Real Estate

Astoria, Queens: ‘A Mix of Traditional and Trendy’

Catherine Seaman and Tom Metzger were living in a small, sixth-floor walk-up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in 2022 when they decided that Mr. Metzger, 33, a construction consultant, would need more space if he were going to work comfortably from home. And if they were going to move, Dr. Seaman, 31, a gynecologist, needed an easy commute to Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side.

They found their answer across the East River, in Astoria, Queens, where they now pay $3,650 a month — about what they paid in Manhattan — for a one-bedroom that is twice the size of their old place, in a new complex called Astoria West.

Now they also have room for a dog, a Doberman-German shepherd mix named Jake. Dr. Seaman’s commute is half an hour, by ferry and CitiBike. And the couple love Astoria’s laid-back pace.

“When you take a walk, there’s not a million people around,” Dr. Seaman said.

With its two-story brick homes, new multifamily developments and easy commute to Manhattan, Astoria has been attracting renters and buyers who want more space for the money than they can find in Manhattan or Brooklyn. That influx of young residents and new construction has resulted in “a mix of traditional and trendy,” said Adrienne Onofri, a journalist and the author of “Walking Queens,” which maps out walking tours of Astoria and surrounding neighborhoods.

The Hell Gate Bridge and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge dominate the Astoria skyline.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

John LaPolla III and Brittany Barb have lived in Astoria since 2014, first in rental apartments and now in a two-family house they bought for $1.09 million in 2021. “It was definitely the most affordable option for what we were looking for,” said Mr. LaPolla, 35, who owns a Long Island-based flooring business that takes him around the tristate area, making Astoria’s location near highways and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge an asset.

But they also appreciate that “the sense of community is really strong,” said Ms. Barb, 33, a photographer.

The couple bought their home from a family that had owned it for half a century. “Everybody around us has been here for a long time, and they feel a real sense of pride about the block,” Mr. LaPolla said. “It still feels like a working-class area; it feels like people are making the sauce on Sunday.”

Stephen LoRusso, 33, a video editor, likes the leafy streets and homey atmosphere of the area, where he has rented since 2015. “I wave to my barber every day when I walk past,” he said.

And Queens, he added, is “still relatively affordable compared to Brooklyn.”

20-14 26TH STREET | A two-bedroom, one-bathroom rowhouse built in 1940, listed for $950,000. 917-584-7685Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

What You’ll Find

Astoria is bounded by the East River to the north and west; Long Island City, Sunnyside Gardens and Woodside to the south; and Jackson Heights to the east.

The Ditmars-Steinway section of Astoria, north of Ditmars Boulevard, tends to be quieter, with one- and two-family houses. New multifamily buildings are rising in other parts of Astoria, including the East River waterfront.

“As other neighborhoods, like Williamsburg, were trending up to Manhattan prices, Astoria has really over the last few years become very trendy and attracted a lot of new development,” said Joseph Grosso, a real estate agent with the Corcoran Group in Manhattan, who has represented a number of new developments in Astoria.

Being on the water sets Astoria apart from many New York City neighborhoods, said Craig Wood, the founder and chief executive of Cape Advisors, the developer of the new 534-unit Astoria West apartment complex overlooking the East River. The location, he said, was “a gem waiting to be found.”

New commercial developments include Wildflower Studios, a seven-story, 775,000-square-foot film production studio under construction on 19th Avenue, backed by the actor Robert De Niro, among other investors.

21-28 37TH STREET | A three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house built in 1925, listed for $1.295 million. 718-662-2222Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

What You’ll Pay

Kenny Lee, an economist for StreetEasy, said online searches for rentals in Astoria have increased by 32 percent in the past year, attributing that to people who have returned to work in Manhattan offices and are looking for easy commutes.

According to information provided by StreetEasy, in the 12 months ending July 31, 2023, the median asking rent increased to $2,600, from $2,290 during the previous 12 months.

As of July 31, 2023, according to data from StreetEasy, the median sale price for co-ops was $460,000, the median sale price for condos was $565,000, and the median sale price for single-family houses and townhouses was $1.265 million.

The number of home sales recorded by StreetEasy declined in the past year: In the 12 months ending on July 31, 2023, 78 co-ops sold, down from 88 during the preceding 12 months; 129 condos sold, down from 215; and 248 single-family homes and townhouses sold, down from 387. Mr. Lee suggested that this was probably because rising mortgage rates have priced out many potential buyers.

21-37 33RD STREET, NO. 1G | A one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op built in 1923, listed for $329,000. 917-701-5013.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

The Vibe

Astoria is known for its Greek restaurants, reflecting the community’s history as a magnet for Greek immigrants. But serious eaters have a variety of choices when it comes to food, including Italian, Mexican and, in a section of Steinway Street known as Little Egypt, Egyptian and Moroccan. Bohemian Hall, a social club and beer garden founded more than a century ago, is a legacy of an earlier wave of Czech and Slovak immigrants.

“We made a promise to ourselves when we moved here that we’d go back to Manhattan for dinner once a week,” Dr. Seaman said. “But most weeks we don’t — there are so many fun restaurants and bars here.”

While some national retail and restaurant chains are venturing into Astoria, including a Target that’s coming to 31st Street near Ditmars Boulevard, many of the businesses are mom-and-pop operations where proprietors get to know their customers, said Sonia Mylonas, who covers the neighborhood with a website and a magazine called Give Me Astoria.

The oldest and largest city pool in New York City is in Astoria Park, which stretches along the East River, under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough Bridge) and the Hell Gate railroad bridge.

“I walk to the park two or three times a week after work, take a book and sit by the water,” said Mr. LoRusso, the video editor.

The N.Y.C. Ferry heads across the East River toward Manhattan, leaving Astoria.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

The Schools

Astoria has 13 public elementary schools, including a charter school, and three intermediate schools. The Baccalaureate School for Global Education, which follows the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, serves students in seventh through 12th grade. The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria enrolls girls in sixth through 12th grade.

Public high schools in or near Astoria include William Cullen Bryant High School, Long Island City High School and Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. Private options include St. John’s Prep, a coed Roman Catholic school for students in ninth through 12th grade.

Socrates Sculpture Park was founded in 1986 on a landfill and illegal dumpsite on the East River.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

The Commute

Traveling to Astoria from Midtown Manhattan by subway usually takes less than half an hour on the N, W, R or M lines.

The N.Y.C. Ferry, which opened in 2017, zigzags across the East River, linking Astoria to East 90th Street in Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, Long Island City, East 34th Street, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Pier 11 near Wall Street. The fare is $4 one way, or $27.50 for 10 trips.

Drivers have easy access to Grand Central Parkway, Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, which connects Queens to Manhattan and the Bronx.

The History

The worlds of music and film both have legacies in Astoria. Piano maker Steinway & Sons was founded by Henry Engelhard Steinway in Manhattan in 1853; his son William moved the company’s operations to Queens in the early 1870s. About 300 people now work at the Astoria site, which includes Steinway’s American headquarters and a factory that produces more than 1,200 pianos a year.

Kaufman Astoria Studios, which opened in 1920, later became a home for Paramount Pictures. During World War II, the studio was used to make military training films. Movie, television and commercial productions are still made there.

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