To quote a famous song, of which there are aplenty celebrating the city that never sleeps, New York City. From Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ to ‘Coney Island Baby’ to the just quoted “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys and Brooklyn ambassador Jay-Z, everybody likes to sing the praises of the Big Apple.
There are so many songs dedicated to New York and everybody wants to go there. Even better, live there! New York City has so much to offer, from culture to history to nightlife to the finest cuisine, famous landmarks, beautiful parks, action jackson, and just so much excitement! It’s the kind of city everybody should see before they die.
But nobody should die there! Okay, that’s dark humor, but let’s be honest. New York City does have a reputation – and history – of being crime-ridden, mostly thanks to movies like ‘Taxi Driver’ and television shows like ‘Law and Order’. So, what are the safest neighborhoods in NYC and do they exist?
Au Contraire Mon Frère
Contrary to popular belief, New York City is a much better place to raise a kid than the suburbs. Think of all the child has access to, from education to opportunities. Still, you want your child to benefit from and enjoy all the Big Apple has to offer in a safe zone. Like any major metropolis, New York City has its safe, safer, and unsafe neighborhoods.
The trend of crime in New York City started in the fifties but it has continued to decline since the nineties, when former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s policies were implemented. In fact, there has been a significant decrease in crime rates in many neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs from 2001 to 2019; in some places by as much as 50%.
The high tourist areas are actually usually the most dangerous areas, not just in New York City, but in any city that experiences heavy tourist traffic, like London, Paris, or Los Angeles. It is counter-intuitive because there are a lot of people in those areas, but it’s the crowds that allow the common criminals to slip away undetected.
If you live in New York, you probably will, as most New Yorkers do, avoid those areas like the plague. This article will tell you which are the safest neighborhoods in NYC for those planning to settle there.
New York is a city made up of five boroughs. Manhattan – the borough everybody thinks of when they think of New York City – but also Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and…daa Bronx, home of the Yankees! So, what are the safest neighborhoods in NYC?
To make this guide easier for you to find the right neighborhood for you, the neighborhoods are organized by Borough. The boroughs are further categorized by type of neighborhood.
First, residential neighborhoods, which are more traditional areas of the city that have pretty much stayed the same for decades.
Then there are the gentrified neighborhoods. Every city has them. They are usually home to the artists and young professionals who moved into the neighborhood in search of affordable rent, forcing the neighborhood into a transformation. Then usually the rent goes up and they move on.
Finally, wealthy neighborhoods. Again, contrary to intuitive logic, wealthy neighborhoods can be the most dangerous. Take the case of Paris, the French version of New York City.
In Paris, the wealthy neighborhoods are often quiet and deserted at night. Therefore, petty criminals have three incentives to travel there to commit crimes – less witnesses, more anonymity, and bigger bank accounts. They wouldn’t go criming in their own neighborhoods, where they are often known by the residents and know that their neighbors probably have just as much money in their pocket as they do.
Leaving The Station
Now grab your MetroCard – if you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, it’s one of the first things you’ll find out – and hop on the subway so we can take a grand tour of the safest neighborhoods in NYC!
Manhattan is the central artery of New York City, the heart of it all, if you will, so there is a wider and diverse array of neighborhoods to explore.
The most traditionally residential neighborhoods in Manhattan can be found on the Upper West Side.
One of the nicest, safest neighborhoods in NYC’s Upper West Side is Morningside Heights. Morningside Heights is home to Columbia University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world. And nearby is the coffee shop from Seinfeld!
Morningside Heights boundaries are from 110th to 125th street, with Morningside Drive on the east and Riverside Drive on the west. The crime rate is 12.2 per 1,000 residents, only slightly above the citywide average. The median rent is around 4,000 for a 2-bedroom apartment, around 2,000 for a studio. Not so bad considering the location.
The Financial District is where Wall Street does business. It’s also a highly residential area because the stock marketeers come in for the day and leave for the night, making it a peaceful area to lay your weary head.
The Financial District is on the southern tip of Manhattan island. That’s right, Manhattan is an island! Surprise! Fun Fact!
Its boundaries are from the East River to the West Side Highway, with Chambers St. and City Hall Park on the north side and The Battery on the south. The crime rate is 14.1 per 1,000 residents, slightly higher than the citywide average. A 1-bedroom will run you around 4,000 a month in the Financial District, and the median rent is around 2,900.
A stone’s throw from the Financial District, Battery Park City is a traditionally residential area and has been as far back as New York City can remember. It was planned that way. Battery Park City is near the waterfront and has a number of high-rise apartments.
