Astoria, Jersey City or somewhere else?
November 11, 2014 5:24 AM   Subscribe

We are looking into buying a single family or multi-family house in NYC within easy commuting distance to midtown. Budget is $1 million to maybe $1.2 million. We currently live in Williamsburg and are priced out, otherwise it would be the perfect neighborhood. Astoria Queens seems like a great option, and Jersey City has even nicer houses but I know less about the area. And are there neighborhoods we are overlooking? Longer criteria list inside.

The key criteria for us, in the following order of importance, is:

1. Reasonable commute, ideally closer to 30 minutes and definitely under one hour, to midtown manhattan (near Rockefeller center).

2. Single or multifamily house (ideally that can be converted to single family) with 3-4 bedrooms and yard. Garage would be ideal as well.

3. Neighborhood that is walkable with some grocery stores, a park, farmer's market, and good restaurants (especially for delivery).

4. Good elementary school. Ideally we will send our kids to public elementary, and worry about middle/high school later (they are not school age yet). Private school is feasible, but not preferable.

5. Community of liberal parents. We like the williamsburg parents group - very active, people from all over the world, somewhat diverse, and with a decent amount of dads as caregivers, etc.

Astoria near the Ditmars stop has all of the criteria we want as far as I can tell - people seem to move from williamsburg to Astoria, it has the right housing stock in our budget, the public school is well regarded and the commute is ~35 mins (on one train!)

Jersey City near Hamilton park has beautiful houses in our price range (brownstones!), a nice park, I understand some good restaurants and that's the extent of what I know. I have no idea about the schools or people who live there.

We have considered the suburbs but even the closest to the city are realistically one hour door to door, and that commute is too much. Friends in the suburbs also seem to hate the people, and we prefer an urban environment.

We've also looked at Bushwick and Ridgewood Queens, but the L train is the worst thing about williamsburg and I think we prefer a neighborhood that has the amenities we are after rather than one that is a bit rough about the edges in terms of crime/schools/grocery stores (also why Bed Stuy is not on the list despite the most beautiful houses). I have spent no time in any of those neighborhoods recently, so if I'm wrong about crime, schools or anything else definitely let me know.

Other parts of Brooklyn that are affordable seem to have a longer commute to midtown than Astoria, but again I could be wrong.

I've looked at the other Jersey City threads but they are focused on younger people who are renting, and also a bit outdated.

I welcome any advice!
posted by Sockowocky to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Jackson Heights Queens will give you lots of bang for your buck; maybe closer to 800k-1M for what you describe. V walkable if you are in the historic district near 34th/35th avenue in the mid 70s/80s, also the low 70s if you stay near 25th. 37th avenue is a real shopping street.

Lots of affordable delivery, lots of good restos, but not much (read: zero!) in the brooklyn-like "wine bar" or "bistro" or "farm to table" type, more mom&pop thai, indian, peruvian, argentinian etc.

Great commute EFMR7 to midtown in 20-25 mins. Transit pisses all over brooklyn for midtown.

Park situation sucks, only a couple of concrete slabs. Also parking sucks. Schools I can't speak for; go to here for background.

I see lots of brooklyn refugees buying apartments (2-3br+) or houses, for 30% lower than comparable stuff in their hoods.
posted by lalochezia at 5:35 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been seeing a lot of young families moving to Sunnyside. Good schools, quick trip to Grand Central, affordable.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:56 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hastings-on-Hudson is right on the Metro North which will put you at Grand Central in 33 minutes. It is in the suburbs. It is a nice town which is walkable and has restaurants, a reasonable farmers market, seems pretty liberal to me. The schools are good and there are a lot of parents with young kids.

Trulia shows a reasonable number of listings in your price/size range. Here's one but there are others.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:29 AM on November 11, 2014

Sunnyside is lovely, but you are at the whims of the 7 train only for subway connections.
posted by lalochezia at 7:53 AM on November 11, 2014

I have no idea about prices, but is Hoboken too expensive. Their little main street is adorable and the PATH is right there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:54 AM on November 11, 2014

Thanks! Great ideas.

I should note that Hastings-on-Hudson and Pelham are both on the "suburbs list" but when I use google maps to track the commute from specific houses it is (at best) about 1 hour door to door from home to work. That's mostly due to walking or driving to the Metro-North station, which is rarely a short trip in the suburbs. And my office is about a 5-10 minute walk from Grand Central. Maybe when the kids are older that will be less of an issue for me, but for now we think 2 hours a day commuting is too much on top of my work hours.

Sunnyside is an awesome suggestion. I think Hoboken is out of the price range, but will look into it.

Anyone from Jersey City who can comment on the schools etc? You're all the best.
posted by Sockowocky at 9:54 AM on November 11, 2014

Sunset Park has some housing stock in your range, and I know some families who moved out there a few years ago and are pretty happy with the neighborhood. It's Park Slope-adjacent (with a bit of a walk), so there are lots of parent groups nearby. You've got the N, R, and D trains nearby, as well.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:23 AM on November 11, 2014

Forest Hills Queens is awesome, though it may be close to out of your price range (but worth a look!)
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 5:53 PM on November 11, 2014

I'm a [former] Jackson Heights SFH owner and while i like the neighborhood I would advise checking out Sunnyside or Forest Hills instead.

There aren't many single family homes that are convenient to the express trains in JH. The 7 local is mobbed after 74th and the buses are worse.

The neighborhood is *very* dense. There are no parks. Travers Park isn't a real park.

Sunnyside also just seems to be on a better trajectory in terms of services, amenities and upkeep. I love Astoria but the prices have crossed the red line.

My secret favorite Queens nabe is the area around Bowne Park in north Flushing; the LIRR is within your parameters to midtown. You might have to look further for a parents community though. Still... it's pretty close to what you want otherwise. Worth a look!

I live in the burbs now, but I won't front like my door to door commute isn't 65 minutes. That's laptop time.

(And don't forget Bayside!)
posted by zvs at 8:18 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in Sunnyside. I love Sunnyside. I hope to someday buy a house here.
posted by qnarf at 8:59 PM on November 11, 2014

Doesn't Jersey City have a big crime problem? Maybe things have changed since I last checked.

Sunnyside or Forest Hills I say.

Sunset Park has some nice places coming up now, but the R train is HORRIBLE. It will take you an hour to get anywhere on that train. I have to take it once a week and I wouldn't recommend a place that relies on the R for a "quick commute" in most cases.
posted by rancher at 10:24 PM on November 11, 2014

Quick note about Sumnyside. When my friends were looking there, they were surprised by how many exclusive/non MLS listings there were. That meant that they had to go to specific neighborhood brokers' sites because many properties weren't on the aggregators. This was a few years ago, but I don't think it's changed. They're in Sunnyside gardens and love it.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:31 PM on November 12, 2014

Riverdale, on the river in the west Bronx, has great transportation (all modes nearby) and good housing values. In Spuyten Duyvil (the southern tip) you will have Metro North a few minutes' walk from home.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:13 AM on November 17, 2014

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