Trying to Choose a NYC Neighborhood - Advice?

Onthemove's picture
Rank: Chimp | 9

Hi guys - I'm planning to move to NYC and was hoping to get a little advice on the right neighborhood to move into. I have read a couple earlier threads on the subject on WSO which were quite helpful - I figured I would just lay out my own situation / priorities to see if that might change the recommendation. The other threads were a bit old also so I'm not sure if things have changed. Any advice or guidance would be appreciated.

Anyhow, I'm 34 and single. I'm a decent ways into my career and work from home at this point. Budget isn't really a concern - I can afford up to 8k a month in rent by the standard NYC 40x rent rule. I am mainly looking for the ideal neighborhood on the basis of quality of life issues: primarily night life, dating / girls, restaurants, access to events/activity, general cleanliness, subway access. I guess I'd also prefer the general crowd to be more mid 20s-30s instead of fresh out of college.

I have seen a lot of recommendations of West Village / Greenwich Village. I am strongly considering that area but the apartments are of course often quite old / rough even at a relatively high price point in the village and I'd tend to prefer more of a modern highrise with a view. I was also thinking about Chelsea / Meatpacking, which seems to have some nicer highrise doorman type buildings. Tribeca looks nice but apparently is pretty dead for a youngish single guy from what I've heard.

Are there other areas you would recommend? A lot of nice buildings seem to be in the Midtown area but I don't know if the general craziness and traffic of that area would be worth it. From what I can tell UWS/UES are probably too slow paced and family oriented to be ideal at this point. The lower east side in general seems to be a little less appealing than the west side from most of what I've seen and read - I could certainly be wrong.

Anyhow, any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Comments (10)

Mar 24, 2020

There are definitely a lot of places that could be cool in the West Village or SoHo. But, I prefer the East Village to be honest.

Here are some East Village luxury options. I'd ax #5 though, you don't want to be on Ave D.
There is also The Ludlow in LES.
Here are the others in the LES on this list:

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

    • 1
Mar 24, 2020

SoHo / East Village / Union Square is what you are after.

4-5k/month will get you a very nice apartment and you'll be living the dream

i like 188 Ludlow for this guy..i.'m a littlejealous

just look at this neighborhood,117,113,116,108,109,162,107,106,157

    • 1
Mar 24, 2020

Avoid East Village unless you're looking for a college town like atmosphere.

An alternative is the northern part of Hell's Kitchen, which is as close to Columbus Circle as possible. It's fantastic when you want to go for a run, and Central Park is a 5 min walk away. Additionally, most people in their mid 20s-30s are living in Hell's Kitchen because it's clean, safe, and has a strong restaurant scene. Every single train runs to Hell's Kitchen, so moving around the city is not a problem at all.

Mar 24, 2020

My suggestions:

1) use StreetEasy for your search - it is relatively comprehensive and will help you find condos and co-ops that just searching the web won't.

2) I would avoid midtown - pretty quiet and the weekends and very focused on tourists. It won't feel like a neighborhood. Great place to get a nice meal but not to live

3) avoid UES and uws - very quiet

With that, I would recommend Greenwich village, west village or the area close to union square. You will have a ton of options for commuting or meeting friends (uptown or downtown), there are great restaurants and close to nightlife, and it feels like a neighborhood you can live in (as opposed to a tourist trap).

I would also keep an open mind on the types of building. "Luxury highrises" are usually kind of crappy and made with just ok materials and build quality when they are rentals. The buildings will have some amenities but I've found it much better to find an apt I like that is high quality (usually condo) and then pay for a nice gym. Also those newer buildings are usually in less desirable areas to live in (midtown, way on the westside, etc). There are exceptions but they'll charge a heavy premium (And of course there are real luxury spots but those are over your budget). I've also really enjoyed the privacy that comes with a smaller place, but that's just a personal preference.

