By Holly Dutton
Move over Astoria, the burgeoning Queens neighborhood of Sunnyside is gaining steam fast, with affordable rents and easy transit to Manhattan.
The community of Sunnyside is marked by quiet, tree-lined streets, pre-war six-unit apartment buildings and a stellar view of the Empire State Building from Queens Boulevard.
The 7 train cuts right through the neighborhood on its way into the city, taking 20 to 25 minutes to get to Grand Central.
The area is bordered to the north by Astoria, to the east by Woodside and Maspeth, to the west by Long Island City, and to the south by Greenpoint.
In 2010, New York Magazine named the small but thriving neighborhood number three on its list of “The Most Livable Neighborhoods in New York.”
Young professionals priced out of Manhattan (and more often these days, Brooklyn) are finding homes in the neighborhood that, in addition to the already established Irish population, boasts strong Middle Eastern, Asian and Latino communities as well.
Jessica Escobar is a licensed real estate salesperson with Citi Habitats and was born and raised in Sunnyside.
“I love the area,” she said. “I would say the vibe has definitely changed, it’s becoming a lot trendier, a lot more hip, and there are a lot of great new restaurants.”
Despite the changes, Escobar said you won’t see as many chain or big box stores as other neighborhoods, and there are still many pre-war walkups that are rent-stabilized.
“You still see a lot of mom and pop stores,” she said. “It’s such a foodie community. The prices are increasing, but it’s still so affordable. Sunnyside’s not what Long Island City is yet, and that’s what makes it affordable.”
A typical one-bedroom will run you between $1,500 and $2,000 a month in rent, said Escobar, and if you’re looking to buy, a one-bedroom co-op averages at $275,000 while converted condos average $300,000.
Douglas Elliman agent Harvey Heit moved to Sunnyside four years ago after living in Park Slope for 19 years.
“In a way, it’s kind of magical,” he said of the move. “It’s so nice, I don’t want to sell real estate here myself, I want to leave it alone.”
The quick commute to Midtown, the diversity, and the quality of elementary schools are some of the highlights that Heit said make the neighborhood so desirable.
“The prices have gone up every year since I’ve been here,” he said. “I would say it’s still affordable, but there’s little availability.”
Heit and his wife rent a 1,000 s/f two-bedroom apartment, in a pre-war, six-story building and pay under $2,100.
“It really has to do with the rent stabilization increase,” said Heit. “The cap used to be $2,000 a month, then it was raised to $2,500. So an apartment can still be rent-stabilized up to $2,500.”
While there are still many rent-stabilized apartments, the housing stock is limited. Two-bedrooms with two bathrooms are rare. Three bedrooms are almost non-existent.
“Home prices have spiked, they have really gone up in the last few years and I see that continuing,” said Heit.
According to StreetEasy, the median rental price for an apartment in Sunnyside is $1,800 among active listings, while for sales, the median listing is $219,000.
He expects the south side of Sunnyside to see more changes in the future along Queens Boulevard.
“We’re going to see a lot of gentrification in a lot of the older houses that will be bought up and fixed up nice,” said Heit.
New projects in the works include the development of a nine-story residential building on 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue that is expected to be a rental.
As part of the East Side Access program, a Long Island Rail Road station will open at Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue.
Jessica Mathis, a physical therapist who works at Mt. Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side, moved to 43rd Street in Sunnyside two months ago with her husband.
“I used to live in Astoria and it would take me at least 45 minutes to get to work. Now it takes me 30 minutes,” said Mathis.
After living in Astoria for a year-and-a-half, the transition to Sunnyside wasn’t a hard one.
“It’s similar,” she said of the neighboring area. “Our location in Astoria wasn’t ideal because it faced an alleyway and at night it would get loud. Now in Sunnyside, it’s a lot quieter.”
Though she admitted there were more restaurant choices in Astoria, Mathis said she has found Sunnyside to be more family-friendly and green.
“I feel like it’s more of a community because I’ve met people who have lived here their whole lives,” she said, citing a neighbor she met at local Irish pub, Molly Blooms.
“She knew my landlord, she knew all the people who live around me. Everybody kind of knows everybody and it feels like more of a close-knit community.”