Brooklyn versus L.A. It’s a battle as old as…well, it’s old. For years, it seems that there has been a steady influx of people fleeing New York and setting up camp in Los Angeles. Perhaps you’ve lost a neighbor, a book club member, a friend, or even a significant other to the epidemic. Perhaps you’ve chuckled over a particularly excellent New Yorker piece on the matter, or accidentally lost half an hour of your life scrolling through an acquaintance’s Instagram full of tacos, sunshine, and otherworldly hikes. Maybe you’ve even daydreamed about the move yourself, perhaps while being herded like cattle through the Union Square subway station at rush hour on a Tuesday morning.
It’s undeniable that a certain culture of escape has always underscored life in New York, increasingly as of late. Sure, we’ve got it pretty damn good here, but what if we lived in a place without slush puddles the sizes of lakes? What if we were able to afford an apartment with normal-sized bedrooms? What if we could be happier? What if?
Brooklyn Based chatted with four former New Yorkers who migrated west to Los Angeles: Erica Reitman (an interior designer and writer, and previously the blogger behind Fucked in Park Slope), Eli Edelson (a television coordinator and writer), Heather D. Orozco (now a Realtor, formerly a talent buyer at The Bell House and Union Hall), and Adam Rotstein (a copywriter and comedy writer). They came from Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy and Park Slope—some had lived in Brooklyn for as little as two years, others were closing in on a decade when they left. Today, they’re scattered across the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Glassell Park, Boyle Heights, Mt. Washington, and North Hollywood, respectively. While their personal experiences have varied, they can all agree two things when it comes to the Los Angeles versus Brooklyn debate: The Mexican food is incomparable, and none of them currently harbor any dreams of ever moving back to our borough.
BB: Why did you move to Los Angeles?
Eli: It was a combination of factors as you might expect! Most importantly, I knew it was time to leave my job at FilmNation and head toward my career goal of television writing. I would’ve stayed in New York if I could’ve found the path forward there–but it was very slim pickings. Secondly, my Brooklyn apartment fell victim to a bed bug infestation–twice. Three weeks after we did the whole fumigation extravaganza, they came right back. Turns out they were coming out of the walls of the apartment and the whole building was infested. I had to sublet all around NYC after that, living in about four places in five months. To be honest, I was happy to think about a new city by then. And Los Angeles was the only place that made sense in regards to my industry.
Heather: I don’t know if it was Brooklyn or my 20-years of music industry grind, I was just over all of it. In a George Costanza-inspired moment of mania, I decided that maybe I needed to do the exact opposite of everything I had ever instinctively done. My friends who had just moved to Los Angeles sent me this photo of their sunny bedroom with French doors thrown open to a deck overlooking endless blue skies, or some spectacular sunset with twinkling city lights below, I can’t even remember the details but I was SOLD. We decided L.A. was the logical answer as the opposite of everything we had ever considered, gave notice at work, and moved about 45 days later with literally no plan in place. You just have to rip it off like a band-aid.
How long did it take until you felt at home in Los Angeles?
Adam: I think the entirety of 2016. So one year.
Heather: Our first night. We walked to the grocery store and bought some beers and limes, stopping off at a taco truck on our way back. We ate and drank and listened to the sounds of the city, watching movies on my laptop from our new front porch for three nights before the movers arrived from Brooklyn with our boxes and furniture.
How would you compare your living quarters in Los Angeles to those in Brooklyn?
Erica: Interestingly, our house in L.A. is pretty much the same as our apartment in Brooklyn, square footage wise (750 square feet). But, we have an insane three-tier deck outside with a fire pit and kickass views, and we have a little guesthouse that we rent out on AirBnB. We renovated our little mid-century house a couple of years ago, and we love it. When we first moved out here, we moved into an 1800-square-foot house, and we used about 20% of it. We realized that NYC turned us into small space addicts.
Heather: In Los Angeles we pay hundreds less a month for a much larger, structurally sound freestanding vintage character home with French doors that open to a porch, a bathtub that doubles as a lap pool, a backyard with a pergola and a mulberry tree, the tallest cypress I’ve ever seen with multiple animal families living in it, and dozens of windows. I literally can’t even count all the windows. It is too fucking sunny in here, someone make it stop!
