A city known by many names – The Big Apple, Gotham, The City That Never Sleeps – soon New York City, New York, will be your new home. The largest and most densely populated city in the United States, NYC is home to 8.6 million people. Its residents make up a true melting pot: half were born outside of the United States, and they collectively speak more than 800 languages within the city’s perimeters. New York City is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx, each of which is a separate county in the city. The Big Apple is a financial, cultural, and entertainment hub that’s known worldwide for its exciting, fast-paced lifestyle.
Whether you’re moving to take a job, to go to school, or to enjoy an energized lifestyle, New York City has something for everyone. From famous outdoor spaces like Central Park or Prospect Park to performance venues like the Broadway Theater District or world-class museums such as the Met, MOMA, and Museum of Natural History, New York is full of world-class cultural experiences. It boasts top-ranked universities and the world’s two largest stock exchanges. Also known as the financial capital of the world, NYC is a hub of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Added to those illustrious credentials, NYC is a foodie’s paradise where you’ll be able to find menus that represent every ethnicity imaginable, and if you’re into nightlife, the scene is vibrant and exciting. As a New York City resident, you’ll have no shortage of things to do and places to explore. Welcome to The Big Apple!
Living in New York City, NY: What to Know Before Moving to New York City
Even if you haven’t yet been to New York City, you surely know about iconic locations such as Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, or the unique dense streetscape from the countless movies, TV shows, and books set in the city. Bustling NYC has a population of 8.6 million people and 20.3 million in the metropolitan area.
The city consists of 302.6 square miles of densely populated neighborhoods served by an expansive subway and bus system. Each of the five boroughs has a unique streetscape and vibe, so your NYC experience will vary based on the place you decide to call home. Despite this, some factors stay constant whether you plan to live in Queens, Brooklyn, or the Bronx.
Pros and Cons of Living in New York City
- Infinite cultural and entertainment opportunities: From museums to concerts to poetry readings and much, much more, you can find something new to do each night and still never experience everything you’d like to.
- Large job market: The size of the city means an abundance of job opportunities, no matter your industrial sector.
- Experience it first: Many food, fashion, or cultural trends begin in NYC, and plenty of stores or restaurants open their flagship or pop-up locations here.
- The City That Never Sleeps: Suffer from insomnia? You can find something to do at any time of day or night.
- Car-free living: Thanks to the subway and bus system, you may find it easier to get around New York City without a car.
- The high cost of living: NYC is notorious for expensive housing, groceries, utilities, transport, and more.
- Fast-paced lifestyle: If you’re moving to NYC from a smaller city or town, adjusting to the hustle and rush can be difficult.
- Crowds everywhere: NYC is densely populated, and New Yorkers are used to crowds and waiting in lines.
- Say goodbye to the white picket fence: The high cost of housing means that owning a home or even a condo is out of most residents’ financial reach. Rents are high and sometimes hard to find.
- A potentially temporary home: Many people live in NYC for a few years and then move away to afford a home, raise a family, or escape the high-stress lifestyle.
- Property Tax: Property tax rates vary based on the borough, but on average, they’re relatively low. Rates in NYC are lower than the average of 1.578% in New York State, and the average rate of 1.211% nationwide. For a New York City home assessed at the median home value of $680,500, you’ll pay the following rates by borough:
- Brooklyn: 0.627% or $4,267 annually
- Queens: 0.796% or $5,417 annually
- Staten Island: 0.805% or $5,478 annually
- Manhattan: 0.843 % or $5,737 annually
- Bronx: 0.888% or $6,043 annually
- Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate in New York City varies by borough. NY state levies a 4% tax, and each county charges an added rate between 3% and 4.5%. The US average sales tax is 7.3 percent.
- State Income Tax: New York State’s income tax ranges from 4% to 8.82% based on your income level. A person earning the NYC median income of $52,737 will pay a 6.21% income tax rate. This rate is higher than the average US rate of 4.6 percent.
High real estate costs make owning a house or condo prohibitive for many residents. As a result, 61.8% of New Yorkers rent their homes. The median home price, as of October 2019, is $680,500, nearly three times the US average, however over the past year, NYC home values have dropped -0.5% and are predicted to drop another -0.3% in 2020.
Because of the high demand for rentals, the median rental price is $2,900 per month for an apartment or condo – significantly higher than the US average of $1,470. However, you’ll benefit from learning about NYC’s rent control and rent regulations.
