Where should I live in Brooklyn?
August 11, 2019 5:06 AM   Subscribe

I just accepted a job in Lower Manhattan Financial District and I'll be moving from the Midwest in October/November. Where in Brooklyn should I live? I have a child in elementary school, but as a single parent, I'm concerned about long commutes with no safety net / back up if the subway has an issue.

I'll be making enough in salary to afford a $3000 - $4500 2 bedroom apartment. It blows my mind to spend that much money, but I know that's what I should expect for NYC.
People have mentioned that I should look at Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, or Prospect Heights. I'm not a hipster person or a trendy mom. I like having restaurants and grocery stores and parks nearby, but I don't have time or much of a desire for a nightlife scene. Yes, I've googled the various communities and looked for current vacancies on StreetEasy.

But it would be really helpful if anyone from the area can provide color on the neighborhoods or advice on the public schools or streets to be near or stay away from.

Honestly, any non-obvious NYC relocation advice would be greatly appreciated, too!

posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The neighborhoods people have suggested are all fairly close to Manhattan, and you're looking at only a half-hour commute which is WONDERFUL.

I'll actually instead recommend my own neighborhood, Clinton Hill, and the neighboring Fort Greene; they're also similarly close to the city, has a few supermarkets (we're even getting a Wegman's in a couple months), there's two nice parks, and while there's a little of a nightlife scene it's kind of a chill one. There are parts of the neighborhood you may think you should shy away from because they're not close to subways, but there are LOADS of buses that will take you to the subways with only a five-minute ride, and you can transfer free between bus and subway. Also, New York has a ferry system in the East River, and there's a ferry stop near my apartment on a ferry line that gets you from my neighborhood to the Financial District within ten minutes' ride.

In my experience, actually, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill may actually be a little more tonier than you're looking for. They're pretty neighborhoods, and you'll have lots of subway access, but you may find that the restaurants are a little spendier, the grocery stores a little hipster-y-er, and the like. I actually occasionally go to Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill and etc. to window-shop and hang out on occasion, but I live in Clinton Hill. It's a little more laid-back to my mind, and there are a few more family-friendly things in Fort Greene Park (for instance, a dog costume contest every Halloween). I think you may find that the prices are also slightly cheaper.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:43 AM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I live in Brooklyn Heights and would highly recommend it. I don’t have kids, but it feels very much like a tiny town - kids walk around by themselves, parents and kids greet each other on the way to school, it’s one stop to Manhattan on the subway and the Brooklyn bridge is right there if you needed to take a car or even, worst case scenario, bike or walk. Several grocery stores, two playgrounds I know of, it’s very safe.

The only other advice is read up on what it takes to rent an apartment in New York - you’ll need tax returns, pay stubs, non-personal checks, etc etc. I would recommend finding a broker especially if you’re looking in this neighborhood - the rental market is small, and a lot of the buildings only work with brokers.
posted by umwhat at 6:31 AM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

For some reason Metafilter lists all the cool the neighborhoods. Your budget is good, but not great. If you're coming from the midwest you'll be thinking whatever you live in is a shit hole and that sucks to be spending that much and realize you don't even have a washer dryer in the building. I wouldn't worry about the subway, think of it like if you have a crash on the highway and a couple of times a year something unavoidable happens.

I'd suggest Bay Ridge or southern Brooklyn. You could, if you want, actually have a car there. There's a ferry that drops you right into FiDi, you're looking at a lot more room too. These neighborhoods are much more working class, think firefighters and cops, but not at all unsafe.

Keep in mind that people online tend to have wildly different views of what is acceptable to live in and what is affordable. Double this when you're living in a fashionable city where people put up with A LOT to just live there.

Personally, I think unless you're willing to make a lot of sacrifices you'll need to eat the commute and live in south Brooklyn/Staten Island or even further out like White Plains. This is not going to be popular but consider the culture shock you're facing. A lot of people doing this are just out of college without responsibility so living in a glorified expensive dorm is not an issue.
posted by geoff. at 6:48 AM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think geoff. has a good point. Consider Bay Ridge. You could have a yard, good inexpensive grocery stores, and no hipsters bringing the noise.Great kid-friendly parks. I don't know about the schools, though.
posted by Morpeth at 7:00 AM on August 11, 2019

If you're coming from the midwest you'll be thinking whatever you live in is a shit hole and that sucks to be spending that much and realize you don't even have a washer dryer in the building.

