Moving to NYC.
April 11, 2005 9:19 AM   Subscribe

What neighborhood should I move to in NYC?

I'm starting my Master's at Pratt in the fall and my girlfriend is waiting to find out if she's been accepted to Columbia. We'll be moving over the summer to New York, but we just can't figure out what neighborhood to focus on. The most important thing is being someplace safe, but we don't have enough money to be too picky, basically around $1200/mo.

Everyone says that Brooklyn is where it's at, but most of the places we've seen listed are either too expensive or not anywhere we'd want to be. It looks like Inwood/Washington Heights and East Harlem are relatively affordable, but what are the neighborhoods like? Where else should we be looking? Is there a good resource for learning what all the neighborhoods are really like?
posted by spaghetti to Work & Money (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I lived in East Harlem for a spell. On the positive side, it's fairly close to the Columbia campus (crosstown bus, bike, long walk), the Upper East Side, and Central Park (if you live near 5th Ave below 110th St., which I did). On the downside, when I lived there (3 years ago) there really weren't any bars or decent restaurants within walking distance. Nothing beyond a dry cleaner and less-than-great supermarket. Projects and urban decay make up most of this landscape. I'm fairly certain it's still the same. I paid $900/mo. for a 1 bedroom.

I now live in Williamsburg. It's very hard to find an affordable apartment, but this neighborhood is great. Great bars, restaurants, book stores, galleries, etc. and very easy to commute to the City. I pay $780/mo. for a 1 bedroom, but I'm very lucky.

You might want to look into the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area, which is near Pratt. Parts are very beautiful. Of course, those parts are also expensive. I have friends that pay $2K+ for a 1 bedroom. It's also considerably less developed than, say, Park Slope, Carol Garden/Boerum Hill, or Williamsburg. All these neighborhoods are within 30 minutes to Manhattan by subway.

Overall, I'd say, go for Brooklyn. It's more mellow and interesting than Manhattan.
posted by timnyc at 9:35 AM on April 11, 2005

If you're going to be going to Pratt and your GF to Columbia, you're going to want a neighborhood that's accessible for both of you.

Brooklyn would be great if you can get something along the 2/3, but that's probably going to be expensive.

I'd think about finding something in Long Island City our Astoria. You'd be able to get the G to Pratt (although the MTA doesn't run as many G trains as they should), while your GF could get on an E to go crosstown and eventually switch over to the 1/2/3/9 up to Columbia.

Greenpoint in Brooklyn might be affordable, but you'll be stuck with the G for everything. Not so bad for Pratt (right on the G), but probably not so fun getting up to Columbia.
posted by ursus_comiter at 9:48 AM on April 11, 2005

Another shout for Williamsburg, but getting to Columbia from there is a bit of a trek. You can still get small apartments suitable for 2 for around 1200 in Williamsburg (especially South and East) but it ain't easy unless you get some inside knowledge.

And as ursus said, Astoria and nearby in Queens would be worth a look.
posted by Decani at 10:09 AM on April 11, 2005

The rents in East Harlem are getting up there now too - especially around what's been christened "Hamilton Heights". We looked there not too long ago and were pretty surprised.

I agree with the others above, Astoria and LIC will be the best bang for your buck, and they're probably as close to Columbia as Billyburg is. There are plenty of young people around, decent bars/restaurants etc and LIC has a good art scene. But the G train has got to be the worst in the city, it's TERRIBLE, stick to something along the 7 or N/R lines. has neighbourhood profiles for most of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
posted by dublinemma at 10:30 AM on April 11, 2005

Check with your department to make sure that your classes will be in Brooklyn. When I started at Pratt I got an apartment in Park Slope, only to discover that most of my classes would be held at the Manhattan campus (at that time it was in the Puck Building).
posted by Framer at 10:39 AM on April 11, 2005

If you live in Astoria along the N/W, getting to Pratt's Brooklyn campus will suck suck suck suck. And don't be fooled by the dotted green line into thinking the G goes deep into Queens--most of the time it doesn't, that's why the line is dotted.

Other than that, though, the G is not as bad as people pretend (I take it to work, when I go to the office). If you decide to live near Columbia, try to get near an A stop as that will give you a longish but easy commute to Pratt.
posted by dame at 10:56 AM on April 11, 2005

I'd second or third looking at the Williamsburg / Greenpoint area and the Astoria / LIC area. As someone who can't afford manhattan rents, but wants to be close to the city, I've lived in both of these neighborhoods. Both have their distinct charms and displeasures. My e-mail is in the profile if you'd like more specifics. You two will want to look at both and decide.

