Newcomers to New York are usually a bit confused about the five boroughs. Are they neighborhoods? Are they cities or are they all New York City? To put it straight they all comprise NYC, the borders of which were all established in 1898. Each of the five boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island – have their own unique flavor and residents will argue endlessly over the merits of each one to the others. While each borough is separate, travel between them is common and it’s not unusual to travel through two or more boroughs each day on your daily commute. Anyone who’s considering moving to NYC needs to weigh up the pros and cons of each one. Hopefully, this guide will help you decide with borough is the right one for you.
May as well start with the most famous one. Manhattan is the place every non-New Yorker is talking about when they say ‘New York.’ This is where you’ll find the beating heart of the city. It’s also the most densely populated borough in America’s most densely populated city. Of last year’s record number 62 million tourists to the city, most would have stayed in Manhattan. It’s where you’ll find Broadway, the Empire State Building, Central Park and many more iconic places. But for a lot of reasons, it’s not the first choice of boroughs for new arrivals looking to move. The cost of living is incredibly expensive and with an extreme lack of space, it can be tough to break into.
Pros: It’s an incredibly exciting and cool place to live. Almost everything that happens in the city happens here. Top bands play here all the time, almost every major industry has a convention or tradeshow here, and it’s where you stand a good chance of spotting numerous celebrities. It’s also quite easy to get around so you’ll save time and money on commuting.
Cons: Being the center of attention it tends to be a tough place to live. Housing is almost unaffordable for middle-class families; personal space is almost unknown, and Manhattanites can be a tough group of people to live with. If you can’t handle the crowds, costs and fast pace of everything you’re better off looking elsewhere.
For many years Brooklyn was seen as the cheaper alternative to living in Manhattan. But heavy gentrification over the last few years has seen that change. It’s now being called the “New Manhattan” and when you look at the housing prices it’s easy to see why. But what makes the borough so loved is that it’s home to artisanal everything. Here you’ll find a niche for everything from stores exclusively selling feathered gloves to meetup groups for dogs that look like vegetables. Brooklyn is the cool and ‘weird’ borough where no matter what you’re into you’ll find your people.
Pros: if you love art, culture, and food, there’s nowhere else that does it like Brooklyn. It tends to feel like a cluster of small towns tied together and it’s all incredibly accessible by the subway. If you love nightlife it has a huge selection of watering holes where you can find good times and maybe that special someone.
Cons: As mentioned, Brooklyn is fast catching up with Manhattan when it comes to housing prices. While commutes around the borough are relatively fast, getting to Manhattan can vary from easy transit over the bridge to an hour long commutes on the local F or R train.
Queens is the largest of the five boroughs and it’s by far the most ethnically diverse. As of 2014, 48% of its residents were foreign-born. This means you have a huge international cuisine to choose from. Whether you prefer Nepalese or Cantonese, Dominican or Liberian, it’s all there to test out your palate on. The borough is also more affordable than Manhattan or Brooklyn with far more housing options to choose from like high rises and more suburban neighborhoods. But in NYC pricing is all relative so it still remains expensive compared to other cities. But compared with Manhattan and Brooklyn it’s definitely a more affordable alternative. Just so long as you don’t mind a long commute.
Pros: it’s more affordable and many neighborhoods are fast started to rival Brooklyn for arts, dining/drinking, and creative entertainment. Its diversity makes Queens almost like the poster child for human beings living in harmony.
Cons: It’s the biggest borough and therefore a bit of a pain to get around. Getting into Manhattan is an easy ride but when traveling between neighborhoods you’ll need a lot of patience. There’s also an area of northeastern Queens that is inaccessible by the subway. Simply put, you’ll definitely want to consider commute times when choosing a neighborhood.
The borough has quite a marred reputation from the previous decades. But since then it’s experienced a comeback and is no longer like it was in the Carter years. Most of the borough has a nice small-town feel to it and once you get settled there you can meet a lot of friendly people. It’s now becoming a popular place for artists and performers that are moving into its new creative spaces.
Pros: It’s a very affordable borough but you’ll want to move fast because prices are starting to rise, especially in the south end which is going through a revitalization with new bars and restaurants opening all the time. You can find a very strong sense of community here once you get settled in and make some friends. It can also be very beautiful with many great parks, sunny beaches and cultural institutions.
Cons: Things there have gotten a lot better since the 70’s but safety can still be an issue in some neighborhoods. Hunt’s Point, in particular, has the distinction of being the most benighted neighborhood in the whole of New York. Transport is another major issue. The Cross-Bronx Expressway is good for getting to and from Manhattan but is less reliable for getting around the borough itself. Owning a car is practically a requirement for getting around.
Outsiders often try to argue that Staten Island isn’t even part of New York. It certainly has a very different vibe to the other boroughs and is the only one that is not connected to the metro. But if want a sense of suburbia while still being just a ferry ride away from the city it’s hard to argue against it. It’s also the most affordable borough with a lot of great apartments to choose from.
Pros: Apartments are very affordable and if you can’t handle the noise levels of the rest of the city you’ll it very quiet here. If you’re looking for a free-standing house with multiple bedrooms there’s a lot of vintage housing available that are perfect for families. Although there’s no metro the free ferry can be a very charming ride. It also provides some of the best views in the city.
Cons: If you’re moving to New York for the hustle-and-bustle you may be a bit disappointed with Staten Island. There’s little of the excitement here that you’ll find in the other boroughs and not being able to hop on the subway can really put the brakes on your social life. There is a railway for getting around the borough, but the schedule can be a bit unreliable.