Queens is the place to be if you’re looking to escape Manhattan’s bustle but still want to be close to the action. Spanning 109 square miles, Queens is the largest NYC borough. Though it lends itself to a more suburban feel, it offers plenty of city character.
More than 160 languages are spoken in Queens, making it one of the most diverse areas in the world. Its amazing food scene, plentiful museums, and ties to cultural history reflect this borough’s diversity. For example, New York City’s second-largest Chinatown is in Queens. Queen’s Addisleigh Park was home to many jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, John Coltrane, and more. It was also home to the 1964 World’s Fair and hosts the US Open.
Queens has all the life and flare of the city, without the congestion and cost of living. With a wide range of housing options and a mix of well-established and up-and-coming neighborhoods, it’s the perfect place for families and working professionals to call home.
Living in Queens, NY: What to Know Before Moving to Queens
Each of the nearly 2.3 million residents of Queens adds a little something to the culture, food, and excitement you’ll find here. The center of Queens is less than 16 miles from Manhattan and west Queens neighborhoods are directly across the East River from Upper East Side Manhattan. Residents of Queens can be conveniently near the bustle of the city, without being in the middle of it. Instead, they’re surrounded by family-friendly neighborhoods, affordable housing, and an understated cool vibe that’s uniquely Queens.
Pros and Cons of Living in Queens
Knowing the pros and cons of living in Queens can help you have the best experience in your new hometown.
- Rent prices: Queens is one of the most affordable boroughs to rent in, especially compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn.
- Diversity: The food, language, traditions, and activities here represent the culture of hundreds of countries.
- Dining and creative entertainment: Throughout Queens, you’ll find amazing restaurants, beer gardens, museums, and venues.
- Many things to do: From Citi Field to the Queens Center Mall, everyone can find something to do here.
- Commuting: Getting into Manhattan is easy, but since Queens covers such expansive mileage, traveling between neighborhoods can be time-consuming. There’s also no subway access in part of northeastern Queens, so choose your location carefully.
- Home prices: While the median home value in Queens is lower than the New York average, some neighborhoods see listing prices close to, and above, $1 million.
- Less nightlife: There’s less of a late-night scene here than in Manhattan.
- Property Tax: The property tax rate in Queens county is 0.866%, which is below the New York average of 1.677% and the national average of 1.080%
- Sales Tax: The sales tax rate in Queens is 8.8%. This rate includes the New York State sales tax of 4% and a city tax of 4.8% – slightly higher than the national average of 7.25%.
- State Income Tax: New York’s state income tax is typically higher than most states, ranging from 4% to 8.82% depending on income.
If you’re not sure whether you want to buy or rent in Queens, this information might help you. More than 52% of people rent in Queens, paying an average rent of $1,735 for a one-bedroom apartment.
If you’re looking to buy a home, you’ll find a range of list prices. As of November 2019, the median home list price in Queens was $585,000, with home values spiking near $1 million in neighborhoods like Jamaica Estates, Utopia, and Hillcrest.
Home values in Queens have gone up 1.0% over the past year, but industry analysts expect them to fall by -0.4% during 2020. If you’re hoping to buy a home for around or below the median list price, check out neighborhoods like Jamaica, South Ozone Park, and Richmond Hill.
Cost of Living
Queens has a lower cost of living than most New York City boroughs. However, housing and transportation are the main factors that drive the cost of living in Queens higher than most other states.
The website bestplaces.net analyzes the cost of living in different areas across the country using an index of 100 for comparison. The overall cost of living index in Queens is 178.2. All factors listed are higher than the national average, but housing (260.8), transportation (188.5), and utilities (149.5) are the main drivers.