What are the living costs in Los Angeles compared to Brooklyn?
Erica: It’s certainly not cheap living in L.A., however, it definitely feels like your dollar goes a lot further here, especially real estate wise. You do have the added expense of a car and gas (which we did not have back in Brooklyn), but it feels much cheaper out here. Though, I get that “much” is probably a bit inaccurate if I took the time to actually compare our expenses line by line.
Heather: Groceries are much cheaper in general, plus people seem to eat and entertain at home far more often here than in Brooklyn. The climate is so temperate you don’t need heat or A/C as much, and can live your hippy-dippy head-in-the-clouds-blissfully-unaware lifestyle with your windows open for about 80% of the year. I don’t wear out my shoes all the time like I used to, and don’t need to buy new coats and sweaters every year (hey, it adds up!), though my car insurance is a little more here. Also, restaurant delivery is more here.
How did you make friends in Los Angeles?
Adam: My job, comedy stuff, and college friends–so pretty much the same avenues as in Brooklyn. Fewer people from my worlds live here, so it’s also so much more appropriate and not weird to be like, “Hey my friend lives in L.A. y’all should hang,” and then you just do. I don’t think that would happen in Brooklyn necessarily.
Eli: It is absolutely harder to make friends in L.A. than in Brooklyn. It’s much harder to meet people in your own neighborhood for example, when you can’t walk in it. Brooklyn you can walk into a museum, a bar, a street fair–all spur of the moment–and end up meeting someone. Not so much in L.A.. I made friends through my office, through industry networking, and by reconnecting with high school and college friends who’d moved here.
What’s the feel of Los Angeles like compared to Brooklyn?
Heather: L.A.’s general vibe is kind of like Brooklyn on the first warm weekend of the year. The weekend when everyone is out walking around in the sunshine and even an errant baseball to the face (happened to me) can’t ruin your awesome picnic in Prospect Park. Los Angeles is massive and just like NYC every neighborhood has its own cultural history, architecture, food, and quirky population. The things people make fun of about L.A. are all true. Love it or hate it, people are generally way more chilled-out here. Strangers will smile and make eye contact for no apparent reason. I know L.A. has a reputation leaning towards vapid. but I prefer to think of it as blissfully unaware; maybe it’s easy to become a little checked out when it’s 75 and sunny almost every day.
Eli: It’s tough to say, because Brooklyn is so big and diverse. If I had to generalize, the feel of Brooklyn is grittier, fast paced, sometimes secretive. People will help you out, but doesn’t mean they want to talk to you. Brooklyn’s also a lush place, in all senses of the word: the environment, the food, it’s rich. Los Angeles is so different, the word airy comes to mind. There’s so much space everywhere you go, restaurants are huge and half outdoors (all year round), apartments are spacious. The people are incredibly nice (if you encounter them in person that is, it’s a different story when driving). And L.A. is centered around nature. Most of LA-proper can feel like a concrete wasteland, so that’s why people spend their weekends going to the edges: mountains, beaches, deserts, forests–all there for the taking.
What is your favorite pastime in L.A.? What was your favorite pastime in Brooklyn?
Erica: My favorite pastime in Brooklyn was…hmm. Eating? Blogging? Walking around my neighborhood? My favorite pastime in L.A. is most definitely hitting up all of the amazing flea markets and thrift stores here. I would do that occasionally in NYC, but everything always cost a million dollars and it was way less fun.
Adam: Somewhere between the ages of 23 and 25 I decided hiking wasn’t an annoying thing my mom makes my family do. In an equally adult moment, I realized it was so much more preferable than staring at a treadmill screen. So that’s definitely been a dope new part of living here–as trite as that might sound. I used to like going to Prospect or McCarren Park in Brooklyn, especially since breezy sunny days felt a tad more precious. I suppose I could do that here every day, but because of that it doesn’t have the same draw?
Eli: Favorite L.A. pastime would have to be going to a Cinespia event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. All throughout the year, but especially during the summer, you can go this cemetery where all the greats from the ’20s and ’30s are buried, and they project a classic film up against this giant wall. Hundreds of people show up with beach chairs, wine and picnics. and settle in to watch a movie together. In Brooklyn, nothing beat a boozy brunch followed by a long walk through Prospect Park.
