Pros and Cons of Living in New York City

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New York City at a Glance 

Located at the confluence of the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean, this capital of the eastern seaboard has been a beacon for newcomers, a bastion for the economy and a bulwark against cultural stagnation. This land — the first that many families ever literally set foot on in America — has been transformed by the stories of every immigrant who ever arrived on its shores, who turned an old Dutch trading town into the City that Never Sleeps. 

And who can sleep with nearly 9 million neighbors? NYC has more people living in its five boroughs — Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens — than any other city in the country. On top of that, more than 23.5 million people live in the greater NYC metro area. Thanks to the incredible diversity of its citizenry, New York is one of the most vibrant cities on the planet, whose global population makes businesses and city life thrive. Despite a population dip since 2020, NYC continues to attract newcomers from around the world, knowing that if they can make it here, why would they need to make it anywhere else? 

From Wall Street to Williamsburg, the city known simply as The City has more vertical space to explore than a mountain range and more subterranean secrets than any town could hope to tell. Whatever you like to do, there isn’t much you can’t do in NYC. One weekend you might find yourself at an obscure Irish play Off-Off-Broadway, and the next you’re watching the Yankees clinch another World Series (sorry other teams!). Or maybe you’d prefer to just get lost in The Strand’s miles of aisles of books, fumbling your way home from coffee shop to bar, devouring that new novel along with a dirty chai from Madman Espresso or a Prickly Rose from Ernie’s.  

Wherever you land in NYC — a brownstone in Brooklyn or a walk-up in the West Village — your story is sure to make its mark on the city.   

If you’re thinking of moving to the Big Apple, learn more below about the best and worst things about living in NYC. Still considering other cities upstate? Get the low-down on moving to New York state.   

Pros of Moving to New York City 

There’s a reason so many people keep moving to New York (hint: it’s not the traffic). First, the Big Apple has one of the largest, most diverse economies in the world, which supports a wide range of careers, from finance to medicine to the arts. Second, New York is second-to-none when it comes to world-class attractions and experiences, from the Empire State Building to the American Museum of Natural History, whose fabulous new building just opened to the public. And getting from your home to see that new butterfly exhibit is easier in NYC than in a lot of big cities because of the robust public transportation network here. We’re not saying it’s perfect, but you can get pretty much anywhere you want to go in the area without owning a car. 

Land of Job and Education Opportunities

The home of Wall Street and the country’s busiest port, New York City is the nation’s economic supercenter, led by financial giants like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup and anchored by its countless cultural titans. NYC also has the largest and most powerful consumer base in the country. The gross metropolitan product (GMP) of New York City exceeds $1 trillion annually — accounting for more than half of New York state’s total GMP — making NYC’s economy one of the largest in the world.  

In New York City’s job market, four industries dominate the non-farm sector: Private Education & Health Services, Professional & Business Services, Trade, Transportation & Utilities, and the Government. Since May 2022, the city has gained 163,200 nonfarm jobs — an increase of 4% — the majority of which were in Private Education & Health Services and Leisure & Hospitality. Manufacturing, Information and Trade, Transportation & Utilities suffered only minor losses. This upward trend is a welcome one, as unemployment in the counties of New York City (5.18%) stays stubbornly elevated compared to New York State (3.8%) and the country as a whole (3.6%).  

At $116,738, the median wage for private sector jobs in New York City is the highest in the State, which is good news for NYC residents because of the sky-high cost of living in the five boroughs. Finance & Insurance workers in NYC earn an average of $372,575 per year, while Tech workers earn $183,047, Arts & Entertainment workers earn $100,354, and those in Education earn $90,067, on average. 

New York City’s colleges and universities also give the city a big competitive edge. Private institutions like New York University, Barnard College, the Cooper Union and the Ivy League’s Columbia University — along with top public institutions — creates a highly skilled workforce prepared for careers in any field.  

Public Transportation and Bikes Friendly

In most cities, residents are still very dependent on cars for transportation. With few light rail lines and spotty bus networks, commutes are cumbersome or even impossible without a private vehicle. Not so in NYC. We won’t claim that commutes here are a breeze, but between the subway, the ferries, the buses and the LIRR and Metro-North rail lines, the MTA keeps NYC moving. Local fares are typically $2.75/ride and commuter trains headed to New Jersey, Connecticut and upstate New York range from around $3.00-$15.00, depending on the distance. Monthly passes can save you a bundle on public transportation.  