With all factors considered, the average monthly cost of living in Queens is about $10,777, so a family of four would need to bring in about $129,000 a year to cover expenses. The average household income in Queens is $62,000 – but when compared to other parts of the city, like Manhattan, which has a cost of living index of 258, Queens is an affordable option for living in New York City.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Queens has a temperate climate and experiences all four seasons without too many extremes. However, the area does experience an array of weather events depending on the season. January and February bring temperatures ranging from 26-42 degrees Fahrenheit with possible snow. The summer months of July and August bring temperatures around 70-85 with plenty of sunshine and humidity.
Queens has a mild amount of annual rain and snow. Typically, the city gets 46 inches of rain and 28 inches of snow per year.
The only extreme weather event Queens residents experience is hurricanes, with the greatest risk for hurricanes in the late summer and early fall. Although a major hurricane hasn’t hit the area since 2012, residents should still take steps to be prepared, like creating a supply stash and action plan, and registering for emergency alerts.
Economy & Job Market
The unemployment rate in Queens is currently the lowest it’s been in decades, at 3.9%. As of 2018, there were over 50,000 businesses in Queens that employ more than 500,000 people. The job market expects 31% growth over the next ten years. Booming industries in Queens include healthcare, transportation, construction, and food services.
It’s important to note that many Queens residents don’t work in Queens – most head over to Manhattan, White Plains, or Westchester for work. However, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re looking to stay in Queens for work. The New York Public Library’s website has several great resources for job searches in Queens.
Traffic & Transportation
Traffic can be an issue in Queens, with the average daily commute time of 43.6 minutes each way. That doesn’t deter more than 30% of people from using their car to get around, though.
If you plan to commute by car, you’ll face the most traffic from 6-9 am and 4-7 pm. You’ll see heavy congestion mostly on the Long Island Expressway and Interstate 678, as they are the main east-west and north-south highways through Queens, respectively. Traffic is heaviest approaching the Queens Midtown Tunnel, Queensboro Bridge, and Whitestone Bridge and tends to also build up around LaGuardia and JFK airports during common travel days.
To avoid traffic, more than half the residents use the convenient and plentiful public transpiration options. The Long Island Railroad has over a dozen stops in Queens for easy access to Long Island. Subway stations and bus routes connect residents to other neighborhoods and Manhattan.
Most of Queens is good for traveling on foot, too. Walkscore.com ranks cities 1-100 based on three categories: walkability, availability of transit, and bike-friendliness. The neighborhoods in Queens average about a 75 walk score, 70 transit score, and 55 bike score. While walking and public transportation are easy in Queens, you’ll have to be cautious about biking in some of the busier areas.
What to Do
You’ll never find yourself without something to do in Queens. While you can easily head into Manhattan via a quick subway ride, you’ll rarely want to once you see all that Queens has to offer. From beautiful beaches and parks to sports arenas, to some of the best food in the city, this borough leaves nothing to be desired.
With weather being suitable for outdoor activities for the majority of the year, you’ll be able to spend a lot of time in Queens’ parks. Spend the day in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where the World’s Fair was held, or catch the ocean breezes at Rockaway Beach.
Sports fans will find plenty of excitement here, too. If you’re lucky, you might be able to snag tickets to the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Or, you can catch a New York Mets game at Citi Field. Even if baseball isn’t in season or the Mets are away, there are plenty of concerts and events that take place at Citi Field.
If sports aren’t your thing, that’s okay too! MoMA PS1, an extension of the Museum of Modern Art, has great exhibits and transforms into a space for outdoor concerts in the summer. You can also visit Louis Armstrong’s home and explore the Queens Jazz Trail, which features the homes of other prominent jazz musicians.
If all that fun made you hungry, you’re in luck. Queens has some of the best food in the city. You can find authentic Asian cuisine in Flushing that rivals Chinatown. You’ll also find restaurants with rave reviews in Astoria and Bayside, including Anassa Taverna for Greek food and Koyo for Japanese taste treats.
Your explorations will uncover lots of great places to hang out with friends and grab a drink. Evil Twin Brewing Company in Ridgewood offers some creative food options plus craft brews, a beer garden, and a greenhouse.
