New York City has five distinct boroughs, but it also has very distinct neighborhoods as well. Depending on what you’re looking you might realize that while you were dreaming of SoHo, a place in the East Village might be more your style. So whether you’re moving from another state or maybe even a different neighborhood, there are a few things you should consider before making your decision.
Understand the Neighborhood
You might have heard about the various NYC neighborhoods from TV shows and movies, but keep in mind that neighborhoods change quickly and what might have been true in the 90s or early aughts don’t necessarily hold true today. When choosing which neighborhood to move to in NYC, the best way figure out where you want to live is to hit the streets. Luckily, NYC is extremely walkable so you can cover a majority of the city in a few days and really check out each neighborhood.
One of the best ways to choose the right neighborhood for you is to find ones that fit your specific needs. If you’re looking for a great night life, you might not want to live in the Financial District. And if you’re looking for a quiet location you might avoid the East Village. The trick is to understand what matters the most to you: location, space or price.
If space and price are important to you, you might want to look at places off the beaten path. However, if location is important – maybe you want to be close to work or close to other amenities – then you should be flexible on both space and price. Sadly, it’s hard to get it all so make sure that you have your priorities set.
More importantly, keep public transportation in mind. While most neighborhoods in NYC have more than one train line, consider convenience to work. If you live off the 1, 2 or 3 line but work off the 4, 5, 6 then your travel time will take that much longer. And while you could shell out for a car, most apartments don’t offer in-house parking and traffic is pretty awful.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s looks at some neighborhoods.
If you like the night life scene then you’ll absolutely want to look at the East Village and Lower East Side. The East Village is home to St. Mark’s Place, which has a variety of great late night haunts like McSorley’s, Kenka and Crif Dogs (which also has the hidden bar Please Don’t Tell behind it). There’s a lot of cheap and delicious food in the area as well. Rents tend to be a bit more expensive here as it’s fairly central to plenty of train lines.
If you’re looking for a neighborhood that’s a bit cheaper and still offers a good nightlife scene then you’ll want to look into the Lower East Side. While rents are increasing in this area due to new development, you can still find a fairly affordable apartment. You might not be close to any train lines though, which is a bit of a bummer. And those dive bars that you might be imaging? They’ll all but gone – though for now you still have The Library.
While most of NYC is LGBTQI+ friendly the best places to live if you want a very accepting neighborhood is either the West Village or Chelsea. That is, of course, if you can afford it. Apartments are very sought after in both of these locations as they’re hotspots for some of the best food in the NYC and some pretty decent nightlife. And, of course, since the West Village is so close to New York University and Washington Square Park, apartments rents tend to be some of the most expensive in the city. With that said, you can’t get any friendlier considering the NYC Pride March ends up in the area. And, of course, there’s the famous Stonewall park and bar.
And what about Chelsea? Well this is where the NYC Pride March starts! Similar to the West Village, Chelsea tends to be quite expensive thanks to its proximity to the Chelsea Market, Google and Madison Square Park (home to the original Shake Shack). Chelsea tends to be a bit quieter than the West Village so if you’re looking for something a bit more relaxing then you might want to consider moving to Chelsea.
If you have a family you need space, nearby parks and, of course, schools. If you want a welcoming, family-oriented neighborhood in NYC you’ll want to look at Battery Park City and Kips Bay. Both areas still provide that urban feel while also giving you a sense of community as you’ll be seeing other families often in the neighborhood parks and restaurants.
Battery Park City is perfect for people who want a quiet location that still offers some nice restaurants and bars. With that said, the most important amenity in this location are its better than average schools and location to a lot of public transport including ferries and subways.
Kips Bay might not be as convenient as Battery Park City as it’s further away from nearby train stations, but it’s proximity to the water and decent public schools make it a perfect place for growing families. There’s plenty of restaurants and amenities in the area and it tends to be a bit more on the younger side than Battery Park City.
For Young Professionals
If you’re just getting started in your professional career you’re probably more price conscious than anything else. If you’re okay with living a little further away from the “main” NYC look into either Harlem or Inwood. Harlem especially has great nightlife and while it’s becoming more gentrified, you can still find affordable options. Plus, it probably has some of the best culture in NYC considering it was the birthplace of jazz and still houses the famous Apollo Theater. You can also jump on the Metro-North railroad and easily travel either to Grand Central or outside of NYC whenever you feel like it!
If you’re looking for something that’s a bit quieter and close to nature Inwood is an excellent option. It’s off the A train and has a very community vibe to it. Plus you get to enjoy the lovely Inwood Park (the last natural salt marsh in Manhattan), the Hudson River and Harlem River. It’s a bit secluded so it’s perfect if you’re looking for something that’s a bit calmer.
You’re over the nightlife scene and don’t need a large apartment now that the kids are out of the house. Instead, you’re looking for some peace and quiet and probably some culture and good restaurants too. If you have the money, the Upper West Side and Upper East Side offers all of that and then, of course, Central Park. While the Upper East Side tends to be more for “old money” that doesn’t mean you can’t find a cozy home. Both sides of the park offer excellent views, quiet tree-lined streets, decent access to public transportation and delicious restaurants. The Upper West Side in particular has several retirement homes that come complete with engaging activities and your own apartment (and in-home worker depending on your needs).
While you can pretty much go anywhere and be an artist, SoHo and TriBeCa are some of the best neighborhoods to actually see some up-and-coming artists and even set up your own gallery. Both locations have plenty of art galleries that display a different artist every month or so. In SoHo you also have The New Museum and the International Center of Photography Museum. TriBeCa has a quarterly TriBeCa Art night where they highlight various galleries and artists in different venues.
It’s not cheap to live here, of course. In addition to art galleries, both also are home to some very high end fashion lines and delicious restaurants. Not to mention both have excellent access to public transportation. But if you can afford to live here, it’s definitely worth the cost of admission.
There are dozens of other neighborhoods in NYC, and while not all of them are covered here, you should absolutely take a look at all of them before deciding to move. Take your time and make sure to keep your priorities top of mind when looking at apartments. You’ll find your dream home and neighborhood in no time!