Brooklyn vs Harlem: Which is the Best Place to Live in 2023?

New York City's layout is puzzling for anyone who has not spent much time there. Unsurprisingly, this leads to confusion about what areas and neighborhoods are best to live in. Many newcomers to New York City mistakenly believe that its boroughs are neighborhoods, and are often surprised to find neighborhoods within the boroughs.

Brooklyn and Harlem are the perfect examples. First-time New Yorkers will often ask if it's better to look for apartments for rent in Brooklyn or Harlem. ApartmentLove believes everyone deserves to find the feeling of home, so we are going to clear up the confusion, and talk about the details of each.

Borough or Neighborhood?

Before we get into details, we want to take a moment to clear up some misconceptions about Brooklyn and Harlem. It's important to know the difference between a borough and a neighborhood. A borough is alike to a smaller city within a larger metropolis. New York City has five boroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Brooklyn is home to iconic landmarks such as Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. It also boasts some of the best pizza in New York City.

On the other hand, a neighborhood is a community within a city or town. Harlem is a neighborhood in northern Manhattan that has a rich immigrant history. It was first settled by the Dutch, then became a hub for Jewish and Italian immigrants, and by the 1930s, Black and Latinx migrants from the southern states made up the majority of its residents. They founded the Jazz and Soul cultures that Harlem is famous for today.

To recap, Brooklyn is a borough in New York City, and Harlem is a neighborhood in Manhattan.

Brooklyn for Families

The borough of Brooklyn is a great choice for a first-time renter in New York City, but also for families and seniors looking for a slower pace than Manhattan. Brooklyn is a diverse borough with many neighborhoods and ethnic enclaves that can help create a sense of community, especially for people in a more family-focused life stage. The architecture supports this too.

A lot of Brooklyn's apartment rentals are restored brownstone townhomes, which were originally designed to foster a sense of community among new immigrants to Brooklyn in the 1800s. Also, a lot of Brooklyn's neighborhoods have been redesigned with young millennial families in mind, and have lots of family-friendly businesses, public spaces, and schools. Some great examples of these neighborhoods include Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Dumbo. No, we're not kidding, there really is a neighborhood named Dumbo in Brooklyn.

But Brooklyn is truly versatile because it's great for singles too! A hipster paradise, there's no shortage of cool new art, eats and activities to check out. See some free street art on Troutman Street, grab a bite at Brooklyn's trendiest new restaurant, Wenwen, or spend a chilled-out day at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The range and cost of apartment rentals in Brooklyn make it worth it too. For a two-to-three-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, the average cost is about $3500 per month . That would be considered a family-sized home. On a dual income, this is doable for many families. For a studio or one-bedroom apartment , Brooklyn's average monthly cost is as low as $1700 per month. That's lower than most major cities in the U.S.

Harlem for Singles & Young Professionals

Harlem is a rich cultural neighborhood in Manhattan, but without all the Manhattan snobbery. Full of heritage and effortlessly cool, it's the perfect neighborhood for singles and young professionals. While there certainly is space for families, Harlem isn't as child-friendly as many Brooklyn neighborhoods are.

As a young person though, there's so much to see and do. See a show at the Apollo Theater, try some soul food from the Queen of Soul Food herself at Sylvia's, or see some stunning free street art at the Graffiti Hall of Fame in East Harlem Park. All of these attractions are free or low-cost, and they offer an opportunity to learn about Harlem's unique history and the influence of Black culture in the neighborhood.

Harlem's apartments for rent are pretty affordable, especially compared to the rest of Manhattan. In fact, Harlem's rent rates are anywhere between 25% to 30% cheaper than the rest of Manhattan. This makes it a great starting point for many young professionals. A one-bedroom apartment goes for about $1859 a month. A two-bedroom can be even cheaper, as there are units that go for as little as $1627 a month.

The cost of rent starts to even out with the rest of Manhattan's average cost when it comes to looking for a three-bedroom apartment rental and beyond. On average, three-bedroom apartments for rent in Harlem go for roughly $3000 to $4000 a month.

So, what's the better option? Choosing a neighborhood with affordable apartments for rent in Brooklyn? Or settling in culturally-rich Harlem without the typical Manhattan prices? The answer to that is really up to the individual. Both options are considered affordable. They're both full of enriching entertainment experiences. It just depends on if you are looking for a more kid and family-friendly environment, or a hip, easygoing place to start young adult life.

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Published: January 21, 2023