New York Boroughs – Everything You Need to Know About NYC’s Five Integral Parts

For the less informed about the East Coast, specifically the Big Apple, America’s largest city is broken up into five parts – better known as New York boroughs. These areas have deeply rooted pasts and are all very special in their own way. Much of the city’s personality is due to the many cultural and historical influences over the past few centuries. If you genuinely want to know where the best places to live in the Big Apple are, you must start with the basics. Get to know this city well, and you’ll have no problems moving to New York.

New York City Skyline

What are the 5 Boroughs of New York City

If you’re moving from a small town to a big city, specifically New York City, you should get to know all about how it’s organized. For some context behind the Big Apple’s territories, each borough is also a county. The five counties are New York County (Manhattan) Kings County (Brooklyn) Queens County (Queens) Bronx County (The Bronx,) and Richmond County (Staten Island.) These five areas were established in 1898 upon the creation of what NYC is today. Before that, the city was split into different government municipalities until three of the counties were all consolidated into a single government.

During the early to mid-1800s, the Big Apple was made up of only one territory and other surrounding islands. Later on, more land was added to the territory and map, and it started to travel up north. This growth had caused many different areas to secede. Ultimately, the push for a centralized government became the shining light for the Big Apple’s future and has played a significant role in what you see today.

What Is the Sixth Borough in New York

You might often hear that the Big Apple has an unofficial sixth borough – though you won’t find such a thing on a map. This would be New Jersey City, Hoboken, Long Island, and other islands close by. This has been debated and discussed often as these cities are very close to Manhattan, and other areas, only separated by a small body of water. There is often an argument that some of these towns are a part of the Big Apple, while the other side of that argument would strongly disagree.

Many people who aren’t from NYC wonder “is Harlem a borough of New York?” even though it’s a neighborhood located in Manhattan. A significant contributor to why there’s a considered sixth territory is that NYC is made up of islands that are all divided by channels and rivers. During its colonization and development, there were many parties involved in trading, seceding, and claiming territory. It wasn’t until the consolidation law was passed that NYC was able to become a single unified government. So if you’re planning on moving to New York, you’re more than likely going to hear about this.

Upper and Lower New York Bay and the Areas That Share Them

The Upper Bay, or New York Harbor, is surrounded by Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. It’s also right next to Hudson City, New Jersey, and the Hudson River. It’s a relatively complicated mass of islands and small landmasses. The Hudson River empties through the Narrows and has historically been used for commerce and shipping over the last century. The Lower Bay is just south of the Narrows and is in between Richmond and Kings County shores, and the southern end opens right at the Atlantic Ocean. There are two artificially made islands in the Lower Bay, Hoffman and Swinburn, or Dix. There are plenty of beaches to go to in the Lower Bay, and it stretches across the Atlantic for miles, and it is right next to the Long Island shores.

The Five Boroughs of the Big Apple

Get an in depth look at NYC and all five boroughs.

Boogie Down Bronx

The Bronx is settled in the northernmost part of the Big Apple and was first a part of Westchester when it was colonized in 1639. Later on, it seceded from the rest of the city and was split in two, the west side in 1874 and the east side in 1895 until it was eventually brought to one territory. Since then, it has had significant growth that could be broken down into four periods. The growth period was between 1900 and 1929, when the population grew from 200,000 people to 1.3 million by 1930. Then there was the Great Depression and post World War II which halted a lot of growth until the 1950s to 1985. Then came a significant shift from a moderate-income area to a lower-income territory with higher crime rates. It wasn’t until the late 80s where growth was resurgent into what is seen today.

The Most Affordable Borough in NYC

The Bronx has a reputation for being a little rough around the edges and it’s where you can see almost anything happen. Although it’s considered a tough place to live in, there’s still a lot of great things that come with living in this part of NYC. It gets the nickname “Boogie Down Bronx” because it’s considered the birthplace of hip-hop. When disco was the main craze in the mid-1970s, hip-hop started as a fun pastime for youth when they coined the phrase “boogie down.”

Today, this area has nearly 1,440,000 residents, where the majority of them rent a property. It’s a highly densely populated place with many working-class citizens with an average income of $40,000 annually. The median house value sits close to $400,000, and rent is $1,200. The cost of living here specifically is a decent amount lower than the average price of living in the Big Apple. There are many schools to choose from, and there are plenty of activities for children and families. There are also many bars, clubs, and restaurants you can see, but the heart of the land is in the urban culture. There is a strong sense of community, and that’s where you’ll find the most enjoyable things aside from just general bars and clubs. What it lacks in overall wealth makes up for the atmosphere, making it one of the more exciting boroughs.

