Goodbye, L Train: Where To Move If You’re Over Williamsburg and Bushwick

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September 25, 2018

The “L train shutdown” is coming, and renters are figuring out their next moves. Maybe it’s time to swap L train-dependent parts of Williamsburg for Gowanus. Maybe Mott Haven is the next Bushwick.

The data science team at Localize.city, a website that provides insights for every New York City address, has some alternatives.

Localize.city looked at the median asking rents for one-bedroom apartments to identify neighborhoods that offer prices comparable to Williamsburg and Bushwick. It also analyzed quality-of life-factors like commute times to major employment hubs, crime rates and access to parks. The analysis was fine-tuned by Localize.city’s urban planning team, incorporating factors such as city initiatives, neighborhood character, services and more.

What’s on the transit horizon?

To repair the Sandy-damaged L train tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Metropolitan Transit Authority needs to suspend service between Eighth Avenue in Manhattan to Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn for an estimated 15 months, starting in April 2019. Even before that, the agency will be doing some pre-shutdown work. That means there will be no L train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 15 weekends beginning in October, giving residents a taste of what’s to come.

In the meantime, the MTA is planning to increase service on the J/M/Z trains as well as the G and C lines. The MTA is also considering offering free shuttle buses between Bedford and Marcy avenues to help Williamsburg’s Northside residents access the  J/M/Z trains. Three new bus routes will be going over the Williamsburg Bridge (which will be limited to vehicles with three or more passengers), new ferry service is planned between North Sixths and East 20th streets, and new bike lanes are being added in both boroughs.

For Williamsburg residents willing wait it out, you’ll be rewarded: By the end of 2020 — four months after the L train re-opens — the stop at Bedford Avenue should be better than before with new elevators making the busy station accessible for those with mobility issues. For those ready to move, read on.

Here’s our shortlist for alternatives to Williamsburg, where the median price for a one-bedroom is $3,000 a month.

Downtown Brooklyn
Median one-bedroom price: $3,150

“If you’re moving because of transportation, why not live in one of the city’s most transit-rich areas? It’s about a 10-minute ride to Downtown Manhattan and 25 minutes to Midtown,” said Localize.city urban planner Liat Halpern. “And since it’s a commercial and cultural hub, you might not even need to commute to Manhattan at all.”

How it stacks up in other ways:

Construction is booming.
Like Williamsburg, there is a lot of new construction around Downtown Brooklyn, including some of the borough’s largest projects. It is one of the fastest growing communities in the city.

New food halls and more.
DeKalb Market, one of the largest food halls in the country, is making Downtown Brooklyn a foodie destination. Plus new movie theaters and grocery stores are making the area more desirable to live.

Skews young.
Like Williamsburg, where 20 percent of the adult population is between 20 and 29 years old, Downtown Brooklyn also skews young. Nearly a quarter of the area’s residents are 20 to 29.

Good park access.
Downtown Brooklyn may not have as many trees as Williamsburg, but it does have fairly good access to parks, like Fort Greene Park and others. Brooklyn Bridge Park is about a 20-minute walk or a 10-minute bike ride.

But don’t expect it to be much quieter.
When it comes to 311 noise complaints, Downtown Brooklyn has a much better “quietness” score than East Williamsburg, but it’s only slightly better than Williamsburg.

Gowanus
Median one-bedroom price: $3,285

“If you’re looking for another Brooklyn neighborhood with a cool, industrial chic aesthetic, Gowanus may be your answer,” Halpern said. “But it’s getting increasingly expensive here as new buildings have opened. Like Williamsburg, many artists have been priced out from the area’s large, former manufacturing buildings. Many spaces are now used for indoor recreation like yoga, gymnastics, rock climbing, Crossfit and archery. You can find restaurants and breweries, music venues and galleries. There’s a Whole Foods here, like in Williamsburg, but the Gowanus outpost has a rooftop with a farm, bar and restaurant.”

