From Astoria to Forest Hills: I wanted to start a family in a cheaper, less crowded area

  • He scored a rent-stabilized apartment in a better building for $1,800 per month
  • The fully renovated unit is bigger and having a laundry room is 'a real game changer!'
By Kelly Kreth  |
January 19, 2024 - 10:00AM
transitions brick underground

"Forest Hills has a down-to-earth vibe that's really welcoming," Alex says of his new neighborhood. "It's like a small town in a big city."

Wanting to start a family, Alex felt Astoria had gotten too crowded and expensive. After extensive research, he zeroed in on Forest Hills, scoring a coveted rent-stabilized unit that is not only cheaper but also much bigger. Here’s his story. 

I was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania. I moved to London when I was 25 years old. Then in 2015, I moved to New York City to expand my business to the U.S. market. I am the CEO and founder of Active Mutual, a final expense insurance agency serving senior citizens. I have lived in Astoria, Queens ever since coming to NYC. 

My apartment was on 30th Road, very close to the East River. I rented a two bedroom in a small, two-story building. It was quite old and lacked amenities, but it was a great starter place. I did not have laundry machines in our little building, so I was using a drop-and-fold service two blocks away. My initial rent was $2,650. 

I liked the proximity to Manhattan and the diversity of the area. Astoria is a fantastic neighborhood that feels like a tight-knit community. It buzzes with social life! It's a melting pot where people come together from all walks of life. I really loved that about Astoria. And the weekend brunch scene—it's a big deal there. This blend of activities and the warm atmosphere makes socializing in Astoria unique and enjoyable.

What I loved most is the amazing variety of food—there's always something new and delicious to try. I have three favorite places in Astoria: King Souvlaki Food Truck at 31st Street and 31st Avenue for probably the best souvlaki; The Bonnie for cocktails; and Queen's Room for drinks and a great date night.

It was easy to get to most places so I liked to try other areas, too. My go-to places were Midtown Manhattan and Chelsea Piers. I used to drive or take the NYC ferry, which was a breeze—I would be in Midtown in 15 to 20 minutes. 

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

Why he left one Queens area for another

I wouldn't say I was happy with the lack of parking availability though. And ultimately Astoria became too crowded. 

Also, the rental price increase due to the area becoming more popular was a deterrent for me to stay. I also needed a bigger space because I was trying to start a family.

So, I started looking early last year for a new place to live with my girlfriend. By March 2022, I had made up my mind that I wanted to head to Forest Hills. 

I did all the research myself and just looked for buildings in the area I liked. I ended up viewing a lot of apartments as I wanted to take my time selecting the next place to live. It took about seven months to find “the one.”  

During this time, I came across the real estate agents at Realty Depot. The process was smooth once we found the apartment I wanted, which was under renovation when we saw it.

It was listed for $1,800 and rent-stabilized, which was a lovely surprise. 

Our new place is in a prewar building on 67th Avenue with a part-time doorman. The fully renovated apartment has a huge living room, a very large bedroom, and another junior bedroom perfect for a children's room. We have a laundromat in the building—a real game changer!—and plenty of free parking spaces.

How he likes the new nabe

Forest Hills has a down-to-earth vibe that's really welcoming. If I could use a metaphor, it's like a small town in a big city. Plus, it's super accessible, with good subway links. It's just a laid-back, unassuming place where you can chill and feel at home. It's safe, quiet, and perfect for starting a family.

The lack of good places to eat is the only downside of Forest Hills compared to Astoria. However, there are a few I like: Diner Bar for a dinner experience, Rove for drinks, and Keuka Kafe Wine Bar & Kitchen for a date night. 

For food shopping we have Trader Joe's and Aldi. We don't really order in as we like to cook when we don't go out.

Using the subway is convenient; however, the commute is longer than from Astoria. Most of the time, I use my car. Since I am out of the apartment before 6 a.m. daily, I can reach the city in about 25 minutes.

When we crave a quick getaway, Long Island is just a hop away. In short, our quality of life has skyrocketed since the move. 

Our friends are jealous because we found a rent-stabilized apartment in such a great area. I am joking, of course. They love our new place. We already had friends in Forest Hills, so it was very easy to blend in. We plan on staying for at least another two years. 



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.