Living in NYC: Choosing the Right Borough

If you’ve lived in New York City for any amount of time you probably already know there’s more to the city than just Manhattan. In total, there are five boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island), with each bringing its unique flavor. Naturally, everyone has their own opinion on which borough is the best one, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Whether you are moving to NYC from another state or making a local move to another borough, it’s important to choose the location that fits your needs, not just one that fits your image of a New Yorker. So how do you choose? Below is a quick guide on the five different boroughs that can help you decide where to live.

Manhattan

With a population of 1.7 million people, Manhattan might not be the most populous borough, but it is the most famous and recognizable. People from around the world flock to Manhattan to watch Broadway shows, enjoy delicious dining, visit world-class museums, and bask in the energetic buzz of this borough. Of course, the high number of tourists and high rents are what also turn away many native New Yorkers.

If you can afford it, there are many benefits to living in Manhattan. The most important being the commute time. Depending on where you live and work, you could easily find a job in your industry of choice that is walking distance away from your apartment. Speaking of jobs, there’s plenty of options to choose from whether you’re in finance, healthcare, tech, or the creative industry. Manhattan is home to almost every industry you can think of!

It’s also very easy to get around the borough thanks to the vast subway network. Besides the G train, you can catch every other train line somewhere in Manhattan and there are several cross-town trains that will take you from the east side to the west side. As well, you can easily get to every other borough once you’re in Manhattan. Yes, even Staten Island so long as you’re okay with riding boats!

Despite only spanning 23 miles, Manhattan is home to many small neighborhoods with some noteworthy ones including:

  • Upper East Side – home to top New York City institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. It’s also home to the United Nations and has a large concentration of private schools, making it a perfect place for families.
  • Greenwich Village – a vibrant and ‘artsy’ neighborhood that still has that classic New York feel. It’s home to Washington Square Park and New York University. There’s also plenty of great dining options and it’s also close to both the midtown and downtown financial areas.
  • Upper West Side – If you’re looking for a quiet area that still offers a ton of amenities, then the Upper West Side is a great option. You can get some culture at the Lincoln Center and then enjoy nature in Central Park.

Brooklyn

Located to the west of Manhattan via the Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Williamsburg Bridge, nowadays people think of affluent families and hipsters when they think of Brooklyn. Of course, this is a more recent characterization as back in the 90s and early 2000s, Brooklyn was more of a working-class borough. Of course, the rising rents in Manhattan drove out a lot of young people who eventually made their way out to Brooklyn.

While it might have had a reputation in the past for being affordable when compared to Manhattan, increasing gentrification has actually bumped Brooklyn prices above some Manhattan rent! Still, Brooklyn is the most populous borough with around 2.7 million people. Its fast growth rate was due to its relatively low rent, decent train lines, and indie music and art scene. You can still find affordable rents if you’re willing to live a bit further into the borough.

Whereas Manhattan might be more fast-paced, Brooklyn has a more relaxed vibe without sacrificing amazing cultural and entertainment venues. You can check out the Brooklyn Art Museum and head over to the Barclay’s Center for some concerts or sports games. If you’re looking for some nature, you can go to Prospect Park or head further south to Marine Park to walk along the Salt Marsh Nature Trail.

If you’re looking for some affordable places to live in Brooklyn some options include:

  • Bayridge – located at the Southwest corner of Brooklyn, Bayridge remains one of the few classic New York strongholds in Brooklyn. You get to have amazing riverfront views, a tight-knit community, and, if you want, easy access to Staten Island via the Verrazano Narrows Bridge
  • Kensington – This small neighborhood is located Southwest of Prospect Park and has a delightful row of Victorian houses along with the more traditional brownstones and apartment buildings. You have easy access to great food and public transportation
  • Sunset Park – Located south of Park Slope, Sunset Park offers a booming Chinatown with noodle shops and dim sum spots. You also get great views of the Statue of Liberty and can relax in the historic Green-Wood cemetery.

Queens

While no one goes out of their way to visit Queens, that’s one of the reasons why it manages to keep its more relaxed and suburban feel when compared to other boroughs. Of course, the closer you are to Manhattan, the more developed it is with places like Long Island City and Astoria boasting some tall luxury buildings and business complexes. With that said, Queens still remains a mostly residential neighborhood so it’s great if you want a bit of peace and quiet without giving up those big-city perks.

With a population of 2.4 million people, Queens is the second largest borough and the most ethnically diverse with 48 percent of its residents being immigrants. There is literally something for everyone here. It actually has some of the best Chinese and Indian food in New York City. If you’re willing to make the trek, it’s well worth it.

Queens is also home to some amazing history. It was home to the 1964 New York World Fair that hosted the largest international exhibitions ever held in the United States. Today, you can now walk around Flushing Meadows Corona Park and see the remnants of the park from the large globe to the various pavilions.

