New York living is expensive—69% above the average cost of living in America. So don’t expect to live in that posh neighborhood with a private balcony and a view of the Empire State building—at least not right away. But real New York living isn’t too bad either.
First, let’s get real. NYC is not just the illustrious Manhattan (although many Manhattanites might try to convince you it is). New York City is made up of five boroughs - Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island Its true, most of the jobs are in Manhattan, but some areas in Brooklyn and Queens are just a subway ride away and more people than ever before now live and work in the outer boroughs.
You could fill a book talking about every New York neighborhood, but for you, the young professional, we’ve narrowed it down to the need-to-know areas. If you’re looking for more options, check out New York Magazine’s Most Livable Neighborhoods in New York.
Harlem: As the city’s gentrification creeps northward, Harlem – the area from the northern end of Central Park to around 155th street – has become more desirable. There are condos and houses for rent in the bevy of brownstones that dot the streets. Rents are reasonable and a single young person on their first job in the city can afford an apartment share, a small studio, or a room in a townhouse. Harlem is well connected to the rest of Manhattan by subway and bus. The neighborhood has seen a sharp drop in violent crime, although it is still higher than other parts of the city. Remain vigilant, avoid walking alone, and be extremely cautious at nighttime.
Steeped in jazz culture, Harlem is still home to some of the most exciting clubs and restaurants in the city, like the hip Red Rooster. The Studio Museum and the landmark Apollo Theatre that gives its stage to performance art, concerts, comedy and outreach programs stand on 125th street, surrounded by eateries, and apparel shops. There are at least three parks that provide breathing space to residents.
The Upper West Side: If you are lucky or persistent, preferably both, you can find a reasonable apartment share in the Upper West Side. There are plenty of restaurants open earlier in the evening here (otherwise known as a reasonable dinner time), big retail outlets, your cultural mecca, The Lincoln Center, on 66th street and all this packed between Riverside Park and Central Park. Party animals, if you do live here, beware of the dismal nightlife but know that the downtown party stops are not too far thanks to the 1, 2, 3, A, B, C, and D subway lines. The Upper West Side is ideal for those looking to get away from the noise and crowds that plague the downtown area at night and on weekends.
The Upper East Side: The Upper East Side is a haven from the busy, narrow, and dirty downtown streets. For young people, though, the Upper East Side is generally considered too family-oriented, too expensive, and too difficult when trying to navigate to places like the West Village for nights out. But it is safe, clean, and very close to Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and great restaurants. While usually the Upper East Side is out of most young professional’s price range, recently small studios and 1 bedroom apartments can be found at better rates than hipper areas like Williamsburg, Brooklyn. So don’t ignore renting in the Upper East Side until you’ve done a full investigation!
Murray Hill: Located within Midtown East, Murray Hill is decidedly one of the least “hip” areas of Manhattan. Generally safe and known for good schools, this area does not cater to the young and spirited. However, rent in this area is noticeably cheaper—by $500-1000 per month. Murray Hill is also home to some of the best ethnic restaurants in the city. So if you’re above maintaining hip status, Murray Hill is ideal, offering safety, affordability, great food and close proximity to Grand Central Station and the subway.
The West Village: Every recent graduate and young professional wants to live in the West Village. It’s New York’s “it” neighborhood—with bumping nightlife, cool bars, delicious restaurants, great apartments, and beautiful streets—the West Village is any young person’s playground. Anytime of day or night, you’ll find tons of young professionals from artists to bankers and everything in between flocking to this area. As such a popular hot spot, living in this area can be pricey, and a great apartment at a good price can be hard to find.
Greenwich Village: Like its neighbor, the West Village, Greenwich Village (or simply, “the Village”) is one of New York’s most beautiful areas to walk through. The largely residential areas sport classic brownstones and quaint stoops, at very high rent rates. With its roots in early 20th century bohemian and artistic rebellion, the Village still maintains an atmosphere of artsy angst that makes it irresistibly cool, even for the aging countercultural types that continue to reside here. This is a great area to visit day or night for its cafes, shopping, chill bars, and superb live entertainment.
