City Living: Lessons Learned from Week 1

After posting my last piece on why we are moving to the Upper West Side, many friends commented that they would like to read a follow-up piece on what it’s actually like to live there.  Now that we have been living in Manhattan for exactly one week, I have a few initial impressions and already some lessons learned.  There is undoubtedly plenty more to learn and experience, and these impressions may change over time, but for now, here is what we’ve experienced as a family with two children moving into a relatively small apartment after years of living in the suburbs.

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Baby in an empty apartment, waiting to receive our stuff.

I thought when we left our apartment in Riverdale that we had actually gotten rid of enough extra stuff we didn’t need.  It turns out we probably got rid of just enough stuff to comfortably fit into our previous apartment, and we will need at least a few more rounds of eliminating the detritus of 7+ years in the suburbs (boxed sets of seasons 1-5 of 24, anyone?).

Also, remarkably, it seems we have too much furniture and not enough furniture at the same time.  Our dining room table just barely fits in the dining area, and we have far too many chairs.  On the other hand, the girls’ room is too crowded, and the natural solution is to buy a loft bed.  In the meantime, we try to minimize Ayelet’s complaining about having no space to play by getting out as much as possible, and the baby is sleeping in the stroller out in the living room.  Thankfully, she seems to be sleeping even better in the stroller than she ever did in her crib.

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Quick to make new friends in Central Park

Some of these are just the inevitable adjustment pains of moving to a new apartment, regardless of location.  The remarkable thing about living in the city, though, is how easily the convenience of having every possible store at your doorstep can alleviate some of these pains.  In only one week, we’ve eaten out twice and gotten take-out twice, each time from a different kosher restaurant.  We also picked up some last minute essentials, such as drinks and cleaning supplies, from supermarkets and drug stores all literally within 3 blocks, and some open 24 hours.

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Ayelet is already way too into the kid jewelry at The Children’s Place.

Most of the last week was dominated by moving and unpacking.  But we set aside Sunday as a fun day that we hope will be representative of what our life will be like living here.  In just one day, we managed to fit in a swim in the pool on the roof, a visit to two (2) playgrounds, a short jog down the Central Park Drive (with Ayelet on her bike alongside us), food shopping at the 79th Street Greenmarket, ice cream at 16 Handles, and clothes shopping at The Children’s Place.  In most neighborhoods, I feel like such a day would have hit up the majority of places we’d like to visit within walking distance, but here I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Lastly, I started this out as a bike blog, so it would be remiss of me not to mention how great the cycling has been.  The last week has cemented my view that the UWS is no place to get around by car.  Virtually every time I tried to get around by car here has been a nightmare of traffic delays, closed/blocked streets, and myriad parking rules.  The bike commute, on the other hand, has been every bit as wonderful and enjoyable as expected.  In fact, the short trip from the 39th Street Ferry is so short I don’t even need to change clothes on the way home.  In the morning I’ve opted to take the WFC ferry, both for timing and exercise reasons.  At only 6.5 miles, this now seems like rather a short trip.  I completed the journey in about 20 minutes while putting in a vigorous effort this morning (and while wearing stretchy clothes).  Being able to seamlessly drop off my daughter at school on the way was pure gravy.

Sadly, for family trips, going by bike is not an option with an infant child, and so we have done a lot of walking.  Nevertheless, I already got a chance to turn one local trip, going to Mincha on Erev Yom Kippur, into an opportunity for a fun ride.  Even so, I was constantly worried about the possibility of the bike being stolen while locked outside.  Perhaps this paranoia will eventually subside, but how can you not be afraid once you’ve seen Casey Neistat’s bike thief video?

This coming week is Sukkot, which presents a new set of challenges and opportunities.  On the one hand, it is a great opportunity to shul hop and visit so many synagogues and congregations in just a few days.  On the other hand, open space on the Upper West Side is exceedingly rare, making the religious obligation to eat in a Sukkah with a clear view of the sky a challenge, particularly for those new to the area and as yet unfamiliar with all the options.

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