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Postdoctorate in NYU. Costs of living in NYC?

PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 3:37 pm
by Jay D.
Hi everyone! I am new to the forum. I am seeking opinions of the gurus residing in NYC.

I am single, 30 years old, and currently living in Lugano, Switzerland. I have got an offer from NYU Brooklyn (at MetroTech Center), for a Postdoctoral position. The position is for two years, and they will issue me a J1 visa during my stay.

I was informed today by the Professor, that my annual salary will be 46,800 USD (without taxes). They will provide me some health insurance (pay some part of the premium). No housing allowance is provided. So basically, I will need to survive on approximately 47k per year (3900 USD/month).

I find this is a bit hard to digest, given that.. rental prices even in Zurich are not that high as NYC, and salaries in Zurich are adjusted according to the high costs. However, this is not the case in NYC (bureaucracy I believe).

Having gone through the internet I found that, with this much amount of money I will not be able to live alone (e.g., a studio apartment), like I do here in Swiss, and would need to share with someone. Of course Manhattan would be more expensive (everybody wants to live there), and Brooklyn cheaper (more preferable in my situation, as annual salary is under 50k).

I am currently still in doubt, if I should accept the offer or not (40k/year is very livable in southern states of the US, e.g., Florida). Breaking down costs from a monthly salary, what I see is that:

- 35% Taxes (directly deducted from salary, inclusive of NYC taxes)
- 30-40% Accommodation (nothing fancy, probably a small shared flat not even near a metro station)
- Utilities (electricity, gas, water)?
- Monthly train pass?
- Cellphone line subscription with Internet (postpaid)?
- Food and groceries (assuming eating fast food once or twice a week)?
- Remaining health insurance I need to pay (after employer pays 50% of it)?

These are probably the basic amenities that everybody requires. Other than that, the remaining would be for leisure (e.g., going out with the GF or once a month to a night club) and savings (e.g., return ticket back home to Asia).

Would this be comfortable to live in NYC? or I would it be difficult to make ends meet?

Given that the most basic necessity of life, is water. Is it safe to drink tap water in NYC, as we do here in Switzerland, or bottled water is preferred by most?

I would be glad to hear opinions of people living in the NYC area, who are doing their postdocs at NYU or Columbia, and have a similar situation.

Re: Postdoctorate in NYU. Costs of living in NYC?

PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 9:54 pm
by CJB
For cost of rent, look at padmapper or craigslist. Also see what current postdocs do for accommodation and generally minimizing living expenses.

I know people postdocing at Rockefeller and Columbia with similar stipends. They get somewhat subsidized housing and have a tough time breaking even each month. Although it's not like I've audited their budgets so maybe there's unnecessary expenses.

I've faced similar problems when trying to balance cost of living in a city for a potential post doc position with the training and opportunities it will provide.

Best of luck to you :)

Re: Postdoctorate in NYU. Costs of living in NYC?

PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 10:42 pm
by Dave Jensen
It's odd that you would think you can't drink the water in NYC, in fact almost insulting. (I know that's not your intent -- Americans do it all the time when we travel. I was with a friend who thought he couldn't drink the water in Japan.)

A few years ago, New York City won a national taste test of major urban areas for the quality of its drinking water. It was compared to the taste of a major brand of bottled Spring Water and the NYC tap water won. It beat all the other cities who entered, as well.

That said, you'll still find restaurants pushing bottled water to run up the bill. Water in the States, in all locations except perhaps Flint Michigan, is safe to drink. While it may not be mountain snow runoff, it's not a third world country,


Re: Postdoctorate in NYU. Costs of living in NYC?

PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:30 pm
by Craig B.
I have a friend doing a postdoc at NYU. They have some subsidized university housing available for postdocs. If you can get an apartment, it's really a fantastic deal--she's able to live alone and afford it on postdoc salary. The major problem is that it's time limited--I think you can only live there 2 or 3 years--but if you only plan to be in the country for the two years, it shouldn't be an issue.

Re: Postdoctorate in NYU. Costs of living in NYC?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2016 4:51 am
by D.X.
Hi Jay,

You won't be rich for the post-doc in NYC - but you can find cost savings if you look and plan. It is no different that Switzerland - your salary as a post-doc by absolute numbers maybe higher in Switerland but remember, DAS IST DER SCHWEIZ!! You do pay alot to live already, I doubt your Swisscom or Salt Natel (cellphone) is not any cheaper than the US. And that's irrepective of if you're in Lugano or Zurich or Geneva. The cost of living can be much cheaper in NYC if you know the landscape - your Standard of living will be similar in my opinion. On the average I find US Prices to be 1/3 that of Switzerland as a generalization. You should be tax exempt as a foreign, so Research that.

Your choice to go to NYC should also reflect the opportunity to experience something. If you're in Brooklyn, there are many affordable places to hang not to mention Access to alot of free Entertainment (world class mueseums, culture etc.). You won't be rich in the post-doc, but you're not any more richer in Der Schweiz Ja? or where you are, Svizzera.

As far as the water comment for Dave, the Swiss are peculiar - they love thier Glacier or Lake dervied water of pristine Quality, so they think. Exceptions include Lake Geneva which has some estrogen hormones. I'm sure Jay may not be Aware of the Levels of Cocaine in Zurich lake or the Limmat especially after the August party. But fully drinkable with possible appearance of a Zucherkraken (small fresh water Octopus only in Lake Zurich) that could be in the drinking water :)

But Jay, be Aware - in NYC, we have no Rosti. No Zurich-style veal. No Vaud Saussion. No Cordon Blu. No Fondu served in a Chalet at 2000 m with views of the Bernese Oberland alps - with no Alp horn or Yoddeling to be found. So that should go into your decision making.


Re: Postdoctorate in NYU. Costs of living in NYC?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2016 10:03 am
by SRD
I used to be a postdoc in NYC (Columbia U) for almost four years (finished in 2014). We had subsidized housing, though still very expensive. Thousands of postdocs live in NYC area without complaining much about the cost and standard of living. As postdoc, your priority will be to do research/publish, and most of your time you'll be spending in your lab (at least that was the case at Columbia U). So in essence, it didn't matter much that we were renting/sharing small crappy apartments. You won't be spending much time there - just a quickie shower and and things like that. So don't worry about the high living costs in NYC:
1. You won't be able to save any money - but you'll have plenty of resources to do research (hopefully you'll be in a well funded lab)
2. Don't worry about crappy apartments - you won't be spending much time there anyway (someone mentioned Craigslist, look there for places to live)
3. Food, water, etc., - avoid drinking, fishing, swimming in east river and you'll be fine


Re: Postdoctorate in NYU. Costs of living in NYC?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2016 11:49 am
by H.L.F.
You should calculate 24% effective federal and state tax plus medicare, etc.
The US is one of the most expensive cell phone markets in the world. Before I moved abroad, I paid 60USD/month. You can expect 60-100 for that.
About housing, Craigslist and or other roommate lookup sites could help you find something.
You aren't going to get rich as a postdoc there, but you aren't likely to starve to death.
You might want to look into how much from your salary you have to contribute to your health insurance, though. Health care can be pricey.

Re: Postdoctorate in NYU. Costs of living in NYC?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2016 5:53 pm
by D. Martin
I assure you that you will be able to live with that money. I used to get 50K in Chicago. That was 2 years ago, Chicago is a little bit cheaper but I had, at the time, a stay home wife with two little children (3 children now..).

However, your focus should be (these are the questions that matter the most).
1) will you get the training/skills that are needed to get a permanent position?
2) will the PI help you to succeed (Does he has a track record of placing people in industry/academia?)

Those two are more important than 10K more (or less)