How it stacks up in other ways:

Transit is relatively good.
Nearby, trains (R, F/G) make it a relatively easy commute to the city’s main business hubs. During rush hour you can get to the Financial District in 29 minutes and to Midtown in 32 minutes. The area is also very bike-friendly. In fact, there are more bike lanes in some parts of Gowanus than in most other parts of the city — and people definitely use them.

There’s a legacy of toxins from the area’s industrial past.
Like Williamsburg, the Gowanus was once an industrial hub, and remnants of that legacy remain. The notoriously putrid Gowanus Canal, one of the nation’s most polluted bodies of water, is undergoing a $500 million federal cleanup to remediate the heavy metals, chemical waste and raw sewage. The city plans to install two new odor-controlling waste treatment tanks to stop sewage from entering the waterway after the cleanup.

It’s not necessarily super quiet here.
While Gowanus has a better “quietness” score than East Williamsburg, it has a slightly worse “quietness” score than Williamsburg. Perhaps locals are complaining more here as the area has turned into a nightlife playground in recent years.

Astoria
Median one-bedroom price: $2,100

“Astoria is already a very livable neighborhood, but as its waterfront undergoes a big transformation, it’s appeal is likely to grow. Astoria Park is getting a facelift over the next few years, with its soccer field and running track expected to be upgraded by 2019,” Halpern said. “The area also has some cultural cachet with the Museum of the Moving Image, the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park.”

How it stacks up in other ways:

Relatively easy commute, especially to Midtown.
The N/W trains are relatively reliable and aren’t terribly overcrowded. Moreover, these stations are getting upgrades by next year. Astoria also now has a ferry stop (like Williamsburg), and it’s a bike-friendly area in terms of bike lanes and Citi Bike access.

It’s a lot quieter.
Astoria sees much fewer complaints about loud noise then Williamsburg or East Williamsburg. The quiet might be appealing for some — or potentially a drawback for some night owls.

Lower East Side
Median one-bedroom price: $2,700

“Williamsburg started drawing droves of artsy young people across the bridge from Manhattan neighborhoods like the Lower East Side because it was cheaper. Now, however, as new, higher-end development has remade Williamsburg, prices on the Lower East Side are slightly cheaper,” Halpern said. “That may not last, however, as new construction is expected to push up prices on the Lower East Side as hundreds of new luxury units opening soon.”

How it stacks up in other ways:

Transit modes abound.
Many Lower East Siders are close to the F/M or B/D for a quick ride to Midtown, and the J/M/Z or local buses will get you to the Financial District in minutes. The recently opened ferry stop at Corlears Hook will take you to Wall Street in 7 minutes. Overall, the average commute time to the Financial District is 18.5 minutes. The neighborhood also has among the highest scores for being bike-friendly. Bike lanes and nearby Citi Bike stations are popular.

There’s ample park space and more coming.
The Lower East Side’s waterfront is also getting a makeover. A new eight-acre park with lawns, promenades and play areas will allow residents to walk to the river. Further inland, Seward Park is getting an upgrade as part of a citywide project “Parks Without Borders,” making it more accessible to nearby streets. The area might also get the world’s first underground park if the Lowline ever gets built. It would bring greenery to the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, located below Delancey and Essex streets.

Another neighborhood with booming construction.
The biggest project is the $1 billion Essex Crossing mega-development, with some of the buildings now completed and others expected to be finished by 2024.

Lots of restaurants, bars… and noise.
Like Williamsburg, the Lower East Side’s nightlife is hopping — and perhaps that’s why the number of noise-related complaints per 1,000 residents is slightly higher on the Lower East Side than its neighbor across the East River. But there are some quiet areas in the neighborhood, especially the further you get from the area around Delancey and Ludlow streets.

Here’s our shortlist for alternatives to Bushwick, where the median price is $2,100 a month.

