A single mother leaves TriBeCa for Gateway Plaza, a rental complex that she discovers is “tailor-made for families.”
Aisling McDonagh moved to Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City, where her daughter, Gemma, can play with friends on enclosed lawns.Credit…Katherine Marks for The New York Times
When Aisling McDonagh became pregnant with her daughter three years ago, she was living in Independence Plaza, a three-tower complex in TriBeCa.
With the exception of being on the 37th floor — where she regularly witnessed parents struggling to maneuver strollers into crowded elevators — there wasn’t anything about her one-bedroom apartment that was particularly ill-suited to raising a child.
But Ms. McDonagh had decided to have a baby on her own at 42 using a sperm donor after a failed relationship, and she didn’t just want an apartment where she could raise a child. She wanted one that would help ease the considerable difficulty of doing so alone.
She suspected that Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City would be such a place, having visited a close friend who lived there with her husband and two young children.
“The city is hard enough; having a baby on your own is hard enough. Living here, it’s like, ‘Press the easy button and there you go,’” said Ms. McDonagh, who moved into a first-floor two-bedroom apartment at Gateway Plaza when she was seven months pregnant with her daughter, Gemma.
The rental complex is “tailor-made for families,” she said, enumerating the many family-focused perks of the 1980s waterfront complex: numerous children’s events (most recently, a Halloween party); walled-in lawns to stop wayward tots from running off; a set-back-from-the-street, parklike setting. Even a swimming pool overlooking the Hudson.
And then there is the informal mom network.
Many of the mothers at the complex work outside the home like she does, said Ms. McDonagh, who is in digital ad sales. So they help each other out with emergency babysitting, impromptu play dates during bad weather and camaraderie that often takes the form of hanging out on the lawn, catching up as they watch their children play.
“We have a WhatsApp group chat and after work, we’ll be like, ‘Wine, lawn? Yes,’” she said.
The tight-knit community is all the more helpful as her own family lives out of state.
“I had wanted to try living someplace different than where I grew up,” recalled Ms. McDonagh, who is originally from Chicago and moved to New York after college. “I thought I’d be here maybe five years. That went by in a flash. Then it was 10 years.”
$5,485 | Battery Park City, Manhattan
Aisling McDonagh, 45, and Gemma McDonagh, 2
Occupation: Ms. McDonagh works in digital advertising sales. She also started The Clear Way to Conceive, a consultancy for which she is a health and hormone coach.
Downtown girl: Since moving to New York, Ms. McDonagh has always lived below 13th Street. “My friends say if I go any farther south, I’m going to vote myself off the island,” she said.
Living with a toddler has its benefits: “I get to decorate the apartment as I like,” she said. “No one ever says, ‘Oh, that’s too feminine.’”
She started out living in prewar rentals in the West Village before buying a small one-bedroom co-op on Morton Street. “I was there for six or seven years, it was super cute, but it was about 500 square feet. And it was overrun by water beetles. I finally decided to sell,” she said. “I really wanted to buy something else, something new — bright and shiny — but I didn’t find anything I liked in my budget.”
Five years later, after concluding that her most recent boyfriend would not be the one she would start a family with, she used some of the money from her co-op sale to cover the expenses of in vitro fertilization.
“I’ve always wanted to have a child,” Ms. McDonagh said. “So I decided, ‘O.K., I’m going to do this on my own.’”
She kept almost all of her furniture from her last apartment, adding one bright blue chair to her bedroom and a new dining set, and swapping out a shaggy area rug for an easier-to-clean shorter pile one. She redid the nursery in lavenders and pinks with the assistance of TaskRabbit hires, and a friend — another single mother by choice, who had twins — gave her Gemma’s Stokke crib.
She pays $5,485 a month in rent, an increase of $25 over her first two-year lease.
“Battery Park is very expensive,” she said. “Almost all the other buildings were built post-9/11, and they’re all five-star,” she said. “I have other friends in North Battery Park who pay $3,000 to $5,000 more than I do. Gateway Plaza is still a nice doorman building, but the rent is not as soul-crushing.”
She isn’t sure if she’ll remain in the area, but the abundance of new and good public schools makes the notion attractive. “You don’t need to apply to nine schools for kindergarten because there are enough seats in the schools here,” she said.
“And living in Battery Park City — all the greenery, I think it does your mind and body and soul good to be by the water,” she said. “Some days we never cross the West Side Highway; we just stay along the water. Life moves at a slower pace down here. People are happy.”
It may be the tranquil setting, or the network of mothers, or being able to walk a few steps out to an enclosed lawn whenever Gemma gets fussy, but so far, Ms. McDonagh said, single motherhood hasn’t been as daunting as she feared.
“Hopefully, I’ll meet Mr. Prince Charming, Mr. Fabulous. But who knows,” she said. “I think Mother Nature has been really easy on me. I keep on waiting for it to get hard, but Gemma’s been really good.”
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