If you’re looking to live in NYC on a budget, you’ll have to be strategic. Neighborhoods like Flatbush, East Flatbush, or Canarsie in Brooklyn, Norwood in the Bronx, or Maspeth in Queens may have more affordable housing options. Or consider searching for an apartment across the Hudson River in New Jersey – and to really save, be on the lookout for one or more roommates with whom to split the cost of living. Just make sure you do your research, establish ground rules, and don’t be afraid to discuss these questions to ask potential roommates BEFORE moving in together.
Cost of Living
There’s no way around it: the cost of living in New York City is among the highest in the United States. Bestplaces.net ranks cities’ affordability based on a US average index of 100. NYC’s cost of living ranks at 209.3 – more than double the US average. Housing accounts for the highest cost, with the New York City housing index ranking three times the US average at 354. Other expenses that are higher than the US average include transportation, with an index of 211.5, utilities 150.5, groceries 114.7, and miscellaneous costs 121.2. Health costs are equivalent to the US average at 101.
The median household income in New York City is $57,782, which is about equal to the US median of $57,652. But your money won’t go as far due to New York’s higher cost of living. According to the Economy Policy Institute’s budget calculator, a family of four would need an annual income of $124,129 to have a “modest yet adequate” standard of living in New York City, so both parents would need to work and still be careful budgeting their expenses.
Weather & Natural Disasters
With some areas of the city experiencing a humid continental climate, and other areas, especially along the water, with a humid subtropical climate, NY City still experiences four distinct seasons. The hottest month of the year is July, with an average high of 85 degrees Fahrenheit and lows of 70, followed by August with a high of 83 and low of 69. Summers in New York are hot and humid, so if you can, try to find a home with A/C. Expect summer-like conditions from late May through late September, when periods of increased cloud cover and precipitation begin. In September, residents feel the welcome relief of dropping temperatures.
Winters in New York are relatively cold, with average high temperatures several degrees above freezing. The coldest month of the year is January with an average high of 39 degrees Fahrenheit and lows of around 26, followed by February with an average high of 42 and lows of 29. Whatever the season, New York City temps tend to be a bit higher than outlying areas due to an urban heat island effect.
NYC experiences an average annual rainfall of 46 inches, with rain occurring on 121 days of the year. The frequency of precipitation remains relatively steady, between 10 and 11 days a month, from December through August. The average annual snowfall is 29 inches per year, with snow occurring most frequently between December and March.
New York City is in danger of various natural disaster threats. In the summer, the urban heat island effect can trap extreme heat. Severe winter weather, including thunderstorms, can bring high winds that cause considerable damage. And, as a low-lying coastal city, NYC is vulnerable to flooding from nor’easters, tropical storms, and hurricanes.
In 2012, a superstorm, Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, flooding the subway system and road tunnels, destroying homes and businesses by fire, and leaving much of the city without power for days. Sandy caused roughly $19 billion in economic losses in the city.
As a major city on the world stage, New York is also at risk of terrorism. Prepare for natural disasters and terrorist threats by reading the NYC government’s Plan for Hazards.
Economy & Job Market
The fastest-growing industrial sectors in New York City include financial services, healthcare, professional and technical services, retail trade, manufacturing, and education. If you’re looking for a job, consider one of these industries, for they’re the strongest drivers of the city’s GDP growth. Other top industries include trade, real estate, media, and publishing. You’ll find a range of opportunities from white-collar jobs in law and finance to service industry positions, including retail, food, and more.
Major employers in NYC include the financial corporations JPMorgan Chase and Citi, facility management business ABM Industries, pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the multi-industry conglomerate owned by Carl Icahn, the tobacco manufacturing company Philip Morris International, corporate communications and marketing company Omnicom Group, and professional services network Pricewaterhouse Coopers, or PwC.
The unemployment rate in New York City is 4.50%, which is above the US average of 3.7%. Recent job growth has been significantly slower than the national average – 0.54% compared to 1.59% nationwide – but future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to recover slightly, with a rate of 30.69% compared to the nationwide average of 33.51%.
To start your job search in NYC, use sites like LinkedIn or Glassdoor to research relevant companies or job openings. Because New York is so big, you’ll be competing against hundreds of other job searchers, so personal connections and a flawless resume can be keys to helping you get an interview. Be sure to let your network know you’re looking for a new job in NYC, and don’t be afraid to reach out to companies you admire to set up an informational interview.
