No matter what brings you to Brooklyn, it will be one of the best moves of your life. With an almost infinite number of cultural institutions, extraordinary public transportation, world-class dining, and vibrant energy, Brooklyn is a place like none other. While technically a borough of New York City, it has a larger footprint and population than the Big Apple, a distinct personality, and offers you all the amenities you could wish for.
In addition to a well-deserved reputation for hipness and innovation, Brooklyn is home to many different historically ethnic communities. This diversity translates to a rich cultural tapestry of art, food, and entertainment. The population skews towards the younger end of the spectrum, reflected in thriving nightlife and plenty of businesses that cater to young professionals. To top it all off, the area is surprisingly green, teeming with parks and tree-lined boulevards. So, welcome to Brooklyn!
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Living in Brooklyn, NY: What to Know Before Moving to Brooklyn
Home to 2,533,000 million people, Brooklyn would be the fourth-largest city in the US if it weren’t a part of New York City. In this cultural melting pot, you’ll find kosher delis, Chinese markets, Polish restaurants, and Jamaican food carts all within walking distance of one another. You’ll not only find an array of diverse cuisines, but you’ll enjoy living among a diverse population that will enrich your lifestyle in so many ways.
Pros and Cons of Living in Brooklyn
- Friendliness – Listen, it’s not the South, but Brooklynites generally make eye contact and smile.
- Diversity – You’ll hear global accents and languages spoken in every corner of Brooklyn.
- Parks & Green Space – Brooklyn has many parks, waterfronts, and trails to enjoy.
- Amazing Food – You can find every type of cuisine under the sun in Brooklyn.
- Entertainment – From bars and clubs to free events and festivals in parks, Brooklyn is lively.
- Walkability – Each neighborhood in Brooklyn has the amenities you need within walking distance.
- Cost of Living – It’s still New York City, so be prepared to pay dearly to live here.
- Commuting – Plan on about an hour each way to get to work in Manhattan.
- Car-Challenging – From street cleaning to paid parking, owning a car here can be a hassle.
- Weather – Summers can be excessively hot and humid, and winter can be bitterly cold.
- Crowds – The human density can get tiresome, as there are people everywhere.
- Property Tax: Brooklyn taxes primary residences at an average of 0.52% of assessed fair market value. It’s impossible to provide a precise number because the rate derives from a complicated formula. But, the average property tax in Brooklyn for a home with a median value of $562,400 is $2,903 annually, which is considerably lower than in most of New York State.
- Sales Tax: Brooklyn residents pay a combined sales tax rate of 8.8%, compared to a 7.3% average sales tax for the US.
- State Income Tax: New York State income tax starts at 4% and goes up to 8.82%. The lowest rate applies to the first $8,499 of taxable income, and the highest rate applies only to those single taxpayers earning over $1,077,550.
While Brooklyn’s housing market is highly competitive, it is showing some signs of slowing. As of December 2019, overall sales have fallen for the seventh quarter, creating a buyers’ market. Zillow predicts a 1% drop in prices in the next year, but don’t expect any bargains. The median price per square foot in Brooklyn in $747, higher than the Manhattan average of $647. 70% of Brooklyn residents are renters, which should come as little surprise considering that the median home value as of December 2019 is $699,320. The median list price of homes is $750,000.
Despite falling home prices, rents are steadily increasing in Brooklyn, making it one of the least affordable counties for renters in the nation. Rents in Brooklyn are far above the national average, but this is the price you pay to live in New York City. Median rents jumped to a record-high $3,000 per month in July 2019, and the industry expects that rates to continue to climb. Be aware that landlords usually ask for three months’ rent in advance, so you’ll need to be prepared for this if you’re seeking a lease. Despite rising rents, it’s still possible to score a more affordable deal in neighborhoods like Bushwick, Bay Ridge, Flatbush, and Sunset Park.
Cost of Living
The cost of living index in Brooklyn – 200.7 – is slightly more than double the national average. Elevated living costs are largely due to housing expenses, which at an index of 331, is more than three times the US average. Bestplaces.net calculates the cost of living index based on a US average of 100. Transportation comes in at 193. Other higher than average costs are healthcare at 113 and utilities at 152.
