While they once lived like frenemies, these two New York City boroughs are now more akin to a pair of stylish sisters. Different, but both charming in their own ways. One has the timeless glitz of a tourist mecca (cue the Broadway show tunes!). The other is full of hidden thrills, including unforgettable beaches and some of New York City’s best pizza neighborhoods. So which borough is best for you: Brooklyn vs. Manhattan? We spoke with expert realtors to get the need-to-know intel on both sides of the water. The upshot: you can’t go wrong. Here we share the median asking prices as of January 2022 for desirable areas in both boroughs.
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How Much Does It Cost To Live in Each Borough?
When you’re weighing living in Brooklyn vs. Manhattan, you have many factors to consider. “I have done some work in Brooklyn, and we’re in the middle of helping our son buy an apartment in Brooklyn,” says Manhattan-based Robin J Roy, licensed real estate salesperson for Corcoran. When you’re choosing between the two boroughs, she says, “I don’t think it’s about someone else’s opinion. You either want to live in Brooklyn or want to live in Manhattan.”
Still, the cost is often a top consideration. And when it comes to the price wars between Brooklyn vs. Manhattan, the latter often comes out on the fancier side. As of January 2022, the median sales price in Brooklyn was just $899,900, compared to $1.5 million in Manhattan for the same period. Rentals fared about the same. The median asking rent in Brooklyn was $2,722. But over in Manhattan, the median asking rent was $3,700.
Expensive and Affordable Neighborhoods
Now, say you want to be in one of the fanciest neighborhoods. In Brooklyn, you could buy a place in Carroll Gardens for around $2.6 million or rent for $4,500 in Dumbo. Over in Manhattan, the median asking sale price for Tribeca is $4.5 million, and the median rent is $7,500.
However, longtime New Yorkers know that some of the more affordable areas have grandeur galore, too. When architecture fiends debate Brooklyn vs. Manhattan, they have plenty of ammo on both sides, including prewar apartment buildings and intricate brownstones. (That’s why you’ll find celebrities making their homes in both boroughs). But when it comes to affordable units, it’s tough to beat Inwood, Manhattan’s median asking rent: $1,999. That’s similar to Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s reasonable $2,000. To buy, you can expect to pay $534,500 in Washington Heights, Manhattan compared to $499,000 in Kensington, Brooklyn.
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Brooklyn vs. Manhattan Commute Times
Many Manhattanites feel they have the proverbial leg up in the Brooklyn vs. Manhattan battle when it comes to commuting. “In Manhattan, you can be anywhere quickly,” says Francine Crocker, a licensed associate real estate broker for Corcoran. “I live on the Upper East Side but have sold a lot in Soho, and I just jump on the subway, and it’s like a magic carpet — you’re down there in 15 minutes.”
But sometimes, lengthier commutes come with hidden benefits, as many of us learned during the Covid-19 pandemic. Harvard researchers have found that commutes are vital for providing employees with relaxation and thinking time. (Plus: extra moments to dig into their latest reading or TV-binge obsession.)
Brooklyn Offers Short and Long Commute Times
Additionally, the long-held belief that units in Brooklyn are cheaper or better for car-owners isn’t necessarily true anymore, real estate agents told us. But the fact is if you need a little downtime between work and home, living in Brooklyn might be your best bet. Lots of Brooklyn neighborhoods can be plenty convenient if you’re working in “the city.” Hop on an F train in Park Slope, and you’ll be at Midtown’s 42nd Street Station in about 35 minutes. Live closer to the East River, and you’ll arrive in a zip. Residents of Brooklyn’s Dumbo know they can be in Midtown in just 22 minutes via the F train. Farther flung, residents of Brighton Beach will need to allow 46 minutes to get to Midtown on the B train. But hey, that’s just more time to pop on your headphones and catch up on Netflix.
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Where To Find Entertainment
Sure, Manhattan gets most of the international fanfare when it comes to entertainment. It’s a megawatt place: home to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Madison Square Garden — which can seat a whopping 20,789 screaming fans. Plus, there are throwback thrills galore. They include Harlem’s Apollo Theater, which has seen Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, and more has taken the stage since it opened in 1914. Then there’s Radio City Music Hall — where the only thing more jaw-dropping than the Rockettes is the Art Deco architecture. Opened in 1933 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the infamous spot has marble and gold finishes so opulent it’s no wonder films like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” opened there.
Brooklyn Is Entertaining Too
But what Brooklyn lacks in pedigree, it more than makes up for with big news. The 19,000-seat Barclays Center opened to the tune of 1 billion dollars in 2012. Since then, the arena has hosted everything from concerts (Jay-Z was the first headliner) to sports aplenty (it’s the Brooklyn Nets H.Q.).
When we asked longtime Park Slope, Brooklyn resident and Corcoran licensed real estate salesperson Fumiko Akiyama for her favorite venue in her borough, we got further proof that sometimes the best things in life don’t cost a thing. “In the summer, there’s a bandshell in Prospect Park with free concerts June through August,” she says. Last year’s performances included Skip Marley, Grammy winner (and grandson of Bob — no big deal).
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Where To Find Big Attractions
If you thought Brooklyn couldn’t hold its own against Manhattan regarding things to do, think twice. For one thing, it’s one of NYC’s beach towns. “Coney Island is so cool living on the water,” Crocker says. “It’s kind of awesome that you can do that.” Plus, where in Manhattan can you hop on a 1920s Ferris wheel overlooking the frothy sea? Or ride a 1927 rollercoaster that’s the second steepest on earth?
Culture obsessives will want to beeline to the Brooklyn Museum to ogle an ever-changing collection of works. Right next door: the 52-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where you can roam a Shakespeare garden and a 65-foot-tall conservatory stocked with lush tropical plants, including Madagascar palm trees.
Of course, if you’re seeking quantity as well as quality, Manhattan ranks. The island is home to more than a hundred museums. Included among the boldfaced names? Unexpected offerings like the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, where you can follow in the footsteps of immigrant families that lived in the largely preserved apartments between 1860 and 1930. History addicts can’t get enough of The Met Cloisters, where medieval art finds are tucked within former French monasteries and abbeys. (Don’t miss the unicorn tapestries, which are precisely as magical as they sound.)
One last good to know: remember, when deciding between Brooklyn vs. Manhattan, there are no wrong answers. As Roy says: “New York is always changing. The desirability of neighborhoods is always changing.” Translation: you do you.