From NJ to Sutton Place: Empty nesters downsize to a luxury rental

By Kelly Kreth  |
July 30, 2021 - 9:30AM

"You go through so much scrutiny to prove you belong in the city. People go deep into your ethnicity, income, and social activities when examining you as a candidate," says Maureen Sanchez-Paredes, who with her husband moved to Sutton Place from New Jersey.


After 14 years, Maureen Sanchez-Paredes and Dr. Manuel Vasquez-Ayala sold their large New Jersey house to move closer to their adult children in Manhattan. But it was not easy: Downsizing the family home was challenging and the couple felt stereotyped when touring luxury rentals on the Upper East Side. But they are happy where they landed. Here’s Ms. Sanchez-Paredes’s story.

My husband and I had been living in Bedminster, NJ for about 14 years. We owned a 2,700-square-foot house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. We had a mortgage on the property of about $800,000. 

We loved that the space was so big, our location was safe, and it was near excellent schools for our two children. We took part in a lot that our community had to offer: A gym, tennis courts, and a large shopping center. And while the community was not gated, it was private, you belonged to it via a club membership.  

We loved the area restaurants such as The Pluckemin Inn with its contemporary American cuisine and Trattoria Mediterranean. 

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

But we didn’t need so much space for just the two of us. Our kids were grown and living in NYC and we began thinking of moving to Manhattan to be closer to them. My husband, Manuel, an assistant vice president at a healthcare company in the Bronx and could reduce his commute by an hour in each direction. I am a vice president at a medical devices company. I travel to California and Mexico for work and can work from home.  

In July of 2020 we contacted an agent in Bedminster to sell our home. We began searching for a new place to live in NYC in October—our plan was to rent. We enlisted the help of Kunal Khemlani, an agent at Living NY who had found rentals in NYC for our two children the previous summer. He had also helped us buy a studio co-op on the Upper East Side in 2018 that my husband used as a pied à terre to cut down on his commute. So we knew Kunal was great to work with and we've recommended him to several colleagues.

We wanted a two or three bedroom with a minimum of 1,100 square feet. Our budget was $6,500 net rent after concessions and we wanted to be in Midtown East or the Upper East Side in a doorman building. We saw a few condos that we liked, including The Milan, but the high application and move-in fees and the approval process for renting in a condo dissuaded us. Ultimately, we saw about 20 places over the course of three months.

Finally we settled on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rental in a tower in Sutton Place for $7,300 a month. Kunal obtained a concession of three months free on a two-year lease with no broker fee.

I generally don't like moving but it wasn't bad. I was expecting delays and moving companies to not be available during the pandemic, but we had a good experience. The toughest part of the moving experience was emptying a house with 14 years of things and deciding which items to keep or sell. 

Being on the 19th floor, we have amazing views of the East River from floor-to-ceiling living room windows. We have a doorman, washer/dryer in unit, gym, pool, valet, and a parking garage. We love the Sutton Place area, which we find convenient to transportation and shopping—we love that there is a Whole Foods close by and soon a Trader Joe’s will be completed. And even though it has so many stores, we like that it still feels like a residential neighborhood and is safe and quiet.

One thing I don't like: You need to a membership to do any kind of exercise other than walking. You need to join the gym, tennis courts, etc.  

Our living expenses are actually lower in NYC when you factor in transportation, gas, and taxes. Taxes in Bedminster were some of the lowest in NJ, but I am spending less in NYC. Our Manhattan rent is about 25 percent higher than the mortgage of my house. 

We used to have two cars, but we sold one and now pay for a garage near our building. Manuel now takes the 5 subway to commute to the Bronx and I work from home when not traveling for business. I occasionally drive one and a half hours back to my company’s office in New Jersey when necessary. 

Groceries and restaurants in Manhattan are very diverse and far superior to those in New Jersey. Some of our favorite restaurants include Isle of Capri, a family-run Italian restaurant open since 1955; Boqueria; Spice Thai; and Pitchounette 81 (which recently closed unfortunately).

On that note, NYC is one of the most diverse places—yet at the same time the least diverse place—in the world. The process of trying to rent or buy here is painful. You go through so much scrutiny to prove you belong in the city. People go deep into your ethnicity, income, and social activities when examining you as a candidate. We definitely experienced being stereotyped while viewing places and interacting. It’s been said that the city is a melting pot but the reality is it can be very segregated in places.

A few friends from NJ have come to visit, and thankfully, we already have some friends/colleagues who live nearby. It hasn't been too hard to be social. In fact, one close friend lives five blocks from our building. Kunal helped him find his one-bedroom co-op in May! And the children love the views of the East River, the modern finishes, and the building amenities. They of course love coming over for home-cooked meals and using the pool. We will likely stay in this building for quite a long time.



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.

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