The median income in Brooklyn, $56,942, is about $20,000 more than the national average. Based on Economic Policy Institute calculations, a single person living in Brooklyn can get by on $3,999 per month, but a couple with two children must earn at least $9,707 per month, or $116,490 per year, to enjoy an adequate standard of living.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Brooklyn sits in a humid subtropical climate zone. Expect generally hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters. Springtime is amazing, with high temperatures around 60 degrees, lows in the 40s, and flowering trees strutting their stuff around every corner. Summers are hot with average August highs peaking around 85 degrees – but the heat-island effect can drive temperatures as high as 100 degrees. Fall brings beautiful leaf shows and warm sunny days with average highs in the 60s and cool, 50 degree nights. Winter weather lasts from December through March and can vary dramatically, ranging anywhere from 25 to 40 degrees. Snowfall occurs regularly in winter and sometimes accumulates more than a few inches. Average highs in winter are around 40 degrees with lows in the upper 20s. January is the coldest time of year, with average lows around 27 degrees. Snowfall can begin as early as October and usually is over by March. Despite all the temperature variation, Brooklyn averages 226 sunny days per year, more than the US average – and May, June, and September offer up the best weather.
Brooklyn is no stranger to natural disasters, as it’s vulnerable to coastal storms and hurricanes, heat waves, tornadoes, floods, and severe winter weather. Severe weather events aren’t uncommon, and residents should prepare. The New York City Emergency Management branch of the city government has plenty of online resources to help families prepare for disasters in Brooklyn.
Economy & Job Market
Brooklyn is booming to the extent that it has outpaced Manhattan and currently is poised to become the innovation capital of New York, and perhaps even the nation. However, the job market has seen an increase of only 0.5% in 2019, and the unemployment rate, at 4.2%, is slightly higher than the US average of 3.9%.
Leading Brooklyn industry sectors include graphic design, publishing, film and television, and fashion. The county has also seen gains in healthcare, retail, education, and restaurants. Entertainment, architecture, sound recording, design, marketing, and tech are the sectors experiencing the most job growth, and while manufacturing jobs are down citywide since 2011, Brooklyn has seen a net gain of 1%. The largest employers in the area are American Airlines, Citi, Deloitte, JP Morgan Chase, Nielson Company, Verizon, and Warner Media.
If you’re looking for work, the high demand jobs are in tech, design, architecture, healthcare, film, television, education, retail, or fashion. Job seekers can tap into some local resources such as the city government job site or the New York Public Library job site which has links to many job-seeking resources. While you can expect high-level jobs to be highly-competitive, there are many jobs of every description at every level.
Traffic and Transportation
Traffic in one of the nation’s largest cities is predictably challenging. New York City traffic is the fourth-worst in the US, and the worst bottleneck is in Brooklyn. The spot where I-278 splits off into the Belt Parkway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway is notorious for traffic slowing to a crawl during peak hours. The Brooklyn Bridge is another infamous site of slow-motion traffic and delays, which are sadly not limited to vehicles. Even cyclists may find it impossible to use the bridge on pleasant days when pedestrians clog the thoroughfare.
Fortunately for Brooklyn residents, public transportation in the metro area is exceptionally good, allowing most commuters to make their way around the city without owning a car. The Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) operates both the famous subway system as well as city buses. The fleet of nearly 6,000 buses covers 322 routes, designated as local or express routes. A single ride on a standard bus route is $2.75, and an express route is $6.50. You can pay fares in cash with exact change or with a MetroCard.
The New York City subway system is the largest in the world, with 472 subway stations serving 36 lines. MetroCards, purchased at ticket booths or vending machines in subway stations, are what you use for the subway. A newcomer to the public transportation scene is the NYC Ferry, which runs four lines from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The fare is the same as a single bus or subway ride, $2.75, but is not operated by MTA and requires separately purchased tickets.
The walk score for most Brooklyn neighborhoods is in the high 90s. Transit scores are generally 90 or above, and a transit score of 100 isn’t uncommon. What’s more, the bike scores for Brooklyn tend to be in the high 80s and into the 90s. Suffice to say, Brooklyn is a walker’s, rider’s, and cyclist’s paradise.
What to Do in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is recognized nationally for its hipsters, cultural offerings, and scenic locales. There really are no limits to what you can find in the borough. From museums to world-class dining or professional sports, Brooklyn serves up everything you could possibly wish for and then some.
