Boroughs of New York explained – Guide for choosing the right NYC borough

By Najah Ayoub

Boroughs of New York explained

A Piece of Cake NYC Moving Guide

Ready to make your way to the Big Apple for your next move? Then the next decision will be to decide exactly what part of NYC you’ll make your home.

To out-of-towners, simply mentioning New York City may be plenty of information about where you’re headed. However, for those looking to relocate to this part of the Empire State, knowing more about the localities — or boroughs — can really help you better understand which part of the city meets your wants and needs.

So, here’s a quick rundown. There are five boroughs within NYC:

  • Manhattan
  • Brooklyn
  • Queens
  • The Bronx
  • Staten Island

While they are all a part of the metropolitan hustle and bustle (some are just connected by bridges, trains, or ferries), each comes with their own flavor, amenities, and price tags.

Keep reading and you’ll find out that learning about the boroughs with this guide is a Piece of Cake.

Start Here! NYC Borough Guide

Before delving into the details of the boroughs, it’s worth considering what factors may be the most influential in finding your spot in the city:

  • What are your wants and needs when it comes to your ideal neighborhood? Perhaps you’d like to be close to where you work for a short commute. Or, maybe you don’t mind a longer drive or subway ride and would rather be closer to where you want to be playing after clocking out for the day. When it comes to the city that never sleeps, you’ll also want to consider if you want to be in the midst of all the action or find a quieter corner more to your liking. You can find it all within the city limits. Knowing what your preferences are will help you narrow down the borough and the neighborhood that will be a good fit.
  • What’s your budget? A place to start here is with the realization that city livin’ ain’t cheap. However, as you adjust for NYC’s average cost of living, you will find a range of places that will be more or less expensive. Knowing what you can afford — often in terms of monthly rent and bills — is a helpful guide to dig into the places that will check your boxes and won’t break the bank.
  • How do you want to spend your money? As you make your decision about which borough is the one for you, there’s some give and take in the choices. If you’re accustomed to having more square footage, Staten Island and parts of Queens and the Bronx may be where you’ll find a match. However, what you may be missing out on is being closer to the sights, sounds, and happenings in Manhattan. You can still get there by train or by ferry, but it won’t be in your backyard. Considering where you want to spend your money and what you’re willing to compromise on will be key considerations in your borough selection.

NYC Borough Breakdown

Once you know your budget and preferences, you can really explore what each borough has to offer. And, as diverse as each can be, the neighborhoods contained within each one are quite unique themselves. Here’s a brief breakdown of each boroughs, some of the neighborhoods, a bit of what you can expect cost-wise, and a taste of what it’s like to live there:

Manhattan - NYC boroughs guide

Manhattan

When you see pictures or video of NYC, what you’re often seeing are parts of Manhattan. From the iconic buildings like the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center, or the famed greenspace that is Central Park, the island of Manhattan is as picturesque as they come. And, it’s actually pretty small. It’s just over 13 miles long and about 2 miles wide. But it’s packed with all the glitter and go-get ‘em attitude you’d expect from NYC.

Noteworthy neighborhoods in Manhattan

  • Harlem: From Lenape land, to Dutch settlement, to African-American cultural hub, there’s a whole lot of history and flavor packed into this upper Manhattan neighborhood. It’s home to some fantastic venues, such as the Apollo Theater and the Alhambra Ballroom, if you’re excited for an evening of music and entertainment. It also touches the northwest corner of Central Park at 110th street.
  • Greenwich Village: Calling all artists and bohemians! Walk the sidewalks of James Baldwin, Bob Dylan, and Jack Keroac in this downtown spot. In their time, it cost less to rent a pad there. That said, the prices may be up, but it’s no less cool and artsy today. Plus, you can meet up with your pals near the iconic Washington Square Arch (in Washington Square Park) nearby before checking out the nearby galleries and eateries.
  • Hell’s Kitchen: Perhaps you’d rather hail down a taxi from midtown AND be near to the Broadway theaters. Musical junkies and aspiring playwrights may draw inspiration from their proximity to the famed on- and off-Broadway stages. It’s also great for folks who never tire of being a tourist (you’ll encounter a lot of them too if you call this neighborhood your home). You might join visitors at the Javits Convention Center for an event or take a peak of the Enterprise space shuttle at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Cost of living in Manhattan

Get ready to throw down some dough. The overall cost of living in Manhattan is more than double the national average. The major contributors are utilities, transportation, and housing. The average 1-bedroom apartment will run you about just south of $3,000 a month, but that can vary a lot depending on the actual location in the borough. If you’re in the market to purchase an apartment, the median home costs a cool $1.4 million.

Day-to-Day in Manhattan

Visiting Manhattan is certainly not the same as living there. You’ll never run out of sights to see and events to check out, but being close to where all the action is will come at a higher cost than residing in some of the other boroughs. You’ll also be regularly rubbing elbows with other 1.6 million Manhattanites, so space in general is limited.