FWIW, some more transportation notes:
Depending which end of Greenpoint you are at, it is possible to live in Greenpoint and ride the subways without relying on the G. Northernmost can walk over the bridge or take a bus over the bridge to the 7 and southernmost parts of Greenpoint can take the bus or walk to L. I usually walk to the L unless the weather is out of hand, then I take the bus or *gasp* the G. While the G does deserve much of it's reputation for poor service, it is not bad during normal commuting hours. Her commute is going to be a little worse than yours from here, but it is not too bad to get to Columbia from the L.

The opposite will be true if you live in LIC/Astoria: Off of Astoria Blvd, she can take the M60 bus to Columbia from Astoria, and that is a real treat. I found it to be on average faster than taking the trains from Astoria to Columbia. Whereas, your commute to the Pratt main campus is going to be much less pleasant -- though if indeed your classes are in the Puck building it won't be too bad. On preview: dame says much of same, but more succintly.
posted by safetyfork at 11:02 AM on April 11, 2005

....its reputation....sigh.
posted by safetyfork at 11:03 AM on April 11, 2005

I'm also in Williamsburg. If you like the area email me (in profile). My landlady owns a lot of rent controlled multi-unit buildings on the south side and charges (relative to NYC) reasonable rent. I'd be happy to pass on her number.
posted by idest at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2005

Just another note: I believe Pratt's Manhattan campus is now on 14th, just west of Sixth. The F & L are the closest trains there, but everything save the JMZ & G is reasonably close.

More generally, as you will notice, subway access is the absolute most important feature. Where I live (in Bushwick), the amenities are sucky (though the rent sure is cheap). However, I live half a block from the subway, so hopping on the train to go a few stops for dinner isn't such a big deal. Also, in Brooklyn, having a bike is key. There're lots of neat things to do, but the trains are organized around getting to Manhattan.
posted by dame at 11:19 AM on April 11, 2005

I'd like to give a shout out for the Boerum Hill area, especially closer to downtown Brooklyn. In regards to location, it sounds like it be'd perfect for you. The 2/3 is fairly close. My girlfriend used to live at 96th and Broadway and it took me a little over 30 minutes to get there. Getting to Pratt would likely be a healthy walk or a quick hop on the A/C/G, whichever works for you. In regards to rent, I'm not all that knowledgable. I know that I'm in an amazing 3 bedroom for $2600 total, which is pretty standard. Looking at Craigslist, you can find stuff as low as $1100 for a 1 bedroom, but most of the stuff is a little more expensive than you're looking for.

Still, I love the neighborhood as you're close to subways, right between Cobble Hill and Park Slope and the neighborhood isn't really pretentious.

The truth is, there are deals to be found throughout NYC, but you have to keep your eyes peeled. If you have any friends in NYC already, ask if they know anyone who might be able to help. Connections make apartment hunting much easier.
posted by capndesign at 11:24 AM on April 11, 2005

Fourth/fifth/sixth'ing Astoria/LIC, especially the northern end (where I'm currently living). Rent is quite reasonable (I'm paying $1000 for a reasonably nice one bedroom), the area is quiet and you do have that M60 bus advantage. Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions.
posted by Remy at 11:41 AM on April 11, 2005

Astoria sounds good for you. It's relatively central to your two schools and the beautiful sunny view of the skyline you get riding into the city in the morning on the elevated N/W trains is a huge, huge, very big perk.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:57 AM on April 11, 2005

Killer Google/Craigslist ditty that can hugely help in finding listed apartments and locations on map:

I vote for Brooklyn also – it’s cheaper than most of Manhattan and in my opinion, much cooler place to live. I never understood what the 10 minutes traveling on the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan is to complain about. With the little art stores and pubs - I lived in Carroll Gardens / Smith Street up until recently and if it weren’t for domestic bliss and moving out to the island, I’d be there still. $ for $, I definitely preferred it over Soho. If you look, I think you can still find reasonably priced apartments in that area / Booklyn Heights / Boerum Hill – and very safe. I never had a problem, and I’m no hulk of a woman (just a wee 5 foot 3 inches).

I wouldn't leave finding apartments to the last second though. Give yourself some time and plan for 2 months security and one month's rent.

Try (with craigslist) also for listings.

Good luck!
posted by eatdonuts at 12:47 PM on April 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

I live in Pratt's Brooklyn neighborhood, Clinton Hill, and it's my favorite place I've ever lived in NYC. Feel free to email me if you have questions about it.
posted by jennyjenny at 1:08 PM on April 11, 2005

If your girlfriend gets into Columbia, then Columbia graduate student housing should be an option for you. Columbia apartments are spacious, secure, and cheap, and your girlfriend will have a zero commute.

