'Just Steps Away From the Train' Is the Biggest NYC Real Estate Lie Ever

New York Real Estate Lie
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Anyone who has ever looked at apartments in New York City knows how rarely the units look anything like their StreetEasy listings.

When realtors describe a charming prewar Park Slope building with “original details,” they really mean the fifth-floor walk-up has never been updated. And the “cozy studio” you were pining after in the West Village is actually, upon closer inspection, a retrofitted closet.

The most common thing you’ll read in a real estate listing? Whether you’re shopping around for a communal loft (read: warehouse) in Bushwick or a roommate-free pad in Harlem, each place will be “steps” from a subway stop and just 15 minutes away from Midtown.

Some apartment databases, such as Naked Apartments, will calculate the actual distance an apartment is from surrounding subway stations. But they have yet to debunk falsehoods written into the descriptions themselves. So we took a look at current listings for units on the market now and cross-referenced the promised commute time with people who actually live in those neighborhoods.

If you’re shopping around for a new place to bed down, remember that the quick commute (like the second bedroom, which is really a coat closet) may not be everything you had hoped for.

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Regardless of where your office is, this studio on East 90th St is conveniently a “super easy commute to everywhere in NYC... ” But a resident told us that her commute to North Chelsea, from an apartment just one block away, was anything but easy.

“Honestly, I think almost any commute is bad when you’re on the UES -- there’s one subway line, and the only way to get across town is the buses which aren’t the most reliable. Even getting from 91st to the 86th Street stop on Lexington somehow felt like a trek. And then when you got there, the 4, 5, and 6 [platform] is really crowded because, again, there’s only ONE subway line up there. Public transportation is what it is, but I really hated getting around when I lived on the UES.” – Dawn R.

Washington Heights, Manhattan

If this “beautifully renovated 1-bedroom studio apartment” was actually located in Washington Heights, it could be a winner. The ad cites a 30-minute commute to Midtown, which -- according to our local source – could hold true if you’re sticking to the West Side. Unfortunately, a closer look shows this apartment north of Washington Heights, in neighboring Inwood.

“I’ve made it to Times Square in 30 minutes on the A, since it runs express (on weekday mornings, the A is almost always perfect), but it’s generally closer to 35. Commuting to Grand Central takes about 45 to 50 minutes door to door.” -- Erin A.

Crown Heights, Brooklyn

For only $1,825, this 2-bedroom Brooklyn abode sounds like a steal (especially with its 11ft-high ceilings, roof deck, and -- gasp! -- dishwasher). Yet the “approximately” 25 minute commute to Manhattan really only holds true if you’re talking about that moment in time when the train enters the East River tunnel. And make no mistake, this apartment is deep in Crown Heights.

“I lived a 2 minute walk from the express 4 and 5 trains, and on a perfectly-timed morning, I could enter Manhattan in 20 minutes. But unless you want to get off at Wall Street, a commute is typically 35-45 minutes. Easy. Especially with all of those ‘train traffic ahead’ announcements. It’s not unusual to sit in the station for 5-10 minutes with the train doors wide open.” -- Mary L.

Park Slope, Brooklyn

This sunny 2-bedroom on 4th Avenue in Park Slope is “ALL about location,” and, according to the Renthop listing, steps to “all” local shopping and dining, the Atlantic Center Mall, nearly every subway line, and the Barclays Center. One thing that’s not steps from a Park Slope apartment? Manhattan.

“I commute to West Soho, so on a good day my commute is only about 30 minutes. During the week, the F is fairly reliable, though lately it has not been running as frequently, causing the trains to be jam-packed. I've been trying to leave a bit earlier to avoid all the pushing, shoving, and/or having to stand under someone’s armpit (I'm 5-feet tall). It takes about 40-45 minutes to get to midtown from where I live.” -- Jessica H.

Long Island City, Queens

“While the waterfront parks and bike lanes beckon, a 4-minute subway ride will transport you directly to midtown Manhattan,” promises an apartments.com listing for a luxury 1-bedroom apartment with a 24-hour concierge, fitness center, and valet parking (yes, really).

“It always took longer than expected [to commute]. They said it took only 10 minutes to get to Midtown. But it’s more like 20 minutes, depending on where you’re going, and depending on how soon the train arrives. There are delays -- the 7 train is a busy one and it got busier as Long Island City got more crowded. Still, I think LIC is a convenient location for people who work in midtown.” -- Sirma M.

Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

A mediocre review (“nothing fancy at all” and “decent living room”) for a 2-bedroom apartment in Bed-Stuy is improved by the promise that the building is “a 15-20 minute ride from Essex in Manhattan.” But former Bed-Stuy residents say the commute -- while pleasant -- isn’t such a swift venture.

“The J train express is pretty awesome in the morning -- I like the aboveground aspect of the J, and the pretty views before [entering the city]. Some days, it’s super quick. Others, it’s super slow. [Either way], it was 45 minutes more or less for me.” -- Jonathan S.

East Village, Manhattan

One thing the East Village has going for it? It’s already in Manhattan. Currently up for grabs is a “quiet, cozy studio” just “steps” to Union Square. It’s actually not far from Union Square, but it’s a solid half-mile walk (or speedy trip on the L). And if you’re based in the East Village, what is a commute to Midtown really like?

“To Bryant Park, it took about 30 minutes. I took the L to the F, and it was easy... except when the L would occasionally suck.” -- Brianna W.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Only a short walk to the L Graham Stop and with heat and hot water included, this Williamsburg studio guarantees renters a 20-minute commute to Manhattan on the express train. But even before the L shuts down altogether in 2019, things aren’t always so seamless (or worthy of two consecutive exclamation points!!).

“When I moved to Williamsburg 8 years ago... I loved the L. It ran like clockwork every four minutes and only rarely did we have a delay or problem. Then, the hurricane happened. It’s pretty much 30 minutes door-to-door from the Bedford Stop to 59th Street. Barring a delay.” -- Corina Q.

Highbridge, The Bronx

You can be “steps from Yankee Stadium” and only a “quick ride to Midtown” in this spacious 3-bedroom apartment. The listing also uses buzzwords like “exposed brick,” “stainless steel appliances”, and “Queen-sized bedrooms” in the description. A lifelong resident of the Bronx says her commute to Midtown can take as long as an hour.

“I’m from Soundview, in the South Bronx, and the only train line here is the 6 train. It’s the Eastern Bronx’s only connection to Manhattan, so it gets very crowded. It takes me approximately 45 minutes to an hour to get to Midtown Manhattan. It all depends on the train traffic (and there always IS train traffic)!” -- Yamel G.

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Melanie Lieberman now lives in New Jersey, where every apartment is conveniently "steps" from a PATH station and a "stone's throw" from downtown Manhattan.