Home to more than 8 million people, New York City is a bustling metropolis full of fast walkers crowding the city sidewalks. With more millennials preferring to live in urban centers where they’re able to walk to work and stores, it’s no surprise that ‘walkability’ is affecting real estate prices in the Big Apple — both residentially and commercially. Add one of the best public transportation systems in the country to the mix, and you have a walker’s heaven.

NYC Scores High for Walkability and Health in Surveys

As more and more Americans became aware of the effects of climate change and worried about health, they are looking to buy homes in cities where public transportation and walking abound. In a recent survey by Walk Score, New York City came out as number 1 for having neighborhoods with high walkability and was also listed at number one for available public transportation as well.

Walk Score is a website that crunched the numbers of 10 million addresses and billions of walking routes to neighborhood amenities to find cities that are the most walkable. The results were great news for Manhattanites, which features the best walkability of any city in the United States.

Also, New York City also scored high in other categories, including “Transit Score.” The transit score refers to the availability of public transportation options, and NYC is filled with them. From subways to buses and trains, NYC offers a variety of ways to get from point A to point B and stops along the way as well.

NYC is so walkable and offers such a variety of public transportation options that Census data shows that 57% of households don’t even own cars! Thanks to many neighborhoods having easy access to subways and shops and restaurants, many households don’t need one.

Within NYC, various boroughs and neighborhoods have been shown to be more walkable than others. Manhattan is the borough with the most walkable neighborhoods. And in Manhattan, the area near Battery Park was found to be the most walkable of any in the city.

Battery Park is at the southern tip of Manhattan and faces New York Harbor. Nearby is the urban suburb is known as Battery Park City, which is one of the only planned areas in Manhattan. Apartments in the neighborhood often include areas to plant gardens, and the nearby financial center makes for an easy commute. There are also some of the city’s best examples of architecture and public art. Many points in the area offer stunning views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and New Jersey. There are also plenty of places to stroll and enjoy the day, including five public parks, gardens and plazas filled with bronze figures, as well as the promenade. Although it was built on a landfill, the area continues to grow and add shopping, stores, and supermarkets as well as restaurants. While there aren’t as many of the spacious apartments found elsewhere in Manhattan.

Living in a walkable neighborhood translates to personal benefits as well. Communities that were deemed more walkable also had inhabitants that got more physical activity. A government study found that those that were physically active also burned more calories, enough, to make a difference in impacting obesity rates.
Walking has been shown to have multiple benefits including helping to maintain a healthy weight as well as prevent health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes and even alleviate a bad mood.

How ‘Walkability’ Affects New York City’s Real Estate Values

Results in a Greater Economic Value Per Square Foot

Cities like Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and — of course — New York rank among the top when it comes to walkable urbanism. These top-ranking Metropolitans have an average 38 percent higher GDP per capita when compared to low ranking Metropolitans. Office spaces in these cities also rent at a 74 percent higher premium per square foot when compared to drivable suburban areas. New York City’s creation and support of walkable neighborhoods have led it to thrive within the new economic and demographic realities American cities now face.

Bridges the Gap Between “City” and “Suburban” Real Estate

New York City ranks second behind Washington D.C. on the most walkable cities in the U.S. list. That’s because 89 percent of the walkable urbanism is within the city center and nearly all lies in Manhattan. Since Manhattan only accounts for 8 percent of the city’s population, the best development opportunities in NYC lie in its suburban neighborhoods. Urbanizing New York City’s suburbs won’t only bridge the gap between city and suburban real estate, but it’ll also drive real estate prices up in the process because of how attractive those neighborhoods would be.

Drives Real Estate Prices Up

Studies show that home values have bounced back higher and faster in walkable neighborhoods than in drivable ones. That’s because housing in walkable areas communities is the most expensive real estate in the U.S. Depending on the market, those prices can range from 40 to 200 percent higher than in drivable neighborhoods. Although that relationship didn’t exist 25 years ago because walkable cities weren’t valued, today it’s a significant factor in determining and driving real estate prices. This trend will likely continue as more millennials flock to urban areas.

Final Thoughts and Figures

A higher walkability index not only results in higher real estate values but also more income per capita and higher educational attainment. New York City currently boasts a $59,400 metro GDP per capita with 37 percent of the population 25 and older having a bachelor’s degree. All of these factors contribute to how real estate prices fluctuate in certain neighborhoods of the city. Although New York City’s real estate market has been notoriously expensive because of high demand, its walkable neighborhoods do have an impact on those housing prices.

There’s no telling how the New York City real estate market will look 20, 10, or even five years down the line as it urbanizes suburban neighborhoods and people spread out more. Only time will tell how high or low those prices go.


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