The Newcomers

Why I moved to NYC from Toronto: A new job brought me back and now I'm living in our former building

  • In Toronto, she and her husband rented a one bedroom for $2,300 and had lots of amenities
  • They paid between $600,000 to $800,000 for a studio in Columbus Circle that needed work
By Kelly Kreth  |
December 15, 2023 - 10:00AM
newcomers brick underground

Tamara is happy to be back in her old nabe near Central Park and says there's less foot traffic than before.


When Tamara got a job offer at a New York City college, she jumped at the chance to leave Toronto and head back to her old neighborhood. She and her husband even bought a condo in their former building. Here’s Tamara’s story.

I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and raised in Denver. I initially moved to New York City in 2011 to be with my then-fiancé who is also from Colorado. We were living in Columbus Circle when I left in 2017 for a job in Toronto. My now-husband joined me in 2018.

I am a college professor and author of narrative nonfiction. My most recent book is "Beyond the Shores: A History of African Americans Abroad." 
I lived in a neighborhood called Yorkville, which I joked was like the Columbus Circle of Toronto. It had a similar blend of residential and high-end commercial establishments (like hotels, spas, and restaurants), including a Whole Foods in the basement of an upscale shopping center, which I used as a selling point for my husband, so he’d feel like he wasn’t making too much of a lifestyle change when he eventually moved up there. 

We rented a one bedroom apartment with a washer/dryer and covered balcony in an elevator building with a concierge. Our rent was roughly $2,300. 

During the pandemic, our landlord’s son wanted to take over our unit, so we moved to two-bedroom apartment in the same building, which came in handy as we both worked part of the time from home. 

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series The Newcomers features first-person accounts about why a renter or buyer decided to take a chance on NYC and live here now. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

We loved everything about the neighborhood—it was near the two primary train lines and walkable to my job and everything I needed (fitness studios, hair salons, restaurants, coffee shops, etc). It’s not the most charming or neighborly area but a good place for us to have landed. 

We also loved the apartment except the scale of the rooms, which did not accommodate all our NYC furniture. I had an easy commute to work in Toronto: it was about a 25-minute walk, 15 minutes by train, and—crucially—10 minutes by bike. 

I think of Toronto as a city of houses and friends. Our social activity was hanging out at friends’ houses/in their backyards. This was obviously influenced by the pandemic.  

Toronto is a great restaurant city, of course, and has cool local theaters but we really missed NYC culture. 

Why she left Toronto for NYC

In 2022 I was offered another job—this time in NYC, and we headed back. It has always felt like home to us. 

We loved our old complex so much that we basically bee-lined to it, and we knew we wanted to buy rather than rent. We did look at a few other places to confirm the decision, but we knew where we wanted to be. We really like prewar apartments and details, too, which our building offered.  

Even when it came to apartments in our price range with an in-unit washer/dryer, they lacked the character of our complex, scale of the apartments, and amenities (garden, roof decks, doormen). It also helped that it is a condo because we had heard horror stories about co-op board interviews. We also had five years of Canadian salaries and worried about how we would look on paper. 

We used the same broker that helped us rent our old unit to buy in the building. He lives there as well. However, he also repped the seller, so we didn’t feel like he had just our interests in mind. 

We viewed our current studio in May of 2022 and closed at the end of July. I’d rather not be specific about what we paid, but on StreetEasy you can see that apartments like ours range from the high $500,000s to the high $700,000s. 

Our new place in the building was a “pocket” listing (meaning it wasn’t officially listed) that was priced to sell. It needed work because the kitchen had a tiny sink that barely fit anything and was not set up for people who cook and eat at home. The entire unit also had popcorn ceilings, so we did a renovation. The only drawback: we no longer have an in-unit washer/dryer, though the building has a shared laundry room. 
We hired movers to bring the bulk of our stuff and loaded up our car with things we’d need in the last days at our old apartment and in the first days at our new one. We pulled into town on the same day we closed. 

It’s hard to compare our costs since the currency and buying power is different in Toronto and NYC. Also, we own now and have additional expenses (homeowners’ insurance, property taxes, condo fees), but I’d say we had more amenities for our money in Toronto. 

How she likes being back in her old nabe

Because we lived in the same neighborhood before, we’ve been struck by how different it feels. It’s always been a mix of residential and commercial since so many office buildings and hotels are around here, which were obviously emptied out during the pandemic. It also meant that drugstores, lunch places, and dry cleaners struggled, so there was less foot traffic when we first moved back. It has come back a bit in the past year, but it is still noticeable. 

Having lived in Toronto, which has universal health care (that is not tied to employment) and more of a social safety net, we have also been struck by how many more unhoused people there are than before, how many people are clearly struggling with mental illness and drug addiction, and how indifferent this city and country seems to providing care.

It’s not that Canada has completely eradicated these issues, but universal health care is such a no-brainer that coming back to the U.S. has really underscored what a cruel country we live in. And given the role of private equity in the declining quality of health care here (long wait times for appointments that take less than 15 minutes when you finally get them), the arguments against universal health care don’t hold up. There are obvious solutions staring us in the face, and we don’t want to enact them. 

Another thing I miss about living in Toronto is that there are plenty of bike lanes and a culture of drivers and pedestrians respecting them. My Toronto bike has been sitting in my NYC office collecting dust for over a year. Between the rise in popularity of electronic bikes and delivery apps, NYC has much more bike traffic, which combines with the regular traffic (car and pedestrian) to produce chaos. I don't feel safe riding my bike. That means my commute is about 20 minutes by subway; my husband works from home.

On the plus side, I’m a big fan of having access to Central Park and Whole Foods in the Deutsche Bank Center (formerly Time Warner). We like to take our rescue dog, Seiji, to Throw Me a Bone.

We love Ardesia for the wine selection and small plates. We often get coffee from Oasis Cafe, order in from Ageha Sushi or Three Roosters (Thai-style chicken and rice), and enjoy eating at Kausa (Peruvian).

It’s great to have all the theaters nearby: Manhattan Theater Club, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Laura Pels Theatre (home to Roundabout Theatre Company), etc. 

Hardly anyone in our family or from the U.S. saw our Toronto apartment because of the pandemic, which was too bad because it actually had a guest room, but people like what we’ve done to the new NYC place even if it’s not as easy to host since it’s much smaller and we have a dog. 

Now that we are back in NYC, we find we miss Toronto very much, but having purchased a place in NYC, we plan on staying. 



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.