Schools and Universities
To accommodate Queens’ large population, there are hundreds of schools between the public, private, and charter schools – and most of them are among the top in New York City.
New York City Districts #24-#30 cover Queens, with more than 422 primary and secondary schools. Most of Queens’ schools have excellent ratings on greatschools.org, with many schools achieving a 10/10 ranking, including Queens High School for the Sciences, The Active Learning Elementary School, PS 41, and PS 79.
Townsend Harris High School was recently named the top public high school in NYC, with a 100% college enrollment rate and an AP pass rate of 90.3%.
Queens is also home to some top-rated colleges and universities. St. John’s University has highly regarded academic programs and Division I athletics. Queens College, part of the CUNY system, provides affordable education for New York residents. There are also community colleges in the area, the most notable one being Queensborough Community College.
Safety is an important consideration when moving to a new area. The Crime Index ranks areas from 1 (lowest crime rate) to 100 (highest crime rate) in both violent and property crimes. Queens has a violent crime index of 34.4 compared to the U.S. average of 22.7. Its property crime index of 28 is significantly below the U.S. average of 35.4.
Crime mostly concentrates in southern parts of Queens, including Jamaica. North Queens is considered very safe.
Since one of the first steps of moving is setting up utilities in your home-to-be, we’ll help you get started. Here are the primary utility providers serving Queens:
- Gas service: For the northern parts of Queens, conEdison is the natural gas provider. For southern Queens, it’s National Grid. You can request an appointment with National Grid before you move, or register for conEdison online.
- Electric service: conEdison is the primary electricity provider for Queens. Register online to learn more about service to your neighborhood and to get started.
- Trash pick-up/recycling service: The New York City Department of Sanitation manages trash and recycling services. Collection times and instructions differ by neighborhood; see their website for more information.
- Internet/Cable service: Queens residents have a choice of internet/cable providers, including DIRECTV, DISH, Spectrum, and Verizon.
Best Neighborhoods in Queens, NY
Choosing your neighborhood involves a lot of research and is a big decision, especially in a large area like Queens. We’ve pulled together some information about some of the best neighborhoods in Queens to help you decide.
Astoria is one of the most popular neighborhoods among young working professionals since it’s merely a 20-minute subway ride from Manhattan. Most Astoria residents live in rentals like apartments, condos, and co-ops. There are fewer options for buying a home, but if you do plan to buy, you’ll see list prices around $430,000.
Astoria sits in the northwest part of Queens, with the East River to the west, Woodside to the east, and Ditmars Steinway to the north. Although parking can be difficult, traveling throughout Astoria is pretty easy. The Grand Central Parkway runs east-west and will have you on Long Island in about 20 minutes – or you can head west over the Queensboro or RFK bridges to get to the other boroughs.
Astoria is known for its social scene. You’ll find people hanging out in beautiful Astoria Park, or eating and drinking at restaurants and beer gardens. The area is diverse but has a large Greek population, so count on finding great Greek food here.
- Population – 95,446
- Home Price – $434,500 median list price
- Rent Prices – $2,350 median rent
- Schools – In addition to NYC DOE schools, there are private schools including Immaculate Conception School, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School, and The 30th Avenue School
Why Astoria? It’s the perfect place for young working professionals.
If you’re hoping to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, the quiet middle-class suburbia of Sunnyside is ideal. Sunnyside is east of Long Island City, south of Dutch Kills, and west of Woodside. It’s just minutes from Manhattan and is dissected by the east-west Queens Boulevard, with the Long Island Expressway at its south border for easy access to Long Island.
Most people choose to rent one of the 35,000 1-3 bedroom apartments and condos in the well-established neighborhood of Sunnyside. Most of the owned homes are in the subsection Sunnyside Gardens. These houses are all made from Hudson brick with small gardens in both the front and the back, hence the name.
Sunnyside is known for its laid back communal feel. There’s a lower crime rate than NYC as a whole, so families can enjoy community gardens and parks with no fear. You’ll find most residents exploring the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District, frequenting the long-standing restaurants, or finding that perfect gift in one of the many vintage shops.
