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15 things real New Yorkers look for in a new neighborhood

Maybe you want to live near a vegan restaurant or a place where you can send your online deliveries back without a hassle. Consider how you live when searching for an apartment.

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When New Yorkers consider moving to a different neighborhood, their checklist usually has affordability, proximity to transit, and, if they’re parents, a good school zone among the top must-haves. But those factors are actually just the tip of the iceberg.

If you live in a NYC neighborhood long enough, you figure out what makes your life a little bit easier for you. Maybe it's living near a vegan restaurant or a place where you can send your online deliveries back without a hassle. Maybe it's being near an express stop or a station with an elevator. You find that you can't imagine living without these amenities and so these go on the top of your own very personal apartment-hunting list.

Brick Underground asked brokers and agents what their clients really want from their neighborhoods. Your essentials didn’t make the list? Share them in the comments below. 

1. Subway service that really works 

The convenience of having a subway nearby is definitely worth paying extra for (now if only the same could be said for riding it). But the big question to ask is: Is it really going to be an advantage? See if that train runs on nights and weekends, because some subways, like the B, only operate on weekdays, while others stop running after a certain hour. 

Plus, with critical track and/or station repairs or improvements taking place, some stations shutter overnight—or for many months. Check out the MTA’s Weekender app, its rolling list of ongoing and upcoming planned service changes, and, to get a sense of what’s coming down the pipeline for the subways over the next 10 years, its Fast Forward modernization plan.  

If you’re a parent with a stroller, or have mobility issues, you’ll also want to make sure your station is accessible—just 25 percent of the city’s 427 stations are. You can visit the MTA’s website to find the accessible stations and see if they’re in working order on a particular day (though that info is sometimes not updated in real time). 

Another important consideration if you find an apartment with a good commute: Can you actually get on that subway in the morning? By the time trains traveling through the outer boroughs make their way to the stations closest to Manhattan, they are packed, and you may find having to wait for a few trains to go by before you cab actually squeeze in. You might be better served traveling off-peak, or at least giving yourself extra time, despite your close proximity.

2. Room to park

Not all New Yorkers rely on public transit, and Kelly Rogers, an agent at Halstead, is seeing an increase in apartment hunters who need parking. 

“If the building doesn’t have a garage, they are asking about rates at nearby garages, that includes, in some parts of Brooklyn further from Manhattan, renting space at other co-op buildings that have additional spaces to spare,” he says. 

You can also check out Brick Underground's series on street parking in the city, which looked at Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx.

3. A place to send your packages back

Having a doorman or concierge in your building is a definite plus, especially when it comes to signing for your internet shopping deliveries. But there’s probably going to come a time you’ll need to send something back. Is your new apartment near a UPS Store or a post office? 

Some New Yorkers who buy or rent in smaller, non-doorman buildings want to be near an Amazon Locker, the retailer’s self-service kiosks where packages can be delivered—and returned, says Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director of Ideal Properties Group. These yellow units can be found in Whole Foods, other supermarkets, and convenience stores all over the city, and they’re free to use for Prime members. 

Others want to be close to GoLocker, a similar concept with a handful of spots in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, says Victoria Vinokur, a broker with Halstead.

4. Storm proofing 

Before 2012, Jill Jordan, a Halstead broker, was never asked “even once” about flood zones, but after Hurricane Sandy devastated many parts of the city, “it is now a consideration, especially in the East and West Villages,” she says. 

For more information, check out Brick Underground's "5 strategies smart buyers deploy when apartment-hunting in NYC flood zones."

5. Traffic patterns and noise levels

Neighborhood traffic is a common concern for many New Yorkers, brokers tell Brick. 

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Some apartment hunters, especially parents, are concerned about traffic, walkability, noise levels, and general congestion in a particular neighborhood, some brokers say. 

“One wanted to see a visible street from their windows and choose a place based on seeing traffic down a main intersection,” says Peter Grazioli, an agent with Halstead.

Construction in your neighborhood doesn't need to be a surprise. You can plug in an address to Localize.city to find out information about construction plans, truck traffic and other neighborhood insights and also check out Brick Underground's "7 ways to tell if construction is coming to your NYC neighborhood."

6. Medical facilities 

See if there is an urgent care facility in the neighborhood and what its hours are in case you, a family member, or roommate gets sick or injured during your doctor’s off hours. (You might also want to be proactive and make sure it takes your insurance before you need its care, this writer suggests from experience.) 

You should also scope out where the nearest pharmacy and other medical practitioner are, too.  