Ridgewood
Median one-bedroom price: $1,875

“Bushwick’s low-key and slightly lower-priced neighbor — which is actually on the other side of the border in Queens — has already seen a spillover effect from nearby hot markets, as hundreds of units currently are under construction,” Halpern said. “The nightlife scene is growing, too. It’s certainly not as saturated as Williamsburg or Bushwick, but Ridgewood does have a share of neighborhood bars, nightclubs, artsy cafes and a diverse restaurant scene.”

How it stacks up in other ways:

Comparable commute.
Travel to Manhattan takes almost the same amount of time as from Bushwick, adding only 3 minutes to the average commute time from Ridgewood to the Financial District.

The area is skewing younger.
More than 18 percent of the population between 20 to 29 years old compared with Bushwick’s 24 percent. But the area is seeing an uptick in young people.

Growing arts and nightlife scene.
The culturally diverse neighborhood — traditionally home to German, Italian, Hispanic, Chinese, Poles and Egyptian immigrants, to name a few — has a variety of food options. The venue Nowadays has quickly become the area’s most well-known bar after opening in 2015. It hosts the long-running Mister Sunday parties, which moved there from Sunset Park’s Industry City.

Ridgewood has also seen an influx of artists and gallerists, like Lorimoto, which opened in 2013 and displays local artwork. The long-running nonprofit Outpost Artists Resources provides access to video, sound services and new media assistance at well below market rates.

Quieter than Bushwick.
Ridgewood residents complain about noise a lot less than those in Bushwick.

Chinatown
Median one-bedroom price: $2,350

“Chinatown is steps from the trendy areas of the Lower East Side, SoHo and NoLita, yet less expensive — if you can find something there,” Halpern said. “The sidewalks can get crowded with tourists, especially on Canal and Mott streets, but it’s still a vibrant neighborhood with plenty of cheap markets and produce stands. And Doyers Street has transformed from a historically dangerous spot into a vibrant strip with some of the best restaurants and bars in the area, including famous speakeasy Apotheke and the city’s first dim sum joint, Nom Wah Tea Parlor.”

How it stacks up in other ways:

More convenient commute.
While trains might be a 10- to 15-minute walk away, you can just skip the trains and walk. Commute time to main business hubs is relatively short: It’ll only take you 23 minutes to get to the Financial District. Also, this is a very bike-friendly area, with lots of bike lanes and well-used Citi Bike stations. Chinatown’s “bike-friendly” score is almost four times higher than Bushwick’s.

Neighbors complain less about noise.
Complaints to 311 about noise were much lower in Chinatown than Bushwick.

Mott Haven
Median one-bedroom price: $1,700

“The South Bronx waterfront, where hip-hop was born, is booming with new construction as thousands of units are expected to come on line in the next years,” Halpern said. “An influx of new residents are expected as are amenities, retail and much-needed city investment in infrastructure and services. No wonder this has been regarded for some time as one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York.”

How it stacks up in other ways:

Longer commute.
It takes a bit longer to get Downtown. The average commute time to the Financial District is 56 minutes compared to Bushwick’s average commute time of 43.5 minutes.  But that longer commute could score you lower rents.

Fledgling restaurant and bar scene.
Trendy spots along the South Bronx waterfront include the Bruckner Market food hall, a former warehouse that will resemble Chelsea Market with a rooftop beer garden and a variety of takeout and sit-down restaurants. Harlem’s Milk Burger, a gourmet burger joint similar to Shake Shack, opened in late 2016. It joined spots like Filtered Coffee, Charlie’s Bar & Kitchen, Ceetay Sushi, and the Italian restaurant La Grata.

The upscale pub at Port Morris Distillery recently opened on East 133rd Street and the Bruckner Market may also house a microbrewery. Together, with Tirado Distillery and Bronx Brewery, there’s a burgeoning craft beer/distillery scene.

Creative commercial space coming by 2019.
A large new development on the Third Avenue waterfront will include 20,500 square feet of retail space and 1,100 square feet of community facility space. Other commercial developments are aimed at attracting tech and design tenants.

New LGBTQ community center opening in neighboring Melrose.