If you’re looking to move to Queens, some great neighborhoods include:

  • Astoria – if you work in Midtown, Astoria is a great place to live as it will take 20 minutes to get to Midtown Manhattan. Naturally, this makes Astoria a popular place to live for young professionals so rents won’t be cheap. Astoria is also home to the Museum of the Moving Image and the New York Hall of Science.
  • Flushing – located in the north-central portion of Queens, this is the fourth-largest central business district in New York City. You can easily live here without ever having to step foot in Manhattan if you don’t want to! There’s plenty to do and there’s a vibrant Chinatown where you can experience delicious Fujian Chinese food. In fact, Flushing is considered a ‘food mecca’ for Chinese regional cuisine outside of Asia.
  • Jackson Heights – located in the northwestern portion of Queens, Jackson Heights has one of the most ethnically diverse communities in New York City. It has a beautiful historic district comprising garden city apartments and community gardens. It’s also home to a thriving street food scene with food from around the world including Nepal, Mexico, and Bangladesh.

The Bronx

The Bronx is the only New York City borough that is not an island. Located to the north of Manhattan just over the Harlem River, it remains one of the least popular boroughs due to its high crime rates. However, since the early 2000s, it has seen a slow revitalization as new investments in tech and real estate has improved the area. Luckily, rent prices are still relatively low when compared to other boroughs so you can save yourself several hundred dollars if you live here.

While many people might associate The Bronx with hip hop, it’s also home to the biggest park in the city – Pelham Bay Park – as well as the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, and Yankee Stadium. It’s also home to Fordham University, which consistently ranks in the top 100 colleges and universities in the United States, and The Bronx High School of Science is considered one of the best public schools in New York City. It has produced eight Nobel Prize-winning alumni and is the secondary school that has produced the most Nobel laureates in science worldwide.

The Bronx has a diverse mix of housing you can choose from and, thanks to the borough not being as popular as Brooklyn or Queens, you could potentially buy your house or apartment.  Some great neighborhoods include:

  • Riverdale – if you’re looking for a quiet suburb, then Riverdale is a great option. This leafy enclave offers single-family homes or co-op apartments. It’s also home to Van Cortland Park – the third largest park in the city.
  • Kingsbridge – just south of Riverdale is the hilly neighborhood of Kingsbridge and University Heights. Considered a favorite area for those on a budget, Kingsbridge is just across the Harlem River from Inwood. You can expect to find spacious apartments and plenty of parks and places to shop.
  • Allerton/Laconia – this under-the-radar is great for people looking for a quiet, residential neighborhood. If you’re lucky, you might be able to snag a single-family house. Otherwise, there are plenty of apartment options for rent. It’s also close to the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens so you’ll definitely have plenty to do.

Staten Island

Staten Island is often considered the forgotten borough as there are only two main access points – via the Staten Island Ferry or driving over the Verazzano Narrows Bridge. While Staten Island might have the smallest population, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a vibrant community. In fact, Staten Island offers a diverse population with numerous cultures and backgrounds, fantastic food and restaurants, talented local musicians, and more!

Now, if you work in Manhattan or another borough, living in State Island might not be ideal especially if you don’t have a car. Still, if you don’t mind longer commutes, it’s a great place to live. Plus, you can drop your car off at the State Island Ferry terminal and enjoy the daily ferry ride with stunning views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

Besides all this, Staten Island also is one of the more affordable places to live and you could buy an actual house for what you would pay in other boroughs. Rents are also much more affordable with two bedrooms going for an average of $1,850. It’s a great option and you can always choose to live and work on Staten Island. While it might not have as many options as Manhattan or Brooklyn, you can still find some great jobs especially if you’re in the healthcare industry.

So where should you live on Staten Island? Some great neighborhoods include:

  • Huguenot – this relaxing residential neighborhood gives you access to some amazing beaches and a great country club if you’re into golf. It’s also close to the Staten Island Railway so you can easily hop on a train to get to the ferry and into the city if necessary.
  • Great Kills – don’t be fooled by the name, GreatKills is perfect for families. It has some of the best schools in New York and has plenty to do from shopping to enjoying the Great Kills Park.
  • New Dorp – this densely populated neighborhood offers a diverse experience as it has a significant Italian, Albanian, and Polish population. Since there’s a large population, you’ll likely have better luck renting than buying a house. Still, you’re getting much more for your money than in Manhattan or even Queens.

Conclusion

Living in NYC can be a completely different experience depending on what borough and neighborhood you choose. Whether you’re looking for a more suburban feel or want to be in a bustling area, there’s truly something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to make a long-distance move or a local one, make sure to choose trustworthy NYC movers like NYC Great Movers to make moving day stress-free.

FAQ

What areas have the lowest crime?

Most of the boroughs are generally safe, but safety varies sometimes by the block! The best way to protect yourself is to always be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking around late at night.

How much does it cost to move to NYC?

It depends on how much stuff you have and where you choose to move to. However, you should factor in costs such as professional movers, security deposit, broker’s fee, first and last month’s rent, storage fees, and furniture. Sometimes a move can cost upwards of $10,000 or as cheap as $4,000 if you move in with roommates.

Should I  have a car in NYC?

That depends on where you live. You probably don’t need a car if you live in Manhattan, but you might want one if you live on Staten Island. Some areas in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens also don’t have great access to public transportation so you might want to get one to get around easier.