Dense neighborhoods lend plenty of proximity. Pretty much every service I need is accessible by foot: grocery stores, doctors and dentists, the post office, a hair salon, any variety of restaurant. And a Gap for crying out loud. I consider time my most valuable commodity, and city living wins for most efficient.
There are other practical reasons to live in a city. The monthly maintenance check I write to the co-op relieves me of any responsibilities for fixing broken boilers, leaky roofs, the garbage disposal or snow shoveling. Sure, if I lived in a single-family house, I could outsource those tasks, but in a city apartment I don’t even have to manage the third-party service. It’s all taken care of.
It’s also cheaper to live in New York City, versus the suburbs. Yes, the real estate prices are through the roof (no pun intended). But as this New York Times article found, families spend 18 percent less by living in the five boroughs, as they save on real estate taxes and transportation.
If you don’t believe me, think about your car expenses — loan note, insurance, gas and maintenance. In most parts of New York City you can replace those costs with a monthly subway pass of $112, or $2.75 per ride. I do own a 1999 Subaru Forester — a junker for weekend trips to the beach and mountains. If I moved to the suburbs and needed a reliable vehicle for daily errands and job commuting, I would be forced to invest in a new car.
Apartment living brings hidden joys. I am grateful for my home — a 1,300 square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with high ceilings and tons of natural light — a feat to afford after my divorce and considered spacious quarters in this expensive town. But these digs are small in comparison with what I would likely live in should I move to a more bucolic location. There are tradeoffs that come with small square footage: I am forced to live minimally. I must think critically about every purchase — and I believe that is a valuable exercise.
I also appreciate how close quarters bring people together. I like that my children share a bedroom, at least now that they are small. Soon I imagine we may invest in a partial wall, but for now, I adore listening to my daughter singing lullabies to her little brother after I’ve tucked them in. And I remark at how when one of them happens to wake in the middle of the night and silently slip into my bed, the other systematically does the same, sensing the absence of the other.
As my children grow, I’m sure I will feel very differently about our living arrangement. Indeed, these days when I jog along the East River in the mornings, I do not get that jolt upon seeing the city skyline. The thrill of making my New York City dreams come true has faded.
But like many youthful thrills, that one has been replaced by something else: When the kids and I walk out the door of our apartment, we cannot walk a half-block without bumping into a familiar face, someone who at least nods hello, but often stops to remark at how big the kids have grown or at the recent chilly weather. These are the stitches that connect us to our neighbors, the threads of community and the making of home.