So you’ve gone through all the hassle of finding an apartment in NYC, moving into it, and setting it up. Now it’s time to shift your attention to the world outside of your apartment. It’s time to explore your new NYC neighborhood! Following this guide will help make your neighborhood feel like home in no time… or maybe you might learn things about your neighborhood that would make you want to move again…. Either way, you’ll go from a doe-eyed newbie to a knowledgeable neighbor.
1. Look at a map.
To properly get your bearings in your new neighborhood in NYC, you’ve first got to figure out where you are. Put your address into Google Maps or your preferred map app and do a virtual exploration. Make sure you zoom in close enough to familiarize yourself with the street names, and also zoom out far enough to see which neighborhoods are nearby your own. By the end of this, you want to be able to look at any map of NYC and immediately be able to locate your neighborhood.
2. Locate the essentials.
I hope you still have that map app open because you’re not done with it yet. Search for the following things in your neighborhood and make note of their locations: grocery stores, your preferred bank branch, the nearest police precinct and fire station, the nearest hospital and urgent care center, the closest pharmacy, bodegas, subway stations, and bus stops. The sooner you know the locations of these things the better, as you’ll need most of them on a regular basis.
3. Learn street cleaning days and trash pick-up days.
Memorizing the street cleaning days is more applicable to the folks who have cars (bless your hearts) because they have to deal with alternate side parking, but knowing the trash days on your street is useful information for everyone, as putting trash out on the curb on the wrong day or at the wrong time can result in a fine. Even if you’re not the one putting out the trash at your residence, you’ll still want to mentally prepare yourself for the classic New York smell of hot garbage smacking you in the face when you step out of your dwelling first thing in the morning. Use this city government website to find out your trash collection schedule.
4. Read up on your neighborhood’s history and its current demographics.
Your new neighborhood was here long before you were and to ignore that history is not only disrespectful; it’s also a missed opportunity to forge a connection with the community. Trust me, when you start reading up on the area you live in, you start to respect it and become fond of it, even if the things you’re reading aren’t entirely positive. That’s because the neighborhood becomes more than a jumble of buildings and people; it becomes alive with stories, and soon you’ll start to make sense of how your own story fits in the narrative. Bonus points if you take a neighborhood tour given by a local.
5. Learn who your elected officials are.
I’ve said this before but when my street isn’t plowed after a snowstorm or when a fallen tree is blocking my road for several days, I like to know exactly whose name I should be cursing. And with local officials, the odds are much higher that my cursing will result in something being done. National politics may seem nebulous and removed from us, but on a local level, we have a lot more power than we think. It’s easier to get a hold of local officials when their office is down the street from your house. Don’t believe me? Then check out the website Who Represents Me. When you enter your address, you’ll get a list of all the representatives in your area. Also, don’t forget to notify the Board of Elections that you’ve changed your address.
6. Walk every street.
Whether you walk wherever the wind takes you or you do it systematically like William Helmreich, be sure to explore every street within your new neighborhood. It’s the key step to make everything you’ve read about and seen on the map make sense. Plus, walking around NYC, no matter the neighborhood, is always amusing.
7. Meet some of your neighbors.
Yes, New Yorkers are notorious for not knowing their neighbors and for not being the friendliest of folk. But you don’t have to submit to the stereotype. New York doesn’t have to be a cold, lonely place if you don’t want it to be. Not only will meeting your neighbors help you feel less alone, it can also improve the security of your area. Studies have shown that close-knit communities tend to be more secure because people are more inclined to look out for others and alert them if things are amiss. Take it from me, you’ll be happy to have neighbors that have your back when you do some stupid, like accidently leave your key in the door overnight.
8. Find community events that interest you.
If you’re too shy to knock on your neighbor’s door or you’re afraid of coming off as a creep, this might be a more organic way to meet people in your neighborhood. Search Facebook for any neighborhood groups or check nearby parks for flyers. Believe it or not, plenty of local groups still use old-school flyers to get the word out about their events.
9. Try all the restaurants.
I recognize that the feasibility of this depends on your amount of disposable income and the number of restaurants in your neighborhood. (Fun fact: Back in 2011 TriBeCa was crowned as having the most restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the United States.) But at the very least trying out the establishments that pique your interest should be on your neighborhood bucket list. When your lease is up and you have to move away to somewhere where the rent prices are more tolerable, you don’t want to regret never trying the gold-dipped chicken wing place that was merely down the road. I can’t speak for you, but I don’t want to look back at my time in a particular neighborhood and feel like I knew nothing about it outside of my apartment.
I hope this has inspired you to explore your neighborhood in NYC if you’ve recently moved or even if you’ve lived in the same place for decades.
If you like what I do here at Shiloh in the City and want to continue getting to know New York’s history, culture, and things to do with me, sign up for my email list and follow me on social media. Thanks for reading!