Best New York City Neighborhoods for College Grads

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April 11, 2019

Finding your first New York City apartment after college graduation can be daunting, which is why recent grads often flock to neighborhoods with other recent grads. Many are looking for similar things: affordability, commute, nightlife options,  bikeability, safety, and a critical mass of other young people.

Localize.city — a real estate website that shows the pros and cons of every address to help buyers and renters make more informed decisions — ranked the 10 best neighborhoods for college graduates based on these six key factors.

Here are the top 10:

1. Washington Heights, Manhattan

“Recent grads looking for an affordable Manhattan option continue to flock to Washington Heights,” said Localize.city urban planner Liat Halpern. “The neighborhood may not have as many amenities compared to other parts of the island, but as more young people move in, more restaurants and cafes are opening — including a new dog-friendly cafe/pet boutique selling high-end collars for canines.”

> Commute

  • There’s easy access to the 1 and A/C connecting commuters to Midtown and the west side. But take note: two stations along the 1 line will be closed for major renovations. The 168th Street 1 stop is expected to remain shuttered until January 2020 (though the A/C trains will remain available at the station while work is being done).  The 181st Street 1 train station is expected to be closed for renovations from March 2021 to February 2022.
  • It’s also fairly bike-friendly, thanks to the area’s proximity to the Hudson River Greenway and a decent bike lane network.

> Food access

  • In the southern part of the neighborhood, access to healthy produce and food is increasing. There’s now a Fine Fare at the George Washington Bridge Bus Station, near the 175th St. subway stop, and Foodtown opened last year on 160th St.  Also, the Fort Washington Farmers’ Market at the corner of 168th St. and Fort Washington Avenue offers local produce and baked goods during the summer months.
  • But parts of the neighborhood, especially north of George Washington Bridge, lack access to large supermarkets. There are, however, an abundance of Dominican takeout and small markets.

> Parks

  • A $30 million overhaul of Highbridge Park is expected to start in late 2019 or early 2020, and include new basketball courts, bathrooms and a synthetic turf practice field. It’s part of a bigger project that also brought a new skatepark and reopened the High Bridge aqueduct as a pedestrian bridge to the Bronx.“Because of its relative affordability, Bed-Stuy has eclipsed Williamsburg and Bushwick as the go-to neighborhood for recent grads — and it has a big nightlife scene reflecting that,” said Halpern. “But as the neighborhood has become more desirable for 20-somethings, it’s also become a magnet for new development, and those new units are pushing prices upwards.”

2. Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

“Because of its relative affordability, Bed-Stuy has eclipsed Williamsburg and Bushwick as the go-to neighborhood for recent grads — and it has a big nightlife scene reflecting that,” said Halpern. “But as the neighborhood has become more desirable for 20-somethings, it’s also become a magnet for new development, and those new units are pushing prices upwards.”

> Commute

  • If you work in Downtown Brooklyn or the Financial District, your commute can be a breeze, averaging 20 or 30 minutes, respectively. Multiple subway lines (A/C, G, M, J/Z) serve the edges of the neighborhood. However, it can be a bit of a hike to get to the nearest train stop if you live in the central part of the neighborhood.
  • The area’s bike-friendliness is improving, with increased investment in protected bike lanes. The city is also considering expanding the area’s Citi Bike service.

> Neighborhood character

  • The western part of the neighborhood — where many popular bars and restaurants are clustered — is seeing a slew of higher-end and generally higher construction. Many older one- to four-story buildings have been demolished along Fulton, including unprotected landmarks like the iconic Slave Theater. But the new buildings include retail space on the ground floor, which brings a wider range of shopping, services and entertainment options.
  • The heart of the neighborhood continues to be defined by its brownstones and the strong sense of community. Community gardens host activities like fitness classes, movie nights and farmers’ markets. The Hattie Carthan Herban Farm and Community Market, for example, holds community dinners, cooking classes, and a drum and dance circle.

> Nightlife

  • Bed-Stuy’s dance scene is hopping at venues like C’mon Everybody (which has an all-inclusive atmosphere at its shows and dance parties), Lovers Rock (which has live Reggae music) and Secret Project Robot (which landed in the neighborhood after stints in Williamsburg and Bushwick and hosts many LGBTQ events, like the Latin queer party Tortura and the Asian queer party Bubble T).

