NYC’s Best Neighborhoods that Are (Relatively) Affordable

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August 30, 2018

If your version of the urban dream includes quiet, tree-lined streets where you can escape the concrete jungle while having a relatively short commute to work — and affordability is a top priority — try looking in Windsor Terrace, Roosevelt Island or Forest Hills.

Localize.city, a website that provides insights about every address in New York City, ranked the top 10 neighborhoods that fit the bill. Localize.city’s data science team created the rankings based on affordability and quality-of-life factors, like commute times to major employment hubs, crime rates and access to parks. The ranking was fine-tuned by Localize.city’s urban planners, who incorporated other factors such as city initiatives, neighborhood character, services, farmers markets, quality of infrastructure and more.

1. Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn

“Sandwiched between Prospect Park and Green-wood Cemetery, the leafy streets of Windsor Terrace feel utterly tranquil,” said Localize.city urban planner Grace Klein. “While that can mean fewer shopping and nightlife options, this small neighborhood enjoys easy access to the F and G subway lines and bike-friendly streets to the cute commercial corridors of Park Slope, Gowanus, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Healthy food access: Residents rave about the Windsor Terrace Food Coop, are relatively close to the beloved Park Slope Food Coop, and enjoy weekly farm-fresh produce at the Bartel-Pritchard Square farmers’ market.

Transit: As the MTA plans for the L train shutdown in 2019, the G train will become more convenient by 2019, with longer and more frequent trains. The transit authority is also considering adding F train express service.

Parks and culture: Kensington Stables, located here, is one of the city’s last remaining horse stables. The Green-wood Cemetery runs popular tours, concerts, and talks year-round. A new dog run is coming to the Prospect Park Parade Ground by late 2019.

Urban planning highlight: New development in the southern part of the neighborhood is unlikely to alter Windsor Terrace’s peaceful charm, thanks to strict zoning regulations.

  1. Roosevelt Island, Manhattan

“Roosevelt Island may have a Manhattan ZIP code, yet it feels worlds away. Crime and noise complaints are almost non-existent. There is an abundance of well-kept parks and sports clubs,” said Localize.city urban planning lead Alon Goldstein. “While the island only has basic amenities — two supermarkets and limited dining options – the area will continue to grow as a destination as the year-old Cornell Tech campus continues to expand.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Transit: Residents are minutes from Manhattan and Queens, with easy connections via the F-line, tram and NYC Ferry.

Parks: Lighthouse Park sits at the north end of the island, while the beautifully-designed FDR Four Freedoms Park sits at the southern end, offering beautiful views of Manhattan’s United Nations and East Side. Ample public green space is also part of the Cornell Tech campus.

Urban planning highlight: By 2020, the Roosevelt Island Library will be replaced with a sleek new facility double its current size, with added children’s and community space.

  1. Forest Hills, Queens

“Forest Hills is one of the city’s most pleasant neighborhoods to live in and has it all,” said Klein. “Forest Hills is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, and it has a range of building types and price points, from grand Tudor homes in Forest Hills Gardens to red-brick pre-war walk-ups.”

Klein added, “Austin Street, the area’s center of activity, is lined with independent stores, bars, restaurants and a movie theater, as well as chain businesses such as Target, Shake Shack, and Banana Republic. Just south of here, is the Forest Hills Stadium, where big-name performers headline a popular summertime concert series. It’s an attraction for music lovers, but a drawback for those who prefer reprieve from crowds and noise.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Healthy food access: The Forest Hills farmers’ market lining MacDonald Park is open every Sunday. There are also plenty of supermarkets and groceries.

Transit: Forest Hills is served by both local and express trains, with relatively quick and efficient service to Midtown. New bike lanes and traffic realignment are making Queens Boulevard a safer and more attractive “cyclists highway” to Manhattan. New medians, streetlights, benches, trees, and other landscaping could also be added by 2021.

Parks: In addition to an abundance of street trees and greenery, the neighborhood is wedged between Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Forest Park.

