Where Should You Actually Live In New York City?
Located at the southernmost coast of Manhattan, Battery Park City and the Financial District is the ideal place to live if you're making serious cash working in the financial industry. The area isn't great for nightlife, but you're so close to the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village that only ever a short cab ride away from all the action. Battery Park City is the best part of this area – it's right on the water, has a lovely park, and is full of shiny new buildings that make the neighborhood look like it's part of some CGI city from a movie set in the future. Also recommended: Tribeca, Chinatown.
Murray Hill is best known these days as a mecca for former frat boys and sorority girls, but it's actually a fairly diverse chunk of midtown Manhattan. It's not the most beautiful neighborhood, but there's a lot of fancy, freshly renovated residences, and there's plenty of fantastic Indian, Korean, and Chinese restaurants in the area. Also recommended: Gramercy, Kips Bay, Turtle Bay, and Roosevelt Island if you don't mind taking a tram into Manhattan all the time.
Located to the west of Times Square, Hell's Kitchen is the ideal neighborhood for anyone who thrives on the energy of one of the most bustling and dynamic parts of the city. (Or the world, for that matter.) Hell's Kitchen includes the entire theater district, easy access to nearly every subway line, and has a large and vital gay community thanks in part to being just north of Chelsea, one of the world's great LGBT-friendly neighborhoods.
The area around Central Park is among the most desirable real estate in New York City, so if you can pull off living there, you're doing great with life in general. The rest of the neighborhood – particularly along Riverside Drive – can be extremely charming, but also a bit quiet and lacking in night life options. But if you live on the Upper West Side, you probably just want something chill and a little fancy, so that probably doesn't matter too much.
The parts of the Upper East Side close to Central Park are safe, fancy, and close to several major museums. So, in other words, it's extraordinarily expensive. Things get a bit more reasonably priced if you go a bit further east into the Yorkville section, but it's not a particularly exciting part of town. It's very convenient if you happen to work at one of several hospitals along the eastern coast of Manhattan, though.
Harlem is best known as a major African-American cultural center, but over the years the identity of the area has shifted with a growing Latin population and steady gentrification through the '00s. The larger region of northern Manhattan also includes the area immediately around Columbia University, Morningside Heights, Washington Heights, and Inwood. Housing is relatively inexpensive compared to the rest of Manhattan and Riverside Park is gorgeous, but it's a bit removed from the rest of the city, so good luck convincing your friends in downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens to visit you.
The lower part of The Bronx is best known for being the home of the New York Yankees and the birthplace of hip-hop culture, but it's a large and diverse cluster of neighborhoods that have been improving a lot in the recent past after years of decay and neglect. It's a very affordable part of the city, and one of the best parts of the entire city for excellent, inexpensive ethnic cuisine. This region includes: Mott Haven, Melrose, Morrisania, Concourse Village, High Bridge, Morris Heights, Fordham.
Riverdale lies at the northernmost part of The Bronx, and generally feels more like the wealthy suburbs of Westchester County than what you'd probably associate with The Bronx. It's a very affluent area full of gorgeous mansions on green, beautifully maintained estates, as well as more urban spaces full of quaint low-rise brick apartment buildings. It's a bit out of the way – it's easier to get there by MetroNorth than by subway or bus – but if you're living there, you're probably happy to be just outside of the city. Also recommended: Wakefield, Bedford Park, Eastchester, Pelham Gardens, Country Club.
Williamsburg is famous around the world as the epicenter of hipster culture, and if you're going to live there, you ought to just embrace that. The area has become extremely gentrified, and now it almost exclusively caters to rich folks with hip taste. There's still plenty of cool bars, restaurants, shops, and music venues, but these days the young, artsy kids live in sketchier parts of the area, or in adjacent neighborhoods Bushwick and Ridgewood.
Greenpoint is right between Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens, and the character of the neighborhood basically blends the hipness of the former with the down-to-earth working class style of the latter. The more gentrified parts of the neighborhood can get a bit twee and bookish, but the area's large Polish immigrant population keeps that from getting too out of hand. Also, it's best to just ignore the part about how much of the neighborhood is on top of an underground oil spill that's still being cleaned up after three decades.
Red Hook is not convenient to public transportation, but in a way, that's part of its charm. It's like a relaxed, artsy small town on the water that just happens to be adjacent to more bustling Brooklyn neighborhoods. Red Hook has fantastic restaurants, relatively spacious and inexpensive housing, a park full of food trucks, and easy access to Ikea and Fairway. Also recommended, especially if the poor subway access is a deal breaker, you're freaked out by the damage brought on to the neighborhood by Hurricane Sandy, and you've got money to spend: Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO.
Fort Greene is the center of a cluster of hip, vibrant, and affordable neighborhoods in the space between Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope, and Williamsburg. It's about as relaxed and gentrified as Park Slope, but the neighborhood is more racially and economically diverse. There's plenty of nice bars and restaurants, plus easy access to the Atlantic Terminal mall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Barclays Center. Also recommended: Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Downtown Brooklyn.
Astoria is perennially underrated: it's safe, affordable, pleasant, and very convenient to Manhattan. It's never been a particularly hip part of town – it's in Queens, after all – but that's been changing a bit over recent years, thanks to the arrival of Brooklyn-esque bars and restaurants, proximity to both PS1 and the Museum of the Moving Image, and rising rental prices in the cooler parts of Brooklyn. That's all great, but the real charm of the area is in its diversity and unpretentious working class vibe. Also recommended: Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights.
Flushing is a bit too far out into Queens for most people – commuting from there to Manhattan or Brooklyn without a car can take ages – but there's a lot to love in the area: A large and thriving Asian community, cheap and authentic ethnic cuisine, easy access to CitiField for Mets games, several top-notch parks and museums, and some of the most baller karaoke lounges anywhere on the planet. Also recommended: Forest Hills, Bayside, Jamaica.
The largely suburban Staten Island is a bit isolated from the rest of the city – it's only accessible by bridge or ferry – so the borough has a way of feeling like an enormous small town. If you want to have a backyard, a car, and proximity to a mall but still live in New York City, this is the place for you. Plus, all the world class pizza you can handle, and you can call the island "Shaolin" like you're in the Wu-Tang Clan.
Park Slope is usually caricatured as a neighborhood full of yuppies with small children, and well, to some extent that's true. It's a lovely, well-rounded and safe area, and an ideal place to settle down. (It was ranked the best neighborhood in the city by New York Magazine.) There's plenty of bars, restaurants, and cool little shops, and as far as parks in NYC go, Prospect Park is second only to Central Park. Also recommended: Gowanus, Prospect Heights, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Sunset Park.
Greenwich Village is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in NYC for good reason: It's quaint and lovely, has a rich cultural history, and is full of excellent bars, restaurants, shops, and chic boutiques. It's a bit pricey and its proximity to the main campus of NYU can be a mixed blessing, but it is undeniably a wonderful place to live. Also recommended: West Village, SoHo.
The LES simply can't be beat in terms of sheer density of cool things – bars, restaurants, music venues, movie theaters, museums, comedy, theater, galleries, boutiques, record stores, you name it. The neighborhood has been gentrified over the years, but remains a very diverse area. The housing tends to be run down and the thriving night life means the area is always kinda loud and bustling, but this is the place to be if you thrive on being right in the thick of it. Also recommended: Alphabet City, East Village, NoHo, Little Italy.