When we arrived in New York City 4 years ago we temporary rented an apartment on Roosevelt Island. We liked the slower pace of the island but decided that wanted a neighborhood with a bit more vibe and charm so we started looking for apartments in different areas... Upper East Side, Waterside Plaza, Peter Cooper Village, Gramercy, Lower East Side in Manhattan and Green Point, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope in Brooklyn.
We realized that we really liked Brooklyn, as it feels more family friendly and familiar compared to hectic and loud Manhattan. We ended up renting a nice 3-bedroom apartment in a 5-story apartment building in Boerum Hill (Brooklyn), 3 blocks from the Atlantic Avenue/Barclay Center metro station. With 9 metro lines (2,3,4,5,B,D,N,Q,R) and the A,C,F,G lines within 10 minute walk a perfect spot to travel to any destination in NYC fast.
As our kids (then 14 & 11) were not used to travel on public transport (as they grew up in Viet Nam and Mozambique) our priority was finding a place where a UNIS school bus would pick them up from home. Our apartment was on the route of a Brooklyn parents organized UNIS school bus and our kids were picked up at 6:45 AM during the first semester. This was great, but we soon discovered that using the metro was much easier and faster (and much cheaper as well). From the second semester on my kids used the metro daily and that proved to be safe and perfectly fine. From our house to UNIS is 40 to 50 minutes and it takes the same amount of time to get to the UN by subway. Trains are busy at rush hour but not too busy we find; the frequency is high and there are many different lines you can take.
Boerum Hill's Streets and view from our balcony. Photos: Stef Stevens
Our neighborhood has a nice mix of small shops, restaurants and convenient supermarkets (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods are a few blocks away) and our membership to the nearby Park Slope Food Coop (foodcoop.com) has been one of our best choices in NYC; Incredible fresh organic food for half the price of Whole Foods and being part of a very nice community run institution. With the BAM and Barclay’s Center around the corner there is a lot of cultural & sports entertainment available. Parking is free in our area but finding an empty spot can be a challenge. We choose not to have a car and rent a car for holidays, sports competition and certain errands.
We have never regretted our move to Brooklyn, on the contrary we have enjoyed our relatively quiet & appealing neighborhood very much. It just feels way more relaxed than hectic Manhattan and the commute to work & school is manageable.
My suggestion is that it is very well possible to escape hectic and polluted Manhattan to find a home in one of the other boroughs, but you must make sure that you are near some good reliable subway lines, preferably more than one, in order to keep the commute convenient and acceptable. Rental prices tend to be a bit lower than in Manhattan, so you will be able to get that extra bedroom for the same amount. Rental prices in many popular areas in Brooklyn however (Dumbo, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Boerum Hill etc) are in the same range as the average prices in Manhattan.
By Stef Stevens