Traffic & Transportation
Most New Yorkers are intimately familiar with the city’s subway and its streets. Only 45% of households own a car, so public transit is the most common way to get around. Parking is difficult to find and expensive, traffic is heavy, and it’s often quicker to walk or take the subway than it is to drive.
Although public transit is popular, it can be challenging because some subway lines are dirty or famously crowded – at peak times, several trains may pass before you can squeeze on. Despite this, the city’s buses and subway lines offer expansive coverage, especially into and across Manhattan.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, called the MTA, runs public transportation systems in the city. Dozens of subway lines cross Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Buses are another transit option. Each bus route name conveniently begins with a letter code representing the borough it primarily runs through – M for Manhattan, Q for Queens, B for Brooklyn, Bx for the Bronx, SIM for Staten Island.
The MTA also provides transit to and from suburbs and outlying areas in the form of the Long Island Railroad, which services Long Island east of NYC, and Metro-North Railroad, which services areas north of NYC, both east and west of the Hudson River.
New York’s walk score is 89 out of 100, which means that the city is very walkable, and you can accomplish most errands on foot. Transit access is also excellent; NYC has a transit score of 84/100, and in many parts of the central city you’re never more than a 10-20 minute walk from a subway station.
The city’s bike score is 68 out of 100, which means it’s somewhat bikeable. The New York City Department of Transportation offers a 2019 New York City Bike Map showing bike lanes and other bike-friendly infrastructure to help you map the best route for your bike commute.
Major thoroughfares in Manhattan include Broadway, Canal Street, Houston Street, and 5th Avenue. In Brooklyn, they include 4th Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Coney Island Avenue, and Fulton Street. In Queens, major streets include Jamaica Avenue, Merrick Boulevard, Union Turnpike, and Utopia Parkway. Southern Boulevard is a major roadway in the Bronx, and streets like Amboy Road, Hylan Boulevard, and Richmond Avenue cross Staten Island.
What to Do
What is there to do in New York City? Perhaps a better question is – what isn’t there to do? Whether you enjoy art, concerts, museums, fabulous food, beautiful parks, exciting sports games, or vibrant nightlife, The Big Apple has it all. Here’s just a small sample of the activities NYC offers.
New York City can seem like a concrete jungle, but if you know where to go, you can easily find green space that makes you feel like you’re far from civilization. Get lost in enormous Central Park, where you can meander through tree-lined paths that hide the city, jog, bike, walk your dog, join a fitness class, or visit the Central Park Zoo. Take a stroll along the High Line, which developers converted from an elevated rail spur to a beautifully designed trail in a neighborhood of chic new buildings. Enjoy a walk through Prospect Park, stopping at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, visiting the Prospect Park Zoo, or try new cuisines during Smorgasburg. Or take a ride on a beautifully restored 1920s merry-go-round in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which also includes sports fields, a skating rink, and beautiful riverfront views of Manhattan.
NYC is full of popular cultural and tourist destinations. Learn about American immigrant history with a visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Take a moment for somber remembrance at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Attend a musical at one of the 40 Broadway theaters in the city’s Theater District. Take in the view from the top of the Empire State Building observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Place, or the One World Observatory. See world-class art on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, or the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Stroll through Times Square, a major commercial intersection and entertainment center. These attractions are just a tiny portion of what NYC has to offer.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll have no shortage of teams to cheer for. Baseball lovers can catch a Yankees game or visit Citi Field to see the Mets play. Basketball aficionados can cheer on the Knicks in Madison Square Garden or attend a game of the women’s Liberty team at Westchester County Center. The city’s two football teams, the New York Giants and the New York Jets, both play at the MetLife Stadium. Hockey fans can attend the games of NYC’s 3 NHL teams: the Devils, the Islanders, and the Rangers. Soccer lovers can watch the New York City FC or NY Red Bulls play against other MLS teams, or attend a game of the NWSL team Sky Blue FC, whose forward Carli Lloyd recently helped the US Women’s National soccer team bring home the world cup.
Schools & Universities
The NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE) serves New York students. This district is the largest school system in the US: more than 1.1 million students attend over 1,800 schools. Most of NYC is assigned to the NYCDOE, except for a small portion of the Bronx which is part of the Pelham Public Schools.
New York’s school district is as massive as the city itself, and the quality of education varies neighborhood by neighborhood. Overall, the school system has a low 75.9% four-year graduation rate and a dropout rate of 7.5 percent. Standardized tests in 2018 showed that 47.4% of NYC students scored proficient in reading, and 45.6% passed math.
