When Manhattan calls, you have to answer. But the answer can depend on how deep your pockets are. Even though the median asking rent dipped last year from $3,500 as of January 2020 to $2,781 as of December 2020, housing prices vary wildly on this island, from Billionaire’s Row to classic walkups. If money is no object, well then, lucky you! Enjoying city life on a budget is decidedly trickier — but it’s certainly not impossible. We’re here to help, with six affordable Manhattan neighborhoods for renters that boast some of the borough’s lowest median asking rents — the least expensive area is an impressive $1,850.
Yorkville: An Affordable East Side Enclave
- Median Rent: Yorkville is a submarket of the Upper East Side, which has an overall median rent of $2,450 as of December 2020.
- Subway Info: This neighborhood was once a veritable subway desert, but the Second Avenue Q line has opened up a whole new transportation world, with stops at 86th and 96th streets. The ride to Times Square is only about 15 minutes.
- Notable Attractions & Amenities: Carl Schurz Park provides Yorkville residents with plenty of green space, basketball courts, dog runs, and wide-open river views. It’s also the home of Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the NYC mayor. And Asphalt Green, which runs from East 90th to East 92nd streets right at the FDR, is a massive sports and fitness facility that boasts playing fields and gym activities of all kinds, including a huge aquatics program.
This affordable Manhattan neighborhood, which occupies the easternmost part of the Upper East Side, has a quiet and residential vibe. Don’t expect a lot of happening nightlife here — but do expect plenty of well-maintained high-rises, condos, and townhouses. The area also boasts several iconic food destinations, too, including the famed German restaurant Heidelberg and H&H Bagels, both on Second Avenue.
Murray Hill & Kips Bay: Affordable Manhattan Neighborhoods Close to Midtown
- Median Rent: The overall median asking rent for Midtown East, which Murray Hill is a part of, is $2,700. FYI, Kips Bay is just a short distance away.
- Subway Info: These adjacent and affordable Manhattan neighborhoods are served mostly by the Lexington Avenue 6 line, which stops at 23rd, 28th, and 33rd Streets. The 42nd Street stop is Grand Central, which is served by the 4, 5, 6, 7, and shuttle trains, as well as MetroNorth.
- Notable Attractions & Amenities: Thanks to its proximity to the U.N., Murray Hill is home to many international consulates and embassies, which often occupy grand townhouses. The East 34th Street Ferry Terminal provides ferry service to multiple locations across the East River. On Madison Avenue, on the western border of the neighborhood, sits the extraordinary Morgan Library & Museum, the former home of financier J. P. Morgan and a gorgeous piece of New York history. Kips Bay, which is just south of Murray Hill, contains “hospital row”: a stretch of First Avenue that hosts multiple busy medical centers, including NYU Hospital and Bellevue.
These popular and affordable Manhattan neighborhoods are chock-full of housing options, from luxury condo towers to affordable walkups and everything in-between. They are also chock-full of bars and taverns, both sports and otherwise, mostly concentrated along Third Avenue. Lexington Avenue in the 20s is often referred to as Curry Hill, thanks to its high concentration of delicious Indian restaurants. (Don’t miss Kalustyan’s, a justifiably foodie-famous spice emporium.) And, heads up: Between the hospitals, the U.N., and the entrance to the Queens Midtown Tunnel, these bustling and affordable Manhattan neighborhoods are usually heavy on street traffic.
Hamilton Heights: Prewars Galore and a Rich History
- Median Rent: A respectable $2,278.
- Subway Info: There are two express options, the A and D, which will get you to Midtown in 22 minutes. There’s also a local, the 1 train. You can expect a resonable 29-minute trip to 42nd Street.
- Notable Attractions & Amenities: The area situated in West Harlem above Morningside Heights is named after one of America’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Fun fact: He spent the last two years of his life in the neighborhood. His former abode, dubbed, The Grange, resides in St. Nicholas Park. Other neighborhood institutions include The Dance Theater of Harlem and The City College of New York, a must-see for neo-Gothic architecture fans.
One of the crowning jewels in this affordable Manhattan neighborhood is the National Historic District, Sugar Hill. Former residents include Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Duke Ellington. There you’ll find stunning prewar apartments and elegant rowhouses, many with their original architectural details. Delicious dining and takeout options are also plentiful. Local favorites serving up casual fare include Hogshead Tavern (get the pork belly sandwich) and Sugar Hill Café (try the brioche French toast).
