America’s Great Neighborhoods: New York

Author: Alecia Pirulis

View from Empire State Building

The concrete jungle is calling your name. You want to take a bite out of the Big Apple. Claim your empire in the Empire City. You want to wake up in the city that never sleeps. So start spreading the news … you’re leaving today … you want to be a part of it … New York, New York.

I’ve run out of NYC clichés – and if you’re planning to live in this dynamic, crowded, gorgeous place, you’ll have to get used to them. If you’re a native New Yorker, you probably already “heart” NY. There are so many great neighborhoods in the city – from Greenwich Village to Tribeca to Chelsea to Murray Hill to Dumbo – you may suffer perpetually from “greener grass” syndrome. To help make your decision a little easier, here are a few of New York’s top neighborhoods:

SoHo: It’s everything you want in a New York neighborhood – art galleries and street artists, historic buildings, trendy lofts, fantastic restaurants, and trendy boutiques. The drawback to SoHo is the expense – you’ll pay to live here, but if you can afford it, there’s no place quite like it. The architecture (SoHo is a historic district with buildings dating back to the 1800s) is amazing. There are roughly 250 cast iron buildings in SoHo – the best collection of this type of architecture in the world. And the location can’t be topped – this is Lower Manhattan, after all. The north end of the neighborhood contains Broadway and Spring Street; the south end is along Canal Street.

Tribeca: Also located in Lower Manhattan, Tribeca is on the other side of Canal Street – in fact, the name is taken from Triangle Below Canal Street. A terrific collection of historic industrial buildings (this was, at one time, the heart of the textile trade) converted into lofts, this is the place to be if you’ve always wanted to live in an authentic loft – a warehouse that dates back to the 1800s, converted into living spaces complete with cement floors and the original brick walls. Host to the Tribeca Film Festival, this neighborhood is well-known for being home to several famous celebrities, such as one of the festival’s founders, Robert De Niro. Other famous Tribeca residents include David Letterman, Billy Crystal, Scarlett Johansson, Kelly Ripa, Daniel Radcliffe, Amy Poehler, Jon Stewart, Meryl Streep, and Justin Timberlake.

Greenwich Village: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Village is arguably one of NYC’s most famous neighborhoods. It wraps around Washington Square Park and its famous Washington Arch. The park dates back to 1871 and has been a gathering space ever since. This park (with its iconic chess tables) has been featured in many films. This is the location of many NYU buildings. The Village is bordered by the Hudson River on the west side. It is home to some major celebrities, but it also contains some gritty Off-Off-Broadway theaters, comedy clubs, nightclubs, and other hotspots.

Dumbo: If you’re looking for that bohemian feel that once was the Village, Tribeca, and SoHo before these areas became prime real estate, then perhaps Dumbo is the answer. Dumbo (short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), is located in Brooklyn, just across the East River from Manhattan. This is a historic neighborhood, home to the artists, musicians, and emerging chefs. It is also home to many start-up tech firms – mainly because rent is more affordable than elsewhere in the city.

Sunnyside: Head over to the borough of Queens to find the terrific neighborhood of Sunnyside. No, it isn’t in the heart of Manhattan, but this diverse and affordable neighborhood is becoming quite trendy – especially for writers, musicians, and activists. From the art fairs to the outdoor movie events in Sunnyside Gardens Park, this neighborhood may feel like the suburbs, but it is just 15 minutes from Midtown by subway. And it is much more affordable.

Brooklyn Heights: Historic brownstones, row houses, a smattering of mansions – this may not be what comes to mind when you think of Brooklyn, but this neighborhood is picturesque, elegant, and expensive. It is very close to Manhattan, and residents of Brooklyn Heights can easily reach the city by several subway options. Brooklyn Heights is a historic district with very few high-rises. It also contains about 600 pre-Civil War houses – one of the largest concentrations in the country. Brooklyn Heights was home to some of the nation’s most famous writers, such as Arthur Miller, W.E.B. Du Bois, Walt Whitman, Truman Capote, and Thomas Wolfe.

Marble Hill: Live in Manhattan – only don’t! Marble Hill is technically part of the Bronx. But it is considered part of Manhattan. When it was first settled during the Dutch colonial period (circa 1646), Marble Hill was part of the island of Manhattan. The King’s Bridge – later Kingsbridge – was built in 1693 to reach Marble Hill. Some claim that the bridge still exists — buried forever after the late 1800s, when the Harlem River was redirected into a deeper shipping canal. This project changed Marble Hill forever by cutting it off from the rest of Manhattan and making it a mainland neighborhood – and part of the Bronx. Perhaps it is this ambiguity concerning exactly who claims Marble Hill – Manhattan or the Bronx – that has kept Marble Hill one of New York’s hidden treasures. Where else in Manhattan can you find single-family houses with yards?

Canarsie: Detached houses with neat lawns and shady, tree-lined streets; seagulls calling as they soar past; parks with kids playing baseball, soccer, or kickball – you may think you’ve found a cozy neighborhood in small-town America, but this is Brooklyn. Even better – it’s affordable. This is home to Canarsie Pier, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. The pier extends into Jamaica Bay, a wildlife refuge consisting of salt marshes. The wildlife refuge is visited by more than 300 bird species and is considered a must-see for avian enthusiasts.

East Village: Back on Manhattan, East Village is south of Gramercy and east of Greenwich Village. East Village was once a counterculture hotbed of punk rock, protesters, and all things bohemian. And although it is still the place to go for some of the best nightclubs and restaurants around, East Village is much more upscale these days. If you concentrate, you may still hear the reverberations coming from the long-gone coffee houses, the hippies, the poets, and the dreamers that thrived in East Village once upon a time: Patti Smith, Blondie, the Ramones, Talking Heads – but while it can be said that East Village has lost its edginess, it is still a hip place to be. East Village is home to several popular parks, terrific (and affordable) restaurants, and the Nuyorican Poets Café.