8 Affordable Neighborhoods in NYC
Where to shop for an apartment when the neighborhood you want isn't the neighborhood you can afford
The dream of living in a certain type of building in a specific neighborhood is one that’s deeply rooted in the average New Yorker’s psyche. Equally known is just how much those wants will cost you (hint: a lot). That’s the bad news. The good news is that in a city as large as New York, something equally as amazing—if not better—is usually right around the corner. In the case of real estate, this means that if you can’t afford your dream ‘hood, there’s likely a bet-you-can-barely-tell-the-difference neighborhood in your future.
Of course, flexibility is key in helping you save some dough on an apartment, no matter where you decide to hang your hat. For example, apartments with highway or brick wall views usually cost less than those that offer picturesque rooftop or river scenery, and walk-ups are almost always cheaper than buildings with elevators and 24-hour doormen. And when you’re comparing prices, keep in mind that an apartment whose rent includes utility costs just might be cheaper over the course of a year than those that don’t.
After that, picking the right neighborhood really can help when it comes to saving some cash. NewYork.com asked Mukul Lalchandani, broker with The Modern Agent (themodernagent.com), to identify eight lesser known or up-and-coming neighborhoods that offer alternatives to the more well-known and pricier ones. He also supplied the average prices for one-bedrooms across the city. To see listings for rent now in neighborhoods around the city, click here.
Your dream ‘hood: TriBeCa, Manhattan, $4,572 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Live here instead: Battery Park City, Manhattan, $3,337 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Similarities: Both neighborhoods are popular with starter families for their abundant parks, quaint, quiet streets, low crime rates and good public schools. They also offer access to the idyllic parks and playgrounds along the Hudson River.
Differences: In comparison to the bustling, celebrity-with-children-magnet that is Tribeca, Battery Park City can seem lonely, isolated and service-bereft. Indeed, it’s cut off by the West Side Highway, and it’s a bit of a walk to the Financial District’s many subway lines. If restaurants and stores in Battery Park City are fewer in number than in TriBeCa, there are still a handful of eateries within its bounds, including a Shake Shack. The 10,000-square-foot Battery Park City Library, which opened in 2010, is a point in the neighborhood’s favor. It’s also just a 10-minute walk from central Battery Park City to the edge of Tribeca.
Your dream ’hood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, $2,925 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Live here instead: Greenpoint, Brooklyn, $2,500 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Similarities: With rapidly developing waterfronts and the shared McCarren Park, there’s a lot of resemblances in these two iconic Brooklyn neighborhoods. Both have a ton of restaurants and retail stores, and much of the same hipster crowd that takes up residence in Williamsburg has made its way over to Greenpoint.
Differences: Although it’s true that the hipster vibe is making its way to Greenpoint, there’s a historic and dominant Polish presence in this section of Brooklyn too. In fact, it’s not uncommon to come across three generations of a family living on the same street, which gives Greenpoint a more familial feel. While the art and music scene may be more vibrant in Williamsburg right now, realtors consider the Greenpoint of today to be the Williamsburg of five years ago. Of course, if you want access to anything other than the G train, you’ll have to walk, bike or transfer to the L at Bedford, but for many that’s a small price to pay for lower rent and quieter streets.
Your dream ’hood: Park Slope, Brooklyn, $2,300 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Live here instead: Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, $2,200 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Similarities: By day both of these Brooklyn neighborhoods are filled with strollers and pedestrians and give off a family-friendly vibe. Although Park Slope bests Prospect Heights in number and variety of restaurants and shops, both are well-served. The Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and the Brooklyn Public Library are located in Prospect Heights, and they’re a short walk from the north end of Park Slope, as well.
Differences: Although the average one-bedroom price isn’t drastically cheaper in Prospect Heights, the cost of living in that area tends to be less when you consider its popular 99-cent stores, bars that offer discounted drafts and overall cheaper restaurant options. In Park Slope the name of the food game is organic, eco-friendly and local (aka: pricey), while you’ll likely find more eclectic and wallet-friendly options in Prospect Heights. That said, Prospect Heights is now home to a beer-brewing shop and an entire store devoted to mayonnaise, so get your below-market rate apartment now …
Your dream ’hood: West Village, Manhattan, $3,495 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Live here instead: Murray Hill, Manhattan, $3,351 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Similarities: Even though Murray Hill has often been branded as “unhip,” a recent influx of restaurant hot spots and a younger, less fratty crowd is slowly changing that, giving it more of the trendy vibe that you’ll find in the West Village. Long-time residents of Murray Hill rave about the pockets of quiet and serenity that you’ll find there—much like the serene, tree-lined streets for which the West Village is known.
