36th Ave. to Twentieth Ave./Con Ed Power Plant/19th Ave., Ditmars Blvd./BQE /Northern Blvd. to East River
Most Manhattanites know Astoria only for its beer gardens, but this large—about 170,000 people—and eclectic neighborhood has much more to offer, including reasonably priced housing, strong ethnic clusters that have weathered the first waves of gentrification, good shopping at both local markets and big-box retailers, and pedestrian-friendly streets. The downside is a lack of foliage and park access, as well as a commute that is reasonable to midtown but cumbersome to lower Manhattan.
12. Bay Ridge
65th St. to Interstate 278 (BQE), Belt Pwy. to Shore Rd.
The south Brooklyn standout is safe, quiet, and close to harborside jogging paths and parks. A diverse mix of blue-collar Italian, Irish, and Arab communities take advantage of good public schools, excellent housing stock, and a better-than-you-think food scene. The commute into Manhattan—about 40 minutes to Union Square without waiting or walking time—is pushing the limits of what most people will tolerate, but that’s why rents ($1,275 average for a two-bedroom) remain so affordable.