Many of the apartments are within a block or two the 125th "A" Train express stop, which would make your commute to either Pratt campus manageable. Particularly on off-hour student commutes, you'll have a seat and a ride which is just long enough to get some reasonable reading done.

Morningside Heights isn't exactly cool, but it's really nice to know you'll be in your pajamas 20 minutes after finishing up a night of drinking in the West Village while your Brooklyn-dwelling buddies are still shivering on the W4th St. platform waiting for an "F" Train.
posted by MattD at 1:27 PM on April 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Thirding Astoria/LIC. Unpretentious, affordable, safe, convenient, full of good bars and restaurants w/o being hipster-infested. And I live there, too.

Inwood's not too bad either. My best freind lived there for a while, it's definitely got some nice atmosphere. There's some areas in the Bronx, like Marble Hill worth checking out as well, if you feel like being a pioneer.
posted by jonmc at 1:37 PM on April 11, 2005

My grandad and several uncles were from East Harlem and it's got it's pluses as well-convenience, restaurants, bars. But like a lot of manhattan neighborhoods, it's noisy, even at night.
posted by jonmc at 1:39 PM on April 11, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you for all the responses, I think we're going to give Astoria/LIC a good look. Wherever we end up, all of us should get together for a(n) [insert beverage of choice]!

Of course, if any of you hear of specific places/deals that come around, we would be greatly in your debt if you passed that info on.
posted by spaghetti at 5:22 PM on April 11, 2005

Inwood to Pratt would be a hell of a hike, as would anywhere in Brooklyn to Columbia. Long Island City is where you want to be. Don't forget that most of the time the G train ends at Court Square, though, so stay near or south of Court Square.
posted by willpie at 7:52 PM on April 11, 2005

Being from the Astoria crew (what would have been East Astoria if not for Mr. Moses), I will naturally say Astoria.

Everyone has already listed some great reasons so I can't really add to that. I love it here. It's a real neighborhood with families of many different backgrounds, it has resisted gentrification of the scale seen elsewhere in the city for decades and it has cheap bars with good beer.

If I could say two words that summed it up, they would be Beer Garden. In addition, La Guardia is damn convenient when you want to fly out domestically.

A bit of warning, though, it will be very hard to ever get someone to come in from Manhattan or Brooklyn to visit you. You'll have to get used to going to those places if your friends live there. My suggestion is to just make friends with all of us.

That said, you might also consider looking around the Chinatown area. That's an unusual suggestion, but you'd be able to grab almost any train conveniently and there are these oddly cheap gems of apartments that pop up from time to time. Likely? No. However, it would be good to look into.
posted by Captaintripps at 8:49 PM on April 11, 2005

A bit of warning, though, it will be very hard to ever get someone to come in from Manhattan or Brooklyn to visit you.

Used to live in Williamsburg, and found this to be 100% true. You can be as logical as you like to your friends about the "commute" to the Big Island, yet still nobody likes making the pilgramage unless something very cool is going on. My friends living in the LES always had some reason to have me make the trek across the bridge (and only rarely ever did it themselves), even though we could practically see into each other's apartment. The Williamsburg Bridge bike path was two blocks from my door, but the section when you get over Manhattan seems to take ages to finish crossing.

If you plan to "hang" with your city peeps, you need to find a place on the island. Otherwise, get used to making friends in your neighborhood. Mind you, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Oh, and Williamsburg people are all about the low-budget-trends, so don your hipster-retardant suit before hitting the almost-as-expensive day/nightlife.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:30 AM on April 12, 2005

I want to second Captaintripps in regards to commuting convenience.... If you take a look at this map you can see that almost every train in the system besides the dreaded "G" passes through that area, ( the graphics on the map make it hard to make out the streets but the grey line running to the right is the "L" which runs along fourteenth st and is the train to Williamsburg) The best place for both of your commutes is Manhattan. I would say roughly between first ave on the east and seventh or eighth on the west, low twentys on the north and a little below Houston on the south. you have access to the most choices of trains and both of you will have comparable commutes. Even better would be somewhere just north of south or fourteenth street. Your friends form Brooklyn, Uptown and Queens will visit too. The killer is the price...that's why everyone moved to Williamsburg, ( which isn't to bad to commute from as long as you are reasonable walking distance to the train).

I agree that Long Island City/ Astoria are safe and affordable but the commute...... I guess it depends on your schedule. Sunnyside ( the ( the section of Queens Blvd. where the "7" train runs), is also affordable and safe with parking, no cool though which can be nice.
posted by flummox at 5:55 AM on April 12, 2005

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