The Market

At new developments in Queens and Brooklyn, the average one-bedroom rental is getting smaller

  • RentCafe report finds one bedrooms in Queens shrunk by roughly 40 square feet from 2014 to 2023
  • Brooklyn one-bedroom rentals built over the past 10 years lost a ‘whopping 70 square feet’
By Jennifer White Karp  |
June 17, 2024 - 3:30PM
Apartment towers in Long Island City, Queens

Apartment towers in Long Island City, Queens. The average sizes of rentals in Brooklyn and Queens built in the last decade shrank about the size of a closet, according to a new report from RentCafe.


New York City renters like to think they’re getting more space for their money by heading to the outer boroughs, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with new developments.

The average sizes of rental apartments in Brooklyn and Queens built in the last decade shrank about the size of a closet, defying a nationwide trend, according to a new report from RentCafe, a national apartment search website, which found that typical rental units in these boroughs lost 20 to 30 square feet over the past decade.

Manhattan rentals grew slightly larger over the same period but still come up short compared to the nationwide average. In fact, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan are among the top 10 places in the U.S. for the smallest new apartments for units built between 2014 and 2023. Queens ranks highest at #3, followed by Brooklyn and Manhattan at #4 and #6, respectively, according to Alexandra Both, a real estate writer and research analyst who authored the report. Data from Yardi Matrix, a sister company, was used for the analysis.

Blame the shrinkage on the cost of construction and developers who “want to squeeze as many units as possible in construction projects here,” Both said.

And don’t expect discounts as NYC apartments get smaller. If anything, new leases continue to get a little pricier. In fact, median asking rents have been stuck near record highs for the past two-plus years.

Top 20 U.S. cities with the smallest size new rental apartments

Dropping a size in Queens

The average size of apartments built in Queens slimmed down over the last 10 years by 32 square feet to 692 square feet—but not every apartment size showed a decline.

Larger apartments with two or three bedrooms gained about 90 to 100 square feet, but there was a sharp drop for the average size of one-bedroom apartments: New one-bedroom rentals are smaller by roughly 40 square feet compared to similar units built before 2014, Both told Brick.

Since nearly 40 percent of all apartments built in Queens in the last decade are one-bedroom units, the drop in size dragged down the overall apartment size in the borough.

“One-bedroom apartments are popular due to strong rental demand in NYC’s less pricey boroughs, which makes developers want to squeeze as many units as possible in construction projects here,” she said.

Walls get closer in Brooklyn

The average size of apartments in Brooklyn lost 21 square feet in the last decade and now stands at 712 square feet. While there was an uptick in the average size of studios and three-bedroom units, there was also a significant drop in the size of one-bedroom apartments—a “whopping 70 square feet,” Both said.

The decrease was amplified by the fact that more than half of all units built in Brooklyn in the last 10 years were small apartments (studios and one-bedroom rentals). Brooklyn developers are also responding to high demand by trying to fit in as many units as possible on each floor, which impacts apartment size, she said.

A small uptick in Manhattan

Manhattan is a different story (but still cramped): The average size of new apartments for rent in Manhattan is 737 square feet, 16 square feet more than the average for units built before 2014.  Despite the increase, Manhattan ranks sixth among U.S. cities with the smallest apartments. 

Smaller units (studios and one-bedroom apartments) dominated Manhattan apartment construction in the last decade, but enough two- and three-bedroom apartments gained 90 to 100 square feet to skew the borough’s average higher.

Sizing up U.S. rentals

NYC’s shrinking rentals represent the opposite trend of what’s taking place across the U.S. The average size of new apartments nationwide grew by 27 square feet in 2023 compared to the previous year (when there was a slump), reaching 916 square feet. The report attributed the growth to more two- and three-bedroom rentals entering the market in 2023, among other factors.



Jennifer White Karp

Managing Editor

Jennifer steers Brick Underground’s editorial coverage of New York City residential real estate and writes articles on market trends and strategies for buyers, sellers, and renters. Jennifer’s 15-year career in New York City real estate journalism includes stints as a writer and editor at The Real Deal and its spinoff publication, Luxury Listings NYC.

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