Expats looking for the best places to live in New York City will find that there are a lot of options to consider. Almost too many! While there are many great neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs, your specific situation should determine what's best for you. If you're in your early 20s, for instance, the best place for you will likely be different than if you have 2 kids. This article is more general in nature, and we'll be adding separate lists for those two different groups in the near future, and some in between.
We're making sure to include at least one option from each borough to help give you a general sense of what's available in the city, but beyond that we're looking for safe places with good housing, access to good food, culture and entertainment.
New York City's Layout
There are 5 Boroughs in New York City:
Manhattan - The part of New York City most people think of when they think of "New York City," Manhattan is home to most of the landmarks you hear about the most. The Empire State Building, Central Park, Madison Square Garden, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, The Met, etc. are all in Manhattan.
Brooklyn - Brooklyn is the western most county on Long Island. Roughly located southeast of Manhattan, this borough's transformation over the course of the last few decades has been incredible. Several neighborhoods are highly sought after and the people that choose to live in Brooklyn tend to REALLY like Brooklyn - don't think they all wish they could live in Manhattan. Most people living in Brooklyn WANT to be in Brooklyn.
The Bronx - The Bronx is north/northeast of Manhattan. You'll hear that some parts of the Bronx are excellent options - Riverdale is a prime example. There are a lot of cultures represented. Other parts of the Bronx are still very dangerous and dirty. That's the unvarnished truth. Be careful opting into the Bronx. Do not rent a place or allow a company to place you there unless you have been to the neighborhood and seen the apartment or house in which you will live. Make sure it's for you.
Queens - Queens is next to Brooklyn as you travel east on Long Island. There are communities that are right across the East River from Manhattan, which makes it suitable for people that want to live outside of the city and have a relatively "easy" commute into the city.
Staten Island - Staten Island is the borough that most people don't realize is actually one of the 5 boroughs of New York. People who make the case for Staten Island often cite it as a Brooklyn alternative for those who don't want to live in a true suburb.
The Upper West Side (Manhattan)
The Upper West Side is a great option for families, those seeking a relatively quiet place to live, and easy access to Central Park. Many long-time New Yorkers bemoan a progressive loss of character as chain stores move into the neighborhood, but it still has more in that regard than say, the Upper East Side. There's also easy access to a lot of great museums, restaurants and boutiques. Having lived on the Upper West Side myself, I can attest to the wonders of Central Park. If you doubt that you could ever live in a city due to a need to be around greenspace, Central Park is fully capable of filling that need.
Carnegie Hill (Manhattan)
Carnegie Hill is part of the broader Upper East Side section of Manhattan. Impressive architecture, proximity to Central Park and the Met are among the reasons people choose this relatively quiet upscale neighborhood. Also home to the Guggenheim. Expensive.
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Park Slope (Brooklyn)
Nestled up against Prospect Park, Park Slope is home to a lot of young professionals and has good public schools, access to nearby private schools. No shortage of good restaurants either, though not the bustling scene you'll find elsewhere - but most in the neighborhood prefer that. You're adding commute to time for the atmosphere and proximity to greenspace, but it's one the residents are willing to make.
West Village (Manhattan)
The West Village is an easy place to get lost in, and that's exactly what attracts some people - its odd configuration of eclectic side streets that defy the layout of the typical city grid. With its rich cultural history, great restaurants and boutiques, a blend of people are happy to call this home. Added bonus - proximity to the High Line without all of the touristy trappings that weighs down the Meat Packing District.
Gramercy Park (Manhattan)
Gramercy is a tree-lined island of (relative) quiet in downtown Manhattan. Located near Union Square and the Flatiron District, residents have no problem going from their little oasis to nearby restaurants, bars and great shopping. Its famous eponymous park is only available to residents that possess a much sought after key.
Dumbo - an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass - is right on the water and offers easy access to Manhattan. However, many people there don't commute to Manhattan at all. Instead, they work in Dumbo's great tech scene. It does come at a steep price.
Located directly across from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Astoria offers a dream commute via subway if you work on that side of Manhattan. Otherwise, the commute could be a dealbreaker. There are a variety of housing options for both single professionals and families alike.
Some people might wince at the idea of including Riverdale on this list, but it is in the Bronx and offers a great option in the 5 boroughs for those that want a little more quiet while maintaining an easy commute to the heart of Manhattan.
Hell's Kitchen (Manhattan)
Hell's Kitchen, which is sometimes referred to as Clinton, has undergone a lot of change in the last 25 years. That being said, it still has a ton of character and offers a wide variety of options in terms of restaurants, types (and cost) of housing, and a convenient central location near Midtown. This is another neighborhood that I have lived in and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
Tribeca is a great option for families and those who work on Wall Street or elsewhere downtown with cash to burn. There are great restaurants, easy access to SOHO, and of course the Tribeca Film Festival is something to look forward to every year.
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