Differences: The West Village wins the charm race with a uniform relaxed, bougie vibe and more upscale shops and restaurants. Murray Hill, however, is in the process of shaking its frat boy image, even if you can still find raucous bars on Third Avenue. By day the neighborhood is quiet and blocks vary from those containing high-rises to elegant townhomes. Having Grand Central in the vicinity is a boost, too, but for those on the east side of the neighborhood, walking to the 4, 5 or 6 can be quite a trek—something that will change when the Second Avenue subway is completed (projected December 2016).
Your dream ’hood: Long Island City, Queens, $2,830 average a month 1-bedroom
Live here instead: Sunnyside, Queens, $1,650 average a month 1-bedroom
Similarities: With short subway rides into the city, both LIC and Sunnyside have become popular destinations in Queens for young professionals looking to save a bit of cash on rent. Both areas have a low-key, quiet vibe that’s not so easily found in busier, more heavily trafficked Manhattan neighborhoods.
Differences: If you’re looking for a thriving art scene outside of Manhattan, Long Island City is the place; it’s home to P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center and a multitude of art galleries and studio spaces. Glittering new towers makes up much of the neighborhood’s housing stock and also offer spectacular views of Manhattan. When it comes to cultural diversity and neighborhood feel, however, Sunnyside has Long Island City beat, and its real estate offerings are different, too. Much of Sunnyside is taken up by six-story apartment buildings dating to the 1920s and 30s, and the more suburban-feeling area of Sunnyside Gardens is famous as one of the country’s first planned communities.
Your dream ’hood: East Village, Manhattan, $2,895 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Live here instead: Lower East Side, Manhattan, $2,425 average a month 1-bedroom price
Similarities: Neither of these east side neighborhoods takes themselves too seriously—and both are bustling with local businesses of all types running morning through night. You’ll find an eclectic food scene and plenty of bars in both the East Village and the Lower East Side, as well as everything from curated thrift shops to pricey boutiques.
Differences: The bar scene in the East Village tends to have a more relaxed vibe, whereas the Lower East Side can be a party scene late into the night. The LES also has a grittier reputation, although with recent gentrification and new high-rise condos in the neighborhood, there’s less of a gap there than many people realize.
Your dream ’hood: Chelsea, Manhattan, $3,795 average a month 1-bedroom price
Live here instead: Midtown West, Manhattan, $3,350 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Similarities: You’ll find pretty, tree-lined streets and more busy business thoroughfares in both Chelsea and Midtown West, neighborhoods that draw a heavy professional crowd. Both Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, within Midtown West, have historically attracted a gay population.
Differences: Chelsea was the first of the neighborhoods to bloom and is known for its trendy shopping and favored brunch spots, as well as its fashion-centric habitants. Midtown West, while less fancy, offers a diverse ethnic restaurant scene, and its central location means proximity to Central Park and the Midtown business district. Several new towers have gone up near the Hudson River, offering apartments with modern amenities and scenic river views in exchange for a long walk to the subway, which doesn’t go west of Eight Avenue.
Your dream ’hood: Riverdale, Bronx, $1,600 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Live here instead: Belmont, Bronx, $1,000 average a month for a 1-bedroom
Similarities: Both areas have their fair share of outdoor pull—Riverdale with its sweeping views of the Hudson and Wave Hill garden and Belmont with its proximity to the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden. It’s accessible to Manhattan via the Metro-North Railroad, which stops along the Hudson River at the Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale stations. Fordham is serviced by the Metro-North railroad; a 15-minute walk brings you to the B, D subway lines.
Differences: You’ll find mostly upscale, residential neighborhoods with larger houses and co-ops in Riverdale, whereas Belmont is dotted with multi-family attached houses and the occasional apartment building. Belmont borders Fordham University, and many of its students live in the area, which gives it a decidedly younger feel. Although neither one of these communities is known for its diverse restaurant scene, people come from all over (even neighboring states) to Belmont to purchase Italian specialties from the stores on Arthur Avenue, as they have for generations.