Complaints about traffic and garbage are so 1999 compared to the threats facing New Yorkers these days. Right now, floods, fires, poxes and vermin seem to be in vogue — and for many denizens of the Greatest City in the World, it feels like only a matter of time until the next fill-in-the-blank catastrophe strikes.
Safety is now an issue that weighs heavily on the minds of buyers and renters when it comes time to move, real estate experts told The Post.
“Home has never been more important, and we’re seeing safety ranking as one of the top factors in rent renewals,” said Lily Liu, CEO at Piñata, a rental membership and rewards platform.
But not every neighborhood faces the same threats. So, in a quest to identify the safest ’hood in all of NYC, The Post compiled and compared neighborhood data on everything from flood zones, crime rates, proximity to hospitals, 911 response times, evacuation routes, average temperature and green spaces and even rats per capita.
While lots of neighborhoods stood out, one unexpected area took the cake. That neighborhood is — drumroll — Fresh Meadows.
That small slice of Queens, sandwiched between the Long Island Expressway, Union Turnpike, Cunningham Park and 164th Street, beats out every other part of the city in terms of safety and quality of life our data shows.
For instance, while NYC overall witnessed its second-wettest summer on record with 24.25 inches of rain — causing massive flooding that did billions in damage and turned subway stations into rat aquariums — Fresh Meadows stayed (relatively) dry.
That’s because the neighborhood lies outside of the major flood zones, according to city data. Sitting at 72 feet above sea level, it isn’t the highest elevation in the city (that distinction is reserved for Washington Heights, which sits at 265 feet above sea level), but it’s double the average. (Battery Park, meanwhile, technically sits below sea level).
The flood risk caused by global warming is also increasing slower in Fresh Meadows than the national average. Nevertheless, flash flooding during Hurricane Ida impacted the neighborhood, particularly George J. Ryan Junior High School. However, the storm did less destruction in Fresh Meadows than it did in neighboring Woodside, Hollis Hills and Flushing.
Fresh Meadows is also on top of crime.
New York is currently just one killing away from beating out 2020’s record murder rate, but Fresh Meadows reports zero murders for 2021 (compared to six on the Upper East Side and 19 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn), according to the city’s crime map.
When it comes to other crimes, Fresh Meadows comes in above the mark as well. The neighborhood saw 141 burglaries in 2021, as compared with 308 in Midtown Manhattan, and saw fewer rapes, grand larcenies and felony assaults than most other neighborhoods in the city, with a total of 728 reported crimes in 2021 or 4.8 crimes per 1,000 residents, compared with 7.4 crimes per 1,000 people in Long Island City, or 15.4 crimes per 1,000 residents in posh Brooklyn Heights.
It is also in the top three fastest 911 response times at just 1.9 minutes. (The fastest is the 100th precinct in the Rockaways at 1.6 minutes and the average is 3.8 minutes; Wakefield in The Bronx is the worst at 8.3 minutes).
Fresh Meadows even knows how to play it cool.
This summer, the city hit 90 degrees or higher on 17 days — higher than the 15 day average. But the temperature is noticeably lower in northeast corner of “the world’s boro,” thanks to more green space per capita than most other city nabes.
Originally named Vlissingen, which means “salt meadow valley,” by Dutch sailors in the 1620s, a majority of the homes in Fresh Meadows sit on larger lots than most homes in Queens, or the rest of the city for that matter.
That’s because when 19th-century farmland gave way to an urban neighborhood, developers took greater care to respect and preserve more of the area’s green spaces — even leaving suburban style lawns on many homes — according to Ali Rashid, broker and owner of Kingsland Properties in Fresh Meadows.
Today the neighborhood boasts two parks: the 358-acre Cunningham Park and the massive 655.3 acre Alley Pond park — the second largest in all of Queens. Even the main thoroughfare, Fresh Meadow Lane, is lined with trees.
That chilled-out atmosphere also comes in handy in times of emergency.
Fresh Meadows’ closest hospital is Queens Medical Center in nearby Flushing, and the neighborhood is nestled between two major highways, the Long Island Expressway and Grand Central Parkway, which make getting there fast.
Theoretically, those highways are also essential evacuation routes if the worst was ever to befall the Big Apple.
But best of all, the neighborhood has the lowest number of rat complaints per square mile at three.
Compare that with nearly 400 complaints on the Upper East Side, according to Renthop. If the flooding ever does come to Fresh Meadows, be rest assured that there will be noticeably fewer rodents swimming in the slurry.
None of this is news to Fresh Meadows’ residents and local realtors, who have been singing the area’s praises for decades.
“Fresh Meadows has historically been a very sought-after neighborhood because it has lots of green space and low crime,” said Rashid, who added that the bang for your buck in Fresh Meadows isn’t too shabby either.
The average sales price of a home in Fresh Meadows is $915,000, according to RedFin, with 77 on the market right now. That may sound high — after all, the citywide average is just under $800,000 — but in Fresh Meadows, the majority of the housing stock is composed of generous single-family houses.
For families it’s an easy call: Get a multi-bedroom spread here, or a $1.15 million (on average) shoebox in Manhattan.
Meanwhile, the average rental goes for $1,752 for a one-bedroom, according to Apartments.com, significantly below the average for the city and more than half the price of an average apartment in Manhattan.
For those looking to make the upgrade, Rashid is listing one of Fresh Meadows’ top listings: a six-bedroom, five-bathroom spread asking $2.2 million at 69-32 166th St.
“The hottest properties usually don’t last long in this market, as Fresh Meadows is a very attractive neighborhood,” said Rashid.
Of course, other parts of the city gave Fresh Meadows a run for its money. The Upper East Side, the Upper West Side (away from the rivers), Inwood, Central Brooklyn, Pelham Bay in The Bronx and even office-dense Midtown all have their perks.
While some had good marks for elevation (Inwood!) and proximity to hospitals (UES!), each suffered from higher instances of crime, slower emergency response times and, yes, a lot more rats — not to mention a lack of affordability.
Of course, the biggest determinant when it comes to a neighborhood’s likelihood of surviving climategeddon is something you won’t find in any of the scientific data about flood zones or evacuation routes.
“Sadly, I’d say the real criteria for a neighborhood’s resiliency might be simply its wealth,” said Gernot Wagner, a climate economist and professor of environmental studies at New York University. “That should not be the criterion [but] alas, sadly, it is a sure sign of many of the characteristics that make a neighborhood more resilient than surrounding areas.”
In other words, if you can’t afford a private jet to your bunker in New Zealand, Fresh Meadows might just be worth checking out.
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