This center will be one of the few hubs of LGBTQ services and programming in the Bronx. Slated to open shortly in The Hub shopping district, it will offer a wide variety of health and human services and work to address issues like job training, bullying, housing, and arts and culture.

More open space than Bushwick.
Mott Haven got higher marks for access to open space than Bushwick. The neighborhood’s St. Mary’s Park is getting a much-needed overhaul, with construction finishing in late 2019. Its rec center will be reconstructed by mid-2019, and the Parks Department plans to add new programming and activities. A partly vacant playground will get new basketball and tennis courts, play equipment, seating areas, and new landscaping by around the same time.

Red Hook
Median one-bedroom price: $1,800

“Red Hook feels like an island apart from the city, with its relaxed and quirky vibe and telltale signs of its history as one of the nation’s most important shipping centers. The area is dotted with cobblestone streets and 19th-century warehouses that once housed grain and goods,” Halpern said. “Red Hook’s warehouse spaces draw an eclectic mix of small-market artists and businesses to the area, including chocolatiers, whiskey distillers, bike manufacturers and glassblowers. Many served as de facto community centers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and they remain active members of the community, offering tours, open houses, and community programming.”

How it stacks up in other ways:

It’s a shorter commute to Lower Manhattan.
Even though residents here are further from subway stations than most other western Brooklyn neighborhoods, the overall commute time to Downtown is quicker than from Bushwick, averaging about 28 minutes to the Financial District. Though the nearest subway station (the F/G at Smith and Ninth) is a 10- to 20-minute walk away, there’s also a new ferry and two bus lines offer alternative options.

Everyday essentials are easy to find.
Residents don’t sacrifice the convenience of city living for the benefit of a peaceful setting. Van Brunt Street—Red Hook’s primary commercial drag—offers topnotch restaurants, a bookstore, a salon, a giant Fairway and more. There’s also IKEA, renowned barbecue and amazing views of Lower Manhattan. Arts spaces include Pioneer Works, which is dedicated to cross-discipline experimentation.

More green space in Red Hook.
Red Hook had a higher “green” score than Bushwick thanks to spaces like Valentino Park and Pier, the Red Hook Pool, Beard Street Pier and the Red Hook ballfields. Also, the grounds around the Red Hook Houses NYCHA development might be upgraded with a huge artificial terrace, new playgrounds and retail. The planned flood prevention improvements at the public housing complex would do double duty to beautify the area, making it a more pleasant place on sunny and stormy days alike.

Big plans for the future?
Red Hook, which is largely a commercial area, has seen less of the dramatic development that has come to northwest Brooklyn in the past decade. But that could change in the next few years as developers eye swaths of industrial waterfront property.

A new tech office complex designed by starchitect Norman Foster, for instance, could enliven Beard Street by bringing up to 5,000 workers in the tech industry to the area. It also might attract more young, educated and affluent residents to move nearby, and with them, higher-end shops and eateries.

The construction and engineering firm AECOM unveiled a bold proposal for transforming the area. Its conceptual renderings show a series of developments totaling 45,000 units with sprawling waterfront parks and two subway stops — on a 1 train extension from South Ferry.

Methodology:

To identify neighborhoods offering home hunters similar conditions as Williamsburg and Bushwick, Localize.city filtered neighborhoods based on prices and commute times in these two neighborhoods.

The analysis used listing data for one-bedroom rents obtained from a number of brokerages the website partners with.

Commute times were calculated by on subway trips to Midtown and Financial District.

A green score was calculated by looking at the total parks area normalized by neighborhood’s area with a 1,300-foot buffer around it to account for nearby parks. This also factored in the number of trees in a neighborhood (normalized by the total area), using the city’s 2015 Street Trees Census.

The safety score was based on the 2017 NYPD rates of violent, burglary (residential) and drug-related crimes (excluding marijuana).

The quietness score looked at the total number of 311 noise complaints over the past 12 months normalized by population (from the 2016 Census).

Neighborhoods with a population under 10,000 people were removed from the final rankings to ensure quality.

 

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