Best route to living well in Brooklyn?
March 26, 2012 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Moving to NYC. Preferably Brooklyn. Where should we live and how should we apartment hunt?

We'd like a 2 bed 2 bath apartment with a decent commute to midtown manhattan. Ideally in a neighborhood that is somewhat quiet, near restaurants that are good (both foodie good and ethnic good). Manhattan may be doable on our budget, but I'm worried about the car (more below) and space/noise.

We have a car we'd like to garage. (it would be utterly amazing to do it in our building, but understand that renting garage space is more likely). Is there anything special we need to know about having a car in Brooklyn?

The budget is ~$3500-4000 a month for rent.

So far we are looking at: Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Williamsburg and Greenpoint. I'm most familiar with Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Williamsburg/Greenpoint and Brooklyn Heights. Are there other neighborhoods we are missing in this category?

Currently looking at Streeteasy and Padmapper - what else should we look at?

There are lots of new buildings in Downtown Brooklyn with all of the bells and whistles - how is it to live there?

Questions summarized:
- what's downtown brooklyn like as a residential neighborhood?
- anything special about car ownership in brooklyn?
- what other neighborhoods might we like? (outside brownstone bklyn and williamsburg)
posted by Sockowocky to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
$3,500 to $4,000 per month in Manhattan for a 2BR and a garage is stretching it, so Brooklyn is definitely a better bet.

Generally, for those buildings that have garages, you pay a monthly fee in addition to your rent, though this may be different if you rent from an owner as opposed to a building that's all rentals.

With your budget, I would go to and start looking at 2 bedrooms in your preferred neighborhood and start calling landlords up. Skip Craigslist.

Most landlords will expect you to earn an annual salary of at least 40x the monthly rent, so for $4,000 per month, that's $180,000. Depending on the rental market in Brooklyn (which I think is as tight as Manhattan's) you may or may not have room to negotiate on this and other points. The tighter the rental market, the less room you have to negotiate. Supply and demand.

Car ownership in Brooklyn: insurance is much more expensive than many other places.
posted by dfriedman at 4:58 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's Vinegar Hill, a small awesome collection of Brownstones near DUMBO (Dumbo itself is nice, but small and busy - read: not lots of parking). Anything along the Promenade is beautiful, with views. I live in Boerum Hill, near Smith Street (amazing food and bar scene). Never owned a car in NY, can't say much about the parking!
posted by AutoPilot83 at 5:00 PM on March 26, 2012

Vinegar Hill is very small, has no nightlife to speak of, and only one (extremely good) restaurant. It's right by DUMBO and downhill from Brooklyn Heights, both of which are fine if you like babies and strollers and no restaurant scene to speak of. DUMBO also has horrible noise pollu

Boerum Hill is very pretty, very vibrant. Prospect Heights has an incredibly active, constantly growing roster of restaurants and bars, plus you're right near Prospect Park. You could also find a sick apartment in PH on your budget, probably a bit nicer than what you'd get in the other neighborhoods you listed, aside from Greenpoint.

Downtown Brooklyn is a little meh, depending on where you are. Atlantic Ave has some really cute spots, and if you're off Hoyt-Schermerhorn you can easily get to Boerum Hill, which again, is very nice, but DB is kind of a ghost town at night if you're in the middle of it and not near another, cooler neighborhood.

What are your values? Do you want kids soon? Do you care about public schools? Nightlife? Diversity? Shopping? Proximity to parks?

Also, any reason you want to keep a car while living in NYC?
posted by zoomorphic at 5:51 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in downtown Brooklyn in one of the new buildings around Hoyt-Schermerhorn. I moved to NYC from Toronto last year in August. Personally I don't like the area very much, but it's really convenient for work - I take the A/C to Chambers street, and door to door my commute is 20 minutes. I'm also close to the F and the Q trains which I take a lot - the former to east Chinatown / LES / East Village, the latter to Chinatown, Union Square, and Herald Square. The ease of going elsewhere is probably the biggest plus about this area.

There isn't much in the way of "ethnic" food around here, other than a cluster of awful Thai restaurants on Smith street. I go out to eat mainly Asian food - usually Japanese or Chinese - so I'm always jumping on a train to Manhattan when I want to eat out. There is a good pizza place, Sotto Casa, and a good Mexican place, Fast and Fresh Deli. I've heard there are some good American/European restaurants on Smith and Court streets, but I don't have much interest in them.

I generally dislike the area because the streets north of Atlantic (where I live) are a bit dreary/grimy/post-industrial. Because it's mostly empty parking garages or city government offices the entire area has a kind of depressing vibe and it gets very empty at night time. It's a little bit like the Financial District in Manhattan, but more decay-y and tired and empty. South of Atlantic you have the brownstones and tree-lined streets, dog walkers, and strollers, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your preferences. Smith street and Court street are nice, but I rarely find myself going there - most of the things I want are in Manhattan.

