Though it may be the envy of Bensonhurst, the Park Slope dating scene did not impress Robert DiBiase when he moved there from Washington, D.C., several years ago.
The neighborhood had plenty of bars, conceded Mr. DiBiase, 42, an associate broker at Halstead Property, “but they were small and filled with locals, not people coming from Manhattan to hang out.” The local bars were places where neighbors went to grab a beer and catch up, he said, not places to meet a potential mate.
When his aging bulldog compelled him to trade his walk-up for an elevator building, he seized on the opportunity and rented a one-bedroom on the Lower East Side, a quick walk to local favorites like Stanton Social or Mr. Purple, the rooftop bar at the Hotel Indigo.
Now he won’t date anyone who lives in Brooklyn. Or Queens. Or the Upper East Side, for that matter. He prefers to stay within blocks of home. “That’s what apps are for,” he said. “I’m so used to convenience living in New York. I don’t want an hour-and-a-half obstacle just to grab a coffee. I don’t want to end up coming back at midnight on some train that stalls in the station because of an investigation.”
Nancy Slotnick, a dating coach, said that proximity was crucial for many single New Yorkers. “The first date is going to happen so much more easily if you’re in the same neighborhood,” she said.
And for those hoping to meet in what her clients often refer to as “the natural way,” neighborhood can make all the difference, she said. Certainly, it did for her.
One evening, she saw an attractive man at an event on the Upper West Side, where she lived, but she was too shy to approach. Afterward, she was standing on the sidewalk and he walked by again. Loath to let another opportunity pass, she caught his eye, smiled and struck up a conversation. She later found out that he had come into the cafe where she was an owner just the day before. He is now her husband. “Fate gave us another chance!” she said.
“I know this sounds hokey, but you get a chance to cross paths with people and you often miss it,” she said. “When you’re in the same neighborhood you get that chance over and over again.”
But Michael J. Rosenfeld, a Stanford University sociology professor who researches how couples meet, said that meeting in the neighborhood, along with meeting through family, friends, co-workers, school and church, had declined since the 1990s, largely because of the rise of online dating. “Neighborhood still matters in lots of ways, at least for people who have a choice of where they live, which is not everybody,” he said. “But the ability to find single people to date in the neighborhood matters less than it used to.”
Natasha Zamor, 28, a paralegal who lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, said that her neighborhood played almost no role in her dating life. While she enjoys going out with friends to bars by the Barclays Center — 333 Lounge on Flatbush Avenue is a favorite — there’s nothing to tell you if the person you meet at a bar is someone “you want to invest your time in.”
Ms. Zamor’s mother, a nurse, and father, a psychiatrist, emphasized the importance of marrying a man whose education and aspirations were similar to her own. She likes that on dating apps like SoulSwipe, Tinder and Plenty of Fish you can easily find out where someone went to school, what he does for work, and where he lives — which she views as important indicators of compatibility. She says she dates “throughout the metro area.”
“I want someone I can communicate with and bring into my circle of friends. Someone who can be equal or better,” Ms. Zamor said, adding that, “unfortunately, this seems to create a standard that can never ever be met.”
Tara Atwood, 33, lived in Manhattan for 10 years after college, first on the Upper East Side, then in Midtown East. She worked in finance and dated “meatheads who wore baggy jeans ripped at the bottom and didn’t want to do anything but drink beer and watch football.”
After ending a long-term relationship with one such meathead, she left her job to go to business school and moved to 1 North Fourth, a luxury rental on the waterfront in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which suits her perfectly. “It’s full of people who are like-minded: creative, well-traveled, educated, curious,” she said. “I would say 75 percent of the people are people you’d swipe right on. Living here has literally been like a live dating app.”
She and friends from the building have traveled to Tulum, Mexico, participated in a coed fantasy football league, gone on daylong bike trips and sweated through SoulCycle classes together.
In Manhattan, she said, the men she met through apps would boast about being a top person at a place like Oracle, the high-tech company.
“Now I’m into the kind of guy with facial hair who wears a leather bracelet and goes salsa dancing,” she said.
While finding one’s tribe may be the underpinning of dating success, certain factors make it more likely to happen in some places than others. Neighborhoods popular with singles tend to have comparatively affordable housing, convenience to transportation and a good assortment of bars and restaurants — think Astoria in Queens and Murray Hill and the East Village in Manhattan.
Charles Conroy, a salesman for Citi Habitats, said that for his post-college clients who want to walk out the door into night life, he usually recommends the East Village. He recently found an apartment on Second Avenue and 10th Street for three men in their early 20s, one of whom broke up with his girlfriend so he could move in with his friends and “extend the college experience before moving in with girlfriends down the road.”
“His dating life has skyrocketed,” Mr. Conroy said. “He sends me texts all the time.”
Elie Seidman, the chief executive of OkCupid, an online dating site, said that while he believes that moving to New York might improve a person’s romantic odds, he didn’t believe there was “a magic neighborhood cure.” Census data shows that neighborhoods with high concentrations of single women don’t often match up with those that have a lot of single men.
The New York neighborhoods with the highest ratio of single women to single men, ages 20 to 34, are the Upper East Side (0.6 men to every woman), Murray Hill (0.68), the Upper West Side (0.79) and Brownsville, Brooklyn (0.8) according to 2014 data from the American Community Survey compiled by the city’s Economic Development Corporation.