The boundaries of Battery Park City are from the Hudson River to the West Side Highway. Battery Park City has a low violent crime rate and average property crime rate for New York City. The median rent runs from 2,900 for a studio and 4,000 for a 1-bedroom. Not much of a change from the Financial District.
Harlem is a neighborhood with a rich history. It also has its crime struggles, resulting in lower rents. Which means more artists are moving into the neighborhood. Which means it’s getting gentrified!
Harlem is split in two: East and West, and it runs from roughly 96th to 155th street, though Harlem has no hard borders. An apartment in Harlem will cost you 2,100 to 2,800 on average. The neighborhood’s average crime rate stands at around 18 per 1,000 residents. But as the area gentrifies, that should decrease giving it a deserved position on this safest neighborhoods in NYC list.
Another formerly gritty neighborhood now gentrifying is Hell’s Kitchen in Midtown on the West Side. You may recognize Hell’s Kitchen as the home of the Marvel Comics superhero Daredevil.
Hells Kitchens boundaries are 34th to 59th street, between Eighth Avenue and the Hudson River. Hell’s Kitchen’s rate of violent crimes is below the citywide average. Property crime rates are a little higher. Rent in Hell’s Kitchen will run you 2,700 for a studio, 3,300 for a 1-bedroom and over 4,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.
The hippest wealthy neighborhood in Manhattan is most definitely Tribeca, home of the Tribeca Film Festival. Robert De Niro, star of ‘Taxi Driver’, has spearheaded a renaissance for the neighborhood that has led to many of his celebrity friends hunkering down in Tribeca.
Tribeca is an acronym for ‘Triangle Below Canal” as in Canal St. It is bounded by Canal Street, West Street, Broadway and Chambers Street. The crime rate has decreased by over 80% since the nineties. Rent in Tribeca will cost you a pretty penny.
In midtown, Murray Hill is the bon riche. Murray Hill is actually named after one man, an Irish merchant whose family had a large estate there. Now that’s a legacy!
Murray Hill’s exact boundaries are disputed. It is a historic neighborhood. Crime has decreased in Murray Hill 80% as well since the nineties and its crime rate is less than the citywide average. Expect to pay about 1,000 more per month for the privilege of sheltering in Murray Hill.
On the classically old-money Upper East Side, crime rates have always been low. The Upper East Side is quieter than its west side counterpart and reminiscent of a different era in the times of New York City.
The boundaries of the Upper East Side runs from 59th to 96th street and Fifth Avenue to the East River and the median rent in 2019 was 2,400. This area encompasses many smaller neighborhoods that are considered among the wealthiest and safest neighborhoods in NYC, such as Carnegie Hill and Lenox Hill.
Next up is Brooklyn, which is a mix of eclectic neighborhoods ranging in all kinds of incomes and lifestyles.
There are a lot of family attractions in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, not to mention the significance of the Verrazano Bridge. Bay Ridge is also best known as the setting of the Disco movie classic “Saturday Night Fever”.
And you’ll be “staying alive” because it has almost half the crime rate of the citywide average! Plus the median rent is a much more reasonable 1,600. Bay Ridge is bounded by Sunset Park and the magnificent Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1981.
First up is Dumbo, and not the flying elephant with big floppy ears. DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. It is one of the first gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn, where artists started turning old factories into Andy Warhol style loft living.
Dumbo’s boundaries are Fulton Street, Hudson Ave, Prospect Street, and the East River. You can find magnificent views of the skyline in Dumbo and it has a thriving nightlife and artistic culture.
Safety in Dumbo has been on the rise and the crime rate currently sits at 29 per 1,000 residents. However, rent prices have been driven up by a boom of entrepreneurs.
Williamsburg is the next Brooklyn hood to find glory in gentrification. Williamsburg is now a booming community of artists and cuisine and nightlife. It’s practically a second Manhattan!
31% of residents in Williamsburg earn over six figures a year. The median rent is around 2,000. The crime rate clocks in at just 13.7 per 1,000 residents, only a tick above the citywide average. Williamsburg is just an easy hop over the bridge from Manhattan island.
Finally, Williamsburg’s little brother, Bushwick! Bushwick is farther out in Brooklyn, accessible via the L line, among other subway lines. When the gentrification in Williamsburg drove prices higher, this is where the artists and young professionals migrated.
The median rent in Bushwick is 1,740, a little higher than the average of Brooklyn as a whole, but less than Williamsburg. The crime rate is still at a relatively low 15.2 per 1,000 residents.
When you’re Brooklyn rich, you’re riii-ch.
Park Slope is probably the best known and ritziest of Brooklyn neighborhoods. It is often cited as one of the safest neighborhoods in Brooklyn and reliably found in the Top 20 of all New York City. Park Slope has a very laid-back atmosphere.
