You've probably heard that Amazon is coming to Long Island City. With construction to begin as early as 2020 and as many as 25,000 new hires on the way, Long Island City is red hot real estate right now. (The company will also install some Amazonians in the existing One Court Square.)
It's so hot, that not every new employee is going to be able to find a place to live in the sizzling Queens neighborhood, either due to high prices or lifestyle preference. (Not everyone wants to live in a new high-rise or considers a plentiful dating pool negotiable when evaluating spots to live.)
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post was published in December, 2018. We are presenting it again here as part of our winter Best of Brick week.]
Which got us to thinking: What are the top neighborhoods to live in for an easy commute to Long Island City? Lots of people have opinions on this! (Some, of course, such as developers and real estate agents, also have vested interests in the topic.) We asked around to find out what areas of the city are prime spots to check out if you work at Amazon HQ2, but don’t really want to—or can't—live right there.
So different strokes for different folks. “It really depends on what you’re looking for. Do you want a place with proximity to parks? Are you more of the car culture lifestyle? What are you willing to trade in terms of distance and convenience?” says Robert Whalen, a broker with Halstead.
"Amazon HQ staff, working in Long Island City, will most likely think tri-borough thoughts when considering their housing options," says Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director of Ideal Properties Group.
Perhaps the obvious choice, the neighborhood immediately to the northeast is attractive for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is well established with a variety of housing options. “It’s a mature community. It has everything. It’s been a full, complete neighborhood for a long time,” says Whalen, who notes that the high-density area has housing stock that includes multi- and single-family houses, as well as new developments.
“Astoria is packed full of great shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s maybe a 10 minute commute at most to LIC. It has a great neighborhood vibe, but you still feel like you live in the city. With access to the N,W, R, and M trains, it is also one of the few Queens neighborhoods with access to multiple trains,” says Zachary Emery, a salesperson at Citi Habitats.
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The walkable nature of Astoria (both to work, and in daily life) will be a good fit for younger people, says Andrew Barrocas, CEO of MNS.
"In terms of affordability, Amazonian renters will find Astoria their best ally, with prices ranging from $1,800 for studios to $2,800/month for three-bedroom apartments," says Scepanovic. "Astoria is home to most affordable one bedroom apartments, ranging from $630K to $680K. If a two-bedroom unit is of interest, Astoria would again lead in affordability; expect to be set back by close to $800K."
Astoria may be the most obvious, but Sunnyside is the buzziest. “Sunnyside all the way. It is the most undervalued neighborhood in Queens easily. You can find really good deals in Sunnyside,” says Lauren Bennett, a Corcoran agent who herself just bought a condo in the neighborhood (and is moving from Long Island City).
“Sunnyside is a hidden gem in my opinion,” says Emery. “It’s the slightly more affordable alternative to Astoria and it has its fair share of amazing restaurants, bars, and cafes. You also get great views of LIC and Midtown Manhattan when waiting for your train on the elevated tracks.” (That would be the 7 train, which will get you to Long Island City in a quick 15 minutes; you can be at Grand Central Terminal in about 20.) For Emery, Sunnyside provides many of the same advantages of Astoria. “Living in either of these neighborhoods is like living close enough to the party, without having to hear it when you’re trying to sleep,” he says.
Bennett notes that Sunnyside is a nice fit for families, too, with parks, good public schools (including P.S. 150, which is home to a district-wide gifted and talented program), and an overall “neighborhood vibe.”
Forest Hills/Rego Park
Yes, these neighborhoods are further out, but they too, have several things going for them. “Forest Hills is always a strong market, says Whalen. “It’s convenient, it’s charming, it has a community vibe. It’s among the walkable communities, so it’s very desirable.” Both neighborhoods will have easy access to HQ2 via the R, F, and E lines, that last of which will get you to LIC in about 30 minutes. (Bonus: Forest Hills residents could even hop on the LIRR if they wanted.)
“In Rego Park, there is diverse housing stock available, from condos, co-ops and new developments. Many of the large rental buildings offer many of the amenities offered in LIC, but at a lower price point,” says Marc Bunag, an agent at Citi Habitats. “Express subways run under Queens Boulevard from Rego Park to Queens Plaza in LIC. In addition, there’s Costco, cheap and abundant parking—and a variety of public and private schools.”
That distance also translates to more affordability, making these areas attractive to families and younger, presumably lower-paid people—but expect that to trend upward.
“With Amazon’s move, this will slowly change. Areas that will see significant home price changes include Jackson Heights—where the current median home sale price is $385,000—Elmhurst ($438,000 median), Rego Park ($370,000 median) and Forest Hills ($399,000 median),” says Robert Demeter, real estate writer at PropertyShark.
Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and other points along the G
While these are hardly under-the-radar (quite the opposite), those with deep pockets and an appetite for the good life should look to nearby Greenpoint, and Williamsburg. Josh Young, director of market rate leasing for Clinton Management, which operates Level BK and 1 North Fourth, points to the wealth of conveniences and diversions in the areas.
“There’s culture, bars, restaurants, and shops,” he says, while also noting that in addition to taking the G to get to Long Island City in about 15 minutes, people living near the waterfront ferry stop in Williamsburg can commute by the NYC Ferry operated by Hornblower if they wish. (Residents of Level can walk out of the building and catch the boat.)
Citi Habitats’ agent J.D. Sharpe is bullish on the further afield Boerum Hill.
“In Boerum Hill you can live in the dream brownstone apartment, along the classic tree-lined block, while still having direct access to all the shops in Downtown Brooklyn, events at the Barclays Center, and easy 20 minute commute to LIC.”
It’s not all about Brooklyn and Queens; consider thinking outside the outer borough. As Jessica Kaufman, a broker at Citi Habitats says, Murray Hill has a lot to offer Amazon HQ2 employees, and (possible bonus) it’s in Manhattan.
“Murray Hill is an established residential neighborhood—and there are tons of coffee shops, restaurants and other amenities on every block—essentials which can be hard to find in LIC. In addition, Murray Hill offers a selection of full-service buildings at reasonable price points.”
"For Amazon HQ workers who find themselves wanting to commit more to New York City through real estate ownership, the most affordable studios [currently] are to be found in Midtown East [with a] median asking price being around $470K." says Scepanovic.
The 7 train gets you to Long Island City in about 20 minutes, and a ferry is an option in the area as well (there’s a stop at 34th Street).
“The neighborhood’s accessibility to Grand Central makes it a convenient area to live, as it's close to downtown Manhattan and easy to get crosstown," Kaufman says.
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