Not all Manhattanites are fleeing to the Hamptons. In many instances, they’re crossing the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and settling in Queens, a borough celebrated for its ethnic and cultural diversity, acres of parkland and access to public transit.
“For the same rental price, people get more space at a better value for their dollar,” said Jerry Pi, the Founder and Chairman of Pi Capital Partners, a New York City-based development company with numerous commercial and residential projects throughout Queens.
“Tenants receive luxury amenities, natural parks and forests, and an incredible culinary scene at a fraction of the cost when compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn.”
Although occupancy rates and rental prices remain slightly below their pre-pandemic levels, the Queens rental market has not been as severely impacted by the market’s downturn. According to a recent report by Douglas Elliman, the average rental price in Northwest Queens totaled $2,890 in September, down 5.4 percent compared to the same period a year prior. By contrast, Manhattan saw its average rental price tumble 8 percent year-over-year to $3,990 last month.
“Queens by nature is more resilient than Manhattan because the local demographic is stickier — what I mean by that is the residents live, work, shop, eat and play here,” said Michael Wang, the founding broker of Project Queens, a real estate brokerage specializing in commercial transactions in the borough.
“During COVID, where you hear stories of people leaving the city to go back to their homes, or moving out of the city to the suburbs, that doesn’t happen as much in Queens. Foot traffic in some parts of Queens has already rebounded tremendously,” continued Wang.
Aside from its lower price points and mouth-watering momos, Queens offers something else that Manhattan can never compete with: space, and lots of it. The city’s biggest borough spans more than a hundred square miles and is home to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, an 898-acre greenspace boasting extensive trails, playgrounds, botanical gardens, sports arenas, museums, a zoo, and many more attractions.
“This is an enormous advantage for those looking for both an urban lifestyle combined with open space,” noted Pi, whose newest rental development, The Elm West in Elmhurst, Queens, offers generously-sized floorplans and private outdoor space with select units.
“The Elm West is at 50 percent leased in just six weeks,” said Pi. “We anticipate reaching stabilization within the year for the building.”
Many of The Elm West’s newest tenants are recent college graduates looking to venture out on their own, prioritizing rental value and lifestyle amenities. “We have noticed the demographics start to skew to younger ages,” added Pi.
Wang has duly noticed an uptick in leasing inquiries. “After Labor Day, you saw a lot of people decide it was time to get back to work,” he said. “The traffic came back and the parking lots were more full. So that in itself has made the real estate market more active.”
When things do go back to normal — or whatever ‘normal’ might look like in a post-COVID world — renters in Queens will be able to move around the city with ease. “The borough provides the largest transportation network of buses, subways, and roadways so getting around is very easy when compared to other boroughs,” said Pi.
Wang seconded this opinion, adding that much of the borough’s value can be attributed to its proximity to Manhattan. “There are numerous ways to get into the city from Queens,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a seismic shift in renter preferences, leading apartment hunters to prioritize square footage, affordability and outdoor space. As a result, Queens has become the obvious choice for thousands of renters who are looking to remain in the city while enjoying a more laid-back way of life with all of the creature comforts they crave.