Perhaps because the median income in the largest share of households is up to 250,000 – in forty percent of households! Median rent starts at close to 2,400. Park Slope has an exceptionally low crime rate, in the single digits at 9.5 per 1,000 residents.
Queens is like a low-key little sister to Brooklyn. Because of its affordability and security, Queens has experienced an increase in residency recently.
Start with the A-grade neighborhood: Astoria. Astoria falls a little into both the categories of residential and gentrified. Traditionally residential, Astoria is fast becoming the Queens version of Bushwick.
The median household income in Astoria is a little above the citywide average. However, the rents have seen a significant increase, to a median of 1800. The crime rate, on the other hand, is lower than Park Slope, coming in at 9 per 1,000.
Fresh Meadows has an even lower crime rate and is often at the top of the safest neighborhoods in NYC lists. Its name predates the American revolution. It is largely residential.
Fresh Meadows median income is slightly above the citywide average. The median rent is a comfortable 1,600. The crime rate is exceedingly low, clocking in at just 7 per 1,000 residents.
Long Island City is an area not too far from Astoria which has a lower crime rate compared to the rest of Queens or the five boroughs combined. It has seen a remarkable turnaround from its worst days in the eighties, with crime incidents decreasing by more than 88%.
Renovation has reenergized this waterfront neighborhood, now teeming with art galleries and high-rises. Parts of Long Island City are gentrifying, while others are high-income relative to the rest of the city. Its crime rate squeaks in at just over 10 per 1,000 residents.
Staten Island is the most secluded of the five boroughs, accessible by tram or ferry. Therefore, there is only one neighborhood worth mentioning on Staten Island and don’t get spooked by the name.
New York City was settled primarily by the Dutch and that’s where the odd name Great Kills comes from. In Dutch, Kills means “creek” or “channel” and indeed there are plentiful streams of freshwater bodies. Hope that puts your mind at ease.
What should put your mind even more at ease is that the crime rate is just 3, yes, three per 1,000 residents, making Great Kills the ironically safest neighborhood in the five boroughs statistically. Helps that the median income is close to six figures and median rents are a relatively low 1,400.
But in fact, the whole of Staten Island is a statistically very safe place to live, with all precincts reporting exceedingly low crime rates.
Finally, daaaaa Bronx! The Bronx is even more uptown from the Upper East and West Sides. It is one of the more easily accessible outer boroughs, in closer proximity to Manhattan and deserving of a listing of one of the safest neighborhoods in NYC.
One safety beacon in The Bronx is the neighborhood of Riverdale, which conjures images of innocent Archie and his gang. Riverdale almost feels out of time and place in the mostly rough and tumble streets of The Bronx. It is populated by extravagant pre-war mansions.
Housing is mostly affordable, starting at a 1,400 median. The median income is slightly below the citywide average. Riverdale’s crime rate comes in at under double digits, 9.8 per 1,000 residents. Riverdale is primarily a residential neighborhood.
Throgs Neck is another sought-after safety hotspot in The Bronx. Residents describe the neighborhood as safe and enjoyable.
The rent is an even more affordable 1250 median and the crime rate is the lowest in The Bronx, just 8.4 per 1,000 residents.
Finding Safety First
Before wrapping it up, how do you identify how safe a neighborhood is? That’s a good question and one to which you should know the answer. Here are some tips on determining the safety of a prospective neighborhood.
First, before you even get a boots-on-the-ground perspective, you can check crime stats. There are a number of online services, starting with the local police departments. There are also crime mapping services, which allow you to simply enter the address of an apartment for rent and get the relevant statistics for crime rates in the neighborhood.
If you feel like playing Sherlock, there are a number of other clues you can gather pertaining to the safety and security of a neighborhood. Check how many vacancies there are in the neighborhood – low residency can be a sign of high crime. The safest neighborhoods in NYC typically are bustling with community.
Also, evaluate, if you can, the overall time people stayed in the rentals, as the frequency of turnovers can indicate if the renters decided the neighborhood was safe enough to remain and maybe raise a family.
Finally, get that boots on the ground report! Don’t just rely on web reviews, take a stroll through the neighborhood, talk to the locals. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself as a potential neighbor. Nothing beats a personal impression of the neighborhood where you might raise your own family or at least pursue your dreams in New York City. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!
Born and raised amidst the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, I’ve witnessed the city’s many exciting phases. New York is not just a city to me; it’s a living, breathing entity. When I’m not exploring the city or penning down my thoughts, you can find me sipping on a cup of coffee at my favorite local café, playing chess or planning my next trip. For the last twelve years, I’ve been living in South Williamsburg with my partner Berenike.