New Yorkers: Where do You Live? And Why?

As I’ve been working on my Manhattan and Brooklyn-based story from far away, I’ve been building a mental map of life in the city today, but it still has plenty of holes in it and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve lived there myself.

For anyone out there living in working in Manhattan and Brooklyn especially, I’d be curious to hear about the neighborhoods you live in and why you chose to live there.

[Note: No disrespect intended to Queens and the other boroughs (see first comment), the story just happens to take place mostly in those two. That said, I’d be curious to hear from all five boroughs just for the perspective.]

Discussion (23)¬

  1. Nick says:

    What about Queens?! Such disrespect for New York’s tastiest borough, Scott! I lived in Manhattan, below a restaurant, and had an extreme roach and mouse/rat problem (yes, you can have both). I escaped to Queens, where life is cheaper, more neighorhoody and far more diverse.

    • Scott says:

      Good point, Nick.
      Just updated the post to explain why the focus on Manhattan and Brooklyn, but I’d be happy to hear from all 5 boroughs.

  2. Chris says:

    I live in north Park Slope, straddling that neighborhood and Prospect Heights. I live there for the great community, good food, and beautiful neighborhoods. I’m close to everything and it takes a lot to pull me away from there!

  3. Ian says:

    Queens is trash. No need to include it. Might as well live in the worst parts of the Bronx. Manhattan is where everything is, where everyone goes, and is by far the most interesting of the five boroughs. Restaurants, bars, museums, parks, everything you could want is within 15 minutes walking distance from any given point on the island.

  4. Chvad SB says:

    I live in Bushwick. More out of need than want. I could afford it. I was in Williamsburg but it got too expensive for me to live there. So in attempts to find a place I could afford that would also allow a larger dog… I ended up in Bushwick and I’m always looking for a better place to move. Bushwick itself isn’t bad but fewer food options and a much farther walk from the train. About 20 minutes to the nearest train.. eats up a lot of your day in the long run. I’m rarely in the neighborhood unless I’m walking my dog or sleeping. I work in midtown Manhattan (used to work in Brooklyn when I interviewed you and your family for my radio show ‘Everything Goes’) but I couldn’t live in Manhattan due to the space I need for the dog and such.

  5. Traci says:

    I live in the Bronx, which often gives people pause. People like myself who move to New York from elsewhere in the country usually settle in Manhattan or Brooklyn and never so much as visit the Bronx, unless you count Yankee Stadium. It seems most people in the Bronx were either born living here, or are immigrants from a foreign country. As a white woman, I certainly get a lot of queer glances on the subway, north of Harlem. I live here because I fell in love with a life long Bronx resident. We met on an internet dating site. I sometimes fantasize about moving to prettier neighborhoods in Brooklyn or Manhattan, but the low cost of living will probably keep us here. Also, my boyfriend has family and friends in the Bronx whom he has known his whole life. It’s priceless to have friends who stop by for a visit any day of the week, who will pop over to share dinner when you happen to have cooked too much. It’s like I always imagined college would be, but it never quite was.

  6. jason says:

    I don’t live in NY anymore (had to move to take various jobs), but I still own real estate in NY, so I feel confident answering this question.

    Like Chris, I lived in Park Slope. I lived in south slope though. My wife and I lived in three different apartments over the better part of a decade, all in the same three block radius.

    It’s a great neighborhood. Very easy to get all over the city, relatively affordable (or it was then), and just very nice place to live.

    I also lived in the financial district in Manhattan for four years when I was in college. I *loved* it there. It’s close enough to the more happening parts of lower manhattan to be accessible, but at the same time it gets really quiet and deserted at night. Plus it’s just a beautiful part of the city.

  7. Cindy says:

    I live in Williamsburg and I love it! A lot of people seem to live here because it’s incredibly convenient to get to Manhattan, but I hardly ever head into Manhattan because my neighborhood has just about everything I want a few blocks away–great restaurants, decent grocery stores, music venues, bookstores. The rent is pricey if you don’t have a roommate(s), but the amount of time/money you might save in transit seems well worth it. And it’s still cheaper than Manhattan.

