The Sunset Park life
April 27, 2016 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I am intrigued by the prospect of moving to Sunset Park in Brooklyn, but would love some real talk about whether it fits in my budget ($1500 for a studio/1BR) and if I should be looking somewhere else based on my priorities.

I'm currently in East Harlem but not interested in staying here. I'd really like to live alone in a studio or even a 1BR (gasp!) but I realize on a $1500 budget in NYC that narrows my options a lot. I think I'm interested in Sunset Park (where I've been a couple of times), but would love to get your thoughts on:

- Whether my budget is realistic
I've been poking around the last couple of days on Craigslist, Streeteasy, etc. and have been able to find some listings in my price range, but it's been pretty thin. I don't know if that's because (1) my budget is unrealistic (boo, but I'd rather know now), (2) the timing of when I've been looking, or (3) studios/1BRs are just not a big part of the housing stock.

- Other neighborhoods I should be thinking about
The things that are important to me, in roughly this order, are:
1. <45 min commute (60 min max) to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan
2. Access to grocery stores, and specifically Asian grocery stores -- this is a big part of why I'm thinking about Sunset Park. I cook on average 4-5x a week so this is big for me.
3. Easy access to drugstores, laundromats, and a gym (fancy is not necessary at all)
4. Cheap and diverse restaurants and a low-key bar or two
5. Running routes, which is where I think Sunset Park is not so strong
6. Safety walking alone at night. I'm a late 20s Asian male if it matters; I don't come home late very often, but I hate paying for cabs when I do.
7. LGBT-friendly. Don't need to live close to a gay bar, but would like to feel safe.

Not important:
- Pretty brownstone architecture, though I'd prefer not to live next to the highway
- Trendy restaurants/bars or "cute" stores -- I love an independent bookstore or wine shop, but I'd much rather have good access to the amenities above (grocery store, laundromat, gym)
- Parking/car issues

I think it's a fairly good match, keeping budget in mind -- I'd love to live in the West Village but that ain't happening at this price point -- but I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this or other neighborhoods in general. I've read this but I think my preferences are a bit different.

I'm aiming for a move in sometime in August, so I've got time to poke around.
posted by andrewesque to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know specifically about the rents in Sunset Park, but I can tell you this: 90% of Craigslist ads for NYC housing are scams of some kind. Even the ones where the rent doesn't seem absurdly low. (Weirdly they have lately taken to cutting and pasting ads for, like, new developments in random American suburbs. You can tell almost instantly not only because they refer to tennis courts and the like, but because the carpet is beige and the furniture is...not NYC furniture.) Base your assessment of probability on Streeteasy; leave Craigslist right out of it.
posted by praemunire at 9:42 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

$1,500 is a low budget for an apartment on a block that is going to meet your requirements in Sunset Park. One thing that's really true for all transitional neighborhoods in New York, especially if you have relatively high safety concerns, is to check out the block and the walk to the subway at appropriate hours of the night. There are places that are really different at 11 p.m. Friday from how they are at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.
posted by MattD at 9:47 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just a note on the safety thing -- I feel fine walking around alone at night on streets in the mid-100s in East Harlem (sober; I don't do so when I've been drinking a lot) so I have a relatively high bar for what's "not safe."
posted by andrewesque at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2016

I lived in Sunset Park from the end of 2006 to September 2008, so take my knowledge with a big grain of salt, but:

$1500 for a studio or 1 bedroom in Sunset Park seems low to me. I was paying $1350 for a 1-bedroom 8 years ago, and that was on 40th between 7th and 8th (i.e. in kind of a dead zone.)

If you want easy access to a drugstore, a gym, and a laundromat, you're going to want to live closer to 4th Ave. If you want access to Chinese grocery stores, you're going to want to live closer to 9th Ave. So... kind of at cross purposes. Sunset Park is pretty hilly east-west so it's not the easiest walk.

Your commute to downtown shouldn't be a problem, especially if you can live within walking distance of the 36th St station, which is express, the D/N/R stop there. Otherwise you're dealing with the D train at 9th Ave or the R train, which... don't live off the R train.

I can't speak to safety as I'm sure that has changed since I lived there, but I do recall that the side streets can get pretty desolate, and walking home from 36th St on weekends late at night after spending time in the city, I did have some homophobic slurs thrown at me (mariposa, maybe they didn't think I knew what they were saying, but I was a gay man living in New York, I knew what it meant.)

I hope this helps!
posted by Automocar at 10:31 AM on April 27, 2016

Not to blast into the thread and be like HAVE YOU CONSIDERED SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THAN WHAT YOU SAY YOU WANT, but does it have to be Brooklyn? You can get a place in your range for that in Queens.

There are many neighborhoods that will give you access to Asian groceries and some/most of the other stuff on your list, too. Check out Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, and Forest Hills. Some of those might max out your commute limit, particularly if you plan to rely on the 4/5/6 from Grand Central, which is god damn dreadful in the morning. Astoria is closer and ticks all your boxes, but you would have a much easier time finding a place if your budget stretched up to $1600 or $1700. Getting in with the right broker can help - I do know someone paying $1350 for a perfectly functional one-bedroom, but it required a Greek broker.
posted by superfluousm at 10:34 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I actually love Queens and would 100% move there because I do think it ticks off all the boxes except for the commute, which seems like it would get long from most places. I currently take the 4/5/6 all the way to Bowling Green and I feel like I'm girding myself for war every time I transfer from the local to the express.

Also, most friends I have in NYC are living in Brooklyn and I've been feeling a bit isolated in upper Manhattan, which is why I've been thinking about Brooklyn. (But perhaps I should be the first one to move to Queens and encourage them to follow me?)
posted by andrewesque at 10:41 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

In my experience, studios/1BRs are just not a big part of the housing stock. It hasn't gentrified like that, yet. Great neighborhood, though!
posted by unknowncommand at 12:05 PM on April 27, 2016

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