Erm....to re-direct, this Clinton Hill neighborhood rental I just found on Zillow is within your budget and has not just two bedrooms but also two bathrooms, has a laundry in the building, is a block from one supermarket and about three blocks from another supermarket, is a block from a park I totally forgot about when I was thinking about parks in my neighborhood, is two blocks from the A train, two blocks from a branch of the library, and is near three schools.

You don't necessarily have a yard, sure, but that still sounds quite far from being a "shithole" and that apartment looks far from being a "glorified dorm", going by the pictures.

Now, if you are thinking that you have to give up having a yard and are wishing you didn't, there are indeed options for that in Brooklyn. But the tradeoff will indeed be a commute; although maybe not quite so long, if you're working in the Financial District.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:28 AM on August 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

Brooklyn Heights seems like an excellent choice since you'd have access to a variety of subway lines as well as parks and restaurants. I think geoff. makes a good point that a lot of Mefites approach moving from a different perspective than you have, but I would gently push back on the idea that you need to move quite so far out, unless you really want a whole house/yard. (I grew up in NYC without a yard and wouldn't trade it for the world. If you do want that, though, may I recommend my current neighborhood of Ditmas Park? I know some parents I can put you in touch with if you Memail me.) In general I strongly think the tradeoff of the lengthened commute would cancel out a lot of the benefits. Good luck!
posted by ferret branca at 7:39 AM on August 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

This isn’t what you asked because it’s not Brooklyn, but have you thought about Battery Park City? In Manhattan, couldn’t be closer to where you work for worries about getting home fast, and I think you can find something inside the range you named.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:55 AM on August 11, 2019 [12 favorites]

I'm going to make a pitch for Manhattan, the Lower East Side communtity around Grand Street in particular. There are three co-op complexes (that usually have a handful of rentals available) along Grand Street that were built in the mid-20th century for union families that all feature large apartments with amazing gated and public parks, lots of playgrounds and schools, and plentiful grocery stores and amentities (we even just got a Trader Joe's!). You're also 9 minutes from Wall Street on the J train or 15 minutes by taxi (depending on traffic). Check out Seward Park, the Amalgamated Houses, and East River Co-Ops.

On preview, Lizard Breath makes a great point about Battery Park City. Being able to walk to work is the greatest possible version of New York City life, in this transplanted midwesterner's opinion.
posted by minervous at 8:05 AM on August 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

I agree with the people above who encourage you to live in Manhattan, as close to work as possible. Battery Park has a good public school, you would be close enough that if your kid gets sick you could get there quickly, something you can't always rely on if you live in Brooklyn. (Yes those public school ratings are not always accurate, but I do remember reading that it's a good school.)
posted by mareli at 10:28 AM on August 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I, too, was going to suggest BPC. I can easily imagine why, as a single parent, minimizing the commute would be of highest importance to you. I think you could get something okay, though not fancy, on your budget.

With respect to the LES suggestion, the J is a very frustrating train to rely on, because at most times it runs every ten minutes (shockingly infrequent for a Manhattan train). A realistic estimate from Essex/Delancey to, say, Broad Street, is closer to 20 minutes. That particular area, however, has undergone a significant upgrade in family-friendly neighborhood amenities in just the past couple of years, as the huge Essex Crossing development (slightly north of the co-ops described) has put in a small-format Target, the largest Trader Joe's on the East Coast, a movie theater, a brand-new home for the Essex Market (street vendors), and more to come (including a bowling alley). The grocery store situation remains not ideal, though.
posted by praemunire at 11:05 AM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm going to add another general bit of info just so I can ask a question in a minute.

In a sense we're kind of splitting hairs with the Brooklyn neighborhoods because a lot of the places people are mentioning are kind of close together anyway. I've sung the praises of Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, others have spoken up about Brooklyn Heights, you were considering Boerum Hill. But those neighborhoods are all actually a walkable distance from each other, or just a few bus stops. I'm in kind of the northeast corner of Clinton Hill, but I could be in Brooklyn Heights in about ten minutes on a bus tops. And most of the time I walk it because it's that close.