    I grew up in the Midwest so I still prefer living in “low” buildings. The idea of waking up in a giant glassy tower just doesn’t appeal to me, and I like that–for now at least–the neighborhood is still predominantly walk-ups and smaller apartment buildings. All that waterfront development makes me nervous though…

    Lastly- I can buy real arepa flour at my neighborhood grocery store. Now that is truly awesome.

    • Scott says:

      Just out of curiosity, what do one bedroom apts rent for in trendier spots like Williamsburg these days?

      • Cindy says:

        A real one bedroom in Williamsburg (true Williamsburg, as opposed to the ever-expanding Williamsburg real estate agents have created) tends to start around $1500/mo for a cramped space in a walk-up to $3000+ for a condo turned rental or a luxury loft with all the amenities. I live in a 2 bedroom + office in a 4th floor walk-up for $2200/mo. A friend of mine has a 1 bdrm floor-thru near McCarren Park for $1700/mo. Many people in Williamsburg have migrated north to Greenpoint where the housing stock tends to be cheaper by about $100-$300/mo. The farther you get from the first two L stops, the cheaper the rent.

        Suffice it to say, this is the most expensive apartment I’ve ever lived in in my entire life. Prior to moving to Williamsburg, I was paying the second highest rent I’ve ever paid–$695/mo for a 1 bdrm + parking in Madison, WI!

  8. Speaking as a native New Yorker, some of you have some crazy opinions.

    I live in a park of Brooklyn called Gravesend — starts at the Grave and ends at Gravesend Neck Rd. It used to be an Italian and Jewish neighborhood, but it’s impossible to say that with the variety of ‘average’ class peoples that populate it now. Every train that’s important to Brooklyn and Manhattan are within walking distance and it’s also central to most of the real Brooklynese parks of Brooklyn. To the south is Coney Island’s boardwalk, rides, and the old schooling ground of me and Mayor Hundred. To the west is Bay Ridge’s excellent ethnic restaurants and the entirety of Guido nightlife. To the east is Flatbush and it’s endless supply of things that you want to get cheaply or illegally including an education at Brooklyn College. Finally, to the north is Park Slope and eventually Williamsburg with their culture of immigrant yuppies and hipsters (respectively). Both excellent Brooklyn social scenes and the best ways to waste money on used clothing, food, and beer that you can get cheaper in ‘real brooklyn’. For all I know, all those high rent prices go towards curing cancer, but probably it’s just used to keep the hipsters from taking over the rest of the borough.

    Manhattan, obviously, is where everything New York is known for happens. It’s nice to be close to it, to enjoy it, but to live there is an entirely different game. Most people who are native to that place develop a kind of phobia of leaving it. “Why go to Brooklyn or New Jersey or Queens when Manhattan has it all?” It really depends on how you define all — Manhattan has a lot of everything, but because of the nature of space and money, it really does miss the ball on true distinction. Idiosyncrasy, on the individual or business level do not survive. For as long as I could remember, in a garage on a residential block near my house, there lived a woman who sells only hamsters — breeds that she herself designed. As far as I know, there is one Asian supermarket in all of Manhattan, but in Brooklyn, there are at least 6 in addition to an entirely Indian supermarket and a Mexican one, and in Queens, there’s specifically a Taiwanese supermarket. And what you find in each of these stores is a remarkably different selection of products. Constant surprise. This is of course meant to imply much more than just weird food. In Manhattan, even with all it’s people, it’s hard for distinction to survive, despite having ‘everything’. Of course, The Village is everything that Williamsburg aspires to be, where every new york kid spends a good chunk of his/her childhood, and in general, the only place that really deserves the title ‘Cool’. The five blocks of Little Italy are a waste 99% of the year. Only during the San Genaro feast is it ever worth the trip, and only for that rare look at a stampede of rats sometime in the late night-early morning hours. China Town is the only place in the borough that you can reliably buy psychotropic substances — in little tea stores no less — things you’ll never learn the English words for (if they even exist) — things that would make you wonder for what purpose the iconic Chinese crone would drink it.

    Queens is a maze of streets that have no meaning. How can 21st St, 21st Ave, 21st Ln, 21st Dr, 21st Ct, and 21st Pl all exist perpendicular to one another within a few blocks only to be picked up again in other Queens neighborhoods? (For those wondering, this is the reason why Queens is the only borough whose address refers to the neighborhood, not the borough itself). Nothing but cemeteries and parks anyway.