The city’s public schools include specialized schools, such as Bard High School Early College, which provides graduates both a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree, Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School, the High School of Art and Design, and more. Some of the top-ranked public schools include Battery Park City School, Spruce Street School, East Side Elementary School, Beacon High School, and Stuyvesant High School.
Post-secondary options include elite research universities like Columbia University and New York University, as well as schools such as Barnard College, Cooper Union, Fordham University, the Juilliard School, the New School, Pratt Institute, and dozens more. The City University of New York, or CUNY, is the city’s public university system. It includes eleven four-year colleges, an honors college, six graduate colleges, and seven community colleges.
Although New York City may have a reputation as a dangerous city, it has relatively low overall crime rates. Property crime, which includes burglary, larceny, arson, and motor vehicle theft, is 24.9, significantly lower than the US average of 35.4. The city’s violent crime rate is 28.2, slightly higher than the US average of 22.7.
As in any city, some areas have higher rates of violent crime than others. These neighborhoods include downtown Brooklyn, Times Square, the Meatpacking District, the Garment District, Union Square, and Mott Haven. Tourists are often targets of crime, but as an NYC resident, you’ll learn to be savvy about keeping you and your belongings safe.
- Gas service: Con Edison provides gas services to most of New York City, except for some parts of Brooklyn, which are serviced by National Grid.
- Electric service: Either Con Edison or National Grid will provide electricity based on your location; ask your landlord or realtor.
- Water service: The NYC Department of Environmental Protection provides water in the city.
- Trash pick-up/recycling service: If you live in an apartment, your landlord should have already set up trash and recycling pick-up, but you can request collection service from the city online.
- Internet/cable service: Options for internet and cable service in NYC are varied and include Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Cablevision. Find the best options on HighSpeedInternet.com.
Boroughs in New York City, NY
New York City consists of five boroughs, each of which is in a different county. Each borough is made up of a variety of neighborhoods and enjoys a relatively unique streetscape and quality of life. Find out more about Manhattan and the outer boroughs to help you decide where to live.
Manhattan is the part of New York City that most people think of as New York. It’s home to skyscrapers like the Empire State Building, major attractions like Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, and Central Park, as well as Downtown NYC, and the Financial District. Manhattan is the financial, cultural, and administrate center of New York.
Manhattan consists of 22.83 square miles and is home to 1.66 million people, making it the most densely populated area of NYC. Most of the borough sits on Manhattan Island; the Harlem River divides Manhattan from the Bronx. Several adjacent islands, including Randall’s Island, Wards Island, Liberty Island, and Governors Island, are also part of the borough.
Housing in Manhattan is famously expensive. Expect apartments to be much smaller than similarly priced rentals further from the center of NYC. Battery Park City, West Village, the Flatiron District, NoMad, and Tribeca are among the areas with the highest rents. These neighborhoods are home to hip converted lofts with high ceilings and open floor plans, private townhouses, and 19th-century row houses. You’ll find the most affordable rents in Harlem, East Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, and the Lower East Side.
If you’re looking to purchase real estate, you’ll find expensive penthouses and extravagant amenities in SoHo, luxury high-rises, and warehouses renovated into large lofts in Tribeca, and other luxury housing in Central Park South, Chelsea, West Village, Hudson Square, and Midtown.
Manhattan is home to multiple top public schools, although attendance zones vary depending on the neighborhood in which you choose to live. These include the highly-ranked Stuyvesant High School, Townsend Harris High School, and New Explorations into Science, Technology, and Math School.
- Population: 1.66 million
- County: New York County
- Median home value: $1,190,800
- Median rent: $3,475
Something to try: Take a walk through the massive lush Central Park and enjoy a verdant oasis in the middle of the city.
New York’s most populous borough, Brooklyn is located on the western end of Long Island. It’s known for its diversity, independent art scene, and distinctive neighborhoods. In recent years, Brooklyn has become a hub of entrepreneurship, start-up companies, and postmodern art and design. The borough covers 70.82 square miles and is separated from Manhattan by the East River, which pedestrians and cars can cross via the Brooklyn Bridge. Newtown Creek separates Brooklyn from Queens to its northeast. Brooklyn boasts beautiful outdoor spaces like Prospect Park and is home to affluent families and young professionals.
Apartments in Brooklyn tend to be more spacious than those in Manhattan, and a little less expensive, although costs depend on the neighborhood. The most expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn include Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO. The least expensive include Mill Basin, Brownsville, Canarsie, and Flatbush.
