10 Min to Read

The Best Neighborhoods to Rent in Queens 2020

Zoe Goldstein

Zoe Goldstein

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For the average New Yorker, finding a home is a careful calculation of price, location, square footage, amenities, and so on—usually in that order.

With a low budget, the search for a great apartment to rent in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s hip neighborhoods can be soul-crushing work.

This is partly because not as many renters are setting their sites North and East.

Neighboring underdog Queens sports several neighborhoods with all the vibrant energy of Manhattan for half the price.

Queens is densely populated, uniquely diverse and has an amazing array of local bars, restaurants, and cultural outings all walking distance from its historic pre-war houses and spacious apartments.

Queens has some of the best up-and-coming and affordable neighborhoods to check out if you’re in the market for new digs this new decade.

Before You Start Your Search:

Consider what matters to you in a neighborhood. Of course, budget and vibe will always fall first in line but think about your long-term goals for your new place.

Is this a temporary apartment before you buy a house, or do you plan to stay long term, raise kids? Here is a quiz to get you started thinking about what matters.

  • Do you spend a lot of time at local bars and restaurants?
  • Are you a bookstore or a movie theater person? (Does the neighborhood have either of these?)
  • Are you a walker? Is the neighborhood nice to walk around?
  • Do you want to be near big shopping centers and grocery outlets, or do you prefer mom and pop boutiques?
  • Is parking a priority? (If so, you might consider prioritizing a modern building with on-site parking.)
  • Are there certain school districts you’re aiming for?
  • Are you looking for a short commute? Is being close to the train important, or do you work from home and need it to be quiet?
  • Would you like to be close to a park with a playground or a dog run?
  • Are you a gym rat? (Think about the proximity of parks with exercise areas and gyms that suit your needs. )

If you’ve got that all sorted out, you’ll also need to prepare your materials to make the application process a breeze.

Most landlords will require a credit check and proof that you make at least 40 times the monthly rent. Hunt down those paystubs or take a screenshot of a bank statement check deposit.

The apartment rental process is fairly standard across most of NYC and Queens is no exception. If you don’t make 40 times the rent, most places will let you use a guarantor.

To find how much you can afford, try our Rent Affordability Calculator.

Also, check out the NYC map of average rent prices by neighborhood.

Deposit

Many agencies or landlords may require a deposit right away as a sign of good faith.

While it doesn't guarantee you the apartment, it should be considered one of the first steps of your application process.

If you should be asked to place a deposit right away at the time of application, be sure you are given a deposit or earnest money agreement and receipt, with the refund policy clearly spelled out.

Some management companies and landlords may require the security deposit only at the time of lease signing, and not before.

For more information read on What is a Security Deposit?

Application, credit check, and paperwork required

When you apply for an apartment, you'll need to fill out an application form that will be used to check your credit as well.

There is a fee associated with this application which can range from $20-$200, depending on the agency, management company or credit service the landlord is using.

Nowadays, many applications are processed online through a third-party service such as On-Site.com or Screeningworks.com.

Simultaneously, you'll be asked to submit income documentation proving that you have the finances required to lease the apartment.

This can include a Photo ID, Paystubs, tax returns, letters of employment, and bank statements.

If you are a freelancer, it may be a little trickier, but not impossible to qualify.

To find out what you need to do to qualify read How Self-Employed Freelancers Can Qualify for a Rental Apartment in NYC.

Overall, you'll need to prove to the landlord that you make at least 40 times the monthly rent. That means if the asking rent is $2,000, you'll need to show that you make at least $80,000 a year.

Furthermore, your credit score and history will definitely be in question.

Even if your score is good, the landlord may still feel nervous about you if you show any peculiarities in your report.

Find out more by reading What Do New York City Landlords Look for in a Credit Check.

Energy, Character, Vibe

Now, onto what you’re always already looking for: the personality of your new place.

Maybe you want a sleek modern house with all-new stainless steel appliances, central A/C, and a gym onsite that has never seen a rat or a cockroach in all of its two-year lifespan?

If so, you’ll probably want to stick to some of the more developed areas of Queens like Ridgewood and Long Island City. (You deserve luxury after a day’s hustle!)

Or maybe you want a more classic, charming old-school New York space, replete with crown moldings, arch-ways, and old-school New York neighbors.