    • 2
Mar 24, 2020

Where do you work (generally speaking)? How long of a commute will you put up with? Do you attach any particular stigma to Brooklyn or Queens over Manhattan? I assume you want this 25-35 year old crowd to be single? Lot of other questions to address here.

Generally speaking, the area of Manhattan between Canal (or Delancey on the East Side) and 34th St are going to be overrun with 20-something year olds on Thur-Sat nights. Like... probably will see vomit in the morning, may be loud music depending on the specific sub-neighborhood, etc. Some places (Lower East Side comes to mind) may be worse than others.

Tribeca is a bit quieter but still has plenty of social options and is a mostly younger crowd, though it seems to tend toward young couples/families more so than singles. With the arrival of the High Line, Hudson Yards, and the 7 Train extension West Chelsea (west of 8th Ave between 14th & 34th, in my opinion) is actually a reasonably livable, young place to live; lots of galleries, increasing number of bars/restaurants, etc.

Honestly every neighborhood, even every couple blocks, has it's own vibe and it's really up to your personality. There are parts of Brooklyn that are young, single, and up and coming (near the Jefferson L Train stop, or the Franklin 2/3/4/5 come to mind), but that's further from Manhattan and totally different vibe to boot.

Most Helpful
Mar 25, 2020

I'll take a different angle that I don't see mentioned yet.

You're working from home. This needs to be the single axis you make your decision around.

There are a lot of factors to choosing a home in New York:

  • concentration of basic services (groceries, laundry, coffee shop, drug store, etc.)
  • proximity to transit (if you take it)
  • amenities in the building
  • commute time to office (if you ever have to go in even though you're home-based)
  • space for your needs
  • light and exposure
  • noise and sound
  • doorman
  • elevator versus walk-up
  • and so on ...

Most of those are irrelevant relative to the single criterion of how well the home you choose sets you up to be happy and successful working out of it.

You want:

  • a very defined separate space for work; this means a two bedroom, and ideally a floorplan where they don't share a common wall
  • a quiet street; there's a difference between a quiet neighborhood and a quiet street - some neighborhoods are quiet (like Noho, which has wide streets with great lighting, low level of foot traffic, and relatively fewer loud ground-floor tenant businesses like restaurants and bars), but streets within them can be worse (like Great Jones, which has a firehouse on it that trucks come screaming out of)
  • a doorman, or at least a virtual one; the iconic New York apartment buzzer really grates on you when three separate boxes from the same Amazon Prime order show up within four hours of each other and interrupt every call you're on for the day
  • ideally a building with FiOS; Spectrum blows and you don't want any headache around connectivity for work

Assuming a $320,000 income, you can afford to take a different path to picking an apartment: live in different neighborhoods for a week or month at a time before signing a lease.

You can do this with Airbnb, Frele, Landing, or even corporate stay-type offerings like AKA. Try a short stint in a few different areas before you commit.

For generic quality of life topics, I'd recommend Noho, Soho, and the upper West Village (Meatpacking, effectively, but lower than 14th).

Noho gives you the 4/5/6 at Bleecker, BDFM at Houston (also a Bleecker entrance), and NQR at Prince. It's clean, surprisingly quiet, spacious (which means lots of light in your home), has good small restaurants (Lafayette, Bond, and Great Jones are dotted with them), and no friend you invite over or girl you take home will fail to react positively to your home.

Off the top of my mind, buildings here would include:

  • Avalon (look at all their properties through the city, but this one is called Bowery - there are two buildings that face each other on 1st Street, you want the north one to avoid the noise of Houston)
  • 2 Cooper
  • Silk Building (these will be condos rented directly by the owner, not a professionally managed rental building)
  • Soho Court (old and ugly, in my opinion, but never any vacancies which means people aren't turning the units over so it must not be awful)
  • 284 Mott (probably under your budget)
  • Schumacher Building (probably above your budget; again, condos, not professional rentals)
  • 11 Great Jones

Soho would give you the same subways: 4/5/6 at Spring, NQR at Prince, BDFM at Houston, ACE at Spring if you're farther west. There are limitless options here for restaurants, both east of Broadway (aka Nolita) and west. It's a cliche that this is the best neighborhood to see girls on the street. All kinds of events happen here: galleries, parties, product launches, you name it. Know going in that you'll always have heavy foot traffic; Soho is a people magnet and both tourists and New Yorkers alike pour through the streets on evenings and weekends. Most blocks are pretty quiet at night though.