The food scene in New York City is legendary, and over the past decade, Brooklyn has become a food destination rivaling Manhattan. The Time Out Market in DUMBO is one of the best places to sample some of the city’s finest, all under one roof. Beer lovers will be happy to hear that craft breweries are booming in the borough, with well over two dozen serving pints every day of the week. The Big Apple’s largest borough also does not disappoint when it comes to farmers’ markets. Over three dozen markets operate throughout Brooklyn, some even offering year-round goods. Bottom line: foodies don’t have to go very far to find spectacular eats and drinks in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is rich in cultural resources, from highbrow to low and everything in between. The Brooklyn Museum, located on the edge of Prospect Park, boasts Egyptian art as well as classic modern and impressionist works. Next door to the museum, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden holds over 14,000 plant species. The Brooklyn Historical Society features historical maps and newspapers in its archives and offers after-school and weekend programs for kids. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum offers interactive exhibits and fun for kids of all ages. Coney Island’s Museum and Freak Show takes you back through time with memorabilia and keeps you on your toes with modern sideshow “freak shows.”
Conventional wisdom may lead one to believe that all massive cities are devoid of nature, but Brooklyn proves this assumption wrong – 31% of the borough is green space. Over 40 parks span over 10,000 acres of green space. The 585-acre Prospect Park includes a lake for kayaking, birdwatching opportunities, facilities for barbequing, a zoo, and playgrounds and ball fields a-plenty. Marine Park offers free urban camping experiences through the adjacent Salt Marsh Nature Center, and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge covers 9,000 acres of marsh, fields, wood, and forest. And for solitude and nature on the move, the Highland Park to Forest Park Trail offers 10 miles of lush, green trails.
Sporting enthusiasts in New York City have much to cheer for. Basketball fans can check out the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center and enjoy the most affordable NBA tickets in the city. Hockey fans can enjoy New York Islanders on the ice at Barclays Center during the National Hockey League season – October through April. Baseball fans can head to any number of smaller, charming ballparks to see the Brooklyn Cyclones play minor-league games. And soccer fans can visit the MCU Park to see the New York Cosmos play North American Soccer League games. Of course, if you’re a diehard fan of the Yankees, Mets, Jets, Giants, or Knicks, you can find them playing at stadiums in various NYC boroughs.
Schools and Universities
Kings County, which shares its borders with Brooklyn, is served by the New York City Department of Education. The county includes 423 public schools attended by around 291,153 students. The high school graduation rate in the area is 74.4%, which is lower than the national average. The quality of schools varies widely in the borough, but there are some exceptional performers. According to greatschools.org, Brooklyn Latin School ranks 10/10, as does Brooklyn Technical High School. Bedford Academy High School ranks 8/10, All City Leadership Secondary School is rated 8/10, and Achievement First Bushwick Charter School is rated 8/10.
Brooklyn is home to several colleges and universities, including Berkley College, Brooklyn College, CUNY Medgar Evers College, Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing, New York City Technical College, Pratt Institute, St Joseph’s College, and SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Brooklyn has, like any other large city, higher crime rates than the national average –90% higher, to be exact. Violent crimes and property crimes are higher than the national average, but when compared to communities with similar populations, the Brooklyn crime rate is lower than average. Brooklyn covers an enormous stretch of land, with varying crime rates from place to place. Some parts of the borough are extremely safe while other areas have pockets of higher crime, so it’s always a good idea to do your research before you decide which neighborhood you want to call home.
Brooklyn residents rely on several providers for their utilities. If you’re lucky, your landlord will include water and sewage in your rent. However, whether you’re renting or purchasing a home, here are all the resources you’ll need to get connected:
- Electric: Con Edison is the electric provider most Brooklynites rely on to keep the lights on. To start, stop, or transfer service, visit the web page.
- Gas service: National Grid is the only name in the gas game in Brooklyn. To start, stop, or transfer service, visit the website or call 1-718-643-4050, and make sure you allow 5-7 days of notice.
- Water: The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is the primary water service provider in Brooklyn. Setting up your account is as easy as submitting an online form.
- Trash collection and recycling service: The New York City Department of Sanitation takes out the trash in Brooklyn. To request collection service, fill out an online form, or call 1-212-788-3915.
- Internet and cable services: For internet and cable, there are several providers, but most residents choose between DirecTV, Spectrum, and Verizon. To start an account, click on any of the links above.