If you’re not convinced about the whole car-free thing, gas prices and narrow roadways might begin to persuade you. But nothing will make your eyes pop out of their sockets like the cost of parking. It’s like renting a second apartment for your vehicle to sleep in at night.  

Intrepid roadsters have long braved the city on two wheels, but NYC has become considerably more bike-friendly over the past decade. There are bike shares throughout the boroughs, and shielded bike lanes make commutes safer, but they are still not always designed for the casual cyclist.  

Cultural Diversity

Despite the dramatic population exodus during the pandemic, New York City is still the most populous city in the country, and it’s also one of the most diverse. According to the U.S. Census, 32% of New Yorkers identify as white, 29% as Hispanic/Latinx, 23% as Black/African American, 14% as Asian/Asian American, 7% as two or more races, and .5% identify as American Indian/Alaska Native. New York City may be many things, but it is not a monoculture. 

Still a destination for immigrants, 36% of New York residents are foreign-born, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a nation on earth that doesn’t have a community in New York. The international and population of the city is one of its greatest assets, contributing to its economy and its cultural strength.  

Plenty of Things to Do

There is probably too much to see in one lifetime in New York City, much less one weekend. Now that you live here permanently, you can at least attempt to do it all. Most New Yorkers don’t take advantage of all the wonders just outside their door — it can feel overwhelming until you have out-of-town guests who are up for (gulp) “literally anything.” Pace yourselves when they arrive, and make sure to plan out good stops for snacks in between sights.  

Hot spots will always be crowded with tourists, but it’s sometimes fun to feel like one of them and let the city be your host. Despite the lines, seeing the city from the top of the Empire State Building does not disappoint. That goes double for seeing the Statue of Liberty. Taking the ferry out to Ellis Island, where so many of our forebears first landed, is an emotional journey for many, and the museum onsite provides an engaging experience of American history. Similarly moving, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is a haunting tribute and a poignant experience for visitors.  

If your family has a long list of destinations to see, try to group them geographically and aim for no more than three stops a day. Most museums open around 10a and close at 5p. If you’re a member, there might be early hours you can take advantage of, along with discounted tickets for your guests. For culture-filled day on the East Side, head straight to Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue. where you’ll find The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art), the Guggenheim, the Museum of the City of New York, the Jewish Museum, El Museo del Barrio — dedicated to Petro Rican, Caribbean and Latin American art — and several other important institutions. For lunch, you can pick up a hot dog or shawarma from a street vendor and picnic in Central Park, and then try a sit-down restaurant nearby for dinner, like Contento at 111th and Park, which has amazing Peruvian food.  

Want to spend the day in Brooklyn with the kids? There are tons of places to go. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is one of the most creative of its kind, and it just happens to be down the street from Railroad Pizza, where you get a free mood boost for each member of your family with every bite of their Neapolitan pies. If pizza isn’t enough of a reward, they also make donuts and French fries. Don’t count calories, count smiles. If even this can’t cure what ails you, seek help from an epicurean professional. Other fun stops in this borough: the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Area53 Adventure Park (indoor ziplining, ninja courses and other acrobatic mayhem), the New York Aquarium and the New York Transit Museum (vintage trains!). 

If you just want a chill day of food and fun, we have a plan for you. Start off with a bagel and lox spread from your favorite neighborhood joint. (We’re loyal to H&H in Manhattan, smitten with Russ & Daughters in Brooklyn, and Empire is our go-to in the Bronx.) Then, take the ferry to Governor’s Island, where you can see public art by contemporary greats like Rachel Whiteread and Jacob Hashimoto, play till you drop on Slide Hill and hang with the sheep on Hammock Hill. Grab lunch at one of the great vendors on the island — like Tokyo Drumstick or Taco Vista — and then take a walking tour and visit Port Jay.   

After you take the ferry back to the city, pick your favorite sport that’s in season and see a game: Yankees or Mets, Knicks or Nets or Liberty, Giants or Jets, the NHL’s Rangers, or the New York City FC. After a day this full of fun, we’ll dare you to say you don’t ❤️ NYC. 

World-Famous Events

No city does big events like the Big Apple. The ball drop at Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The annual lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. The procession of floats at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, especially when the errant balloon tries to cut bait and head skyward. And who can forget the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which pits pugs against poodles in a battle for America’s favorite pooch?  

