Hypothetical New York City Life/Neighborhood Question No. ######
August 15, 2018 5:12 PM   Subscribe

What does a low-key, queer, non-drinking centric, geeky, single people + family friendly NYC life look like? Hypothetical move day-dream snowflakes within.

My window into NYC has been through a friend I love dearly, but is part of a community that values different things from me at this point. So I'm trying to sort of reset my expectations and start fresh. When I describe the following, what sort of neighborhoods or communities do you think about:

Awesome queer women, geeky interests (pinball, gaming of all kinds really, sci fi), readings and talks, an environment that could be a good place to foster/adopt kids in (inclusive and diverse community, on the low-key side while still having some bustle), doable entirely by walking and transit.

I expect some of the stuff (like the readings) may require hopping on a train, which I'm definitely happy to do (I know it's gotten a lot worse in recent years, but I've always been a train geek and happy to spend time riding rails).

I'm not very interested in bars (I don't drink), parties places that have a veneer of coolness, etc. I'd like to be able to socialize more based on my interests (which is the part I've never seen in NYC), and otherwise I am very content to live my grandma life, getting home by 11, all of that :p But! For me, I don't need quiet or isolation or mossy groves to feel cozy. I love the hum of activity in NYC (growing up in the Boston area my favorite thing was to ride the subways and explore the squares, and now I love reading in diners and stuff like that). I also want to be out of my comfort zone, out there taking risks, going on dates, all of that. I just think I understand what I want for myself more clearly than I did when I was younger, trying to force it with some of these things.

My intuition from my limited base of knowledge is that I would possibly like Queens a lot (I've only been very briefly, once for a concert and once for delicious ramen, and I liked it but didn't get a real sense of it). As far as BK goes, my friend lives in Crown Heights which I don't really love - there seems to be a really intense and disjointed racial divide (or rather, white hipster spaces superimposed on top of black/POC communities) that makes me uncomfortable, and I don't really feel at home in bougie brunch places/etc.

When it comes to Brooklyn in general, I to be honest feel intimidated and put off by all of the hippest of hip acquaintances I know via social media who live/party/post stuff from around town. I know that's a pretty superficial reason to feel wary of an entire borough, and so I'm trying to get past that and determine, hey, how might this be a community where I could grow and participate in and come to love in some capacity? I know that there are other cities that fit my vibe and interest a little more naturally (Minneapolis comes to mind -- for a point of reference, I'd love to find a place that feels like Seward/Longfellow/Powderhorn or something like that) but I'm curious if I might find it in NYC, too.

Anyways! I'd be eager to hear any stories you have, field notes from friends, suggestions, etc. Thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What you're describing says Jackson Heights, Queens, to me, but it does have a bar scene. You'd want to be careful to pick a quieter street for your home, but it's worth a look for the community, transit access, and allover bustle. (Terrific food, too, which makes for no-brainer date destinations.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:06 PM on August 15, 2018

I know someone who basically lives exactly this life in Astoria.
posted by mosst at 7:23 PM on August 15, 2018

I don't know much about Queens, so I'll only speak to Brooklyn. I think it's hard to find a place that isn't being uncomfortably gentrified AND also doesn't have a white hipster vibe AND also has a nerdy queer scene. My first instinct when reading your description was in fact Crown Heights, but yes, it's got a disjointed racial divide. That being said, Park Slope is solidly already gentrified but still has some diversity, has lots of nerdy stuff happening and some queer ladies.

I would also maybe look into South Slope/Windsor Terrace, Sunset Park, and Ditmas Park. Windsor Terrace and Ditmas Park are relatively sleepy and family-y at the moment, but I know some single peeps that seem to find a good life in South Slope and Sunset Park. I can't speak to the presence of an LGBTQ community in those areas though (doesn't mean it doesn't exist though).
posted by greta simone at 7:41 PM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Seconding Queens and Windsor Terrace/Ditmas Park. I would also consider upper Manhattan, specifically the Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights areas.
posted by Caz721 at 7:52 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

You’re describing Astoria, or maybe Inwood. Parts of Greenpoint would qualify as wel.

I’d be wary of moving out to Jackson Heights or Forest Hills, because while those are low key places, they are distant and socially isolating. This is probably also true of Inwood, also, even though I recommended it.

