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what does it truly cost these days to nab an apt. -- a simple studio -- in the City. Preferably Manhattan. I know it's outrageous compared to anywhere on the West Coast .. but MUST it be?

I dunno, parts of San Francisco are easily as expensive as Manhattan, sometimes more.

Are there 'deals' if you search or are there 'tricks' to finding cheaper, but ok and not dangerous, places?

Honestly, I have never had to look for an apartment in NYC. My first place was top floor of a Columbia-subsidized building that my sister was living in before I got there. Second place was in Park Slope, Brooklyn, another top floor place I inherited from a co-worker at my first job. Current place is another top floor "penthouse" in Brooklyn I inherited from a friend. All have been awesome places at a great price, so I'd say the best way to find an apartment is to live here and know a lot of people. Outsiders, in the typical NYC tradition, pay more for less than people in the loop.

What do you think would be a 'reasonable range of expectation' with regard to upper West side say or Lower East village area? Any thought on this?

For one person in a studio? I'm just guessing but $1200-$2000 depending on location on the UWS. I really have no idea though. Good luck with the LES, it's one of the most awesome and enviable places on the island. I used to walk by a sign on the way to work at my cafe in NoLita that advertised studios for $3-4K. This is where young famous people live in the city. But you can probably find some out of the way places for less in Alphabet City... It's just a hike to the trains. Generally prices go way up as you get close to a train, and the surroundings are better as well.

And, ok, what's it like living out a short ways from the island and how great is the diff in price and ... living.

Whether you are asking for yourself of someone else, you really should look at Brooklyn. It's not cheap anymore, but it's lovely. I will never move back to the island if I can help it. Brooklyn is quieter, cleaner, bigger, less of a scene and more "neighborhoody" than Manhattan, which can be overrun by tourists and other drunk Jersey kids on weekends. The impression of Brooklyners is they are crunchier, greener and more friendly than Manhattanites, and it's a badge they wear proudly. I love Brooklyn; it's my second home now away from CA. And I am much closer to downtown Manhattan from my apartment in Ft Greene than I ever was on the UWS.

Queens is more of a family place, though in places close to Manhattan this might be changing. I've only been to the Bronx a few times but some will tell you it's the best kept secret in NYC. Too far from downtown for me though. And forget about Staten Island. Nothing to see there.

I can give you more details on neighborhoods if you like, but hopefully this is a start.
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