Moving to New York with Young Children
In December 2012 I moved to Brooklyn, New York with my husband and 18-month-old daughter Es. I won’t lie, January snowstorms and days where the temperature doesn’t exceed -12c is a tough gig with a toddler in tow. I had imagined that it would be fairly easy to make friends but I hadn’t factored in that when we did finally venture out, we we would spend most of our time with nannies. Now nannies can be wonderfully friendly but they are not looking to make friends with a stay-at-home, ex-pat mum who has a desperate glint in her eye. It was a lonely first couple of months, but time and tenacity paid off gradually.
I was also fairly naïve about the cost of renting in New York (1 month rent up front + 1 month broker’s fee + 2 month’s security deposit). We were brassic! And many of the wonderful activities on offer were out of our price range, barring the odd visit to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum ($9 admission, including children over the age of 1) and the American Museum of Natural History ($22 per adult, $12.50 2-12 year olds). Thankfully there are plenty of freebies, which I rooted out over time.
As soon as the freeze thawed it became all about parks and playgrounds. Our favourite is a combination of both. The Natural Exploration Area in Prospect Park, using trees felled by Hurricane Sandy, is a wonderful setting for a child to imaginatively play and explore. In Central Park no visit is complete without a scramble on the Alice statue. All of the major parks host free concerts in the summer months, as does our local, Fort Greene Park. My daughter and I pogoed with the best of them, to music by accomplished folk, rock, bluegrass-punk and gypsy jazz bands. It’s a cut above the ‘wheels on the bus’ singing groups I’d encountered in London.
As mentioned we live in Fort Greene and once we tapped into the Parents Around The Hill list serve group, we were away. We discovered bars and restaurants hosting free and cheap craft and singing sessions (Habana Outpost, Dean Street bar, Der Schwarze Kölner). We used it to find a cheap playgroup and more recently as a resource to wade into the minefield that is Pre-K/nursery/day care (it’s not as bad as everyone makes out- there are spaces!)
In the height of summer, especially in August when the humidity is unbearable, it is all about water. Be it free rides on the Staten Island ferry, $12 all day pass on the East River Ferry, a subway ride to Coney Island or the Far Rockaways, or simply sitting under the sprinklers which most playgrounds have running all summer.
A year on and those heady, sweaty summer days are a distant memory. We are back in the depths of a polar vortex, but what a difference a year makes. We now have friends and plenty to do. The city has delighted us in every season, and my girl is soaking up all the life and energy this place has to offer.