Brooklyn - NYC boroughs guide

Brooklyn

This borough has a different balance of excitement, edgy-ness, and easygoing than it’s Manhattan neighbor. You’ll definitely get the hip vibes in some neighborhoods, but in others, you’ll find more residential, family-friendly, and relaxed spaces. In terms of price, some parts of Brooklyn rival those of Manhattan.

Noteworthy neighborhoods in Brooklyn

  • Park Slope: If you’re moving to NYC with children, this neighborhood may be one to check out. Full of brownstones, great schools, and easily-accessible public transportation, it’s recognized for being particularly family friendly NYC-location. Here, you’ll be right next door to Prospect Park, a perfect place to picnic, do some seasonal ice skating, and check out the zoo animals. When you’re adulting, there are also local coffee shops and upscale restaurants to enjoy.
  • Williamsburg: It’s hip to live and play in this part of Brooklyn. You’ll be in the midst of the making of trends, be it the kind you eat, hear, or wear. You may find some of the food trends getting their start at Smorgusburg, a seasonal, open-air food market weekly event that’ll have you dining on the hottest bites right by the East River. Once you’ve gotten your fill, you can walk over to Artists and Fleas to check out new and vintage finds. Then, you can check out the music venues and bars to your heart’s content before heading back to your pad.
  • Dumbo: If you want the best of living in Brooklyn, but still want to be Manhattan-adjacent this may be the place for you. Short for “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass”, you’ll have a front row view of iconic scenes from downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park. There is a bit of an industrial and commercial vibe going on though, being home to a few big names including West Elm and Etsy. But, perhaps some of that creative and crafty design can help you curate your own vibe from handmade items and time-worn treasures from places like the seasonal Brooklyn Flea and Front General Store.

Cost of living in Brooklyn

Brooklyn may not be as expensive to live in as Manhattan, but the cost of living is still twice as high as the national average. Housing is the #1 highest cost, but that can really vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. For example, the average rent in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park will run about $1,995 per month and an average monthly rent in DUMBO may run you nearly twice that at $3,790. Factoring in what you’re looking for and how close you want to be to other parts of the city can help.

Day-to-Day in Brooklyn

This borough checks the boxes for a slightly more relaxed atmosphere, but it’s got enough of it’s own flavor of excitement that it can rival Manhattan for some incoming NY’ers. For those who want the best of both worlds: it’s possible to be both close to downtown Manhattan on the west side of the borough or farther out to enjoy the coastal locations (read: BEACHES).

Queens - NYC boroughs guide

Queens

This borough is a great one for families, with suburban feels in some parts and a more urban pace in others. There’s something here for everyone though, as it’s one of the most ethnically and racially diverse places in the world. For those on the go, you’ll be happy to be closer to LaGuardia Airport. For those seeking a staycation with sand between their toes though, there’s beaches-a-plenty in this borough as well.

Noteworthy neighborhoods in Queens

  • Forest Hills: If you’d still like to be rockin’ the suburbs with your relocation, the feel of this neighborhood may be for you. It’s rife with quaint row houses and manicured lawns, but that’s not where the greenspace ends. You’ll also enjoy nearby Forest Park and the historic Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. If you love tennis and/or music, look no further than the Forest Hills Stadium. It was the home to the original U.S. Open tournament in the 1920’s. Fast forward to now: it’s a venue that brings in big names in entertainment.
  • Long Island City: As a destination that’s just an easy subway ride away from Manhattan, this neighborhood boasts some pretty big attractions. For film fanatics, there’s the Museum of the Moving Image. Or maybe you’re into contemporary art — in which case, proximity to MoMA PS1 is a must. However, if you’re more of a hop-head or enjoy a libation after visiting museums, LIC has a lot brewing for you with a number of beer breweries to enjoy. There’s lots more to enjoy as well, including great restaurants, art galleries, and more.
  • Astoria: Easy views of the East River in this neighborhood not only mean proximity to water, but a quick 20-minute subway ride to Manhattan (if that’s your speed). These elements may be the reason this neighborhood is a draw for young professionals. If that sounds like you, perhaps you work hard — but you can play and relax in this neighborhood as well. Nearby Astoria Park boasts hiking trails, basketball courts, playgrounds, and more. If food is a part of how you unwind, you’ll also have your pick of many cuisines among the restaurants in the neighborhood. Maybe your dog can grab a seat at the table with you at a local dog-friendly establishment.

Cost of living in Queens

Though it’s still city-livin’ prices, Queens can be one of the more affordable options if you’re NYC-bound for your next move. Housing is about half as much as it would be in Manhattan. A one-bedroom apartment in Astoria, Long Island City, and Forest Hills will all run you over $2,000 a month in rent. But there are slightly more affordable neighborhoods, such as Ditmars-Steinway (north of Astoria) and Jackson Heights. If you’re in the market to buy a home, the median cost is much less in Queens at about $638,300.

Day-to-Day in Queens

New Yorkers are incredibly diverse in general. However, if you really want to be in the epicenter of diversity, this borough is for you. That said, this part of the city really does have a more suburban feel throughout. It may be an easier transition for some accustomed to that setting to make their home in Queens — but with all the perks of a major metropolis.