Best Neighborhoods in Brooklyn, NY
Downtown Brooklyn boasts a business district second only to Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The area is bound on the northeast by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, to the east by Ashland Place, to the southwest by Schermerhorn Street, and the west by Court Street and Cadman Plaza West. The neighborhood is teeming with high rise condos and is popular thanks to the availability of newer, larger units with excellent amenities.
Two-thirds of the residents in downtown Brooklyn are renters; many are college students and young professionals. Plenty of clubs and bars, shopping, entertainment, eclectic dining, and cultural resources galore are within walking distance. Alongside all the hustle and bustle of the area, you can also find ample greenspace and scenic waterfront views – and of course, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.
History lovers can explore the Brooklyn Historical Society or BLDG 92, while outdoorsy types can explore Walt Whitman Park. A ridiculous number of subway lines also serve Downtown Brooklyn, including the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, B, C, D, F, N, Q, R, and W trains and many bus lines. Meanwhile, cyclists need only ride over Brooklyn Bridge to get to Manhattan.
- Population – 22,005
- Home Price – Median home value $1,210,488
- Rent Prices – Median rent $2,285
- Employers – Abacus, APCO Worldwide, Amgen, Ashton Lane Group, Bank of America, Bustle Digital Group, Citadel, Credit Suisse, Facebook, Hopper, L’Oreal Group, New York University, PayPal, Square, Wells Fargo, Viacom
- Schools – International Charter School of New York, Brooklyn Prospect Charter School Elementary, PS 8 Elementary, MS 8 Middle School, Fusion Academy Brooklyn, Community Roots Middle School, Pacific High School, Brooklyn Technical High School, George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, Freedom Academy High School
Something to try: Visit the New York Transit Museum to take a trip back in time.
Less than two miles southwest of downtown Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens offers some of the most beautiful streets in Brooklyn along with some Italian flavor. The neighborhood is bordered on the northeast by Degraw Street, to the southeast by Hoyt and Smith Streets, to the southwest by The Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and the northwest by Hicks Street. Often described as “picture-perfect,” residents love Carroll Gardens’ tree-lined streets, 19th-century charm, and convenience.
The housing in Carroll Gardens offers elements of both new and old Brooklyn; you’ll find luxury condos amid the picturesque brownstones that make up the majority of housing. The once heavily Italian-American community has shifted in recent years as an influx of French residents has settled in. The community is a mix of young professionals, old-timers, and families with children. Almost two-thirds – 63% – of residents own their homes here, and there’s a strong, tight-knit community vibe.
Carroll Park is the third-oldest park in Brooklyn and offers playgrounds, sports courts, and plenty of space just to relax and get some fresh air. Two subway lines, the F and G trains, and two bus lines serve the neighborhood. You can expect to find groceries, shopping, entertainment, and culture all within the boundaries of this cozy, comfortable, attractive neighborhood.
- Population – Just over 22,005
- Home Price – Median home value $1,210,488
- Rent Prices – Median rent $2,285
- Employers – Apple, Bank Leumi, Citi, Dow Jones, Fox Corporation, Gordian, HBO, Insight, Microsoft, Ogilvy, One Medical, SmileDirectClub, Spotify, Thomson Reuters
- Schools – The Brooklyn New School; PS 29; PS 372, The Children’s School, Science, Language & Arts International School; PS 38, New Horizons School; MS 422 School for Innovation; Mary McDowell Friends Middle School; Cobble Hill School for American Studies; Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School; International School of Brooklyn
Something to try: Go to see a theatrical performance at Smith Street Stage.
Less than two miles south of downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. The neighborhood is bound on the east by Flatbush Avenue, to the southeast by Prospect Park West, to the southwest by Prospect Expressway, and the northwest by 4th Avenue. With high-quality schools, safe streets, excellent public transit and access to green space and cultural resources, Park Slope is considered worth the high price tag for residents who can afford it.
Boasting an impressive array of restored row houses, brownstones, Queen Anne, Renaissance Revival, and Romanesque homes, much of the neighborhood is part of the Park Slope Historic District. A slim majority – 55% of the residents here rent, which isn’t shocking considering property values in the area.
Park Slope is extremely well served by the subway system, with the B, D, F, G, N, Q, R, W, 2, 3, 4, and 5 lines running through three interconnected stations in the neighborhood. Four bus lines serve the area as well. The neighborhood offers farmers markets, green spaces, community gardens, and locally-owned businesses within a liberal, progressive culture. From hip thrift shops to outdoor recreation, there’s something for everyone in this neighborhood.
