The Lower East Side: New York’s second most livable neighbourhood, according to New York.
I’m currently enjoying the hell out of a new toy designed for New York magazine by FiveThirtyEight's stat guru Nate Silver. It’s a Livability Calculator, putatively designed to offer New Yorkers the option of shuffling around the characteristics they desire in a Rotten Apple neighbourhood (someone can, for instance, say yes to parks, safety and schools, no to crime, and express no concern for happening nightlife), and through Silver’s number-crunching, the device will spit out a list of the top places to live based on the selected attributes. Silver explains the technical details here and here.
My desire for cheap rent, hipsters, reasonable restaurants, and more urbanity than the Rap/R&B section of your local record store, coupled with my complete disinterest in good schools, makes me an ideal East Village resident, apparently. But I enjoy the calculator and the accompanying New York article more as a window to the dense cultural richness of America’s largest city; the app offers an insight into New York’s diverse populace and slew of micro-communities. If you share my passion for amateur urban geography, appreciate the stories hinted at by paragraphs such as these:
A few of our model’s conclusions are liable to be controversial. The front of the list is dominated by brownstone Brooklyn. This is largely due to how we calibrated the cost variable: Pay slightly less attention to price, and Manhattan starts to dominate; if price matters more, a number of Queens neighborhoods rise toward the top. But this group of Brooklyn neighborhoods is generally the most balanced in the city, with few obvious drawbacks and plenty of charm.
On the other side of the spectrum are the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, which ranked just 35th and 36th, respectively. These are large neighborhoods, and some individual parts of them might have ranked higher. But the principal issue is value. Compare Brooklyn Heights and the Upper West Side: They score within a few points of each other in most categories (including transit—commute times to Union Square are identical, at eighteen minutes). But Brooklyn Heights is about $1,000 a month cheaper for a comparable two-bedroom apartment. Likewise, compare Harlem, which ranked a disappointing 50th, to Fort Greene, which placed 18th. Fort Greene wins out in schools, safety, creative capital, housing quality, diversity, shopping, food—and affordability.
This sort of thing is the most New York fun you could have without visiting New York City! Grab a bagel, turn on an episode of “Gossip Girl,” maybe spin Nas’ Illmatic, and have yourself the perfect New York experience from anywhere in the world.
And never let it be said the USSC does not care about your wallet. Here are Silver’s tips for prospective New York real estate investors. After all, the USSC is based in Sydney, and if there’s one thing Sydneysiders share with New Yorkers, it’s an obsession with housing prices:
Not to encourage gentrification, but if I were buying property as an investment right now, I’d look toward places that are cheap relative to those qualities that take the longest time to upgrade or repair — particularly transit lines, and to a lesser extent greenspace and the quality of the housing stock. That might mean places like Long Island City and Sunnyside (Queens), Prospect Heights and DUMBO (Brooklyn), Washington Heights (Manhattan) and perhaps even some portions of the South Bronx near the train.