Some of the city’s biggest events are art-centered. Since 1994, the annual Armory Show has drawn more than 65,000 visitors to see the hottest work from contemporary artists practicing around the globe. Then there are cinematic feasts, like the Tribeca Film Festival or the Jewish Film Festival. And then there’s NYCxDESIGN, which showcases the future of architecture, textiles, furniture and everything that doesn’t fit into tidy, aesthetic boxes.  

Other NYC events celebrate cultural traditions, like the annual Lunar New Year Parade & Festival or the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, both which draw crowds of thousands and transform neighborhoods into boisterous street parties.  

Whether you’re an industry expert attending the city’s annual Toy Fair or a die-hard boating enthusiast searching for the latest in watercrafts, you’ll be able to find your niche in NYC’s events. 

Cons of Living New York City

We won’t lie — there are some major downsides to living in the Big Apple. First, there’s the high cost of living. Finding a city-centric apartment where you can fully open any of the doors to your kitchen cabinets, let alone the appliances, without accidentally striking or burning a member of your family will cost you. 

Outside your own home, you’ll find the city is also a very crowded and not always scenic place. 

Then, there are the rats. (OMG, the rats!) The city’s rat problem has gotten so out of control that Mayor Adams hasn’t been able to fill the tempting position of Rat Czar. Several eager tomcats applied, but they even insisted the job was too big for just one person.  

High Cost of Living

New York City is one of the most expensive places to live on the planet. Some New Yorkers have found it so unaffordable; they’re considering moving to a different planet, just as soon as one becomes available. 

Housing is the single biggest factor contributing to New York’s high cost of living. It’s one reason people live so far outside the city, like on Planet Newark. The median home value in New York City is now $660,700 — more than twice the national average — and the median gross rent is $1,579. But NYC prices do pale in comparison to Los Angeles’ and San Francisco’s, which top $700,000 and $1.2 million, respectively. Of the three cities, NYC has the lowest rate of home ownership: only 33.2% of New York City residents own their own home, compared to the 64.6% of Americans that do.  

Gas prices in New York City are generally higher than elsewhere in the country, too, though New Yorkers tend to spend a smaller percentage of their income on transportation, owing to the walkability of the city and the access to public transportation.  

Food costs — both for groceries and dining out — seem perpetually on the rise in NYC, though prices can vary dramatically between neighborhoods and vendors.  

Another financial burden? Taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, individual income tax rates in New York state are some of the highest in the nation, costing residents 15.9% of their annual income. While sales taxes in New York state are some of the lowest in the country, the city imposes an added 4% — a rate on the higher end of the spectrum — nearly doubling the state’s levy.  

Please note: We are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances. 

Winter Can be Harsh 

New York City has four distinct seasons — upwards of five if you count extreme events like Hurricane Sandy, smoke drift from the Canadian wildfires or the Blizzard of 2016 as their own climatic phases. But aside from the periodic appearance of Snowzilla or a July scorcher, New Yorkers have it pretty good when it comes to climate. 

Summers are hot enough to make you appreciate a dip in the ocean or a late-night breeze on a rooftop patio. Fall is deliciously cool and colorful with changing leaves on every tree and shrub in Central Park. Unless it becomes 2023 again, you can almost always count on having a real winter with measurable snow. And in springtime, well — everyone likes New York in June…how about you? 

The city gets a decent amount of rainfall — roughly 50 inches — spread evenly throughout the year, and snowfall averages 30 inches a year. The average temperature in January is 34 F, but lows can drop into single digits. By contrast, the average temperature in July and August is just under 80 F, though highs are often in the 90s. 

Unless you are looking for absolute climatic consistency, New York City will give you something to love in every season.  

Hustling, Bustling Vibe 

There are 29,303.2 people per square mile in New York City. That extra .2 people is really important to factor in, because you’re really never alone in New York — there’s always going to be a pigeon or small dog in your wake. NYC’s high population density gives every person roughly 950 feet to themselves. 

Be Ready for your Big Move to the Big Apple 

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Moving locally to NYC? Mayflower can help you with local moves/movers in NYC and the state of New York. Our New York City movers perform local moves in New York state independently under their own brands and business names.  

Making a DIY move to NYC? Use Mayflower’s helpful moving checklists and packing tips to keep your solo move to the city on budget and on track. 

Still deciding where to move in New York state? Mayflower’s Moving Guide to New York state can give you a bite of the Big Apple’s most popular cities and attractions, along with insider tips for new residents on life in New York state. 

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