Living Where You Can Walk to Work

A dance teacher at the 92nd Street Y finds her way to the Upper East Side.

Living Where You Can Walk to Work

Megan Doyle lives and works on the Upper East Side, where she runs the musical theater program at the 92nd Street Y.Credit…Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Living Where You Can Walk to Work

Megan Doyle has been teaching dance at the 92nd Street Y — the renowned cultural and community center on the Upper East Side — for nearly 10 years, and in that time she has lived in five different homes across three boroughs.

She started as a tap dance teacher in 2010 with one Saturday morning class for kindergarten-age children, which meant of course that she had to find other gainful employment. But even as she has moved through different jobs and living spaces in the last decade, the 92nd Street Y has always remained a constant.

She loves that she had the opportunity to build the center’s new tap program from scratch and last year she became the director of the 92nd Street Y’s musical theater program.

So it should come as no surprise that she decided about two years ago to move to a studio that is just a 15-minute walk from work. She gave up a junior one-bedroom in Astoria to take the studio, decreasing the size of her apartment considerably and increasing her rent from $1,250 a month to $1,900.

But she hasn’t missed the 45-minute subway ride to Queens. “Here, even if it’s 10 p.m., I can still walk to work. I could be at work all day every day,” said Ms. Doyle, who also spent many of her evenings and weekends at the Y when she lived in Astoria. “Not that I have to be, but we’re doing exciting stuff so I want to be there.”

$1,900 | Upper East Side

Occupation: Director of the 92nd Street Y’s musical theater program, which started in fall of 2018. The program puts on several musicals a year and just started rehearsals for “Cinderella,” “Beauty & the Beast” and “42nd Street.”
The kitchen: It is large for a studio apartment, but is mostly wasted on Ms. Doyle. “I don’t cook. I do reheat things,” she said. “And I’m an expert at Seamless.”
The neighborhood: Ms. Doyle likes that her apartment is close to multiple Starbucks, a 24-hour laundromat and a CitiBike station. She often bikes across Central Park to the Trader Joe’s on the Upper West Side, where she buys food she can reheat.
Her birthday: Ms. Doyle likes to celebrate her November birthday with a big family trip. This year, they’re going on a Disney cruise. Her father, a retired homicide detective, was initially hesitant, she said, but eventually came around.

Ms. Doyle’s first home in the city, when she was working on her master’s in dance education at New York University, was an inexpensive room in the Park Slope apartment of a woman and her young son, rented out on the condition that she vacate for the weekends. So for about a year, Ms. Doyle spent her weekends at her parents’ house in Smithtown, Long Island.

She made her first attempt to live by the 92nd Street Y in 2011. She was working in sales at a Lululemon in the city by then and the tap program had grown from four to five children to about 50 students. She loved being able to casually swing by the Y, but her tiny, $1,400-a-month studio on 62nd Street and Lexington Avenue was at the top of her budget and when her landlord raised the rent the next year, she had to leave.

Other living arrangements included a shared apartment in Astoria with a very nice but very messy roommate, and living in a share house out in the Hamptons that was provided by Lululemon when she worked as a store manager there. When she was on the East End of Long Island, she would commute back to the city just to teach her dance class at the 92nd Street Y.

She eventually landed a near-perfect junior one-bedroom in Astoria. She lived above her landlords, whom she became close to and who never once complained about the noise she made choreographing routines in the apartment. She put up 10 standing mirrors so she could use the room as a dance studio and worked out sequences on a tap board.

“They were always looking out for me,” she said. “The first time I went away for a few days they called me and asked, ‘Are you O.K.?’ I never had a landlord do that before — usually you don’t think to tell your landlord you’re going out of town.”

She stayed for a little over four years, during which time she managed an uptown Gymboree and taught dance at a charter school in Queens. But after being hired full-time by the 92nd Street Y as the associate director of dance education in 2015, she started spending most of her waking hours on the Upper East Side.

“I used to have to work to work,” said Ms. Doyle, describing how delighted she was that her job now included all of her favorite activities: teaching, directing, choreographing and, in the summers, crafting with children at the Y’s camps. “Growing up I didn’t realize there would be a job where I’d get to do all the things I loved at once.”

She found her current place after about a week of looking with a broker. A fourth-floor walk-up, it’s roomy by the standards of the Upper East Side, with enough space for a couch that her brother can sleep on when he visits from Long Island.

“Aesthetically, it was the prettiest apartment I walked into,” she said. “The only downside is I wanted a cat but this is a pet-free building.”

An avid crafter, Ms. Doyle uses most of the storage space in the apartment for supplies — she knits about 35 pairs of socks a year and sews small bags, potholders and bowl covers, which she gives as gifts. She also does costume alterations, though mostly of the hot glue gun variety, and she tries not to do them at home.

Devoted though Ms. Doyle may be, even she needs a little buffer between work and home sometimes. “I wanted to be 15 minutes away,” she said. “I looked at places that were closer, but I didn’t want to end up storing stuff in my apartment, which I knew I would do.”

She does, however, use the walk to and from work to find new music for dance classes and to memorize the lyrics to the latest musicals — “You’d better know all of ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Beetlejuice.’”

There have been some other slippages, as well. Bertina and Dorothea, her two beta fish — the only variety of pet she was allowed to keep in her building, now live at the 92nd Street Y, thanks to what may be described as a kind of accidental re-homing.

“I brought them to work when I went on a trip so they’d be taken care of, but I forgot that the kids would fall in love with them,” said Ms. Doyle. “Now the kids are obsessed, so they’ll stay there.”

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