- Population – 84,000
- Home Price – $399,000 median list price
- Rent Prices – $1,850 median rent price
- Schools – PS 150, 199, IS 125, Robert F. Wagner Junior Secondary School, Academy of Finance and Enterprise, Aviation Career and Technical High School, Queens Vocational and Technical High School
Why Sunnyside? It has a quiet, suburban feel, yet sits just minutes from Manhattan.
Although not a forest, Forest Hills offers plenty of green in its crown jewel, Forest Park. You’ll find many of the families who reside in Forest Hills playing golf, riding horses, or walking their dogs in the park.
Forest Hills is one of the best neighborhoods in Queens to raise a family because of its low crime rates and excellent schools. These families live in a range of homes – often, you’ll find modern apartment complexes with affordable one-bedroom rentals on the same street as century-old colonial houses with pristine gardens.
Commuting to and from Forest Hills is easy for anyone with a car. Grand Central Parkway runs along the east border for easy access to the Long Island Expressway and Manhattan. A few minutes in your car brings you to Kew Gardens to the south, Flushing Meadows Corona Park to the north, and Rego Park to the west.
If you ask a local, they’re sure to rave about Austin Street. That’s where you’ll find the neighborhood’s best cafes, restaurants, shops, and nightclubs – something for everyone.
- Population – 79,500
- Home Price – $425,000 median list price
- Rent Prices – $2,000 median rent price
- Schools – PS 101, 144, 174, 175, 196, 220, 303, JHS 157, JHS 190, and the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, but students are free to attend schools in all parts of NYC
Why Forest Hills? It’s a safe place to raise a family and has good schools.
The low property taxes, low crime rates, and excellent schools in Bayside make it an attractive neighborhood for families. This waterfront neighborhood sits in northeast Queens with the East River to the north, and the Long Island Sound and Little Neck Bay to the east. Residents can conveniently navigate through Bayside via Northern Boulevard, and out of it via The Clearview, Cross Island, and Long Island expressways.
Wealthy communities like Bayside Gables and Bay Terrace give Bayside its affluent feel, while middle-class areas like Oakland Gardens make owning a home accessible to most families. This blend creates a mix of freestanding homes, rental homes, and apartment complexes.
Bayside residents spend time outdoors exploring the numerous parks and waterfront areas like the marina on Little Neck Bay. If you’re moving from another coastal area, be sure to bring your boat and watersport equipment!
Otherwise, much of the neighborhood’s action takes place on Belle Boulevard, home to many businesses that have been operating for decades. This neighborhood mainstay houses restaurants, bars, and shops.
- Population – 70,000
- Home Price – $898,888 median list price
- Rent Prices – $2,300 median rent price
- Schools – Queensborough Community College, Bayside High School, Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, PS 203, 213, 31, 41, 26, 169, 159, 162, 205, IS 25, JHS 194, MS 74, 158, 294 and several private schools.
Why Bayside? A mix of affluent and affordable housing options.
Jamaica Estates, a largely residential area, is the envy of Queens, and arguably of the entire city. You’ll have plenty of space and privacy here in Tudor-style homes with large yards. But living here comes at a price – single-family homes often cost around a million dollars, and rentals are rarely available. However, if you can afford it, the price tag is worth the access to some of the best private schools within a quiet and safe neighborhood.
More affordable, urban neighborhoods surround this upper-middle-class suburb. Jamaica Hills is to the west, Holliswood is to the east, and Fresh Meadows is to the north.
Midland Parkway, at the heart of the neighborhood, is a four-lane boulevard with a landscaped median that mirrors the overall vibe of the area. Although residential, it’s still not far removed from Manhattan, making it a great neighborhood for high-earning professionals.
