Queens is the New Brooklyn

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Anastasios Makedon is a real estate broker in Astoria and said business has never been better. He said there is so much interest in Astoria that he does not have time to put new listings online before they are rented. (Photo by Sophia Rosenbaum)

Anastasios Makedon is a real estate broker in Astoria and said business has never been better. He said there is so much interest in Astoria that he does not have time to put new listings online before they are rented. (Photo by Sophia Rosenbaum)

Queens is on its way to becoming the next Brooklyn—a go-to haven for people priced out of their old neighborhoods.

What originally attracted people to Brooklyn – cheaper rents than Manhattan and cultural amenities – are now pulling people across the river to Queens, especially as neighborhoods throughout the borough continue to improve.

Brooklyn is no longer less expensive than Manhattan. Record-breaking rental prices in parts of Brooklyn start at $2,850 a month, a 4.6 percent jump from August 2012 and the highest spike in more than five years. Manhattan rents are only a little higher at $3,150.

“Queens is the key beneficiary of Brooklyn’s success,” said Jonathan Miller, who writes the Elliman Report for Miller Samuel, a leading independent appraisal firm. He predicts the skyrocketing rent phenomena will continue throughout the city as population grows and a continued nationwide tight limit on credit keeps more people in the rental pool.

For the first time in his 26-year career, Brooklyn realtors are telling Miller that people are being priced out of neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Park Slope. Furthermore, realtors are finding they don’t have enough apartments for the people who can afford to live in Brooklyn.

Queens’ waterfront neighborhoods like Astoria, Long Island City and Sunnyside are reaping the benefits, and it isn’t just because the price is right. These areas boast safe neighborhoods, a close to commute to Manhattan and a unique ability to function as a 24-hour neighborhood.

These amenities are drawing renters who have been pushed out of Manhattan and Brooklyn, said Anastasios Makedon, a real estate broker at Astoria Apartments.

“They’re coming here on their own free will,” he said.

After living on the Lower East Side for almost a year, Laura Li, who works in Manhattan and is a graduate student at New York University, decided the neighborhood wasn’t for her. A friend of hers lives in Astoria and she found the area safe, upbeat and much cheaper, so she started her apartment hunt in Queens.

Over the summer, she left her LES apartment where she was paying $1,300 a month for rent and utilities to Sunnyside, where she pays about $900.

“Queens just feels like home,” Li said.

Rental numbers are hard to find, but the Queens boom likely started in the latter part of 2011.

Studios are generally the first to rent and start at $2,250 in Long Island City. Many LIC apartment buildings have washers and dryers on every floor and amenities like gyms, balconies and play areas for children—perks that are difficult to find in non-luxury buildings in Brooklyn or Manhattan.

The increased number of rentals is no coincidence in Long Island City, where local developers have been planning to build high-rise condos and apartments for the past 20 years.

The neighborhood has also added cultural institutions like PS1, sprawling parks and new schools for influx of families moving to the area.

“People don’t want to live in a bedroom community where there is nothing going on,” said Scott Walsh of TF Cornerstone, a New York-based residential real estate developer. “It’s more of a full package now.”

But Miller said Queens is a similar rental market to Brooklyn in that it is starting from a lower price point, giving it more of a chance to skyrocket in the next few years. Makedon said landlords in Queens have already realized they can charge more for their apartments.

In the past year, Makedon said prices for a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria have gone from about $1,400 to $1,500. Based on his rule of thumb, two-bedroom apartments have shot up $200 to about $1,900 and three-bedrooms rose $300 to $500 based on amenities like multiple bathrooms, granite counters and stainless steel appliances.

He doesn’t even have time to put new apartment inventory onto his website.

“We rent it within 24 to 48 hours,” he said.

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