• Detroit Vs. New York

Exploring the differences and similarities of two iconic American places

“I’m from Michigan.”

If you’re a millennial like me, you’ll know that reference. But it’s true. Born and raised in the Great Lakes State, I am proud to be a Challenge Detroit fellow and have relocated from Manhattan to Michigan this past summer.

Since returning home, I also now have experience living and working in both of these amazing cities: Detroit and New York. Over the months, I’ve been able to see how my two favorite cities are uniquely distinct and how they are also more alike than we realize.

Want to know a few fun similarities and differences between Detroit, MI and New York, NY? Read on!

Similarity: Adaptive Reuse of Infrastructure & Real Estate

Detroit Dequindre Cut Manhattan High Line

Detroit’s Dequindre Cut, left, and the High Line in Manhattan, right. (Source: The High Line Network)

It’s clear: Both Detroit and New York share an entrepreneurial affinity for adaptive reuse projects.

In Detroit, you can see examples of this in old buildings like Hunt Street Station, a modern co-working space that formerly served the Detroit Metropolitan Police Department for more than 60 years, and Michigan Central Station, a former rail depot (designed by architects who worked on Grand Central Terminal in New York!) that is now under renovation to become a Ford innovation hub.

In fact, my downtown Detroit apartment building, Briggs Houze, was even re-adapted from its former existence as the famous Hotel Briggs.

Hotel Briggs in Detroit

My downtown Detroit apartment building was the former Hotel Briggs. (Source: HistoricDetroit.org)

In New York, I have friends who helped worked on adaptive reuse projects like the Brooklyn Army Terminal, an original U.S. Army supply terminal that the New York City Economic Development Corporation recently redeveloped into a modern manufacturing hub.

New York is also home to one of my favorite public spaces, the High Line, which is a public park built on a historic elevated rail line on Manhattan’s West Side. It has many similarities to Detroit’s Dequindre Cut, a former Grand Trunk Railroad line turned greenway. In fact, both are a part of the High Line Network, which supports national infrastructure reuse projects in New York, Michigan, and beyond.

Difference: Cost of Living & Overall Affordability 

Manhattan monthly rent map  Detroit rent map

Median neighborhood one-bedroom rent in Manhattan 2019 vs. Detroit 2018. (Source: Zumper)

It’s no surprise that Detroit is more affordable than many American cities, but allow me to put that in perspective. In Manhattan, the average rent for a 703 sq. ft. apartment is $4,211. In Detroit, the average rent for an 801 sq. ft. apartment is $1,076.

That’s nearly four times less than New York!

Moreover, when I lived in New York, my roommate and I had to prove that we collectively made 40X our rent to secure a sixth-floor pre-war walk-up in Greenwich Village (read: no elevator). In Detroit, I was finally able to forgo a roommate for the first time in my adult life and find an apartment with a gym, in-unit laundry, parking, and of course, an elevator.

And Detroit doesn’t require its residents to live in urban apartments either. My friends and colleagues in the region live in a wide variety of historic and modern housing options in diverse neighborhoods. Many even own their own home — something very few people my age considered in New York!

Similarity & Difference (Both!): Our Favorite Foods

pizza in new york Detroit Style Pizza

New York-style pizza, left, and Detroit-style pizza, right. (Source: Author; Detroit News)

First, let me say it loud and clear. Both Detroiters and New Yorkers love diverse, amazing food. And there is a plethora of options in both cities – so that’s what makes the two places similar. However, when it comes to some of the foundational foods we all know and love, there are a few clear differences.

Take New York-style versus Detroit-style pizza. In New York, we grab wide, thin slices that have crispy crusts, gooey cheese, and fold perfectly so we can eat them while walking down the street. In Detroit, we tuck in to thick square slices that while still crispy, have focaccia-like crust, and caramelized cheese corners.

Is there a winner? No. Both are delicious.

Some food snaps from Detroit. (Source: Author)

In Detroit, other favorite foods include coney dogs, zip sauce, fresh veggies from Eastern Market, tacos from Southwest, Pączkis, and the curious corned beef egg roll from Asian Corned Beef that I’m intrigued to try.

Some food snaps from New York. (Source: Author)

Along with cheesecake, oysters, babka, and bagels, New Yorkers enjoy fat chocolate chip walnut cookies from Levain, Chinatown soup dumplings, cash-only pasta at Bar Pitti, and 1,000 other things I don’t have the time mention. But trust me, the food is always excellent.

So, Which City is Better?

There is no correct answer!

From transportation and jobs to population size and geographical location, there are obviously many more differences and similarities between New York and Detroit. Both cities have important history, art, culture, American legacies, and creative spirit. Both cities have hard-working people, opportunity, innovative companies, and thoughtful problem-solvers. Both cities are responsible for shaping the world we live in today. And I believe, both cities will play a critical role in our future success.

In the end, both New York and Detroit are wonderful places for young professionals to live, work, give, lead, and play. That’s why I’m grateful to have lived in both.

Want to learn more? Check out my application video to Challenge Detroit below, called “A Love Letter to Detroit,” that I created before leaving New York. Happy watching!