Living in New York


Boroughs of NYC
Short-Term Rentals
Brokers & Fees
Credit Check

Welcome to NYC and its five boroughs

Living in New York is always a compromise. Know what is important to you! Are you looking for a less expensive area, an area close to good schools? Do you prefer the hustle & bustle of inner-city life or rather the leafy suburbs? Are you willing to commute and if so for how long?

Asking friends and colleagues about where they are living and what they like or don't like about where they are gives you valuable information. Word of mouth is still the most up-to-date reference for someone new in town!

Rental rules are very complex. In addition to the information provided on the website refer to the NYC Rent Guidelines Board.


NYC's Five Boroughs

New York City is composed of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Throughout theses boroughs there are hundreds of distinct neighborhoods, many with a definable history and character to call their own. If the boroughs were each independent cities, four of the boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and The Bronx) would be among the ten most populous cities in the United States.


With a population of over 1.6 million people, Manhattan it is the most densely populated borough and is home to the Central park and most of the city’s iconic buildings and landmarks. The borough is the financial center of the city and contains the headquarters of many major corporations, the United Nations, and a number of important universities, and many cultural attractions. Manhattan is loosely divided into Lower, Midtown and Uptown regions. Uptown Manhattan is divided by the Central Park into the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. Above the park is Harlem.

NYLESA does not endorse any one area or development/building but it is worth pointing out that due to the proximity to the UN, the following are areas in Manhattan that attract a disproportionately large population of UN employees and their families: Stuyvesant, Kips Bay, Turtle Bay, Murray Hill and Tudor City. If you know you want to live in Manhattan, you may also want to consider:

  • Waterside Plaza: Completed in 1974, Waterside Plaza  comprises 4 towers totalling 1400 no-fee rental apartments, a health club, a large plaza, shopping, dining and parking all overlooking the East River. In keeping with its original mission to serve the UN population, Waterside accepts references and employment certification in lieu of credit history, and as well as offers flexible leases in case of work reassignment and flexible income and security terms. Due to its proximity to the UN and as well as being home to both the United Nations International School (UNIS) and the British International School (BIS-NY), Waterside proudly claims to be one of the most cosmopolitan communities in the city. To learn more, visit
  • Peter Cooper Village & Stuyvesant Town ("Stuy Town"): Extending from 14th to 23rd Streets and from 1st Avenue east to the FDR, Peter Cooper Village–Stuyvesant Town (PCVST) is comprised of 110 buildings and home to approximately 30,000 people. Referred to collectively as "StuyTown" this development is attractive for its proximity not only to the UN but also for the nearby schools such as the United Nations International School, the British International School, PS 40 and SALK Middle School. Located a just a short walk north of the East Village and neighboring Gramercy Park, Peter Cooper Village–Stuyvesant Town (PCVST) offers pet-friendly, no-fee apartments and a variety of amenities and services. For more information:
  • Roosevelt Island:  Officially part of Manhattan, Roosevelt Island is a narrow island in New York City's East River. It lies between Manhattan Island to its west and the borough of Queens on Long Island to its east. Running from the equivalent of East 46th to 85th Streets on Manhattan Island, it is about 2 miles (3.2 km) long, with a maximum width of 800 feet (240 m). Roosevelt Island is owned by the city, but was leased to the state of New York's Urban Development Corporation for 99 years in 1969. Most of the residential buildings on Roosevelt Island are rental buildings. There is also a cooperative (Rivercross) and a condominium building (Riverwalk). One rental building (Eastwood) has left New York State's Mitchell-Lama Housing Program, though current residents are still protected. Three other buildings are now working toward privatization, including the cooperative.

Located on the western tip of Long Island, it is the city’s most populous borough and was an independent city until 1898. Brooklyn is known for its cultural, social and ethnic diversity, an independent art scene, distinct neighborhoods and a distinctive architectural heritage. It is the only borough outside of Manhattan with a distinct downtown district. The borough also features a long beachfront on Coney Island, established in the 1870s as one of the earliest amusement grounds in the country.