3. Jackson Heights

“If you’re looking for a neighborhood that celebrates all of the variety New York City has to offer, there’s no place more diverse than Jackson Heights. Nearly 170 languages are spoken here, and ethnic restaurants represent all corners of the globe,” said  Localize.city urban planner Grace Klein. “The area — represented by Millennial superstar congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — is much more affordable than Astoria (also in AOC’s district), but it still offers a lot of places to go out.”

> Commute

  • Jackson Heights commuters have a lot of options with the 7, F, M, E and R lines. It takes 35 minutes, on average, to get to Midtown, though the trip to the Financial District can take nearly an hour. But there could be some upcoming temporary subway closures along the 7 line, as the MTA upgrades the line’s signal system and decaying stations.
  • Jackson Heights is not the most bike-friendly area, though there’s been a push to get more bike lanes along dangerous thoroughfares like Roosevelt Avenue, Baxter Avenue, and Junction Boulevard. Citi Bike might come to the area as it expands its fleet across the city.

> Neighborhood character

  • A swath of the neighborhood, where there’s a cluster of stately apartment buildings that have lush interior gardens, is designated a historic district. Overall, however, Jackson Heights doesn’t have great access to green space.

> Cultural life

  • The area’s diversity is reflected in its colorful parades, like the ones celebrating Bolivia, Columbia, Peru and Ecuador, as well as borough’s most prominent LGBTQ parade. There’s a strip of Latinx-centric LGBTQ bars and clubs along 37th and Roosevelt Avenues that is Jackson Heights’ version of Christopher Street. Beyond these nightlife options, the neighborhood is home to the Queens Pride House, the Queens Center for Gay Seniors and the Dari Project, a grassroots group aimed at increasing acceptance of LGBTQ people of Korean descent in Korean American communities.

4. Greenpoint, Brooklyn

“A bit off-the-beaten-path since transit access isn’t amazing, Greenpoint has retained a quiet charm with long-standing mom-and-pops mixed with newer boutiques and bars. Yes, the area’s prices skyrocketed — especially after Lena Dunham’s “Girls” put it on the map — but it’s still cheaper than its hip neighbors, Williamsburg and Long Island City,” Halpern said. “And although its waterfront is losing some of its charming grittiness as glass highrises transform the waterfront, these changes are also bringing  new waterfront parks and new coffee shops and other retail.”

>Commute

  • The neighborhood is only served by the G train, which connects Brooklyn and Queens but does not run into Manhattan. That said, if you work in Midtown and don’t mind having to transfer, you could get there in about 20 minutes — if the trains come quickly.
  • The commute to downtown can be more onerous, but the ferry from India Street offers a pleasant ride to East 34th Street or Wall Street’s Pier 11.
  • Greenpoint is also one of New York’s most bike-friendly areas in terms of bike lanes, Citi Bike access and large numbers of bike commuters.

>Neighborhood character

  • Vinyl-sided homes predominate on many of the tree-lined streets of what was once a staunchly working-class neighborhood. There’s also a historic district in part of the neighborhood that includes row-houses, apartment buildings, several churches and buildings from a former pencil factory.
  • The area’s nightlife is happening, offering some top restaurants and bars.

>Heads up on environmental concerns

  • The area’s industrial legacy means that parts of the area could potentially have environmental risks. Newtown Creek, which borders the north end of the neighborhood between LIC is a designated Superfund site slated for a federal cleanup, along with some land in the eastern part of the neighborhood where there are possible risks from decades of chemical dumping from dry cleaning and metal-working businesses.

5.  Astoria, Queens

“Astoria may not be the most affordable Queens neighborhood on the list, but it has the best of many worlds. It’s a leafy, quiet neighborhood with an ever-expanding culture and foodie scene,” said Halpern. “It has beer gardens, restaurants — the area is especially known for its Greek cuisine — and major cultural attractions, like the Museum of the Moving Image, the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park. And the neighborhood is getting hipper by the day. A new artisan market and food hall is opening near a creative office hub anchored by Kaufman Astoria Studios. Also, a 20,000-foot music space, called the Arc, promises to bring emerging and established artists to the area.”

> Commute

  • If you’re commuting to Midtown, Astoria offers a relatively quick subway commute on the N/W trains. Take note: A major renovation of the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. stop is expected to wrap up in June 2019, making the station the first N/W stop to be fully accessible on the N/W line in Queens. While this station will remain open during the project, the nearby Astoria Blvd. stop is closed while it’s getting rehabbed. That station isn’t expected to reopen until December 2019, so beware that could make commuting more difficult in the short term.
  • For those who prefer the cool East River breezes, the neighborhood also has ferry service connecting it to Midtown and Lower Manhattan, the Rockaways, Long Island City and North Brooklyn, with a stop to be added at the Brooklyn Navy Yard this spring.
  • It’s also a bike-friendly area with good bike infrastructure and Citi Bike access.

