Turning Down Manhattan to Raise a Family in Hoboken

Today, I turned down the opportunity to live in an affordable Manhattan three-bedroom apartment with parking, balcony, huge common courtyard and a party room. In an excellent school district on the upper east side.

Never in my wildest fantasies did I think I would do anything other than jump at the chance to live in a family-size apartment a stone’s throw from Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum. Add in cultural offerings like the ballet and Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and who wouldn’t want to live there?

So why aren’t we choosing to live there? Before everybody starts emailing me asking how they can snag this apartment, let me detail the conditions.

  • The prior tenant (my grandmother) lived there for 50 years and raised five kids. The next occupant will have renovate that apartment on their own dime – a ballpark estimate calls for new floors, carpets, kitchen, bathrooms, windows and air conditioners. You are looking at a minimum of $50k on top of buy-in costs.
  • You need to have a very specific family mix: young children (think preschool age), either two of mixed genders (one boy and one girl) or three or more.
  • There are income restrictions (informal estimates peg the limit at $100k for a family of four). There is also a lottery since affordable NYC three-bedroom apartments are scarcer than hen’s teeth – the only reason why I was eligible for this one is because I am the granddaughter of the prior tenant. I would also still have to pass the co-op board approval process.
  • The apartment is about 1,200 square feet with 1.5 baths, uses wall-through air conditioners (VERY high energy bills) and does not have a dishwasher or washer/dryer. There is a ground floor laundry room – I remember spending the entire day on Saturdays going up and down the elevator doing the laundry with my grandparents. Also, the parking garage waitlist is very long – it could be years before you snag a spot.
  • Monthly rent is around $1,500-$2,000 depending on your income. Add in the 10% income tax hike plus parking and higher cost of living and our monthly costs would be virtually identical to what we are paying in Hoboken.

So why would I choose to stay in a flood zone in Hoboken, NJ that recently got slammed by Superstorm Sandy with my three children, ages six, four and nine months? Because we have a 2,111 square foot new construction four bedroom apartment with two baths and a balcony, full-size washer/dryer, central air and two parking spots. In an elevator building steps from the Light Rail so my husband has a half hour commute to Manhattan. I have room to hoard, store bikes, create a dedicated toy area and build companies. There are many nearby playgrounds, decent schools and I can walk everywhere.

My kids go swimming across the street at Sky Club Fitness ($89/month membership includes access for entire family for daily family swim in the heated pool, tell the membership team that the Metro Moms sent you to get that price).

With the recent fiscal cliff deal, maximizing income tax deductions is more important than ever – we are better positioned to do that in Hoboken than Manhattan.

Update, 1/5/13: People have been emailing me to ask about the apartment. It is illegal to sublet a Mitchell-Lama apt and there are severe penalties to move out in first 6 years. I have heard estimates of 10-20 years for the waitlist.

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Kathy Zucker

Author: Kathy Zucker

Mom of 3. Accidental entrepreneur. Fencer. New York Life Shorty Award #KeepGoodGoing winner & judge. Helping parents & kids get to work since 2010 as Metro Moms Network CEO.

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4 Comments

  1. Im curios about whats the name of the building you live. Im trying to find a 3B Apartment. Thank you

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  2. I too would like to know which building you live in? I hear you we too have an opportunity to live in Manhattan on the UWS, cut our commutes down to at least half for me and nothing for my husband and we still choose to stay in Hoboken. Our apartment and rent would be about the same but we think hoboken has so much more to offer for people like us that have a kid and dog!

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