How’s the food scene in L.A. versus Brooklyn’s?
Heather: L.A. has incredible food options and so many hidden gems tucked into unexpected corners, you just have to know where to look and occasionally be willing to travel a little further. Though I must say, nothing compares to sitting by the candlelight at Lucali enjoying a glass of wine and watching Mark Lacono roll out pizza dough with a wine bottle. You could never replicate the vibe of a summer night on the patio at Frankies (especially when Bey and Jay are at the table next to you), or sitting at the chef’s counter at Talde watching him yell at his line cooks while you snack on those delectable pretzel dumplings. We do have a Grimaldis, but I think even Ohio has a Grimaldis at this point.
Eli: It’s very different! Granted, I haven’t sampled the Brooklyn cuisine in some time now. But as I remember, it was all about the richness. My go-to neighborhood spots were Glady’s, Mayfield, Catfish. It was all heavy, savory, super unhealthy delicacies. It’s not just gnocchi, it’s gnocchi with three cheeses, bacon, and a fried egg on top. Whereas Los Angeles is all about the local produce–we’re surrounded by agricultural land on all sides, and culturally the food is just lighter. You get places like Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre, the trendy vegan spots where you can still get a good drink. Speaking of drinks, that’s probably the biggest difference–there’s much more of a cocktail/drinking culture in Brooklyn than in Los Angeles. People just drink less in Los Angeles, and more wine than cocktails.
Would you say you’ve changed since moving to L.A.? In what ways?
Heather: I think tough-girl Brooklyn me would think L.A. me is a little cheesy. All of this fucking optimism has gone to my head. I lost 25 pounds without even noticing or trying. I sleep better now—not to say I don’t still get insomnia but I no longer sleep walk around the house doing creepy things like throwing away family photos or taking apart electronics. My blood pressure dropped. With all of that being said, I’m still a little uptight, unusually high-strung, and capable of talking at mind-melting speeds. You can take the girl out of Brooklyn…
Adam: Nah. I just know and understand L.A., whereas before it was this sprawling confusing collection of neighborhoods.
Eli: I’m more relaxed, I drink less and go into nature more, and I’m much more of an explorer. Los Angeles encourages you to get out–to a new neighborhood, a new part of the state (and having a car helps). You don’t feel tethered to the city.
Erica: I’ve definitely changed, but I don’t know if it was so much moving to L.A. or just getting old.
Professionally, you made radical changes. Was it easier to switch careers in L.A. versus NYC? And how’s it going?
Erica: It was mostly after I arrived that I switched to design (though I dabbled in NYC). I didn’t have solid plans about completely shifting gears before I arrived, though I did know that I was very unhappy at my current job at the time. Much like the start of a new year, it felt after our move like a great time to start fresh and finally embrace what I really love.
I write weekly for HGTV and am working on a fab online course that teaches people about vintage shopping. My projects are mostly not camera worthy at the moment, but our home is going to be featured in a big design book in the fall (and you can see pics all over my insta feed).
Heather: I’ve always been obsessed with real estate. I joked about leaving the music industry to become a Realtor, but I pictured Annette Bening in American Beauty, all powersuits and pantyhose which is clearly not my scene. When we decided to move to L.A. I started to explore actually making the jump…and officially got licensed shortly after we arrived.
Real estate is still a relatively buttoned-up industry in many locales—I think Los Angeles is one of the only cities where I could get away with selling million-dollar homes wearing Converse and covered in tattoos. I think it’s serendipitous that my career choice and city choice happened to align so perfectly.
What surprised you most about your move?
Adam: I ended up in what feels like an East Coast transplant bubble here anyway. More than half of my coworkers used to live in Brooklyn.
Erica: That it was way easier to do it than I thought it would be…and that I had no regrets.
Eli: How big Los Angeles really is in reality. It’s like 20 little cities lined up next to one another.
Heather: That I was able to do it at all! Packing up and moving across the country on a whim to a city you haven’t even visited in 15 years took a level of nerve that only Brooklyn could have instilled in me, so thank you for that NYC.
We also asked these transplants to name their five favorite places in L.A. Check out their picks for tacos, tiki drinks and breathtaking hikes here.