If I did it again, I wouldn't live in Brooklyn at all, but if I had to, I'd live in Brooklyn Heights or Cobble Hill.

You could probably find a 2-bedroom for about the range you quoted in my building. I don't have much to complain about my building itself.
posted by pravit at 5:52 PM on March 26, 2012

Communting to midtown? Definitely take a look at Astoria. Particularly at the end of the N line. You could get a fantastic place for that kind of rent, and it would be much easier to park a car.

If you're willing to live a little further out, you could live like a king in Sunset Park. Particularly great if you're interested in Mexican, Polish or Chinese food and cooking. (It's a bit of a melting pot neighborhood.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:22 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is a bit far away, but BayRidge is great. I loved living there. It'll meet all your requirements - "quiet, near restaurants that are good (both foodie good and ethnic good)" and many single family places have garages. There's a wide range of living styles there too - from (literally) mansions to brownstones to just basic apartment buildings - all within one neighborhood. Totally safe.
The downside is the transportation though. We owned two cars for the 5 years we lived there. Not a scratch on them parking on the street. Without the car, you're limited to the N/R train and the Express Bus (which was great back then, much faster than train service).
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:26 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in Brooklyn Heights and I very much enjoy it here. It's a very quite, residential neighborhood with very pretty architecture. To be honest, there aren't a great deal of awesome restaurants. I mean, all the restaurants around here are definitely adequate but I wouldn't say there's anything special. Also where I live, there's quick access to Manhattan but it's sometimes annoying to get to other parts of Brooklyn. I have seen some places with garages, but since I don't own a car, I haven't got a clue how that works.
posted by Geppp at 6:37 PM on March 26, 2012

I agree with Blarneyphoto: Bay Ridge. It is south Brooklyn - but if you life in Manhattan is near the N/R train, then it is not too bad.

Bay Ridge is a great neighborhood, with a vibrant life all its own. In no time flat, you will be going to local bars and restaurants in Bay Ridge, rather than trooping into Manhattan. Nowhere in Brooklyn has the nightlife that 3rd Ave in Bay Ridge has.
posted by Flood at 6:40 PM on March 26, 2012

Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Ditmas Park may have apartments that would suit you. All are convenient to trains (Q and F—though Windsor Terrace is really only the F).
posted by ocherdraco at 7:08 PM on March 26, 2012

I would focus on Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Park Slope for the best restaurant scenes. Brooklyn Heights is beautiful and quiet but decidedly uncool, and most of the restaurants basically suck.
posted by telegraph at 7:38 PM on March 26, 2012

I would put in a vote for Fort Greene (the historic area, not the "Fort Greene" area of mega apartment buildings). It is next to downtown Brooklyn so quite convenient, but has a very neighborhoody feel and a nice mix of restaurants and shops. Plus, very near to BAM, which is always great.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:41 PM on March 26, 2012

Sounds like you're on the right track but you may want to add Queens—Astoria, as mentioned, but also Long Island City (which is like a 10 minute walk from Greenpoint, BTW), Sunnyside, Woodside, and Jackson Heights. Good ethnic food, a bit sleepier than hip Brooklyn.

If you're willing to spend $4000 and want to be close to midtown, I don't think you need to be looking at Bay Ridge or Sunset Park.

Don't discount Hoboken or Jersey City.

As to Brooklyn—parts of downtown are better than others. None of it is dangerous, per se, but it can be seedy and definitely gets deserted at night (and hectic and fairly low-rent during the workday). Super convenient though. Tons of trains, which means you're able to get home without a transfer from anywhere in Manhattan, which is really nice.

Some of the new rentals that are in "Fort Greene" are actually in or basically in downtown (the Avalon on Flatbush springs to mind, some others are right around there). That could be a decent compromise between the accessibility of downtown and the neighborhoody Brooklyn feel, if you're into the new construction kind of thing. (If so, also look at some of the new buildings on 4th Avenue in Park Slope/Gowanus.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:43 PM on March 26, 2012

Hooray for people mentioning Astoria! Though finding a building with a car there would be a bit of a hassle. (They do exist, though.)

LIC would be worth checking out, especially at the Vernon/Jackson 7 stop. There are a lot of new high-rises and luxury buildings going up around there that would probably fit the bill, and they'd have parking garages and such. The nightlife there is pretty good, too (LIC Bar! Manducatis! El Ay Si!) - and you'd be one train stop from Manhattan.
posted by gchucky at 9:24 PM on March 26, 2012

If you're willing to spend $4000 and want to be close to midtown, I don't think you need to be looking at Bay Ridge....
As to Brooklyn—parts of downtown are better than others. None of it is dangerous, per se, but it can be seedy and definitely gets deserted at night

Two points - my suggestion of Bay Ridge points out that there are some pretty darn high-end places in the neighborhood. 4K/month can buy an awful lot there, so yeah... it should definitely be a consideration. And unlike downtown, I never felt the slightest bit uncomfortable walking around at 2am - its a very safe area.