The Bronx - NYC boroughs guide

The Bronx

If you’re not from New York, this ‘uptown’ borough may be somewhat overlooked. But don’t neglect to check out the Bronx. As the birthplace of hip-hop, it’s got it’s own beat and a whole lot in store for those who set out to explore this northernmost borough. From Yankee Stadium, to local beaches, to beautiful scenery to enjoy, there’s plenty of reasons to visit or to make your home in one of the many great Bronx neighborhoods.

Noteworthy neighborhoods in the Bronx

  • Riverdale: This is another NYC neighborhood that has more of a suburban feel. There are plenty of options for single family homes in this part of the Bronx. It’s also considered one of the safest neighborhoods in the borough. Beyond home life, there’s a lot of fantastic flora features to explore. This neighborhood is home to the Wave Hill Public Garden with great views of the Hudson River and Seton Park. For the greenery you can eat, check out the seasonal Sunday Market at the Riverdale Y.
  • Fordham: Speaking of flora and fauna, moving to this neighborhood means you’ll be sharing space with the New York Botanical Garden and the famed Bronx Zoo. The taste of the neighborhood is also quite diverse, boasting a number of Latin American eateries and the home of the “real” Little Italy on Arthur Avenue. If work or play takes you “downtown”, the Metro-North train line can take you into Manhattan.
  • Kingsbridge: Proximity and easy access by Metro-North and the D subway train to the Manhattan may be similar assets to potential residents in this neighborhood. There are many single family homes if that feels like the right fit for you. Plus, the local public schools in the area are above average.

Cost of living in the Bronx

The Bronx is more affordable than most of the other boroughs. Average rents are much lower, just above $1,600 in the Riverdale and Kingsbridge neighborhoods. Many people also opt to buy over renting in this borough. In terms of purchasing real estate, the median house costs are at $456,700 — making an NYC address your own much more realistic.

Day-to-Day in the Bronx

​​Plenty of places in this borough are more residential in comparison to the parts of NYC that are south of this borough. So, if you’re hoping to balance the big-city amenities with an at-home setting for your family, looking into the Bronx neighborhoods really may meet your needs. You may also get more for your money housing-wise!

Staten Island - NYC boroughs guide

Staten Island

Often described as the Borough of Parks with over 9,300 acres of park lands, this part of the city has more green space than any other borough. In terms of other spaces in the borough, you may get more for your money in general. This island is also pretty residential; 70% of people who live in Staten Island are homeowners. The demographics, however, do tend to be less diverse than their fellow NYC residents elsewhere in the city.

Noteworthy neighborhoods in Staten Island

  • Great Kills: This part of Staten Island is said to have more of a town than a neighborhood feel. It’s very residential and has great schools. So it may be a good choice if you’re moving with a family. You can all check out the local greenery at Great Kills Park, with it’s 580 acres for recreating. If you’re intending to commute into other parts of the city though, it’s good to keep in mind that getting into Manhattan can be upwards of 90 minutes.
  • St. George: If you enjoy the pace of Staten Island, but need to be close to Manhattan, this neighborhood may be on your list. It’s where the Staten Island Ferry stops, making it easy to commute. It’s also the home of the Staten Island Yankees, so you can root for one of your home teams without trekking all the way out to the Bronx. It’s got a bit of everything as well, night clubs, galleries, and is very walkable.
  • New Dorp: If walkability is a perk you’re looking for, this spot on the Eastern part of the borough may be for you. A stroll down the New Dorp Lane District will find you in the midst of some good shopping and restaurant options. You may be sharing those sidewalks with quite a few neighbors, because this neighborhood has a higher population density than some other places in SI. It’s also a bit more diverse and international than some other neighboring areas. Plus, it’s beach-adjacent, so you’re never too far from the surf and sand.

Cost of living in Staten Island

Renting or owning in this borough will cost you less than some of the other boroughs. On the island, the average 1-bedroom rent is at about $1,500. If you’re seeking out the title of homeowner, the median house cost is $540,200.

Day-to-Day in Staten Island

Prepare for a commute if you don’t work or play locally. That said, the Staten Island Ferry; it runs 365 days a year and it’s free for all riders! If you’re hoping to have nights out on the town, you might have to look for your nightlife in another borough. However, if you’re hoping to own a home in the city or you dream of a suburban NYC, this borough may be just what you’re looking for.

You may not need any help deciding which part of NYC will be yours. When it comes to making plans wherever you land in the city, look no further than Piece of Cake Moving & Storage. We’re NYC moving experts. Fifth-floor walk-ups and navigating moving trucks while negotiating the city’s parking regulations are no sweat for us; we’ve done it and seen it all when it comes to these five boroughs. Let us help you do what we do best. We’ll make your move to any part of the Big Apple… a Piece of Cake.


Ready to make a move? Get in touch today for an obligation-free guaranteed flat price moving quote.

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