While you may not be into drinking or bougie brunches, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have friends within a relatively quick subway ride away.
posted by deanc at 8:06 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, if you want to avoid overly hip/party scene just don't live in Bushwick, Ridgewood, Williamsburg/East Williamsburg, pretty much all of Manhattan between 14th St and Canal.

Everywhere else is pretty chill, and yeah as noted above you should really try to live near your friends so you don't go crazy enuring constant hellish commutes just to grab a cup of coffee with them or something.

If I had to pick an area for you though I'd probably just say the Southern part of Park Slope.
posted by windbox at 9:25 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm in Sunnyside, which is adjacent to Astoria in Queens, and I'll put in a plug for my neighborhood. Cozy, chill, diverse, a lot of cute family-oriented neighborhood activities like acoustic concerts under the elevated train line, good food, super convenient to midtown and then the rest of the city. There's a gaming store in East Astoria which always looks fun. There isn't a super visible queer community here but I know many queer folks who live here and love it.

But I also agree with windbox, that you can build this life in many different neighborhoods in NYC, anywhere that isn't Williamsburg or the village basically. If you are serious about kids, do research school districts -- my impression is that finding a good public school is fairly complicated here.
posted by EmilyFlew at 5:37 AM on August 16, 2018

Kensington, Ditmas Park, Clinton Hill and Bedford in Brooklyn are where most of my friends who fit your description live, and they’re all very happy. Greenwood Heights and Sunset Park would also serve you very well if you can find a place in your price range. (Note that with Sunset Park, the neighborhood essentially has three micro-neighborhoods inside of it which are different from each other, starting with the more industrial area close to the BQE where Industry City is, then a Mexican and Puerto Rican neighborhood around 5th Ave, then Chinese around 8th. There are also a large number of people from other ethnicities and races who live throughout, it’s one of the more diverse neighborhoods in the borough.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:55 AM on August 16, 2018

I've only lived in Astoria for a year since it's been mentioned a couple times, but I feel like I should offer my contrasting opinion. There are essentially no readings or talks (LIC Bar hosts a reading series, but that's not really Astoria); the culture is a mix of older conservative families and younger professional types with more mainstream tastes and interests than you'd find in, say, Williamsburg. Think sports bars, trivia nights, bingo, that kind of thing. There is one small bookstore which is decent, but nothing to write home about. I have also not noticed much of a queer scene here (though I am not queer so take that with a grain of salt). All of which is to say, I find Astoria a bit bland (I'll be moving soon for that reason), and I suspect you might too. (I also think its supposed transit convenience is overstated; most weekends and many nights for months the N/W has been shut down completely between Queens and Manhattan for construction. Also, lots and lots of readings and talks take place in Brooklyn, which is a huge pain to get to from Queens even when the trains are running.)

I do think the kind of life you're talking about is possible in NYC, but you may have to choose between some competing priorities. Generally, areas convenient to readings and talks are also going to have some bourgie brunch spots; many readings and other cultural events take place in bars (as does a lot of socialization in general, since many people's apartments are too small to entertain) and I think you will enjoy the city more if you are comfortable hanging out in bars (even if you're not drinking).
posted by enn at 6:05 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

(This is fantastic so far, thank you! Just wanted to add: on re-read I think I was more judgy than I meant to be about some of the details. I'm actually totally comfortable meeting up with friends in bars and just not drinking myself, especially cozy and/or divey spots -- I just don't prioritize those spaces. And similarly I enjoy breakfast foods greatly, I just don't personally feel relaxed in extra chic-feeling restaurant/brunch places partly due to having no idea how to be in those spaces. I remember when my ex's dad came to town and took us out to a very nice Italian restaurant and I had never tried pronouncing the word 'gnocchi' before, let alone what was going on in the wine conversation... but yeah, open to whatever more y'all have to say thanks!)
posted by elephantsvanish at 6:27 AM on August 16, 2018

I'm in Inwood, and I love it, but is a real haul to get downtown -- if you're not super energetic about getting yourself out, and you didn't have a pre-existing circle of local neighborhood friends, I would think it might be isolating.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:54 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Park Slope (if you can afford it) or Kensington if you can't.
posted by RajahKing at 9:26 AM on August 16, 2018

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