Top public schools in the borough include Brooklyn School for Global Scholars, Success Academy Charter School, William Alexander Middle School, the Math and Science Exploratory School, and Brooklyn Technical High School.
- Population: 2.65 million
- County: Kings County
- Median home value: $776,800
- Median rent: $2,500
Something to try: Visit Coney Island, the long beachfront shoreline that’s home to one of the oldest amusement grounds in the country.
With an area of 108.63 square miles, Queens is geographically the largest borough in New York City. It’s on Long Island, just north and east of Brooklyn. Known for a more relaxed and suburban feel, Queens is an ethnically diverse area with major populations of Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Filipino Americans.
It’s easy to travel to Manhattan from Queens, and many people who work in the city, Westchester, or White Plains, live in Queens. Most of the housing in the borough is apartments and condos, and the priciest neighborhoods include Whitestone, Ditmars-Steinway, Hunters Point, and Fresh Meadows. The most affordable include Jackson Heights, Sunnyside, Rego Park, and Flushing. Astoria is also a popular neighborhood among young professionals.
Attractions in Queens include Citi Field, home of the New York Mets; Rockaway Beach; Cunningham Park; and Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The borough is home to two of the busiest airports serving New York City: John F Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. This accessibility makes Queens an excellent place to live if you plan to travel frequently.
The most highly-ranked public schools in Queens include the Active Learning Elementary School; Queens College for Math, Science, and Technology; and Townsend Harris High School.
- Population: 2.36 million
- County: Queens County
- Median home value: $646,100
- Median rent: $2,300
Something to try: Travel to Queens’ southern peninsula to visit Rockaway Beach, where you can go surfing, have a barbeque, or lounge on the waterfront.
The Bronx is located north of Manhattan, just over the Harlem River. It’s the only borough located on the mainland. A historically Black and Latinx area, the Bronx typically has had lower housing and living costs than other boroughs in New York, but it’s beginning to gentrify. The borough covers 42.10 square miles.
With an area of 2,700 acres, Pelham Bay Park is New York City’s largest park, more than three times the size of Central Park. It includes two golf courses, numerous nature trails, and an equestrian center where visitors can take riding lessons or go on a wagon ride. If you have kids, take your family to explore the Bronx Zoo, or visit the New York Botanic Garden. Sports fans can catch a New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.
Just north of Manhattan, the Bronx is a convenient and more reasonably priced place to live for those who work in the city. Housing in the Bronx is affordable, with lower rents and home values. You’ll mostly find co-ops, condos, and apartments available. Subway and Metro-North Railroad lines make for a quick commute to Manhattan. The most popular neighborhoods include Riverdale, Fordham (home to Fordham University), Mott Haven, and Concourse.
Top schools in the Bronx include Icahn Charter School, Success Academy Charter School, and Bronx High School of Science. However, some schools in the Bronx have received poor ratings, so if you have children, it’s best to check which schools serve the neighborhood.
- Population: 1.47 million
- County: Bronx County
- Median home value: $436,000
- Median rent: $1,836
Something to try: Attend a New York Yankees Game at Yankee Stadium.
Staten Island is the southernmost borough in New York City, accessible from Manhattan via a free 25-minute ferry ride. It’s the least-known borough and provides cheaper housing with a more suburban, family-friendly lifestyle.
Attractions in Staten Island include a zoo, botanical gardens, and abundant parks spread over the borough’s 58.37 square miles. Over one-third of the island is protected environmental land, and crime rates are lower than New York City and US averages.
For those residents with a car, they can reach Staten Island from Brooklyn via the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Public transport on Staten Island is less robust than in other parts of the city, so some residents feel owning a car is necessary to get around. However, it’s possible to travel by bus, and the Staten Island Railway serves the eastern side of the island. When traveling to other boroughs, be sure to factor in time to take the ferry.
Homes on Staten Island have a more suburban feel than in other parts of New York City. You’ll find homes built in Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Victorian, and Colonial architectural styles, and many have backyard pools and garages.
Staten Island is popular among families, and several of its public schools are strong performers. Highly ranked schools include Huguenot Public School, the Clove Valley School, Tottenville Middle School, and Staten Island Technical High School.
- Population: 479,458
- County: Richmond County
- Median home value: $528,700
- Median rent: $2,225
Something to try: Take a walk through the Staten Island Greenbelt, one of New York City’s last undisturbed forests. It spans 2,500 acres and includes 28 miles of walking trails.
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