Geographically, Queens is the largest borough and the most ethnically diverse country in the United States. Historically a collection of small towns and villages founded by the Dutch, today the borough is predominantly residential and middle class. Queens is the site of Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, and annually hosts the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Additionally, it is home to two of the three major airports serving the New York metropolitan area, La Guardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Bronx:
Located in the northernmost corner of New York City, the Bronx is the location of the Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees, and home to the largest cooperatively owned housing complex in the United States, Co-op City. Except for a small section of Manhattan known as Marble Hill, the Bronx is the only section of the city that is part of the United States Mainland. It is home to the Bronx Zoo, the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, which is home to over 6,000 animals.

Staten Island:
Being the most suburban of the five boroughs, Staten Island is connected to Brooklyn by a bridge and to Manhattan by way of the free Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is one of the most popular tourist attractions as it provides unsurpassed views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan. Located in central Staten Island, the 25km2 Greenbelt has some 35 miles of walking trails and one of the last undisturbed forests in the city. The FDR Boardwalk along South Beach is 2.5 miles long, the fourth largest in the world.


In general, New York has two types of buildings: all-rental buildings and buildings where apartments are privately owned (condo and co-ops).  Condos/co-ops have better prices but fees are higher (broker fees and application fees) and the approval process is long (1-4 weeks). In addition, co-ops can deny your application last minute without explanation and many require an interview before you can be approved.

Documents needed:

  • Social Security Number/credit history
  • employment letter
  • recent payment slip
  • tax returns
  • bank statements
  • letters of reference

Income Requirements
There are also income requirements; in most cases your gross income has to be at least 40 times the monthly rent. If the monthly rent is $3,000, you are required to earn $120,000 gross a year. For UN employees, income is always net (tax free), so it is important to make this clear to landlords. Check if you are eligible for the UN rental subsidy and mention it to the landlord, it is additional income. Again, a formal certificate of employment can aid in providing a summary of earnings.

Short-Term Rentals

A short-term furnished rental is a great way to land in New York, it allows you to have a place from day 1 and it buys you time to find where you want to live, look for schools and you gain sometime while your furniture arrives.

However, furnished short-term apartments in New York are scarce and very expensive (both the rent and the broker fees). Most buildings do not allow leases for less than a year. Many short-term rentals may be dark or high floors with no elevator, that’s why they are rented for a short-term.

There are two companies that do short-term rentals: and  Usually minimum stay is a month and there are no initial fees and hardly any deposit.

Rental places for one year or less can also be found in the lobby of the UN Secretariat as well as on the bulletin board on the 3rd floor of the DC1 Building.

Brokers & Fees

You don’t need a broker to find an apartment in New York. There are many rental buildings that have their own leasing office and you can just walk-in. But in most big rental buildings, if you come with a broker, the building will pay the broker fee. Broker fees in Manhattan can range from 0–15% of the yearly rent. If you are an eligible international UN staff, the UN might reimburse part of the broker fee. Always to try to negotiate! Some apartments are
offered for rent with the first month free of charge. Brokers’ fees may also be negotiable.

There are apartments that are for rent without brokerage fees and that actually offer a gift amount of a month’s rent to their existing tenant for recommending new tenants. This is especially of value if you recommend your rental to other members of the UN family.

Lastly, while a broker is not necessary in order to rent in NYC, having one can be a useful because there are some landlords that post lisitings only through broker agencies.

Credit Check

An aspect to be aware of is that your landlord will most likely run a credit check on you as part of the application process (especially for apartments). The American system uses your credit history as a validation system to confirm your ability to pay future liabilities. Unfortunately, most UN staff members have no credit history because they have no social security number or credit card, so many buildings will require an additional security deposit.

Ways to get around this dilemma could be to try to find foreign/diplomat friendly buildings, they exist. In many buildings you can move-in immediately. Also be aware that your respective agency of your spouse issues certificates of employment that confirm your spouse’s occupation and expected income. This might clarify doubts related to your missing credit history. Finally, providing references from colleagues and former landlords can also dispel any fears about your status and income.

Tip: In case that you already have a credit history, there are websites that provide you with your credit report. Websites that offer to send you your current credit check should always be free and not trick people into annual payments! There is only one official website to request your credit report:



Check out these websites for listed rentals: (hire an independent broker for a fee) (with fee) (with fee) (be aware of scams, never give out financial information before you have seen the apartment!)

A combination of searching on the web and actually visiting apartments with a broker seems to a recommended approach.