He’s lived in more than 30 New York City neighborhoods. But the man who has decided to move addresses once a week for at least a year lists Prospect Heights as one of his favorite spots.
“I love being close to the park (and) the farmer’s market, it’s right there,” said 29-year-old Edward Casabian during brunch at Saturday.
Casabian makes sure to get to know the neighborhood he stays in, squeezing in our brunch, where he just had orange juice, between a yoga class at Crunch and a real brunch at . It was his last day in the neighborhood the day before he wrapped up a two-week stay in Prospect Heights as part of his yearlong experiment in couch surfing.
Casabian, who worked on finance and strategy for outside.in, which was bought by AOL, Patch’s parent company earlier this month, now works at the company's headquarters in Soho.
He began his trek across New York City almost a year ago when he and his girlfriend split and he moved out of the Morningside Heights apartment they had bought together.
“The happiest times of my life I was traveling, meeting people and seeing new things,” he said, so he thought, “Why not see the city in this very unique way.”
The Boston-area native first thought he’d do it for the summer, but when fall came, he didn’t want to stop. Now as the one-year mark comes mid-April, he’s thinking of continuing until he’s stayed in 52 neighborhoods, rather than 52 weeks, since often he repeats areas.
Although he's found aspects of his nomadic lifestyle difficult (the hardest part is when he goes out of town and then has to return to a stranger’s apartment), many of the issues others would balk at, Casabian takes in stride.
Personable and laid back, he thrives on meeting new people. He doesn’t mind having had to whittle down his belongings to fit inside two wheeled suitcases and a large backpack, and he’s ok with not having his own room, he said.
He brings his own air mattress, sheets and towels, all he needs is a slice of space to put it on. (His tagline is "Have bed. Need floor.")
The smallest slice allotted so far was in Carroll Gardens, where he lived in a tiny one-bedroom with two roommates, the boyfriend of one of them, and two dogs.
“I literally wedged my aero-bed between the foot of her bed and the desk,” he said. His largest space was in Metuchen, N.J., where he had not only his own room but his own floor.
He goes to bed early when his hosts are morning people, late when they’re night-owls.
“I just adapt,” he said.
But where does he find his hosts? Most are friends, or friends of friends, but after every new article about him, he’ll get offers from strangers. He chooses his neighborhoods in part by how excited the host is about where they live, and of course, he’s looking for new neighborhoods to make the 52. (Two places he’s itching to try are Bed-Stuy and Ditmas Park. Anyone?)
Casabian documented his travels on a blog, as well as Facebook and twitter and gathered a small following. Then after a New York Times writer he met did a story on him in December and his followers grew “tenfold,” he said. The NYT piece was followed by an interview on WNYC's Leonard Lopate as well as a piece in The Local after staying in Fort Greene. He has 400 twitter followers and (at the time of this posting) 939 people who “like” him on facebook.
Casabian has stayed in Brooklyn the most followed by Manhattan. In the Bronx he’s only tried Riverdale and nearby Spuyten Duyvil, and in Queens, just Kew Gardens. But he's also stayed outside the city in Long Beach (last summer) and Hoboken as well as Metuchen. His first Staten Island stay will be in May.
During Saturday’s brunch, Casabian ranked his top five neighborhoods. His favorite is Alphabet City/The East Village, second up is Cobble Hill. Prospect Heights made third, with Greenpoint and Carroll Gardens bringing up the rear. (Park Slope was originally No. 5, but was cut in favor of a late addition of Greenpoint.)
Red Hook would have made the cut if he had subway service, he said.
Why Prospect Heights over Park Slope?
Prospect Heights “has more of an edge to it,” he said. “And Park Slope can sometimes feel like a fantasy land. It’s almost too perfect. I feel like this area is also a little diverse.”
During his two weeks in the nabe, which were spent first on Prospect Place between Vanderbilt and Carlton and then on Sterling Place between Flatbush and Vanderbilt, Casabian fell for the 'hood.
On his blog he noted he would eat at “at least once a week if I lived here” for its cheap wine and “delicious” food. He also gave a thumbs up, deemed Bergen Bagel’s whole wheat pumpernickel “solid,” joined the “cult” that’s following ’s chocolate caramel bar and worked out, quite a bit, at , which, during brunch, he deemed good, although “certainly not Equinox.”
But his great Prospect Heights love is rating it on his blog as one of his “top 5 dining experiences in the past 5 months” for its citrus salad and penne with chilies and cabbage. “I’ve never had cabbage in my pasta before,” he said. “but it was delicious.”
But even though over brunch he was clearly delighted with our 'hood and its many charms during his visit, that doesn't me it will be his next home, or even, really his third choice.
"When I’m in the neighborhood, I’m like 'Oh I could live here it would be great,'" he said, adding later, via e-mail, "I generally love the nabe I'm staying in."
But hey, even if it's just a temporary infatuation, we'll take it.