> Neighborhood character

  • Two mega developments that are expected to take years to complete — Halletts Point and Astoria Cove — are already bringing hundreds of new residents to the waterfront. That could make things more crowded, but it is also bringing new retail, coffee shops and supermarkets to the formerly industrial area, as well as newly created publicly accessible open space.

> Parks

  • Astoria Park is a neighborhood gem and is only getting better as part of a $30 million overhaul, including a new dog park, sports courts, and public plaza. A new turf soccer field and refurbished track are also in the works.

6. Upper East Side

“The Upper East Side might not be the hippest neighborhood in New York, but it’s convenient, has great access to parks and shopping, and can be relatively affordable, especially if you’re looking at walk-ups rather than elevator buildings,” said Klein. “The monthly median rent for two-bedroom UES walk-ups is $2,800, while it’s $3,800 for elevator buildings. But if parents are helping with the rent, they might prefer to spring for the elevator building with doorman.”

>Commute

  • With the addition of the Second Avenue subway, the neighborhood’s commuting options improved dramatically, especially in the eastern part of the area. It also relieved some of the congestion on the 4/5/6 trains along Lexington Avenue.
  • It’s a bike-friendly area, with lots of bike lanes, Citi Bike stations and a fair number of cycling commuters.
  • There’s also new ferry service from East 90th Street that connects to Soundview, East Midtown and Wall Street.

> Neighborhood character

  • The neighborhood has many leafy streets with stately brownstones and gracious co-ops, many of which are landmarked.
  • There’s also a lot of construction, mainly in the eastern part of the area, adding new pricey glassy towers. And there are also a lot of older walk-ups where you can find some deals.

> Neighborhood culture

  • There are restaurants, bars and you can have your pick of world-class museums, like the Met, the Guggenheim, the Frick and more.
  • You have Central Park as well as Carl Schurz Park.
  • There are also many long-time mom-and-pops, like Orwasher’s Bakery, which was included in Leslie Jones’ recent comical ode to the neighborhood on Saturday Night Live.

7. Ridgewood, Queens

“Ridgewood is more low-key and lower-priced than neighboring Bushwick. But that might be changing a bit as it sees an uptick of 20-somethings,” said Halpern. “Ridgewood may not have the same concentration of nightlife options as Bushwick, but it has its own artsy vibe, with popular dance spots like Nowadays and one of the city’s best record shops, Deep Cuts. Plus, it’s quick and easy to get to the bars, clubs and galleries of its Brooklyn neighbor.”

> Commute

  • The trip to Manhattan isn’t short — it can take about 50 minutes to Midtown or the Financial District —  but the L and M trains provide decent access from most parts of the neighborhood.
  • Its bike infrastructure is mediocre, but the city plans to improve cycling by adding protected lanes and is considering adding Citi Bike access.

> Neighborhood character

  • Speckled brick rowhouses give the neighborhood streets its uniform character. Ridgewood already has four historic districts with more than 1,300 landmarked buildings inside them, and civic leaders are urging the city to expand these districts.
  • The neighborhood does not have great park access, though the recently landmarked Ridgewood Reservoir isn’t too far.

8. Fordham

“Fordham is a college town, which means that its housing market might be tighter than other parts of the Bronx. Yet, it’s still the most affordable on this list, and it has access to plenty of cultural events and educational opportunities,” said Klein. “The western Bronx neighborhood is also a hub for the borough’s LGBTQ community. The local councilman — who was the borough’s first out Bronx elected official — is helping transform a long-defunct library into a new community hub with a home for an LGBTQ center.”

> Commute

  • Fordham is served by the D/B and 4 trains, and it takes about 45-50 minutes to commute to Midtown or the Financial District.
  • The neighborhood is ideal for those reverse-commuting to Westchester or Connecticut — and the Bronx has more reverse-commuters than any other county in the nation. Fordham has the only train stop in the Bronx with service to Connecticut on Metro North’s New Haven line. You can also take the Harlem Line to White Plains or other towns in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties. It’s also a quick bus to the former from Fordham Plaza on Westchester Bee-Line buses.
  • The neighborhood also has dockless bike share programs, one that Citi Bike is piloting and another run by a company called JUMP. The bikes are helpful for residents who might have long treks to the subway or express buses.
  • Additionally, the neighborhood’s most dangerous street — Fordham Road — is getting safety upgrades for cyclists and pedestrians.

