Most affordable: Inwood

Quantity and quality come together in upper Manhattan-at a price that won't make you cry.

Inwood Hill Park

Inwood Hill Park Photograph: Sophia Wallace

The most notorious real-estate transaction in history possibly took place in Inwood, when Peter Minuit bought Manhattan from the Native Americans for a fabled $24. Today, Inwood is a low-slung neighborhood of primarily prewar buildings with some Art Deco flourishes. Most of them are rent stabilized and contain larger apartments than you could find for the money elsewhere in Manhattan. “It’s even cheaper than Brooklyn,” says Adjina Dekidjiev, a manager for Manhattan Apartments, citing such places as Carroll Gardens, where you don’t get as much space for the price, a key factor in our panelists’ decisions. “You’re still in Manhattan and it’s almost the same commute.” Conveniently, Inwood is served by the 1 train and the A; the latter, when running express on weekdays, can get you to midtown in under a half hour. That’s better than the F from Park Slope.

Fort Tryon Park
Bruce's Garden, Park Terrace East

Photograph: Sophia Wallace

Scanning her listings, Dekidjiev saw that among 17 Inwood apartments listed between $900 and $1,700, there was a $1,375 studio with a garage and part-time doorman and a one-bedroom for $1,050. “You can’t get that in Astoria anymore,” she says. “And you can’t get a decent studio below 100th Street for less than $1,700.”

As block-watchers already know, Inwood has seen an influx of artistic types over the past few years. The change has caused a stir within the entrenched Hispanic (and even some of the original Irish) population, because the stroller set and Upper West Side refugees have followed, giving rise to gentrification fears. The g-word has been slow to take hold so far, but Lockhart Steele, founder of Curbed, thinks the neighborhood is primed to break out in the next few years. For one thing, he explains, “keyword: Manhattan” is important for apartment hunters. For another, the number of local bloggers has increased in recent years. “That’s one of the sure signs of a gentrifying neighborhood,” Steele says.

Fort Tryon Park
W 217th Street, between Park Terrace East and Park Terrace West

Photograph: Sophia Wallace

Brad Aaron (inwoodite.com) is one of those posters, and has certainly heard his neighborhood “heralded as the next Park Slope.” So far, though, he’s seen just one garish new apartment development go up. And the major thoroughfares —Broadway and Dyckman Street—have little in the way of boutiques and trendy restaurants. That makes it even more affordable. “There are not a lot of places to spend a lot of money,” Aaron says. “You’re not tempted to go out to eat every night.” He did, however, note that the new Indian Road Café on 218th Street has been getting attention, partly because it’s owned by a former producer of The Sopranos. (It also has $3 Genesee Cream Ale on its beer menu—we bet you haven’t had that since college, when the nearby gas station ran out of Natural Light.)

Parks and serenity are the main draws here. Fort Tryon Park has the Cloisters and breathtaking views of the Hudson; Isham Park provides shade for outdoor conversations in several languages on Broadway; and Inwood Hill Park has plenty of summer beisbol, plus a forest that gives you a taste of what Manhattan looked like when Minuit was in town. As for his price, the neighborhood’s no longer that cheap, but considering the location and quality, it’s still a steal.

According to Trulia, the cheapest 1BR in Inwood is $229K; in Park Slope it’s $469K.


RUNNERS-UP

East Village
“In terms of sheer affordability, it probably doesn’t beat out, say, Inwood. But when you consider the fact that rental prices aren’t off the charts and that the neighborhood offers some of the best bang-for-buck food in the whole city—not to mention the boutiques—we’re talking upper-left quadrant of the affordability/quality-of-life matrix.”—Lockhart Steele, founder of Curbed

Kew Gardens, Queens
“It is great for families, with good schools. The LIRR is only 18 minutes to Manhattan, and the E and F express subway trains are also in the area. There are many great restaurants, supermarkets and shops, and you can find great deals in the ethnic shops, since it is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the country.”—Marc G. Windheuser, associate broker and directing manager, Prudential Douglas Elliman

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