Bronx Neighborhoods

All of this information is great, your real question might be “what is the cheapest place to live in New York” Look no further than the Bronx. To help you decide, we’ve compiled a list of towns where you can do some research and see which of them suits your relocation needs best. There are many affordable housing options in decent neighborhoods that you can quickly call home.

  • Fieldston is a great part of the Bronx with a dense urban community, a population of 6,478 people, and a nearly equal number of residents renting and owning property. The median house value sits at $345,200, and the rent value is $1,600.
  • Spuyten Duyvil is considered to be one of the best places to live in New York and the population is nearly 8,000 people. The majority of residents there own property rather than rent by a relatively small margin. The median house value is $304,000, and the rent value is $1,660.
  • Riverdale is also a great neighborhood for raising a family and has over 13,000 people living there. It’s a massively dense urban community, and the majority of residents rent a property. The median house value is $486,000, and the rent is $1,700.
Bridges and river in the Bronx
The Bronx has some of the city's most affordable housing

The City: Manhattan

One of the original five Big Apple boroughs, Manhattan is home to 1,633,000 people. Its humble beginnings started when it was founded by Dutch colonists in 1624, in what is today known as lower Manhattan. It was initially called New Amsterdam until it went under British control in 1664 and was renamed after the Duke of York, hence the name New York. A century later, the Big Apple served as the United States capital city from 1785 until 1790. Today, this area is the smallest of the five boroughs and the most densely populated area in the country. On top of the massive number of residents, you also have lots of commuters entering during the week. On average, there are close to 4 million passengers during the workweek. If you’re moving to New York City alone, you might become one of them.

Manhattan: Where All the Rich and Wealthy Live

If you’re wondering “where do rich people live in New York?” – it’s definitely here. Manhattan is known as the epicenter for media, finance, and entertainment of the Big Apple and the United States. Because of this, a substantial portion of America’s wealthiest lives there. It’s also known as one of the most economically powerful areas globally, the place of two major stock exchanges, multinational media conglomerates, and the most expensive real estate in the world.

Because of the amount of wealth that has been invested, we now have such great places as Madison Square Garden, Grand Central Station, Times Square, and Central Park.

The median house value falls at $945,000 and rent at $1,700. The average income for a single household is $82,500. You can use the cost of living in Manhattan as a basis for what kind of salary you need to live in NYC. If you plan on moving here, you’re going to have to secure a decent paying job. On top of the expensive housing and cost of living, the borough also has some of the world’s highest tax rates. Property taxes can add up to nearly $5,000 annually, and often when you rent or own property, and you have to hire a broker who can cost an extra $2,000. With that being said, if you’re planning to move anywhere in Manhattan you’ll need to know how to get a job before you move, and particularly one that pays well.

Manhattan Neighborhoods

We’ll be the first to admit that the cost of living in New York is high, especially in this territory and that it can be intimidating even to consider living here. Don’t let it discourage you from searching through the different towns – you might find a town that’s perfect for you and at an affordable price:

  • Chelsea is considered to be the number one place to live in the Big Apple and for good reasons. It’s a great place for young professionals and is in a great location just across the river from Hoboken. The current population is 60,000 people, and the majority rent property by a considerable margin. The median rent value is $2,200 and the house value is $1,200,000.
  • Hell’s Kitchen is a very liberal neighborhood filled with bars, restaurants, and clubs, which is perfect for young professionals. It offers a dense urban environment and is considered to be among the top towns to live in the Big Apple. The majority of the 53,000 people who live there rent with the median rental value at $2,200 and the house value is $1,100,000.
  • Greenwich Village has been labeled as the third best neighborhood to live in the Big Apple. It has many great schools for children to attend and is a safe area for raising a family. It also has a decent but competitive job market for young professionals to break into. The current population is 28,000 and the average median household income is $146,000. The median home value is $1,320,000 and the rent value is $2,500 and the majority of residents there own property.
Manhattan skyline
Manhattan, or simply The City, is home to the Big Apple's wealthiest inhabitants

The Bridge – Better Known as Queens

First incorporated as one of the original New York City boroughs in 1898, Queens has had significant changes before then. What is today’s Queens started from Dutch and English settlers colonizing the land in 1635. There is much speculation as to Queens County being named after Catherine of Braganza, the English queen. There is a reason for wondering if the name is real, as there is no historical proof that it is indeed where the name came from.

