Welcome to the introductory post of “Q&A Train,” which is a regular feature that will confront issues around renting, buying, selling and just plain living in New York City. Our team of expert NYC dwellers is here to help. Post your questions and your question might be featured here!
Let’s dive into our first question of the series:
Question: Brooklyn vs. Manhattan??
I’m a 30 year old female, wanting to fulfull her dream of living in NY. I grew up in Austin, have lived in DC the last 9 years and am finally wanting to make my way to the City. Austin is a young, funky and liberal town that has in many ways shaped who I am, and DC has been fun, but a little too “buttoned up” for me. I am looking to experience the buzz of NYC, diversity, food, culture and excitement. Lately, it seems that Brooklyn is all the rage, but a piece of me feels that I’d miss out if I didn’t move to Manhattan. Is this a false conception? Trying to decide between an apartment in the Village or a place in Bushwick (or any other hip spot in Brooklyn). For a 1-2 year stay in NYC, where would I get the best experience? Any thoughts would be appreciated!
Ah, Tango! I can sense your eyes are all aglitter, your unscuffed boots strapped tight, ready to tackle the big city. But where to start? Manhattan or Brooklyn?
Since you were born in Austin and you’re currently living in Washington, DC, you’re no stranger to great cities and you’ve clearly gravitated to places with culture and diversity. You liked Austin’s young, liberal, funky atmosphere and you’re “looking to experience the buzz of NYC, diversity, food, culture and excitement…” You’re heading to the right city, Tango.
In both Brooklyn and Manhattan, there are neighborhoods that cater to your penchants and proclivities. (Truthfully, it’s hard to find a neighborhood without diversity, culture and excitement in New York.)
That said, in the past 10 years Brooklyn has really cashed in as the go-to spot for young people – making a name for itself as a destination for restaurants, music and art as well as a place where a breadth of ethnic enclaves and local traditions thrive.
Unfortunately, as interest has grown in Brooklyn so have its rents. In fact, rents in Brooklyn are predicted to exceed those of Manhattan in 2015, so the borough’s appeal is both bona fide and quantified.
Many of the Brooklyn neighborhoods that offer the very best of what you’re looking for, such as Greenpoint, Fort Greene and Sunset Park, are not recognizable blockbuster New York City destinations. Greenpoint might have that perfect mix of Polish bakeries, bespoke cocktail bars and industrial lofts, but tell your friends back in Bethesda you’re living three blocks from the McGuiness G stop and they’ll give you a blank look. Say you live around the corner from Central Park, well now there’s a place in New York they know!
The truth of the matter is you’re coming to live in the thick of it all. Which for better or worse, means Manhattan. It’s unlikely you’ll score a place around the corner from Carrie Bradshaw’s West Village brownstone or with views of the Empire State Building, but there are places in Manhattan that are affordable and accessible to newcomers.
Here are my suggestions:
- Harlem. Yes, Harlem. Central Harlem is about three stops north of Midtown on the 2/3 and offers the culture, diversity and excitement you might be looking for. It’s got a sense of history and tradition – both socially and architecturally – which is just the sort of stuff that makes a New York City neighborhood great. There are many prewar apartment buildings as well as some fantastic brownstones. (See Central Harlem rentals)
- Lower East Side. You can score a deal on the Lower East Side, but be prepared to face low quality housing stock. The area was built up as tenement housing so that means lots of old, narrow and low ceiling apartment buildings. (See Lower East Side rentals).
- Chinatown is another affordable downtown option, but again inventory is low and housing stock tends to be cramped. (See Chinatown rentals).
- East Village. If you’ve got the budget for it, the East Village is great – but again prepare to encounter more NYU undergrads than aging punk rockers on Bowery. (See East Village rentals).
You only move to the big city once, Tango, so you might as well throw yourself into the center of it all. You might find Brooklyn ultimately is the place for you, but you can always relocate there whether it’s for culture and excitement or a shady, tree-lined block for you and your stroller.