Neighborhoods you may want to avoid if you're looking for something quiet are Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO. Downtown Brooklyn is a big shopping drag - guaranteed you'll be doing some school clothes shopping there, since there's not only a Macy's and a few outlet stores for Old Navy and the Gap and such, but it's also right where there's a new complex with a Target, a designer resale store called Century 21, a food court, and one of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters. And DUMBO has a lot of super-hipster boutiques and shops and such; however, it's also really near Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is a great resource for outside fun during the year. (And Brooklyn Bridge Park itself butts up along Brooklyn heights! Everything is close together, seriously.)

Now the question which is actually for praemunire - there's a movie theater in Essex Crossing? Seriously?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on August 11, 2019

Corner of Delancey and Norfolk. It's only been open for about...two months, I think. Regal, so nothing artistically ambitious.
posted by praemunire at 11:58 AM on August 11, 2019

Hm, doing a little Streeteasy cruising, I'm going to correct my opinion that you might find a BPC 2-bed at the high end of your range. It doesn't cost to look, but you'd need to be lucky.
posted by praemunire at 12:39 PM on August 11, 2019

1) If you're planning to have your kid in an afterschool program, consider that the costs vary widely depending on the neighborhood and particular school, and some only run until 4 or 5 p.m., so you'd have to leave work by 4:15 to make the pickup from Tribeca to Carroll Gardens. There are free afterschool programs in NYC at certain schools (usually Title I schools). Insideschools is a good resource for looking at schools. If commute really is the issue, I'd strongly consider living in BPC in a large one-bedroom (many people make this work, especially with one kid) and certain schools are really desired.

2) All of District 15 (Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope) is likely rezoning their schools over the coming year so the Streeteasy info may not be correct on that. Those neighborhoods are lovely, but agree that they're increasingly tony in an odd way.

3) If you really want quiet, certain areas of Bay Ridge are very quiet and you can take the express bus to Tribeca in about 25 minutes at certain times of day (by subway it's an hour and change, however).
posted by luckdragon at 7:46 AM on August 12, 2019

People who can't afford it suck it up to live in Battery Park City because of its excellent public schools. You will also have a non existent commute and kid friendly amenities all along the west side. Bonus, you can afford it!

Brooklyn while lovely adds a layer of complication to your life that you will not need as a single parent.
posted by perdhapley at 9:25 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh a nice resource beyond the subway is the new nyc ferry system. Makes lower Manhattan to points in Brooklyn a breeze. Maybe someone can chime in if school districts are good near the ferry stops.
posted by perdhapley at 12:50 PM on August 12, 2019

Um, sorry I keep responding here. Would memail if possible but once the kid approaches middle school, public school options take a nosedive depending on the school district. If you needed to you could then move to northern Staten island (reachable by ferry) put the kid in private school while cutting your housing cost in half.
posted by perdhapley at 3:47 PM on August 12, 2019

Hi, You are getting lots of incorrect info here. My job is helping families moving to nyc. I’m a social worker, not a real estate person. This is my area of expertise.
1. Do not bother with Essex St, Lower Eastside. It’s district 1 for schools. Not a good district, generally. In Manhattan you want district 2. ALL the schools are strong.
In Brooklyn, you’ll want Cobble Hill- ps 29, Carroll Gardens - ps 158 (I think), or Brooklyn Hgts- probably ps 8. Park Slope is nice but pricey, esp in the zone for ps 321.
Look at insideschools.org - look at numbers of free lunch kids and % meeting academic goals. Schools in Clinton Hill and other areas don’t have great schools. Stick to the areas I mentioned. Do not go to Staten Island. Not so cool, dull, working class and solidly Republican. Unless you like that.

2. Someone suggested Bay Ridge. OK schools, not fab, and a long trip into Manhattan. As a single mom, you need to cut commute time. You cannot prob not afford Battery Pk City. Prices have skyrocketed there.
You will probably get the most for your money on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, east of 2nd ave. And you will most likely need to go to 4K for rent. Lots of no-fee rental buildings, tons of families (because of the schools). You might look at Stuyvesant Town - STPCV.com - great community, good schools-ps 40, and lovely pvt grounds and parks.

3. Is your company offering any relocation assistance? Most will at least pay a broker fee, moving expenses and may subsidize your rent. I can suggest a few solid real estate agents but not sure if that’s allowed.

4. I moved to NYC as a single mom too. GREAT place to raise kids. Once you settle in, you’ll love it too.

Let me know if you have questions. Happy to help a newcomer.
posted by kate s at 12:51 PM on August 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

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