Queens played a minor role during the Revolutionary War and remained under British control until the end of the war. During the 1800s, there were many problems regarding the border and what areas were to be included; this was due to the fact that it was known as the central channel between what is known today as Long Beach Island. Soon after, the issues were solved because it was determined where the channel was when the consolidation law was passed. Declaring where the channel was resulted in making Queens one of the official boroughs of the Big Apple.

Queens Has Some of the Safest Neighborhoods in New York

The Bridge is geographically the largest of all five counties of the Big Apple, with the most diverse population in the country. Living in this town, you’ll get a nice mix of urban and suburban lifestyles as the housing ranges from high-end apartment buildings and high-rises to quaint and straightforward houses in the more suburban places, ideal if you’re planning on moving to the suburbs. The truth is, you’ll find no better borough or county if you want to know what are the safest places to live in New York.

The Bridge has also fostered much of the American culture we know and love, such as the punk rock scene and other types of music such as jazz, hip-hop, poetry, and other art forms.

The current population is 2,300,000 people, and residents mostly rent as opposed to owning property, but only by a small margin. The median house value is $505,000, and the rent value is $1,500. Although the population is quite large, the area is relatively safe when compared to other counties in the Big Apple. Neighborhoods like Astoria, Jamaica Estates, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Forest Hills, and Bayside are all safe and great for children. There are plenty of other places you can choose and many things to do and see if you’re looking for things to do in New York with kids. Overall, the bridge is one of the best places to live in New York for families.

Queens Neighborhoods

Because it is so diverse economically, you have many great towns to choose from, so getting organized to move should be more straightforward in regards to finding a place. Truly a great county for many and if you’re wondering “where can I raise a family in NYC“, here are a few safe neighborhoods in New York you’ll love:

  • Long Island City has a great nightlife scene, accessible to many young professionals. It also has many above-average schools and lots of activities for families and retirees. The city is closer to the more urban side of the bridge, and the majority of the 47,000 residents there rent a property. The median rent value is $1,800, and the median house value is $813,000.
  • Forest Hills has a very diverse population of 69,000 people with equal property owners and renters. It’s great for families, young professionals, and retirees. The median house value is $483,000, and the rent value is $1,800.
  • Astoria is the most populated on this list, with a population of 91,000 people, and the vast majority of them rent a property. Though the schools are above average, it’s still a town that caters more toward young professionals. The median rent value is $1,700, and the house value is $757,000.
Queens bridge and skyline
Queens is a a true example of America's melting pot.

Brooklyn: The Borough of Homes… and Its Many Neighborhoods

Brooklyn is the most populous of all five counties of the Big Apple. It was first colonized by European settlers 350 years ago and has had an enormous amount of changes and developments throughout its three-century history.

The Dutch settlers named their settlement after Breukelen, a town in the Netherlands. That name stood until the English occupied it in 1664. The territory wouldn’t become free of British control until the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 during the Revolutionary War. It wouldn’t be the only time the town was involved in the war as they also deployed soldiers to fight in the civil war, which had a definite impact on the outcome of the war. This was quickly followed by the consolidation law of 1898, where the territory became one of the boroughs of New York City.

The Most Populous Territory in the State of New York

Though Brooklyn is the most populous borough, it is only the second-most densely populated given its size. The current population of the town is 2,601,000 people with many towns located within its borders. It has several transit lines between it and the other counties.

The large majority of the residents there rent a property, and the rent value is at $1,374. On the other hand, the median house value in Brooklyn stands at $665,000.

In recent years, the territory has become a diverse place with people from all backgrounds, both ethnically and economically. This led to many digital and tech start-ups setting up shop there as well as a lot of postmodern artists, making Brooklyn the unofficial hipster capital of the Big Apple. There are many cafes, some of the best restaurants in New York, bars, and clubs for young professionals to enjoy easy access to public transportation to get to the other four counties.

Top Brooklyn Neighborhoods

Whatever your reasons to move are, you can be sure to find a right home in Brooklyn. It’s also a very economically diverse area and has many different places suitable for all age groups:

  • Prospect Heights is considered one of the best places to raise a family in the Big Apple and plenty of nightlife activities for young professionals. The current population is 17,000, and the majority of the residents rent their house. The median rent value is $2,000 and the house value is $1,100,000.
  • Brooklyn Heights is geared more toward the young crowd and has plenty to offer to families. The total population is 20,500 people, and the majority of them rent their homes, but not by a considerable margin. The median rent value is $2,300 while the median house value is $1,100,000.
  • Park Slope is another town that’s perfect for raising a family in a dense urban environment. It also offers a great nightlife for young professionals, but it works out for both types of residents. The current total population is 41,000 people, and there is nearly an equal amount of homeowners and renters. The median house value is $1,312,000 and the rent value is $2,400.
Brooklyn bridge and city skyline
Kings County has become a hub for young professionals, start-up companies, and lots of coffee shops