Lower East Side: Live, play, and enjoy all in one place: the “LES.” It’s a young neighborhood with old buildings and a young artist scene; it was the hipster hub before Williamsburg became their unofficial capital. Often bustling until the wee hours of the morning, the Lower East Side is gritty and raw. Although this means you will be at the heart of the action, remember to be aware of your surroundings at all times. The upside is the housing prices here are usually lower than other areas of Manhattan! With very few subway stations in the area, though, getting in and out of the Lower East Side can be tedious. Many a wise Lower East Sider has invested in a bicycle to assuage this inconvenience.
The Lower East Side offers many live music options, the Bowery Ballroom being a big draw for music lovers. There are a number of smaller joints like Nuyorican Poets Café that give upcoming performance artists a stage to showcase their talents. Options for food are limitless, day and night. The historic Katz's Delicatessen is in LES and open all night on Fridays and Saturdays.
East Village: Technically part of the Lower East Side, the artsy East Village gained its neighborhood autonomy in the 1970s. Today, the East Village has become more gentrified, losing much of the grit and crime that once was. The streets are now lined with bars, retail stores, and restaurants instead. The East Village still maintains an artsy feel and rougher façade, with older buildings and unkempt sidewalks that entice the young and hip to its streets at night.
While prices in the East Village are on the rise, very affordable apartments can still be found in the area, but are typically in the form of a six-floor walk-up.
Financial District: The Financial District, located at Manhattan’s southern tip, is the center of New York’s fast-paced financial world. During the day this area is crowded with suits, ties, and sensible Louboutins, but at night the area becomes a deserted, quiet neighborhood. The Financial District has recently become the newest area for young people to find new and beautiful, relatively affordable apartments in buildings with an array of amenities. While nightlife is almost nonexistent, this area is extremely safe and convenient for those working in the area and looking for more space, quiet nights, and an escape from throngs of people in New York. The financial district is conveniently accessible via subway and just about an $8.00 cab ride from the prominent nightlife in the West Village and SoHo.
Astoria (Queens): Astoria is located at the northwest corner of Queens, the beautiful Hell Gate bridge its most prominent landmark. It is about 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan on the N or Q subway line.
Queens is considered the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, with 138 different languages spoken, and Astoria might be its most diverse neighborhood. Astoria, also called ‘the Mediterranean village on the East River’, has long been home to a large Greek immigrant contingent but has become ethnically diverse over the years. Arabs, Czechs, Brazilians, Maltese, Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Spaniards, North Africans, Tibetans, Chinese, Japanese, Bangladeshis, Ecuadorans, Italians, and Mexicans also call Astoria ‘home’. It is a neighborhood famous for its beer gardens and great food… and movie buffs can enjoy the classics around the corner at Museum of the Moving Image. The rising profile of Astoria is largely due to people looking to escape pricey Manhattan and Brooklyn settling down in its safe and friendly environs.
Sunnyside (Queens): Sunnyside is near Astoria in western Queens, a neighborhood 15 minutes from Times Square on the No.7 subway line. Even with its spectacular view of Manhattan (you can see the Empire State in great detail from almost any avenue), Sunnyside has managed to keep its rents below those of other NYC locales.
Family homes, many with common private gardens, dot this once prominently Irish-American neighborhood. Now, Sunnyside is filled with family businesses run by Nepalese, Koreans, Colombians, Romanians, and many others. Queens Boulevard is the bustling heart of Sunnyside with shops, restaurants and movie theaters. You may want to have lunch at the famed Chinese-Indian fusion restaurant Tangra Masala.
While no one would recommend walking in the industrial areas of Sunnyside at night, and cabs may be difficult to find, it is a safe neighborhood. And, you can always keep up with the news on Sunnyside with the Sunnyside Post.
Williamsburg (Brooklyn): This is a large Brooklyn neighborhood and the new hipster capital of New York. Williamsburg is becoming much more expensive to live in as gentrification reaches completion, but, with luck, you can still find good deals on accommodation.
Williamsburg is packed with trendy restaurants serving wine, cheese and meat. You’ll find indoor theaters and outdoor movies. It’s probably one of the more interesting corners of the city in which to people-watch! Williamsburg is 20 minutes from Times Square. The L train connects this neighborhood to Manhattan.