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Where should you move to avoid the L train shutdown?

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Eight alternatives to north Brooklyn neighborhoods that will bear the brunt of the L-pocalypse

Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Max Touhey

The L train shutdown cometh: Though an exact start date for when the MTA will begin work on the Canarsie line has yet to be announced, we do know that it’s due to start in April 2019—a little over six months from now.

If you’re a renter who currently lives in neighborhoods that will be heavily affected by the shutdown—namely, Williamsburg and Bushwick, where other subway options are fairly limited—you might already be considering moving. Even though rent prices have been steadily falling in Williamsburg over the past few months, a slight cost of living decrease may not be enough incentive to keep people in soon-to-be-transit-starved areas. “I think it’s safe to assume at this point that life will change in Williamsburg pretty dramatically,” Grant Long, an economist with StreetEasy, told Curbed back in May.

So let’s say you are looking at moving before the shutdown begins next year; where should you go instead? Curbed asked the folks at Localize.city to analyze different data points—access to transit (including options like Citi Bike and ferries), convenience, and crucially, similarities in median rent prices—and come up with alternatives to Williamsburg and Bushwick. Here’s what they found.

Leaving Williamsburg? Try…

Downtown Brooklyn: The booming neighborhood scored high on the sheer number of new apartments that have recently hit the market (or will soon), as well as its abundance of transit options, including several subway hubs, bus lines, and Citi Bike docks. “Since it’s a commercial and cultural hub, you might not even need to commute to Manhattan at all,” says Liat Halpern, an urban planner at Localize.

But it’s not the most quiet area, and according to Localize, it skews toward the young and upwardly mobile—a quarter of its residents are between the ages of 20 and 29, and the median rent is a whopping $3,150/month.

Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Max Touhey

Gowanus: In the past decade, this industrial Brooklyn neighborhood has seen an explosion of new development—from a Whole Foods to popular craft beer bars to pricey rentals on the banks of the fetid Gowanus Canal. Those conveniences, along with what Localize says is a “bike-friendly” transit landscape, may appeal to exiled north Brooklynites.

But, “[l]ike Williamsburg, many artists have been priced out from the area’s large, former manufacturing buildings,” Halpern says—and with rezoning on the horizon, the erasure of its industrial character may worsen. Plus, renters will be hard-pressed to find a cheap apartment: The median rent is $3,285/month, likely driven up by the luxury rentals that have opened along the canal and the neighborhood’s low inventory (StreetEasy lists only 54 apartments for rent, compared to 774 in Bushwick and East Williamsburg.)

Astoria: At $2,100/month, the median rent in Astoria is much lower than in some other areas identified by Localize—something that will likely appeal to those displaced by the shutdown. And as Halpern notes, it’s already a “very livable” neighborhood, with plenty of restaurants, green space (Astoria Park is right there), and a generally low-key vibe. (Noise complaints are minimal compared to Williamsburg.)

Astoria, Queens.
Max Touhey

Still, it’s not perfect: The N and W lines are the only transit option for much of the neighborhood, and while stations along those lines have been recently rehabbed, if one or the other goes out of service, you’re stuck. (NYC Ferry’s Astoria route also debuted earlier this year, though it’s not as convenient as the subway.)

Lower East Side: The LES and Williamsburg are connected, literally (by the Williamsburg Bridge) and figuratively. “Williamsburg started drawing droves of artsy young people across the bridge from Manhattan neighborhoods like the Lower East Side because it was cheaper,” Halpern says. “Now, however, as new, higher-end development has remade Williamsburg, prices on the Lower East Side are slightly cheaper.” Median rent there is now around $2,700/month.

Other LES advantages: It’s got good transit access (with a protected bike lane on the way for Delancey Street), plenty of nightlife (a good or bad thing, depending on your tolerance for noise and crowds), and it’s extremely walkable. The Essex Crossing megaproject has also added new apartments, as well as conveniences like a new Trader Joe’s, to the area.

Leaving Bushwick? Try…

Ridgewood: While Ridgewood could experience some of the effects of the L train shutdown—it’s still served by the line, along with the M train—the price may be right for a bit of hassle. The median one-bedroom rent in this Queens neighborhood is $1,875/month; compare that to Bushwick’s overall median of $2,100/month, or Williamsburg’s $3,100/month.

Plus, according to Halpern, “It’s certainly not as saturated as Williamsburg or Bushwick, but Ridgewood does have a share of neighborhood bars, nightclubs, artsy cafes and a diverse restaurant scene.”

Chinatown.
Max Touhey

Chinatown: The rent in Chinatown is a little higher than in Bushwick (around $2,350/month), and finding an apartment isn’t going to be as easy; as we noted in our renter’s guide to the area, you’d likely need to use a broker or find an place through word-of-mouth.

But Chinatown has the benefit of being close—like, walking distance close—to several of Manhattan’s central business districts, including the World Trade Center and Flatiron. The Lower East Side and Nolita are also close by for nightlife options.

Mott Haven: The Bronx is booming, and Mott Haven—where more than 700 new residential units have gotten city approval in the past year—is one area that’s becoming increasingly attractive for renters, thanks to its proximity to the waterfront, along with low rents (the median is $1,700/month), local retail and restaurants, and easy access to Manhattan.

The neighborhood also has access to a decent amount of recreational space: St. Mary’s Park has an indoor pool, playgrounds, and a tennis court; and Randall’s Island is a short trip via the Randall’s Island Connector in nearby Port Morris.

Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Max Touhey

Red Hook: If you’re looking for an entirely different experience from Bushwick, consider this Brooklyn neighborhood, which “feels like an island apart from the city, with its relaxed and quirky vibe and telltale signs of its history as one of the nation’s most important shipping centers,” according to Halpern. Still, there’s plenty of things a Bushwick expat might want: restaurants, green space, bars (Sunny’s forever), and conveniences like an enormous Fairway market.

The median rent for a one-bedroom is $1,800/month, but on the down side, inventory is quite low: just 33 apartments are listed on StreetEasy. Another con: Transit access is limited to bus lines (which connect to subways in Park Slope and Gowanus), Citi Bike, and the NYC Ferry’s Red Hook stop.

For more analysis and insight into Localize’s methodology, click here.