Staten Island AKA Shaolin

Shaolin has had quite the sorted past considering that it’s been around since it’s inclusion as a New York City borough in 1898. It has the oldest historical record of being founded by Italian settler Giovanni Da Verrazzano in 1520. Since then, European settlers had struggled to properly colonize and claim the land due to the local tribes putting up fierce resistance. It wasn’t until 1670 that the Natives gave a written claim to the English in the form of a deed. During the American Revolution, Islanders of the territory were very much absent as they were devout followers of the British rule until the Battle of Staten Island in 1777. A century later, it became one of the five boroughs of the Big Apple under the consolidation law.

Richmond County Was Once Referred to as “The Forgotten Borough”

With its sorted history and indirect involvement in some of the nation’s most significant historical wars and events, how did this area come to be called “The Forgotten Borough?” An even more interesting question is, how did it get the nickname “Shaolin?” To answer both questions, we’ll have to take into account the history of seclusion from the rest of the Big Apple.

There have been numerous occasions where the media has often overlooked the well-being of the communities. The land was referred to as the “forgotten borough, ” even by the president of a major real estate company in 1928. It also has to do with the fact that the land is much farther away from the rest of the counties. This is what led the influential rap group Wu-Tang Clan to refer to Staten Island as Shaolin. They draw parallels between classic Shaw Brothers kung-fu films and Staten Island. During the early 90s, when rap was becoming more and more popular, the name eventually stuck, and many refer to it as Shaolin to this day.

Richmond county is currently inhabited by 475,000 people, and the majority of residents own property rather than rent. The median house value is $479,000, and the rent value is $1,300. The average household income for this territory is $80,000 annually. Transportation to and from the other counties is unfortunately not as streamlined, as you have to get to other areas by the Staten Island Ferry.

If you love the outdoors, you can always visit many of the parks and forests they have, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. There are decent schools for children, so it’s an excellent place to raise a family. Because the territory happens to be more affordable than other counties, you can easily find a place to move out of state on a budget.

Staten Island Neighborhoods

Moving to a city alone can be very intimidating, and finding a good neighborhood is equally frustrating. Fortunately, Shaolin has many affordable housing options to choose from:

  • Fort Wadsworth is the right place to raise a family. The community is very tight-knit, and the population for this town is only 1,700, and the majority of the residents own their homes by a considerable margin. The median house value is $474,000, and the rent value is $1,200.
  • Grymes Hill is excellent for young professionals and families as it offers both great outdoor activities and schools for children. There are also plenty of bars and clubs around the town, which is excellent for young professionals. The current population is just under 5,000, and the majority own their homes. The median house value is $545,000, and the rent value is $1,400.
  • Silver Lake has a very dense urban atmosphere with plenty of bars, clubs, cafes, and restaurants – perfect for young professionals. The current population is 3,200 people, and the majority of the population rent property. The median rent value is $1,400, and the median house value is $680,000.
Staten Island Ferry
There are lots of affordable housing options in so-called Shaolin

Map of the City, Commuting, and Transportation Between the 5 Boroughs of New York

Before you go any further on your journey to the five boroughs of NYC, you should understand how commuting and public transportation works. Aside from the Ferry, the subway system is complex and organized in alphabetic order, all leading to and from Grand Central Station located in Midtown, Manhattan.

The bus system is a bit more streamlined and far less complicated, especially if you know where your destination is. It’s also important to remember that there are multiple ways to get to a single destination, and everyone there will swear they know the fastest way. Always have a map on hand and get to know the streets and how building addresses work in the city.

Before You Decide on Which of the 5 New York City Boroughs is Best

Now that you’ve gotten to know more about the Big Apple boroughs, you can better decide which area fits your relocation needs best. However, before you move, you should make sure that you have your relocation planned out, and think about hiring movers. We will say for sure that you’re more than likely going to need a car while in the Big Apple, so it’s best to hire a reputable cross country moving company that knows how to transport a car properly and can quickly deliver your belongings. There are various additional long distance moving services for a smooth transition. If packing all of your belongings is too overwhelming, you can also hire movers for a packing service to help you get all of your stuff packed and ready to be shipped to your address. You can also use a storage service if you aren’t able to get all of your things in your home right away. And once all the logistics are in place, you can immerse yourself into learning about each of the five boroughs of New York, and better prepare to start your new life in the Big Apple.

Written By: Jessica Hill