    The Bronx is mostly NOT a ghetto. I can’t speak for generations previous to mine, but in my experience, it’s just a gradient between what’s in Harlem and Westchester.

    Staten Island has nice bridges and a congested highway but is otherwise just houses — in my experience.

    I hope that was useful.

    • Scott says:

      That was terrific info, Mike. Thanks!

      And thank you to everyone who’s responded so far. This is very useful information.

  9. Avram says:

    I live in the southern end of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; easy walking distance from north Park Slope to the west and Crown Heights to the east. My girlfriend and I moved here in the early ’90s, because it was an affordable two-bedroom apartment with great places within a one or two-block walk: Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (that last being a lot more important before the Internet became widely available). Also, the subway access is pretty good. We were willing to put up with our nearest supermarkets being full of broken-down freezers and rotten food, since we had the superior shopping of Park Slope just a few blocks away. Back then, Prospect Heights was advertised as “Park Slope area” in real estate ads.

    Since then, the neighborhood has gentrified. The western end of Crown Heights is “Prospect Heights area” in real estate ads. Those crappy supermarkets have changed ownership, fixed their freezers, and sell all sorts of fancy goods, and one of them is open 24/7. The city put an express subway line through one of my nearby stations, so I can get to Chinatown in three stops, and Union Square in one more. There are more wifi coffee shops than I know what to do with, including a gourmet ice cream (and coffee) place near a convenient laundromat. There’s a great comics store (Bergen Street Comics) a short walk away. And our apartment is rent-stabilized.

    Don’t underestimate the value of a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartment. A friend of mine had a claim to a rent-controlled place on Manhattan’s upper east side (his grandmother had lived there, and he’d been living with her for a while before she died, and therefore had valid claim to inheriting it), and had an epic years-long legal fight with the building’s management (which he eventually lost). Everyone who’s lived in the city long enough knows a story like that, or someone paying ridiculously low rent for a great place.

  10. Marguerite says:

    Hi, I just have to answer this!
    I live in Ditmas Park in Brooklyn. It’s due south of Prospect Park, with lots of victorian houses and nice, tall trees. The whole place was built up around 1905 and it shows. This ‘nabe was sort of looked over for a long time, though it’s starting to go through a boom (though I’m praying not as big a boom as Park Slope – this is a rather comfy area and I like it as is!). Also, there is a lot of wonderful variety in the neighbors here that I like. Lots of different races, religions and families. As a result, it almost feels “suburbany” (especially with the vast majority of the structures here being three floors and under). It’s nice to be in Manhattan all day and then come home to the relative quiet.
    Also, just FYI: I don’t own a house, I’m renting an apartment created from a house attic.

    Hope this helps!

    • Everett says:

      I worked at an awesome cafe/bookstore on Cortelyou Rd. in Ditmas Park neighborhood in 2006-07. Residents sometimes referred to it as “Kensington,” and calling it “Flatbush” is probably not inaccurate either. I agree w/ Marguerite that it’s an incredible neighborhood – prior to working there I had been a member of the “Manhattan is where everything worthwhile is!” school, but never again. That far out (at 25 minutes min. on the Q) you start to meet a lot more people who live AND work in Brooklyn (like me), and somehow that changes the vibe a lot.
      Regarding diversity: 11218, Ditmas Park, was the most ethnically diverse zip code in the entire nation as of the 2000 census, I’m fairly sure. The bike ride to work was like a trip through that Disneyland ride with all the countries.

  11. Morgan says:

    I currently live in Sunset Park Brooklyn. Sunset Park is located between the two neighborhoods of Park Slope and Bay Ridge. It runs from roughly 36th Street (or the end of Green-Wood Cemetary to about 64th Street (or to where the Gowanus Expressway turns east) and goes from the water to 9th Avenue/Fort Hamilton Parkway.

    I had lived in Park Slope Brooklyn from 1993 until 2004. I moved because Park Slope continued to get pricier and pricier, plus I was renting and my soon to be wife owned her apartment in Sunset Park.

    Just by glancing about the above comments, and you’ve already got a good idea what Park Slope is like. Sunset Park his an intersting mix of people. There is a large thriving Mexican/Central American community on 4th and 5th Avenues in Sunset Park, and there is Brooklyn’s Chinatown located on 7th through 9th Avenue. Amongst all this are Coop apartment buildings that were built by Scandinavian’s in the 1920’s and these buildings still have Swedes, Finns, Poles and Slavs. These buidlings also have people like me: former Park Slope residents who can no longer afford Park Slope. OK gentrifiers.

