As evidenced by the plethora of apps and housing services that have cropped up in the past decade, NYC real estate is an industry unto itself. These companies have generated lots of data on a market that changes drastically from year-to-year. So if you’re approaching the NYC apartment hunt from a particular standpoint — for example, as a student — you can hone in on key variables and find the neighborhood that’s right for you.
For students, those key variables tend to include affordability, proximity, safety, subway access, and space. As a student, you may not need to be on campus everyday. Depending on your schedule, you may also be able to travel at off-peak times, which can be good for crowded train lines, but bad for catching an express. Or you may want to stick close to campus, to take advantage of the library, gym, and other facilities. You may be looking for a more spacious apartment if you intend to study at home, or for an area with lots of local coffee shop options. You might strongly prefer to live alone, to make studying easier — or you may be OK living with roommates, which will save money.
Whatever your situation, here’s a place to start — a list of some up-and-coming and tried-and-true neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn:
East Village/Lower East Side
In Manhattan your options are limited, mostly due to price. That said, the most viable downtown spots for students are the East Village and the Lower East Side. The Lower East Side is south of the East Village, but both are marked by older tenement walk-up buildings and a booming bar/restaurant/gallery scene.
While the Lower East Side and the East Village have a rich nightlife and history, compared to other neighborhoods, they lack options for basic neighborhood staples: food stores, gyms, etc. The Lower East side is most easily accessible by the J/M/Z/F/B/D subway lines, and the East Village by the 6/N/R/F/L.
At the opposite end of the island, you have Inwood and Washington Heights. Similarly old pre-war buildings in these neighborhoods provide more space this far north. Inwood is north of Washington Heights, and both are well north of Central Park, which might give some commuters pause. The rest of Manhattan is available by the A express train, however, and there’s nothing quite like the rush of entirely bypassing Central Park during rush hour.
Residents this far north have access to their own green space, and plenty of it. Inwood is quieter than Washington Heights, but both are relatively calm communities.
Clinton Hill/Prospect Heights
Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights are both old neighborhoods located north of Prospect Park–Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park. Clinton Hill is closer to the water while Prospect Heights is more south, closer to the park. Both have history, charm, and great food. Both are relatively quiet and safe and allow easy access to Fort Greene, Park Slope, and other surrounding neighborhoods.
Clinton Hill is slightly less accessible by the A/C/G lines, while Prospect Heights boasts access to the 2/3/4/5/B/Q lines.
Crown Heights/Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bedstuy)
Crown Heights and BedStuy are the Eastern counterparts of Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights, with BedStuy hugging the water and Crown Heights bordering Prospect Park. These neighborhoods are booming: both are culturally diverse and have lots on hand for food and entertainment.
As with Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights, Crown Heights has access to the 2/3/4/5 lines, and BedStuy to the A/C/G lines.
For North Brooklyn, consider Greenpoint. Located above Williamsburg, Greenpoint similarly boasts great food and coffee. The sticking point is the impending 18-month shutdown of the ‘L’ train in January 2019, which will severely inhibit travel to Manhattan. The rest of Brooklyn is accessible via the G train.
Depending on how long your degree takes to earn, Greenpoint might be off the list or might actually be a cheap choice. Williamsburg has seen an influx of renters over the last decade, with prices rising accordingly, but the L shutdown could reverse that trend. Assuming enough viable travel alternatives to Manhattan — bus, ferry, Uber — Greenpoint could end up being a deal in the long run.
This list encompasses just a few of the perennial and newly minted options in Manhattan and Brooklyn, without even covering Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Murray Hill, Yorkville, Bushwick, Flatbush, Sunset Park, and Bay Ridge.
This still leaves us Queens, perhaps hottest borough right now in terms of real estate. Beyond Astoria, there’s plenty to consider with Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Woodside, Flushing, Jackson Heights, and of course, Long Island City. Check out Kingsbridge and Riverdale in the Bronx, as well as St. George on Staten Island.
All of these neighborhoods have lots to offer, but it’s best to start out with a list of what factors are most important to you, because the apartment hunt in New York city always demands some sacrifices. Good luck!