If so, the vast majority of Queens is your oyster. Choose from any of the cheaper up-and-coming neighborhoods, many of which have bounties of historic pre-war charm.

Neighborhoods in Queens also vary from cozy family-oriented to hotspots for young people, to more commonly, a mix of both.

The neighborhoods I’ll outline here are all safe, have a smattering of grocery stores within walking distance and are kid and pet-friendly.

Affordable rents Average prices for 1-bedrooms are roughly $1,800, 2-bedrooms at $2,240, which tends to be quite affordable compared to Manhattan or Brooklyn. Finding apartments well-below these prices in choice neighborhoods can be more challenging in areas closer to the city, but not impossible. Expect to find more deals in Central, North and South Queens.
Parks Is there a park in the neighborhood? Is it a park where you can carry out recreational activities or exercise? Does the park have a playground for your child?
Restaurants Are there proper sit-down restaurants in the area? How about restaurants to order delivery? Do you need a good variety of cuisines to choose from? Or maybe you'll be doing a lot of cooking.
Top Public Schools If you don't have kids, this might not be a priority for you at all. But if you have school-aged children, you'll want to make sure that you're in a good school district or zoned for a good neighborhood school. If not public, there's always private school.
Movie Theaters If you can find a movie theater in your neighborhood, consider yourself lucky. You're more likely to find movie theaters at malls and major shopping hubs in Queens. The highest concentration of theaters tend to be in Central Queens.
Walkability New York City is the most walkable city in the country, but this can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Does your chosen neighborhood have lots of shops and restaurants that are easily accessible by foot? Is there beautiful architecture and greenery and easy to get around? The most walkable neighborhoods will have beautiful parks, public spaces, and pedestrian walkways or plazas, with plenty of retail spaces and other pedestrians.
Public Transportation/Commute Obviously, commute time and proximity to transportation is a big factor for most New Yorkers when looking for housing. Depending on your budget and desired apartment size, you may have to sacrifice how close you are to your place of work or far your walk to the train is. Remember, a 10-minute walk to a train station is not the worst or longest walk to a train station (even in Manhattan). Not everyone is lucky enough to live down the street from the train. Mass transits tends to be more scant in the outer boroughs.
Parking Neighborhoods with good street parking has always been an issue in New York, but it's especially an issue in Queens, where many residents have cars because public transportation is not be accessible in many areas. Finding a building, apartment, or house with designated parking might something to prioritize. Some people forgo activities or traveling anywhere just because they don't want to lose their parking spot. If this sounds like you, you might need to find a place with a garage or designated parking spot.
Music Venues This being New York, any kind of live music shouldn't be impossible to find in most neighborhoods. Many local bars offer live music. However, Queens has just a few larger venues and concert halls such as Forest Hill Stadium, Sage Music at Queens College, Blackthorn 51 for metal lovers, and Jackson Room for jazz connoisseurs.
Access to Farmers' Markets Farmers' Markets in Queens can be found through the Greenmarkets site<www.grownyc.org> as well a number of other local organizations such as Down to Earth, Brooklyn Grange, and The Queens Farm Museum among others. While a farmers market won't be the main reason most are drawn to a neighborhood, it's a definite plus for many, especially if there aren't many great supermarket or grocery shopping choices in the area.
Coffee Shops A definite first sign of gentrification or livability for many is the popping up of a local small business coffee shop (we're definitely not talking about Starbucks here). Coffee shops are a great place for people to interact, work, and find out about things happening in the neighborhood. A coffee shop can be an almost transformational presence a neighborhood where there are little to no retail businesses.
Crime Of course, most people are concerned about crime and want to feel secure enough to wander their area even at night. However, it's New York City, which although relatively safe, is still an urban area with over 8 million people. This means you're just going to have higher occurrences of crime. The good news is that violent crimes are relatively rare. If you check NYC's crime map, you'll notice that the whole of Queens is very safe.
New York Pizza There is nothing more quintessentially New York than New York pizza, with bagels perhaps at a close second. You can taste the value of a neighborhood in a local slice. Most areas will have the usual staple of old-school New York pizza. However, you can definitely tell a lot about a neighborhood on whether your pizza place offers vegan or gluten-free options or real brick-oven thin-crust pizza. Being able to order pizza from a great place is a huge plus when it comes to picking neighborhoods.
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Queens at a Glance

Similar to Brooklyn, the areas of Queens closer to Manhattan like Astoria, Long Island City and, recently, Ridgewood tend to be the most expensive, competitive and gentrified.