7. Houses of worship

Having a house of worship close by is important for some residents. Curtis Goldstein, an agent with Halstead, has clients who move within a walking distance of a synagogue because they can't drive or use public transportation on the Sabbath and holidays, he says. 

Use the walking directions function on Google maps to find out how far any destination is from a prospective apartment.

8. Where everybody knows your name

“Finding an apartment near a local bar or coffee shop is important to many of my clients,” says Andrew Sacks, a Citi Habitats agent. “It’s great to have that unpretentious home-away-from-home, where you can kick back and watch the game, read, or get some work done. It’s also a great place to get to know your neighbors.”

For some, it's the opposite desire. Ideal’s Scepanovic has also had some clients who “ask for a neighborhood that will allow for a higher degree of anonymity.” 

9. Pamper those pets 

With an estimated 600,000 dogs in NYC and and 500,000 cats, pets are an important part of many New Yorkers’ lives—and apartment search.

“Many buyers and renters are focused on finding a neighborhood that accommodates their pets,” says Jennifer Rouse, a Citi Habitats agent. “Parks, pet-friendly cafés/restaurants, and pet supply stores are all desirable community amenities for pet owners.”

There are dozens of dog runs across the city, and some city parks offer off-leash hours before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Here’s a handy list of both from the Parks Department.

10. Dining preferences 

Some New Yorkers want to be close to their favorite restaurant.

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With many people very conscious of the food they eat, “clients often ask about local places that offer food that works for them—whether they are vegan, vegetarian, etc,” Rouse says.

Teresa Chavin, handles leasing at 525 West 52nd St., where one person moved to be closer to the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant Taboon, she says. 

You'll want to take a stroll down several streets in the neighborhood and search the apartment’s address on Google Maps. By clicking the “nearby” option just under the address field, you’ll see what bars and restaurants are around, and you can even see how long it’ll take you to get there by hovering over the establishment on the map. 

11. Searching Seamless

This writer unashamedly admits that before she rented her Roosevelt Island apartment, she put its address into Seamless to make sure food delivery was available there. It was—and that’s actually a common question she frequently fields about life on Roosevelt Island.

Don’t think she’s the only one doing food delivery due diligence. “Grubhub or Seamless accessibility is a must,” says Alex Mahgoub of Compass. “Clients want access to whatever food they want to eat at whatever hour they want to eat it, and having access to great, open-late options is a must." 

12. Grocery store run

Even if you “never cook,” you’re going to need some staples in your fridge and cabinets at some point, so look into the neighborhood grocery situation. If the thought of setting foot in it or lugging bags home is daunting, see if they offer online shopping and delivery (and check out Brick’s guide to grocery delivery in NYC, too). 

But keep in mind that “FreshDirect can’t help you when you’re starving, or when you forgot an important ingredient when cooking for friends,” says Jacob Henderson, a Citi Habitats agent. “In a city where many people don’t own cars, proximity to a clean, quality grocery store is important to many of my clients.”

If alcohol is a food group to you, you might want to see where the nearest liquor store is, and of course, if it delivers.

"The local liquor store, Cellar 53, indeed delivers, and not only that, the owner lives here," says 525 West 52nd's Chavin.

12. Laundry 

If your new apartment building doesn’t have laundry facilities, scope out where the nearest laundromat is—and whether it offers pickup and delivery for that inevitable time when lugging that heavy bag to and fro gets old. For some extra cash, there are laundry services that take your dirty clothes and bring them back, clean and folded. Brick Underground tested out a few of them.

14. Getting bookish

The New York Public Library is the country’s largest public library system—and a beloved part of many New Yorkers’ lives, thanks to its wealth of offerings that go far beyond books. Being within a short walking distance of one of its branches informed one client’s move, says Vincent Smith, a Halstead broker. 

For one Upper East Side buyer, the biggest neighborhood draw was the local bookstore—the buyer's kids like to buy books with their allowance and talk about the books they like to read, says Harriet Kaufman, a Warburg Realty broker.

15. Accessible fitness

Gyms are a popular amenity in tons of NYC apartment buildings, and some go a step further to offer on-site yoga and fitness classes, or tricked-out sports amenities like soccer fields, basketball courts, and rock-climbing walls.
 
But if fitness is a priority and your potential new building doesn’t offer facilities, you’ll want to see what options are in the neighborhood so getting there won’t be a workout of its own. 

“I had a client once that had to be within five to seven minutes of a Soul Cycle,” shares Shannon Aalai, a Citi Habitats agent. “Her whole search was based around that, and she would Google Map the address and walking times before seeing anything. If an apartment was too far of a walk, she wouldn’t even look.”