> Neighborhood character

  • Construction is booming in the neighborhood, making it one of the fastest growing areas in the Bronx.

> Parks

  • Two of the neighborhood’s parks are undergoing facelifts: Edgar Allan Poe’s historic home this summer is getting an ADA-accessible entrance along with new landscaping, and St. James Park is getting a dog run by 2021.
  • Other open space projects are in the works including a new park to replace a dilapidated playground on Davidson Avenue (expected 2022) and increased investments in the neighborhood’s community gardens.

9. Central Harlem

“Harlem has great restaurants, clubs and art, as well as a strong sense of community, anchored by the neighborhood’s many community gardens,” said Klein. “The area is seeing a lot of new development, especially around 125th Street, but many long-time residents are preserving the area’s rich cultural history.

> Commute

  • It’s a relatively easy commute on the 1, B/D, A/C trains to Midtown or the Financial District (though the latter can about 50 minutes).

> Neighborhood character

  • Many residents in Harlem turned the area’s history of disinvestment into something more positive for the community, creating community gardens on vacant lots, many of which still stand and serve as important gathering spots, like the Harlem Grown garden, which hosts an Earth Day celebration or the Joseph Daniel Wilson garden, which hosts a breakfast and tour of Harlem gardens.
  • Additionally, there’s decent park access to Riverside Park and St. Nicholas Park.
  • The neighborhood also has many historic brownstones that in recent years have become much pricier.  While parts of the neighborhood are preserved, 125th Street has seen a lot of change, and a mega-project — 11 new and renovated buildings with shop-lined public plazas and pedestrian passageways — are transforming old factory and warehouse buildings on a three-acre site on West 126th Street.

> Culture

  • The restaurant and nightlife scene is booming in the area, with places old and new like Sylvia’s, Red Rooster and Sushi Inoue.
  • The neighborhood also has an array of renowned institutions like the Apollo Theater, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Harlem Studio Museum.
  • And Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus is bringing new cultural and educational events to the area.

10. Flatbush, Brooklyn

“Flatbush Avenue is bustling with Caribbean bakeries and restaurants, as well as an increasing number of new bars. The area is also home to Kings Theatre, whose lineup this year includes Bikini Kill, a play performed by two Beastie Boys and GRiZ. And with the pretty campus of Brooklyn College nearby, it also has a bit of a college town feel,” ” said Klein. “The deeper you go into Brooklyn, the more affordable the rent is, and Flatbush is still convenient enough to visit friends in nearby areas like Ditmas, Kensington, Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts-Gardens.

> Commute

  • If you live in the central part of the neighborhood, near Flatbush Avenue, it’s a bit of hike — 10 or more minutes — to either the B/Q or the 2/5 lines. But the train ride itself is about 35 minutes to the Financial District.

> Parks

  • Those living in the northern part of the neighborhood can easily reach Prospect Park. However, if you live further south, it can be a bit of a haul, and you won’t find many alternative parks in the area.

> Neighborhood character

  • As other parts of Brooklyn have become prohibitively expensive for developers, some turned their eyes to Flatbush, where more than 1,500 new units were expected to open between 2018 and 2020, as bigger buildings — many with high-end amenities — are replacing houses and changing not only the neighborhood’s character but also pushing up prices.

Methodology

The ranking was based on six factors and fine-tuned by Localize.city’s urban planners who incorporated other factors such as neighborhood character, community, quality of open space, and new development.

Here are the specifics:

Affordability: analysis of median room renting price data for two-bedroom units — since most grads share apartments

Commute: average commute time from the neighborhood center to Midtown and the Financial District centers by subway

Young people popularity: weighted analysis of the percent of 20-29-year-olds out of the total population, since grads often like to stick together

Bikeability: weighted analysis of total bike lanes length (protected and regular) divided by area, Citi Bike Stations, number of cycling injuries, percent workers who commute by bike, and Citi Bike trips

Safety: weighted analysis of the rate of violent, burglaries and drug-related crimes, excluding marijuana-related drug crimes

Nightlife: based on the availability of bars and other late night options

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