    It is a very intersting time around my neck of the woods, as some postulate that Sunset Park will become “The Next Park Slope” as more gentrification takes place. Others point out that Chinatown is pushing out down towards the Hispanic Avenues, while other point out that the Hispanic community is more rooted here that it was when that community got pushed out of Park Slope in the early/mid nineteen-ninties.

    People like me like to live in Sunset Park because of the cost. There aren’t the “ammenities” of Park Slope like shops, bars and resuarants (unless of course you want to eat Mexican or Chinese food), however it is a short bus or subway ride to Park Slope or Bay Ridge to get to these places. Another reason people have moved out to my neck of Brooklyn is that for those of us who work in Manhattan it is an easier commute than most who live in Park Slope. Sunset Park is on two express subway lines, while most of Park Slope is served by local trains. I moved a couple of miles further away from Manhattan, but I get to work 10 -15 minutes faster.

    Lately, long time residents of Sunset Park are have been selling their appartments and brownstones, so more “Slopers” have been arriving. There is a hope around here that there can be more of a diversification in Sunset Park than a white wash, even by those of us who would be classfied as the white washers. Only time will tell.

    Oh, I didn’t even get to tell you about the artists that are moving into the old industrial part of my ‘hood from 3rd Avenue and below.

    If you are ever around Bklyn and you want to scope out Sunset Park let me know. We do have the best view of Manhattan from here.

  12. Dan says:

    I lived across the river in Hoboken (No jokin’, Hoboken!) which likes to call itself the Sixth Borough. However, the highest and best use for New Jersey in most NYC-based stories is a punchline, of course.

  13. sami says:

    this is goooooooodddd

  14. Paul Winkler says:

    Hi Scott. I live in Prospect Heights, probably a couple blocks from Avram. I live here because the street is quiet at night, it has beautiful trees, and in a 15 minute walk I can be at the park, the museum, the main library branch, or the botanic garden. And because I have friends up the block. And my commute is about 30 minutes. And the rent is sort of manageable (got a top-floor brownstone 1 BR apt for $1575 which is pretty low for these parts). And it’s a very baby-friendly area, which pretty much defines my life these days. (Yes, we had a baby daughter last year!)

    Sadly, we need more space for the kid and we might get priced out.

    Before that I lived in either Flatbush or Midwood depending on who you asked. I lived there because it was near a quick train (the Q/B stop at Newkirk), and we had tons of space for the rent (it could’ve been a 3 BR and went for $1200 in 2003). Wasn’t much in the neighborhood in the way of food or entertainment though. And the apartment was falling apart. And I almost lost my mind because I worked at home and Mr. Softee parked on the corner all day every day all summer. But I’d probably still be there if I hadn’t got married and found the current place.

    Before that I lived in East Williamsburg on the Bushwick border, because semi-livable industrial spaces were semi-cheap there at the time (1997) and you could still find a place for a rock band to both live and rehearse. It was pretty bleak though, since most of the space had no windows at all; only the kitchen had a tiny window with a view onto a giant yellow wall.

  15. John says:

    Dear Scott,

    I live in Queens (astoria) but work as a process server in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The one thing I’m not sure anyone has mentioned is that if you take any train in NYC for 2-5 stops you end up in a totally different neighborhood and totally different aura.

  16. John says:

    If you need reference photos let me know. i’d be happy to take anything you like.

  17. Alex Katsanos says:

    Hey Scott..I used to live in Williamsburg too but now I’m back in Manhattan. I have a unique living situation right now that is almost rent free so I’m taking advantage of it. I live in Murray Hill. I would say it’s distinguishing feature is It’s surrounded by colleges. We have Baruch, School of Visual Arts and NYU’s dental and Medical schools all around us. There are some bars and decent restaurants, it’s kind of a bland neighborhood, they continually build dormitories all over the place from 14th street and Third Avenue up to the mid-twenties. The building I live in is really a glorified dormitory. For folks that don’t want the dorms, they may live in the their apartment for 6 months to a year and then they move out and someone else, usually a group of at least 3 move right in.