Fewer people than ever before are raising children in New York City. In fact, over the last several years, the Big Apple has been shrinking, with a 9% decline in births overall and a 15% decline in Manhattan, and the decline is simple economics. It’s expensive to raise children in the city, which means both parents typically need to work, most families have to live in small apartments, and there are no yards for kids to run around. Still, despite the challenges, there are plenty of families who want to raise children in New York City.
If you’re considering transplanting your family to Manhattan or its surrounding boroughs, you need to prepare yourself, and your children for the changes you’ll face. Here’s what you need to know before you make the big move – in the city that never sleeps, there’s no time to pause and get your bearings.
Know Your Neighborhoods
In New York City, it’s easy to choose your housing almost exclusively by price point – it’s a lot cheaper to live in Long Island City than it is to live in SoHo – but before you sign a lease, take some time to learn about the neighborhoods. Certain areas, such as Park Slope in Brooklyn, are known for being family-friendly, while others, like lower Manhattan’s Financial District, have less to offer families. Read about neighborhood events, look into community boards, and get a sense of where you’ll find community.
In addition to finding a family-friendly neighborhood, if you have young children, you’ll ideally want to live in a building with an elevator and near an elevator-accessible subway stop so that you can easily use a stroller. Elevators are remarkably scarce in older buildings and throughout the city’s public transit lines, and it can be a real hardship to do without them.
Prepare For Rental Procedures
Renting in New York City can be radically different from renting in the suburbs, and not just because of the price points. Rental procedures are also typically more elaborate; you often need to work with a rental broker, have to have your application approved by a property board, and may need to pay a variety of fees in addition to the typical rent and security deposit. The good news is that a broker can help you navigate all of this, but if you’re used to apartment searching independently – the norm in the suburbs – this system can seem strange at first.
Build A Community
It’s widely recognized that parents need a community to keep them grounded, no matter where they live, but when you live somewhere as large and bustling as New York City, it’s especially important to build connections. That’s because, without a pre-established community, you can feel as though you’re surrounded by people, yet utterly alone. While you shouldn’t be afraid to just strike up a conversation with your neighbors, joining a local parents’ group, a fitness class, or even a book club can help you build the connections you need to access exclusive opportunities throughout the city.
Be Ready To Let Go
Because people perceive the suburbs to be safer than cities, many new city dwellers can have a hard time letting go and allowing their children the freedom that’s normal in New York. For example, it’s not unusual to see relatively young children taking the subway independently – most middle schoolers can’t receive bus service as a matter of policy and are issued MetroCards. The MTA’s policy is equally relaxed on the topic, recommending that children under age 8 be accompanied by an adult on trains and buses, but not even that is mandatory. Meanwhile, suburban parents wouldn’t consider letting a child that young out of their sight on a crowded subway.
The fact is, New York City today is safer than it’s ever been and it’s a great place to raise a family, even if housing is expensive. Once you overcome that hurdle, though, there are endless free activities, amazing schools, and chances for your children to grow and explore the world that suburbanites can only imagine.
This content is sponsored by Larry Alton.
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