- Population – 45,503
- Home Price – Median home value $1,121,111
- Rent Prices – Median rent $2,301
- Employers – ABC News, Aquent, Capital One, Born Group, Casper, Columbia University Medical Center, CUNY, Gambit Technologies, Human Rights Watch, Infinity, Latch, Philips, Turner, Sanofi Global, UNICEF, Viacom, Wells Fargo
- Schools – Park Slope Elementary School/MS 282, PS 118 The Maurice Sendak Community School, PS 133 William A Butler, Park Place Community Middle School, William Alexander Middle School, Millennium Brooklyn High School, Park Slope Collegiate, St Saviour High School, Midwood High School
Something to try: Check out one of the award-winning puppet shows at Puppetworks, Inc.
Just two miles southeast of downtown Brooklyn, Prospect Heights is the fifth-largest historic district in the city. Bordered to the west by Flatbush Avenue, to the north by Atlantic Avenue, to the south by Eastern Parkway, and to the east by Washington Avenue, the street grid is unusual and was originally based on Lenape Indian paths and Dutch farm boundaries. Known for tree-lined streets and cultural diversity, the range of architecture includes Italianate and Neo-Grec row houses, condominium complexes, lofts, apartments, and luxury high-rise housing.
Prospect Heights is one of the best neighborhoods in the city to raise a family, although only 20 of the residents are families with children. Slightly more than half – 58% – of the residents in the area are renters. But all of the residents enjoy being within walking distance of Prospect Park, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Public Library. Sports fans delight in being right next to Barclays Center.
There’s no shortage of restaurants, bars, and small businesses in the neighborhood, as well as all the amenities one could want. Served by the B, Q, and S subway lines, as well as four bus lines, it’s easy to get where you need to go from Prospect Heights. The safe, quiet streets and good schools are a draw for those seeking a friendly, family-centered place to live.
- Population – 22,574
- Home Price – Median home value $998,656
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,880
- Employers – Bank of America, Gemini, Infinity, JP Morgan, New York University, Pinterest, PNB Paribas, S & P Global, TransferWise, ViacomCBS, Warner Music Group, Verizon
- Schools – Luria Academy, Achievement First Crown Heights Elementary School, Brooklyn Arts & Science Elementary School, Montessori Day School of Brooklyn, Elijah Stroud Middle School, Chabad Girls Academy, Crown Heights Middle School, Explore Empower Charter School, International High School at Prospect Heights, Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment, Clara Barton High School
Something to try: Drop by Ample Hills for some of NYC’s most celebrated ice cream.
Less than five miles south of downtown Brooklyn, Windsor Terrace is a walkable neighborhood known for its small-town feel. Bound on the east and northeast by Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery on the west, Prospect Park West on the northeast, and Caton Avenue to the south, The Prospect Expressway runs right down the middle of the neighborhood.
Windsor Terrace offers a variety of housing types, from one-story clapboard houses, two-story homes with basements, townhouses, apartments, and condos. The absence of traffic lights and generally low traffic volume can make you forget that you’re in one of the most populous cities in the nation.
Proximity to Prospect Park and a diverse ethnic population all contribute to the neighborhood ranking as one of the best places in New York City to raise a family. Almost a third of the locals here are families with children, and 53% of the residents are renters. Property has a very low turnover rate and it’s easy to see why. This community is a place where people are known to wave and say hello to each other on the street.
Windsor Terrace is served by two stations on the F and G train lines and by four local bus routes. There’s more parking in the neighborhood than typical, mostly due to a lower housing density than in many nearby neighborhoods. Everything you could possibly need is within walking distance, including yoga studios, coffee shops, and a co-op grocery store.
- Population – 17,369
- Home Price – Median home value $848,207
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,854
- Employers – Comeet, Deloitte, Huxley, JCC Brooklyn, Kickstarter, Nomad Health, Prospect Schools, Sanofi Global, Spotify, Warby Parker
- Schools – The Anderson School, PS 77- Lower Lab School; PS 130, The 30th Avenue School; TAG Young Scholars School; The Math and Science Exploratory School; Stuyvesant High School; Townsend Harris High School; Baccalaureate School for Global Education; Eleanor Roosevelt High School; The Beacon School
Something to try: Visit Kensington Stables for pony rides and horseback riding lessons.
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