I've gotten a fair amount of flak for moving from Manhattan to Queens. Manhattan to Brooklyn is one thing. Most people can understand why you'd trade the hustle and bustle of Manhattan for a slice of genteel brownstone Brooklyn. But Queens?
My father is one of the haters. For him Queens is the shabby, impoverished, crime ridden borough of his youth (it was the first place he lived when he came to America). It was where he lived when he waited tables and went to grad school. His version of the American Dream entailed moving out of the city into the suburbs as soon as possible. So why would his son, born and raised with all the benefits of living in a safe, comfortable upper middle class suburb, move back?
And there were also the snide comments from my old neighbors, who are, it's safe to assume, either lifelong Manhattanites or long-term Manhattanites who can't imagine living anywhere else. I remember telling someone in the elevator of my old building that I had moved to Ridgewood. She shot me a blank stare and then said, "you moved for the space, right?"
It's Not Just About Space
Well, yes, that was one of the reasons. A major reason, in fact. But we have no regrets leaving Manhattan not just because we have a lot more space but because we really love our new nabe.
For one, it's incredibly diverse. Ridgewood is a mix of Hispanic, Asian, and white immigrant families along with a smattering of artists and hipsters. It means that the German bakery from the 1930s sits next to the Nepalese restaurant. Walk down the streets of Myrtle Avenue and it's a miniature United Nations. Of course, Ridgewood has its problems, one of them being the quickening pace of gentrification (which we're definitely contributing to). We get that we are contributing to the gentrification of the area (the gays are here and ready to renovate!) but for now, the diversity of the neighborhood is something we can enjoy without feeling it's going to disappear very soon.
Our Little Secret
And because gentrification hasn't swallowed the area whole yet, Ridgewood still feels like a bit of a secret. Let's keep this between you and me, but there are whole blocks of beautiful homes in half-decent condition that would be snapped up in an instant if they were in neighboring Bushwick or Williamsburg. The coffee shops and bars aren't totally packed with outsiders yet. Because we live in a block of single family homes, our neighbors are familiar faces who say hello and chat. There's an coziness to life here that we didn't have in Manhattan, and for now, we're enjoying it.