Urban planning highlight: Forest Hills Gardens is a historic, charming, and upscale “suburb in the city,” where tree-lined streets are graced by nearly 900 Tudor and colonial homes. Though each street and residence is unique, the area’s red-tiled roofs, old-fashioned lamp posts, wrought iron streetlights, and specially painted street signs lend a cohesive neighborhood feel.

  1. Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

“Yes, John Travolta’s character in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ yearned to leave Bay Ridge for Manhattan, but increasingly, New Yorkers are flocking to this neighborhood because it has much of what Manhattan often lacks: quiet, green and an authentic New York feel,” said Goldstein. “The 86th street shopping hub has large chain retail stores, while Third, Fourth, and Fifth Aves offer some of the city’s best Greek, Italian, and Middle Eastern food — a reflection of the neighborhood’s diverse population.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Parks: Bay Ridge residents enjoy abundant access to parks and playgrounds, most notably the Belt Parkway Promenade, which spans over four miles and is a beloved exercise spot that draws cyclists and joggers from faraway neighborhoods.

Transit: The NYC Ferry offers a sunny, breezy alternative to the long ride on the R train, with stops at Atlantic Ave., DUMBO, and Wall Street.

Healthy food access: The Bay Ridge Greenmarket, which operates Saturdays during growing season, is a popular choice for fresh produce. Plus, there are plenty of corner groceries and supermarkets.

  1. Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

“Clinton Hill is one of the greenest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, with leafy streets and charming brownstones and Victorians along Washington and Vanderbilt Aves. Though there are few parks within the neighborhood, Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park are within walking distance,” said Klein. “And the neighborhood’s accessibility to Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan make its relative affordability a treat for residents.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Healthy food access: The Greene Hill Food Coop offers healthy groceries at low prices, and recently opened a new location on Fulton Street after the community rallied behind it, raising $30,000.

Culture: Pratt Institute offers talks and exhibitions, many of which are free and open to the public. Also, the Brooklyn Academy of Music isn’t too far, nor are the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch.

Urban planning highlight: Higher-end developments and shopping will likely continue to replace older one- to four-story buildings along Myrtle Ave. and Fulton St., bringing a wider range of shopping, food, and entertainment options, though likely pricier than existing venues.

  1. Flushing, Queens

“The traffic may be hectic in Flushing, but the calm can be found in the area’s parks, which are among the city’s largest, including Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Kissena Park, and the Queens Botanical Garden,” said Goldstein. “And of course there are the area’s long-running mom-and-pop shops and an array of Asian restaurants. Also, with two farmers’ markets in the neighborhood, fresh produce is in no short supply.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Transit: The commute can be a bit long for those working in Manhattan, but Flushing residents enjoy good access to the 7-line and LIRR. Upgrades were recently completed at the Flushing-Main Street LIRR station that is now fully ADA accessible and much more pleasant to use.

Parks: Though its parks are crowded, a slew of improvements are slated for completion by 2019 at Bowne Playground, Bowne Park, Kissena Corridor Park, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Culture: Major entertainment options abound in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, including Citi Field, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (home to the U.S. Open), which are closer to Flushing. And near Corona are the Queens Museum, New York Hall of Science, the Queens Zoo and the Queens International Night Market, where you can sample $6 food from over 80 different nations, such as Burma, Trinidad, Peru, Malaysia and Moldova.

Urban planning highlight: Flushing is amidst a development boom, with numerous high-rise residential developments in the pipeline like The Tangram and Flushing Commons. Most will offer new ground floor retail and open space — but also some construction noise for some.

  1. Washington Heights, Manhattan

“Washington Heights, one of the last affordable neighborhoods in Manhattan, offers a combination of old-school food joints, with new upscale cafes and restaurants creeping northwards along Broadway,” said Goldstein. “Because of the neighborhood’s narrow shape, most residents here enjoy easy access to two riverfront parks and to both the No. 1 and A/C subway lines.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Parks: Highbridge Park is set to receive a $30 million facelift that will include a new adventure playground, basketball courts and a synthetic turf field.

Healthy food access: While the northern half of the neighborhood lacks access to large and high-quality supermarkets, there are three regular farmers’ markets and many food stands and trucks.

Safety: Crime here is continuing to drop thanks to community-based policing efforts.