East Harlem: Legendary Eats and Convenient Shopping
- Median Rent: It’s $2,100, and apartment searchers can expect a lot of bang for the buck, from prewars to new construction.
- Subway Info: The 4, 5, & 6 trains will get you up and down the East Side lickety-split. The Second Ave Subway’s northernmost stop is E. 96th St., but there are plans for expanding north.
- Notable Attractions & Amenities: El Museo del Barrio and Museum of the City of New York, across from Central Park on Fifth Avenue between 103rd and 104th streets, appeal to both tourists and locals. Two legendary dining options are also a huge draw: Raos and Patsy’s Pizzeria, two of NYC’s oldest establishments. A newcomer is becoming just as famous: Harlem Taste, formerly known as Hajji’s, is the home of the original chopped cheese.
Renters will appreciate the broad range of housing choices, including affordable walkups, townhouse apartments, and new construction. Unlike the other affordable Manhattan neighborhoods on this list, this one is home to several big-box stores. East River Plaza, one of the city’s largest shopping malls, is on East 117th Street. Anchor stores include Target, Costco, and Old Navy. There’s also plenty of indoor parking.
Inwood: A Vibrant Enclave at the Top of Manhattan
- Median Rent: An impressive $1,850 making it the cheapest Manhattan neighborhood on this list!
- Subway Info: Inwood is served by the A train, which stops at Dyckman Street and 207th Street, and the 1 train stops at Dyckman Street, 207th Street, and 215th Street — the final northbound stop in Manhattan.
- Notable Attractions & Amenities: Residents of the tip-top of Manhattan Island enjoy proximity to Inwood Hill Park, arguably one of the finest parks in the entire city. It features miles of waterfront along the Hudson River and Spuyten Duyvil Creek, forested hills with meandering trails, and lush green lawns for picnicking and sports. At the center of the neighborhood lies the Dyckman Farmhouse, a stately relic of Dutch-era New York. Other remnants of the area’s intriguing history include a large marble arch reminiscent of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. This “Inwood arch” once stood over the entrance to the hilltop Seaman-Drake estate.
You can’t talk about affordable Manhattan neighborhoods without including Inwood. Up here, Broadway and bigger streets are lined with a surprising diversity of businesses: some chain stores, countless local shops of all stripes, and restaurants and taverns that give Inwood a nightlife scene all its own. (Whether you like throbbing clubs, brainy pub trivia, or upscale wine bars, it’s here.) Arguably, the star in the area is The Met Cloisters — an outpost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated exclusively to works from medieval Europe. You’ll find it in the northernmost section of Fort Tryon Park, which extends south into Hudson Heights. The trip to Midtown is roughly 30 to 40 minutes on the A train.
Washington Heights: An Affordable Manhattan Neighborhood Brimming With History
- Median rent: A truly affordable $2,021.
- Subway info: North of Harlem, the C local train stops at 155th, 163rd, and 168th streets, while the A express stops at 145th, 168th, 181st, and 190th streets. Meanwhile, the 1 train stops at 158th, 168th, 181st, and 191st streets.
- Notable attractions & amenities: Fort Washington Park along the Hudson River offers residents plenty of green space, sports fields, and river views. The neighborhood’s streets throb with history, from the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest house in Manhattan, to Bennett Park, the highest natural point on the island. George Washington and his troops fired cannons at the British during the Revolutionary War. Plus, there’s the Hispanic Society Museum and Library and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ headquarters.
With busy street life and an expanse of mid-rise, prewar apartment buildings — many of them rent-stabilized — Washington Heights is an affordable Manhattan neighborhood that offers a lot to the budget-minded renter. This neighborhood loves to eat, whether it’s a chopped cheese from the local bodega, the Dominican roasted chicken at Malecon, or the authentic Irish pub fare at Le Chéile. Mom and pop businesses thrive here. Notable places include the Columbia Wine Company on Broadway (they deliver!) and the Word Up Community Bookstore on Amsterdam Avenue. While the shop is closed for browsing, you can attend one of the bookstore’s Zoom events.