But hey, if you're gonna spend 4K/month, why not move to the Meadowlands area in NJ? That's where I am now and for 2K/month I own a 3 story Victorian home with a driveway and low, low property taxes.... and a shorter bus commute to Manhattan than I had from Bay Ridge.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:26 PM on March 26, 2012

Awesome - thank you!!

Meadowlands will be great for our next move (out of the city probably)

Car is for easy access to family nearby (not train accessible) and family vacation houses (likewise). Also we'll want to drive for grocery shopping sometimes (Costco).

Values wise we are basically into seeing friends and being at home. I am very into cooking. Going out for a nice drink is great - but no nightlife thank you. Carroll Gardens is totally up my alley (feels like a neighborhood, has some hipster fun but also families, good restaurants). Is Williamsburg awful for people over 30? There's some nice looking buildings there (I know some of them are in desolate warehouse land)
posted by Sockowocky at 10:16 PM on March 26, 2012

Is Williamsburg awful for people over 30?

No. In fact, one of the canonical incarnations of the hipster is bored, underemployed 33 year-old. If that doesn't sound appealing, you might still want to consider it. There's a lot of shit to do in Williamsburg for everyone, so if you're lazy and have friends in other parts of the city, you could just stay in all the time and be the designated entertainer.
posted by BEE-EATING CAT-EATER at 11:26 PM on March 26, 2012

Car is for easy access to family nearby (not train accessible) and family vacation houses (likewise). Also we'll want to drive for grocery shopping sometimes (Costco)

In most cases, it will be way more affordable to rent a car as needed for the family visits, and either get delivery or a zipcar for the shopping trips. Anywhere where your car is convenient to you will be at least $200/month, plus the cost of maintenance and NYC car insurance, you're looking at a minimum of $300/month, if you're lucky. A rental car is roughly $50/day. Zipcar is $50/yr plus around $11/hr for each rental. In NYC you can get anything delivered at pretty much any time for a small (or sometimes no) delivery fee.

Neighborhoods you may want to consider: Queens: Astoria, LIC; Brooklyn: all the ones you mention; and Manhattan: Inwood, Hudson Heights, Yorkville
posted by melissasaurus at 6:23 AM on March 27, 2012

OP, you are not a hipster. You want a quality existence that is based on meaningful relationships with your home being the 'center of nightlife.' Be careful of descriptions like "melting pot."

Astoria - used to be good. Now it offers hookah-smoking, non-family types.

NJ: ideal for you, but as you said, the time for it will come in your 2nd wave

Brooklyn: many options as others have suggested (stay close to Manhattan at all cost - do not underestimate how far Manhattan commutes can be).

Queens: Home-centric, but caters more for those just arriving to the U.S. and wish to be communities they can identify with. (Same for parts of Brooklyn).

Your best bet:

Manhattan: UWS, UES and Murray Hill. Sell the car, use the savings to increase your rent budget, and use Zipcar for all your family and vacation visits.

If you're going to move to NJ anyway, then quench your NY thirst properly, and get a place in Manhattan.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:40 AM on March 27, 2012

I live in the same part of of Downtown Brooklyn as pravit, possibly even the same newish-construction building (Hi pravit!). I like it a lot more than he does though.

The area is insanely convenient to a lot of subway lines (A C G 2 3 Q R B 4 5 and the LIRR at Atlantic Terminal), and is close to good grocery stores (Brooklyn Fare less than 5 minutes, Trader Joe's less than 20 minutes) as well as some nice restaurants and low-key bars (but not, as pravit points out, a lot of choice in ethnic food). Also a reasonable walk to Fort Greene Park (15 min), Prospect Park (20-30 min), Dekalb Market, BAM, and Brooklyn Flea.

I enjoy hanging out at home, and having low-key food and drink options in the neighborhood. I feel like I get a pretty good amount of space for the money, and the neighborhood is generally quiet (except for Livingston St - don't get an apartment facing Livingston!). I previously lived in West Chelsea, and I don't find Downtown Brooklyn any grimier than 10th Ave in Manhattan.

A 2BR in my building would fit in your budget. I don't have a car, so can't speak to the exact pricing, but I think a space in our garage runs between $2-300/month. There are cheaper lots a few blocks north (I don't know if you care whether your car is parked indoors or not).
posted by twoporedomain at 9:43 AM on March 27, 2012

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