  1. Bedford Park, Bronx

“While the trip to Midtown takes over 45 minutes, this area is a surprisingly smart option for reverse commuters who can access the Metro North at the Botanical Gardens stop or Bee-Line buses to Westchester at Bedford Park Boulevard,” said Klein. “Bedford Park is also home to the ‘Educational Mile,’ a cluster of schools from the elementary to college levels that includes CUNY’s Lehman College and two of the city’s elite specialized high schools.

Other notable neighborhood features:

Parks and Culture: The New York Botanical Garden, which dates back to 1891, hosts music and art exhibitions, nature tours, and landscape design lectures.

Urban planning highlight: A recent rezoning affecting a swath of Jerome Avenue just south of here will bring new shops, restaurants and streetscape improvements, making Bedford Park a more convenient place to live.

  1. Woodhaven, Queens

“If you’re looking for a village-like vibe, keep your eyes on Woodhaven,” said Goldstein. “Most of the neighborhood is within walking distance of Forest Park, one of the largest green spaces in the city, and though you may feel far from it all, the J/Z subway line runs through the heart of Woodhaven, providing direct service to Lower Manhattan.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Food: In addition to the Asian eateries lining Jamaica Avenue, there is an abundance of Latin restaurants, reflecting the neighborhood’s fast-growing Central and South American population.

Education: Woodhaven is located within School District 27, which is among the first in the city with free preschool for all 3-year-olds.

Urban planning highlight: If built, the proposed QueensWay — a community-led plan to transform a 3.5-mile abandoned railway —  would run through the neighborhood, providing new bike and pedestrian paths, sports and fitness amenities, playgrounds, picnic areas, and gardens. It would also provide a safer, more enjoyable means of accessing Forest Park, schools, little league fields, shopping streets and subway stations.

  1. Concourse, Bronx

“Your commute from the Concourse neighborhood to Midtown takes essentially the same amount of time as the commute from Northern Manhattan, yet apartments in this South Bronx area are far more affordable,“ said Klein. “The area is also an architectural gem. The design of the Grand Concourse was inspired by Paris’ Champs-Élysées, and the thoroughfare is lined with historic art deco and modern architecture.”

Other notable neighborhood features:

Transit: The neighborhood is just a few stops away from Manhattan. It’s about a 25-minute ride to midtown on the 4 and B/D lines. Cyclists can expect easier connections to and from Manhattan as plans are in the works to add bike lanes to the Broadway, University Heights, and Washington Bridges.

Parks: Several parks dot the area, including 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

Culture: The arts are well-represented here with The Bronx Museum of Arts, The Bronx Documentary Center, and the Hostos Community College Center for Arts and Culture. A Hip Hop Museum is coming to the nearby waterfront by 2022.

Crime: Crime is still a concern here but is lower than many parts of the South Bronx.

Healthy food access: The Bronx Borough Hall Greenmarket is open every Tuesday in summer and fall.

Urban planning highlight: Jerome Avenue between 165th and 170th Streets will see a more attractive streetscape, taller buildings and more retail options in the coming years as developers take advantage of a recent rezoning.

Methodology:

Here is how we calculated the scores for each category:

Commute: Based on the average commute time from the neighborhood center to Midtown and to the Financial district centers by public transit.

Green score: We looked at the total parks area normalized by neighborhood’s area in addition to a 1300 feet buffer around it, to account for nearby parks. We also used the city’s 2015 Street Trees Census to look at a neighborhood’s number of trees normalized by its area.

Safety score: Based on 2017 NYPD data for violent, burglary (residential) and drug-related crimes (excluding marijuana).

Quietness: Based on the total number of 311 noise complaints normalized by the population over the past 12 months.

Bikeabilty: Based on total on-street bike lanes length divided by area, Citi Bike Stations, number of cycling injuries, percent of workers who commute by bike, and Citi Bike trips.

An “Affordability Score” was assigned to each neighborhood. The rank was based on our analysis of neighborhood’s single-room median renting prices. The top 25 percent most expensive neighborhoods in the city were removed to include only “affordable” neighborhoods in the final rankings.

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

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