I'm running out of time so I'll skip pointing out a bunch of buildings. If you want "modern highrise with a view", you're going to want the western area of Soho. Some brokers will call that Hudson Square, but note that they're using it to refer to anything west of Varick and will take you as far west as the highway. I'm referring more to the stuff on Mercer, Broome, and Crosby where there's a decent number of buildings over seven stories with doormen, as well as over toward the tunnel entrance like Renwick, Charlton, and Hudson where it seems like there are new highrises coming online continually.

The Meatpacking area I'm referring to is pretty narrow geographically. I have the same stance you do on the West Village overall; inventory tends to be old, tight, and dirty relative to its price point. Things that are new and clean still tend not to be spacious, and they come at such a significant premium to their exact comp in a different but still 'trendy' or desirous neighborhood that it makes no sense.

Some of the northern blocks below 14th are interesting though. They're open and airy and have newly-converted buildings. Off the top of my head most will be above your price point (I recall seeing things in the $15-25,000 range) but I bet there will be expensive one-bedroom units or smaller twos in those type of buildings. Look for great buildings north of West 10th. Try to stay below 14th and not on it, otherwise you'll get a ton of foot traffic and probably audible street noise as well. Look at 66 Ninth if you want inspiration.

Beyond my neighborhood recommendations, I'd say Tribeca can be fun but is pretty family-oriented. You'll see a lot of strollers, and the restaurant scene is much more sedate. Lots of people there are established couples, even if they haven't started a family yet.

Avoid Midtown overall. Midtown East is stale, and since you mention wanting to avoid the immediate post-grad crowd, you'll hate it (Murray Hill, Turtle Bay, etc.). Midtown West (Hell's Kitchen especially) is getting a ton of new highrises, but if you go check them out you may get the sense that it's like being in a vacuum. You can easily miss a lot of the character of the city in a big sterile tower that's in a pocket of other big towers.

You're correct that the Upper East and West are very relaxed and family-oriented.

LES is changing a lot. Essex Crossing was in the works for quite awhile and then sprang up almost overnight. There are way more viable buildings than just three years ago. Most are midrise; streets like Orchard and Rivington aren't zoned for massive buildings. 196 Orchard is a good example, I loosely know one of the principals involved in the deal, they bought air rights from Katz's and had a pretty splashy sale of the retail portion a few years later. I'll tell you the same thing I told a friend who took a unit there; get used to loud streets at night (tons of really popular cheap bars over there), round-the-clock traffic noise (bridge traffic on Delancey), and dirty, narrow streets. In 10 years I bet it will be a lot cleaner, but that probably only helps if you're buying, not renting.

Good luck man. Sounds like you've got a nice role. My advice is to take several weeks to check out the places you're thinking of settling in to get an actual feel for it, and make sure to prioritize a home where you're able to work productively.

    • 6
Mar 25, 2020

Solid post APAE. Funny that you mentioned you're running out of time halfway through and wrote a small essay afterwards lol. May come back to this in the future when I move (college grad in Midtown East).

Mar 25, 2020

Murray Hill is a popular area for singles. Kips Bay also good. LES is NOISY day and night, and teeming with people. I think more fun to hang out there than live these days.

Mar 27, 2020

Thanks for all the helpful info and insights guys. I really appreciate it. That is very useful guidance for me - I think the general idea of trying to get a feel for multiple different areas before making a final decision is indeed a good one, as APAE mentioned. I will look closely into those different sites, buildings and areas that you all mentioned.

Mar 27, 2020