In these neighborhoods, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find hip coffee spots, lively bars, and twenty-somethings.

These neighborhoods offer a very quick commute to Manhattan.

Areas in Eastern Queens such as Jackson Heights, Sunnyside, Woodside, Flushing, and Maspbeth tend to be cheaper, extremely diverse and less traversed by hipsters.

These areas have plenty to offer in terms of family-friendly activities, outlet shopping, good size houses, and car-accessibility.

These neighborhoods are densely populated and have a variety of subway lines.

Neighborhoods farther out in Queens like Steinway, the Far Rockaways, Jamaica, and Forest Hills tend to feel suburban and have mostly large single-family homes, similar to South Brooklyn.

Best for Families Best for Millennials Best for Nightlife
Forest Hills Long Island City Long Island City
Flushing Astoria Astoria
Bayside Ridgewood Ditmars Steinway
Kew Gardens Sunnyside Jackson Heights
Middle Village Jackson Heights Flushing
Little Neck Kew Gardens Richmond Hill

The Neighborhoods: An Overview

Queens is the most diverse borough in the city and its eclectic mix of neighborhoods reflects this.

In considering where to rent, several factors should weigh in. Commute, scenery, neighborhood crowds and establishments. This overview will give you a nice snapshot of the benefits of renting in Queens.

Most of Queens has a healthy mixture of families, young professional/artist hot spots and all the conveniences one expects from NYC.

It’s still relatively affordable (especially in comparison to Manhattan or Brooklyn) and space-wise, it will give you more bang for your buck. It also tends to have low crime rates, walkability and plenty of parks.

Western Queens

The neighborhoods in Western Queens are some of the most well-known, some of the closest to Manhattan and some of the most well-developed—of course, that also means they’re the most expensive and competitive.

These neighborhoods include Astoria, Long Island City, and Ditmars-Steinway (Hunters Point and Ravenswood are considered LIC).

Of the three, Astoria and Long Island City are the most happening. Both have plenty on offer in terms of art, nightlife and park vistas, and are a quick subway ride from Manhattan.

Astoria boasts the international diversity typical of the borough—it’s part lively urban scene, part Old Country and part quaint family life.

With its show-stopping city views, art scene and popular night-life options, has been a hot spot for young professionals for a while now.

It’s also about as close as you can get to midtown Manhattan without actually living there, making most commutes a breeze.

Long Island City is home to the vibrant PS1, Museum of the Moving Image, Socrates Sculpture Park and Flux Factory.

A quick stroll down its main crawl reveals plentiful bar and restaurants, and new parks have begun to crop up to match the needs of young professionals who want to start families

Ditmars Steinway also has a lot to offer in terms of bars, restaurants and coffee shops and it has become home to young professional spillover from neighboring Astoria.

It does have a more suburban feel than its southern counterpart, but in some cases—like if you’re interested in a kitchen you can actually walk around in—that might be a good thing.

It’s also one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods of Queens, with many European immigrants and again, a quick commute.

Southern Queens

For the most part Southern Queens is a very residential zone with quiet, suburban vibes.

There are a few standout neighborhoods in this group, however, among them Ridgewood and Sunnyside.

The full scope of Southern Queens is composed of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Sunnyside and Middle Village.

You may have heard that Ridgewood is more than up-and-coming—it has fully arrived on the scene with plentiful hip bars, noodle places, dance clubs, galleries and community spaces.

Luckily, the rents are still lagging behind (for now).

Like the rest of Queens, the apartments in the older row houses in Ridgewood tend to be bigger than your average Manhattan or Brooklyn dwelling and will cost less as well.

But these are not shoebox Manhattan apartments—even a studio in Ridgewood will likely get you an eat-in kitchen and quirky carpeted landing storage space.

As has become the norm in Manhattan and Brooklyn, shiny new developments have begun to crop up in Ridgewood, particularly near the L and M train stops.

So if Central Air is really your thing, this neighborhood also has you covered.

Most Ridgewood apartments are about a 10-15 minute walk from the L or M, and walking distance from a variety of affordable grocery stores, sprawling neighborhood parks and some of the most authentic Eastern European, Middle-Eastern and Latin American cuisine in the city.

