The first time I moved to New York City, during the late ‘90s, friends told me that I would have a very difficult time finding a place to live but an easy time finding a job.
I camped out at a friend’s place in Brooklyn Heights for a week or so and began apartment hunting and job hunting.
This was before CraigsList but not before the internet. So, because I’m a gay man, I joined Rainbow Roommates and started going on interviews for potential roommates and living quarters.
Within a week, I found a place to live — in Maspeth, Queens. My new living space was okay — a three-bedroom apartment in a three-story home and I got two of the three bedrooms for $550/month, including utilities. Not bad. But the more-than-one-hour commute, after I finally found some temp work, was hell: a bus to a train to a train to a train. The return commute, especially at night, was even worse. Sometimes the bus only ran once an hour!
Lesson learned: location, location, location.
I put up with Maspeth for about a year then, in a great streak of luck, my Maspeth roommate decided that he wanted to have a friend of his, who was living in Astoria, move in with us. I liked his friend but didn’t want to live with two people. So, I moved into my roommate’s friend’s apartment.
Astoria was MUCH better than Maspeth. The neighborhood was cool. The commute was one subway ride to Midtown East, Times Square and the Financial District.
Queens wasn’t Manhattan. It never will be. But Queens has its benefits and charms, especially when you know more about the neighborhoods. Here are some things I’ve learned about the neighborhoods of Queens:
Queens in General
Queens is one of the most diverse places on earth–The French settled in Sunnyside in the 1800s and the Greeks in Astoria. Queens’ Chinatown is, quite frankly, better than Chinatown in Manhattan. Plus Queens is home to the 1964 World’s Fair Grounds, the Mets and the U.S. World Open. Here you can find Time Out’s list of top attractions in Queens.
If you really want to experience New York City, I recommend choosing another neighborhood. But Maspeth does have a Budweiser bottling plant.
Home to Tony Bennett, who just won a Grammy for his album with Lady Gaga. Ricky Martin lived there before he became Ricky Martin. Sesame Street shoots episodes in Queens and Astoria is home to the Museum of the Moving Image. Plus shopping on Broadway and Steinway Street is fun.
Forest Hills Gardens
Forest Hills Gardens is beautiful: a quiet, serene respite from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. The commute is a bit of a slog but walking from the subway, down Austin Street to the entrance to the Gardens is quite sublime. It’s isolated from the city but charming. Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice president candidate, lived here. Forest Hills Gardens also is the first planned garden community in the United States (http://foresthillsgardens.org).
Sunnyside is seven subway stops to Grand Central Station. On a good day, it takes less than 30 minutes door-to-door. The people are great. I have been living in this neighborhood for eight years and it truly feels like home.
A few notable scenes from Spiderman were filmed in Sunnyside and there are some notable residents (for you history buffs out there), including Judy Holliday, Ethel Merman, Nancy Walker and James Caan.
Sunnyside Gardens is nestled in Sunnyside and a truly beautiful place to take a Sunday walk.
Interested in Moving to Queens?
You can try CraigsList, brokers and other rental sites but here is the best way to find a place in Queens:
Find the neighborhood you would like to live in. Wander aimlessly around, checking out buildings and streets. If you find an apartment building you would consider living in, go up to the building and find the buzzer for the super. Talk to him or her. They are usually very friendly and know when apartments are available in their building. Tell them you would love to move into the building and ask how to do so. And, if you are successful, be sure to give them a nice tip at Christmas!