New York isn’t just the glowing metropolis that Francis Albert Sinatra belted a famous song about.
It turns out the Empire State has much more to offer families seeking to avoid the city’s crowded subways, nonstop noise and shoebox apartments.
There are places in the state that provide a more family-friendly, affordable environment for parents and their young children, and they’re not all in the greater New York City area — though many are.
» COMPARE: Best places for young families in New York
NerdWallet analyzed 75 places in the Empire State — cities, towns, villages and hamlets — using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to find the places that offer the best combination of affordability, quality schools, future growth and prosperity, and family-friendliness. Only places with over 20,000 residents were analyzed. To see the data, click here.
Long Island is big. Eight of the top 10 place in our analysis — and 17 of the top 20 — are on Long Island, the densely populated strip of land that stretches 118 miles east from the outer boroughs of New York City.
The best places are less affordable, but higher incomes help. The median home value for the top 10 cities is an average of $425,090, which is higher than the average for all cities ($313,708) in our analysis. Similarly, median selected homeowner costs for the top 10 are an average of $2,897 a month, versus $2,341 each month for all cities. Meanwhile, median family income for the top 10 was an average of $120,401, compared with $84,263 for all 75 places.
Schools in the top places get good grades. All places in the top 10 ranked among the 20 highest-scoring areas for the quality of schools, according to SchoolDigger data. Meanwhile, nine of the top 10 places were among the 20 highest-scoring areas in terms of family-friendliness.
Best places for young families in New York
A hamlet within the Long Island town of Oyster Bay, Plainview’s 27,000 residents live 35 miles east of Manhattan — and Interstate 495 goes through it. Its schools are excellent, scoring 91.25 out of 100 at SchoolDigger, ranking third overall in quality of schools. The hamlet ranks second-highest overall and best in the top 10 for family-friendliness, with 34% of families having at least one child under 18 and a negligible percentage of families with children under age 5 living in poverty. Not surprisingly, it’s also among the pricier communities to live in, ranking 69th out of 75 for home affordability.
2. East Meadow
East Meadow, a hamlet with 38,000 residents, is one of 34 unincorporated areas in the town of Hempstead in central Long Island. Like nearby Plainview, its schools are highly regarded, scoring 94.74 out of 100 and ranking second-best among districts in the state. It ranks highly in our analysis for growth and prosperity, with a median family income of $115,747 (13th of 75) and income growth of 72% from 1999 to 2015 (12th).
Yet another Long Island hamlet, the area known as Commack is split between the towns of Huntington and Smithtown about 50 miles east of New York City. Commack ranks second in the top 10 and third overall for family friendliness — about 1 in 3 families have at least one young child younger than 18 and less than 1% of families with children 5 and younger live in poverty.
4. Saratoga Springs
Named for the natural mineral springs within its borders, Saratoga Springs sits about 40 miles north of Albany, the state capital. With a lower median home value and median monthly owner costs, the city of 27,000 is the most affordable in the top 10. It also ranks sixth in our overall analysis for the quality of schools and seventh for growth and prosperity. On the latter score, median family incomes jumped 111% from 1999 to 2015.
5. New City
A hamlet of 34,000 that is the county seat for Rockland County and town seat of Clarkstown, New City sits on the west bank of the Hudson River a few miles from the New Jersey border. It scores well in our analysis for quality of schools — seventh in our analysis with an 84.99 SchoolDigger score — and for family-friendliness. On that count, it ranks eighth in our analysis, due to its higher-than-average percentage (30%) of families with at least one child younger than 18, 30%.
6. North Bellmore
The hamlet of North Bellmore sits just south of East Meadow in the Long Island town of Hempstead. The area is among the most family-friendly in New York: 33% of families have at least one child younger than 18 and virtually no families with a child age 5 or younger live in poverty.
Widely recognized as the country’s first planned suburban community, Levittown was largely built in the years just after World War II and intended for returning veterans. Today, the Long Island hamlet in the town of Hempstead is home to about 52,000 residents. It ranks highly on the quality of its schools, with a SchoolDigger score of 78.76, and its median home value and median monthly owner costs make it more affordable relative to other places in the top 10.
A hamlet within a town of the same name, Smithtown sits about 50 miles east of New York City on Long Island. It’s an immediate neighbor to the east of Commack, and scores similarly in our analysis. Smithtown ranks seventh out of 75 for family-friendliness, with 31% of families having at least one child under 18 and a negligible percentage of families with children under 5 living in poverty.
Boasting such famed native sons as Alec Baldwin and Jerry Seinfeld, the hamlet of Massapequa, like Plainview, is part of the town of Oyster Bay about 40 miles from New York. Like many surrounding hamlets that made the top 10 — North Bellmore, Levittown and East Meadow, for example — Massapequa scores well on family-friendliness, as well as for the quality of schools and growth and prosperity. But like the other Long Island hamlets in our analysis, when it comes to affordability, it ranks near the bottom, 67th out of 75.
10. Valley Stream
The only Long Island community in the top 10 that actually touches New York City (OK, Queens), the village of Valley Stream is among the more affordable places in the top 10; its median home value is third-lowest of that group, and its median monthly owner costs are about average for the top cities.
Tips for relocating
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Best places for young families in New York data
NerdWallet analyzed 75 places in New York with populations above 20,000 based on five-year estimates in the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. With the exception of school district scores, all data were five-year estimates from the 2015 ACS. Some census-designated places were excluded from this analysis because of incomplete school data from SchoolDigger. Our methodology focused on these factors:
Home affordability, 30% of the total score, was calculated by averaging index scores for median home value and median selected monthly owner costs. The lower the costs, the higher the score.
Educational quality. Using ratings from SchoolDigger, every place was assigned a ranking from 1 to 100 for the quality of schools for 20% of the total score.
Growth and prosperity are 20% of the total score. The two metrics involved were growth in family income from 1999 to 2015, and median family income in 2013. Both were weighted equally and positively.
Family-friendliness, which is 30% of the total score, is the percentage of married couples with at least one child younger than 18, and the percentage of families living in poverty with at least one child younger than 5. A higher percentage of children resulted in a higher score, while a higher percentage of families in poverty was given a lower score. Both metrics were weighted equally.