Sunnyside is a very affordable neighborhood in Southern/Eastern Queens that has recently become popular with millennials.

It has great subway access, and it’s very family-friendly, with lots of parks and accessible public schools.

It offers spacious pre-war apartments and a variety of single-family homes. Most houses have either front or backyards, but modern high-rises are not as common.

The other neighborhoods in Southern Queens like Middle Village, Maspbeth and Glendale tend to be very affordable and heavy on suburban-style single-family homes.

While Maspbeth is more industrial, with several large factory headquarters, Middle Village and Glendale are quieter.

These areas tend to have less apartment buildings than other neighborhoods in Queens, but rentals in a family home are common.

As any New Yorker knows, you might score a deal anywhere, so don’t rule them out. They’re also accessible to major subway lines and buses.

The majority of Southern Queens may not have as many trendy coffee shops as Ridgewood or Long Island City, but that’s likely to change soon as more millennials flood toward cheaper rents.

In the mean-time, renting here might be a great way to get ahead of the curve.

Eastern Queens

Eastern Queens is home to one of the most famous Queens neighborhoods--the always notable Flushing, known for its large Asian population and destination eateries.

Flushing is crowded, far from Manhattan, close to the Mets, easily-accessible on the 7 train and very, very lively. Try one of the great Karaoke spots.

The other neighborhoods in Eastern Queens-- Forest Hills, Elmhurst, Corona, and Woodside--tend to be quieter and more family-oriented, but they all are good options for low budget rentals and authentic New York international vibrancy.

Woodside has remained under the radar for many New Yorkers, but has the classic Queens combo of low rents, spacious dwellings, cultural diversity, and exceptional local takeout options.

Historically an Irish neighborhood, it sports many Irish pubs and its own Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

The housing options are mostly low-rise, and it’s, again, common to rent an apartment in someone’s home.

Forest Hills and Corona tend to be very residential, with more big apartment buildings than their counterparts, but a heavy emphasis on family life.

These are great neighborhoods if you drive everywhere and want a really spacious house.

They’re home to big outlet centers and grocery stores tend to have parking lots. Forest Hills is reachable via the E/M trains and Corona is off the 7.

Elmhurst has the most subway options outside of Long Island City (M, R, and E) if the commute is a big factor.

It’s also one of the most affordable areas in Queens with amazing Thai, Indonesian and Argentinian food.

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Northern Queens

Northern Queens is a relatively small swath of the borough, but home to historic stronghold Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, and Upper Ditmars.

Jackson Heights is full of lively urban, international energy—over 167 languages are spoken in this neighborhood alone! It has always been a neighborhood of immigrants—from Eastern-European Jews in the early 20th century to South Asians and Latin Americans in the present.

This makes for a fascinating history, a proliferation of enclaves called “Little Pakistan” and “Little Colombia,” and a vast array of some of the most authentic global eateries, mom and pop boutiques and grocery stores in NYC.

As of recent, Jackson Heights’ many subway lines (the 7, E, F, M and R) and spacious pre-war co-ops have become attractive to a younger crowd and rent prices have gone up.

In comparison to the rest of the city, however, rents are still widely affordable. Apartments often include vintage detailing inside and working fireplaces, and modern high-rise condos are not as common.

East Elmhurst, as one of the first neighborhoods where African-Americans could buy homes, has remained pretty stable and suburban-esque since the mid 20th century.

It’s a strong community: you’ll likely know your neighbors on a first-name basis and they might even help you out of a pickle.

East Elmhurst has no direct train to Manhattan but several connecting buses. It offers spacious houses and a very quiet peaceful atmosphere.

Upper Ditmars (or Astoria Heights) tends to have spillover from Astoria-Ditmars, and much of the same energy (though a bit quieter.

Because you’re not in the prime section of Astoria, your rent will likely be cheaper. This is still relatively under the radar neighborhood, and it doesn’t have the same great subway access you’ll find in Astoria.

In Conclusion

Overall, Queens is a great option if you’re looking for more space, convenience and proximity to authentic international food options!

Pretty much all neighborhoods in Queens make it easy to get into Manhattan for work, and areas like Ridgewood and Long Island City provide great accessibility to Brooklyn along the G and L lines, in case all your friends haven’t caught on to the opportunities out North/East yet.

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