The Upper West Side is so cool. Seriously.
With experts predicting that this past July will go down in the books as the planet’s hottest month ever recorded, more New Yorkers might be thinking more about moving to neighborhoods where they can catch a bit of a break from the heat.
Neighborhoods with great access to parks could provide some respite from the city’s heat-absorbing pavement. Having an abundance of street trees creates a canopy from the harsh sun. Buildings that get more shade can also help keep things cool. That’s why the UWS is so cool.
Home search platform Localize.city analyzed neighborhoods across the city using these three metrics:
> The number of street trees per square mile
> Park access in terms of distance to parks, as well as the size and quality of the parks
> The amount of shade buildings get in the summer (based on the sun’s arc and shadows cast from neighboring structures)
“A lot of New Yorkers want to live in sunny apartments, but in weather like this, we’re reminded that having some shade can feel like a relief — not to mention help lower your AC bills,” said Localize.city urban planner Dan Levine. “The presence of trees on your block and in nearby parks can also make a big difference. You’ll feel cooler when your walk to the subway is tree-lined, and if you’re near a leafy park that you can escape to for a break from the pavement.”
The neighborhoods listed below had the most street trees and park access. They were also among the top 10 in their respective boroughs for having buildings with the least amount of direct sun in the summer, according to a comprehensive sunlight analysis by Localize.city. These neighborhoods, all of which have historic districts, have a relatively high concentration of taller buildings mixed in with some shorter ones in between. These low-rise buildings tend to be the shadiest.
When you search for a home on Localize.city, the platform tells you how much direct sunlight every home on the market will get (and how it compares to other homes in the borough.) The platform also lets you filter your search by “tranquil streets,” which tree coverage, building heights, traffic, population density, a wide variety of nuisances and more.
The 4 “coolest” neighborhoods in New York City
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
“Locals here might be bracing for the BQE renovation, but regardless of what happens there with the tree-lined promenade, there’s still plenty of green space with Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said Localize.city urban planner Liat Halpern.
Odds are, your walk to the waterfront (which also helps cool things down), will be dotted with street trees.
This leafy neighborhood has a wealth of parks: Franz Sigel, Joyce Kilmer, Mullaly, and Claremont Parks. More park space is coming with the opening of a Mill Pond Park expansion and the revamped Grant Avenue Park by 2022.
“The green spaces in the area offer everything from the standard playing fields, swimming pools, and playgrounds to more unique features like skate and bike parks, a waterfront indoor tennis center, a dolphin sculpture garden,” Halpern said.
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
“Proximity to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a big plus for this tree-lined neighborhood, making this neighborhood not only cool when it comes to cultural offerings, but literally cool with so many trees,” Halpern said.
There are also other popular playgrounds including, Mount Prospect Park, off of the leafy Eastern Parkway; Underhill Playground (known more for its collection of discarded toys than trees); and Dean Playground, a hub for basketball and other sports. The area is getting more publicly accessible open space as part of the Pacific Park megaproject. The first phases of the eight-acre park have already opened, but the space won’t be complete until 2025.
Upper West Side, Manhattan
“The Upper West Side is very dense, but still feels like a green urban oasis,” Halpern said.
The tree-lined streets of this neighborhood are flanked by two major parks, Central and Riverside parks, the latter of which is getting a new bicycle and pedestrian path along the Hudson River West 72nd and 83rd Streets, and between West 91st and 95th Streets this summer as well as an upgraded Riverside Skate Park at West 109th St.
A note on methodology: Localize.city‘s analysis focuses on concrete-heavy neighborhoods where tree cover and nearby parks provide some escape as opposed to some of the suburban-like neighborhoods at the edge of the city that may have lawns and yards and also be cooler.
“These neighborhoods have industrial sections with few trees and no parks. The unshaded, concrete-heavy areas hold heat and boost local temperatures. And without nearby parks, residents in these neighborhoods may not have leafy oases to retreat to,” said Localize.city urban planner Dan Levine.
These are the hot ones:
Gowanus, Schuylerville Garment District, Maspeth, Sunnyside, Woodside
Some residential buildings have moved into this industrial area and began to green the neighborhood. A proposal to rezone the area would bring a lot more housing and more green space. “The historically inaccessible waterfront would be opened to the public and bring greenery that would help absorb and hold back canal flood waters. Still, many residents want to see the polluted canal cleaned up first,” Halpern said.
This residential Bronx enclave is sandwiched between the Bruckner Expressway and the Hutchinson River Parkway and includes Lehman High School. While some of this neighborhood is near Pelham Park, one has to cross a highway to get there, making accessibility limited. And if you do cross the Bruckner you’ll see the leafy streets of Country Club, but long stretches of sidewalk without any tree cover makes it a hot place to walk around this summer. “It’s interesting looking at the aerial view of this part of the Bronx, seeing the lush lawns of Country Club compared to the grey concrete of Schuylerville,” Halpern noted.
“This small Manhattan neighborhood near Herald Square has among the fewest street trees, and most residents are not within a 10-minute walk from a park, giving people here very little refuge from the blazing sun of summer,” Halpern said. “On top of that, the streets are extremely congested the streets here. Heavy foot and vehicle traffic makes the area feel even hotter.”
The area lacks park access, but will be getting new open space by spring 2022 with a nearly one-acre park, which might include a skate park, at the base of the new Kosciuszko Bridge. “And while parks are scant, the neighborhood is close to Calvary and Mt. Zion cemeteries, which bring some green space to the area. But these graveyards don’t tend to attract many casual visitors,” said Localize.city urban planner Liat Halpern.
“Why those living in the leafy historic district of Sunnyside Gardens have their own key to a private park, other parts of the neighborhood are not well served by parks and street trees are sparse,” Halpern said. “The area has a lot of industrial uses, including a big chunk that houses rail yards.”
Woodside is getting some park and playground renovations that will improve green space. Hart Playground’s makeover, expected to be completed by 2020, not only will bring new swings and a basketball court, it will also add trees and bushes.
“The playground, like many city open spaces,” has an excessive amount of asphalt,” Halpern said.
Another green space — the small, historic Doughboy Plaza — is undergoing a reconstruction project with new seating, and two new community gardens to help newly arrived refugees and other immigrants are expected to open on 69th Street, part of a partnership between the city and nonprofit International Rescue Committee.