- Population – 20,000
- Home Price – $942,957 median list price
- Rent Prices – $2,493 median rent price
- Schools – PS 178, 131, The Mary Louis Academy, Immaculate Conception School, The Summit School, Yeshiva High School for Girls, United Nations International School
Why Jamaica Estates? Its affluence and open spaces.
Long Island City
Don’t let the name fool you; Long Island City is very much a part of Queens. This up and coming neighborhood is gaining popularity as people discover it has everything you’d want from New York City – restaurants, museums, culture – without the crowds and high cost of living.
This residential and commercial neighborhood sits on the western edge of Queens with the East River on the west, Greenpoint on the south, Sunnyside on the east, and Astoria on the north. It’s separated from Brooklyn by the Newton Creek and is just a five-minute subway ride to Midtown from the Hunter’s Point station. You’ll find plenty of housing options including apartments, condos, brownstones, and single-family homes. Although the homes have beautiful architecture, they’re small, so you may need to downsize.
Since it’s so close to Manhattan, you’ll find a high population of middle-class working professionals in Long Island City. Many residents spend their free time exploring the outdoors at Fresh Kills Green, enjoying the creative exhibits at MoMA PS I, meeting a friend for an inventive cocktail at The Standing Room, or catching a comedy show at Creek & Cave.
- Population – 50,000
- Home Price – $468,371 median list price
- Rent Prices – $1,584 median rent price
- Schools – Dozens of NYC Department of Education public schools, Baccalaureate School for Global Education, Queens Paideia School, St Raphael School
Why Long Island City? It has everything you love about New York City with less traffic and crowds.
Kew Gardens is located in the heart of Queens and is home to many working professionals in their 30s and 40s. Although the neighborhood doesn’t have many attractions to boast, it’s surrounded by Forest Hills to the west, Flushing Meadows Corona Park to the north, and Richmond Hill to the east, so the surrounding area has plenty to offer.
Although previously established as a densely populated middle-class community, currently larger expensive homes are gaining popularity in the area. The smaller, affordable houses on tree-lined streets are generally well kept, which lends to the peaceful, safe vibe the neighborhood offers.
You’ll find a lot of locally owned businesses in Kew Gardens, especially along Lefferts Boulevard, Metropolitan Avenue, Austin Street, and Kew Gardens Road. While there aren’t a ton of options for entertainment in Kew Gardens, you can easily access the amenities in Forest Hills. The large greenspace, Forest Park, sits directly west of Kew Gardens. Or, head to other parts of New York City via Kew Gardens’ two subway stops or the Van Wyck Parkway.
- Population – 22,000
- Home Price – $357,000 median list price
- Rent Prices – $1,999 median rent price
- Schools – PS 99 is the only public school serving K-12, private schools include Yeshiva Tifereth Moshe, Bais Yaakov of Queens, and Yeshiva Shaar Hatorah
Why Kew Gardens? It’s an affordable, well-kept neighborhood.
If you’re not quite ready to leave the suburbs but want to live in Queens, then the eastern Queens neighborhood of Bellerose is perfect for you. Bellerose mirrors the middle-class suburbs of Long Island, designed for families who want private yards and more space than you’ll find in other parts of Queens.
It’s so removed from city life that it has no subway access, but a 20-minute drive west on Jericho Turnpike will have you in Queens Village. Bellerose sits at the western border of Nassau County, Long Island, separated by Jericho Turnpike, with Floral Park being the other bordering town to the south. Navigating the roads via car is much easier here than in any other part of Queens.
Families are drawn to Bellerose for its affordable homes and lower property taxes than most of the city. You’ll find mostly detached, single-family homes with a few rental options, though most families own. There are plenty of parks and shopping centers for families to enjoy. Be sure to check out Belmont Park and catch a horse race at the world-famous Belmont Racetrack.
- Population – 32,000
- Home Price – $645,950 median list price
- Rent Prices – $2,494 median rent price
- Schools – New York City Department of Education Districts 26 and 29, Martin Van Buren High School
Why Bellerose? It’s the most suburban neighborhood you’ll find in the city.
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