diaspora Communities
With so many different diaspora communities from around the world, the NYC borough of Queens is considered “the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world.” You can take the 7 train into Queens and each train stop takes you into a different country. You can connect with cultures and cuisine from India, China, Korea, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, etc. And that’s just Queens!
You can also find a myriad of cultural communities in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Brooklyn. Most notably: Chinatown, K-town, Little Dominican Republic, Harlem, and Loisaida.
31) NYC Offers the Best Variety of Food in the World
I’ve traveled to over 50+ countries, and I can confidently say that the food in NYC is some of the best in the world. You will never get bored of the high-quality gastronomy here.
Because NYC is so diverse with rich cross-cultural influences and diaspora communities, we have the best food in the world. Where else in the world, can you get delicious Ethiopian food at 4 AM after a fun night out? Where else can you connect to hundreds of diaspora communities living within the same city, offering a rich, authentic, and diversity of cuisine?
If you’re looking for the best places with authentic Korean food straight from Seoul, go to Queens or K-town in Manhattan. Craving some Dominican mangu? Head to Washington Heights. Want to try some Tibetan food without going to Tibet? Or a unique Indian dish from Kerala? Go to Jackson Heights. Did you try mango sticky rice in Thailand and now you can’t stop thinking about it? There are hundreds of incredible Thai restaurants all over the city. Want to try hundreds of Michelin star restaurants? Woo… knock yourself out. I could go on but you get the point. We have it all. And we have it good.
And yes, we do have the best pizza! Check out Emily Pizza for a unique experience!
32) NYC Has Some of the Best Cocktail Bars in the World
Again. Not being biased. As a traveler, living in NYC has sort of ruined cocktails for me elsewhere. I’ve become so accustomed to specially crafted cocktails, that I 🤢 when I taste some boxed juice mixed with cheap vodka. That’s because to make it in NYC as a cocktail bar, you have to compete among the best and that pushes everyone to deliver some of the highest quality drinks. Fresh, herbal, flavorful, artistic cocktails that are worth the $20 price tag.
Good cocktails are a part of the NYC culture and the perfect treat after your long hours at work.
Bonus perk: We also have incredible rooftop bars!
33) There’s Always Something Amazing to Do When in You Live in NYC
Every single day in NYC, there will be something for you to do. Yes, even Christmas. Even if you don’t have money to spend, you can find an array of free events. Here are some examples of the types of unique things you can you in NYC:
- MUSEUMS – NYC is home to the largest museum in the country: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met). But in addition to the Met, we also have about 100 different museums throughout all five burroughs.
- SHOWS – There are different types of shows for everyone. There is ballet, theatre, concerts, opera, musicals and more. There are too many incredible venues for me to list but my two favorites are: Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
- COMEDY CLUBS – My favorite is the Comedy Cellar. Here, you might be surprised with celebrity comedians who pop in sometimes to practice their jokes.
- CLASSES – You can take a class in just about anything in NYC. I recommend Brooklyn Brainery for creative day classes and BKLYN Clay for pottery!
- PARKS – There are beautiful parks in NYC for those who want to reconnect with nature in green spaces. My favorites are: Green-Wood Cemetery, Central Park, Prospect Park, and Fort Tryon/the Cloisters (pictured above).
34) NYC is Rich in Important BIPOC Heritage
NYC Black Culture & History
The Great Migration was the forced relocation of more than 6 million Black Americans from the rural South to cities in the North. Black Americans were forcibly driven from their homes due to horrific segregationist laws, persecution, and violence by whites. For survival, many Black Americans migrated north where they began to build new communities and homes for themselves in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and NYC.
Here, revolutionary movements flourished along with a Black urban culture that continues to exert enormous influence in music, dance, art, and much more. One notable influence is the birth of hip hop in NYC!
So it is no coincidence that NYC has been the home of Black civil rights/revolutionary leaders such as: W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, James Baldwin, Nina Simone, and much more.
NYC Nuyorican/Latinx Culture:
New York City was the birthplace of the Nuyorican Movement which included poets, writers, artists, musicians, and other creatives who fought for the social, political, and economic issues that Puerto Ricans faced in the USA.
“Not unlike the Harlem Renaissance, the Nuyorican movement was [also] born out of a period of migration. After the United States conferred commonwealth status onto Puerto Rico in 1950, Puerto Rican migration to New York City increased, creating pockets of Puerto Rican communities in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side and East Harlem.” – A Brief Guide to Nuyorican Poetry