Unfortunately, rent is really not much of an indicator.
Here is though - some apartments list right on their that the accept Section 8 - if they do, move on (don't know where you're at now, but section 8 is the public living assistance program. Not that there's anything wrong iwth it mind you, but those apartments are poorly kept by the landlord on mos toccassions who just want the states money and don't care about anything else)
Now I live in a great area in Manhattan, but pay less then 800, I lucked out with a rent stabilized apartment. While ethnically it is mostly old Irish, there are maybe 50% if that college grads, a lot are cleaning ladies, cops, and firemen. That would be a good indicator - get into a neighborhood with cops! We lost such a high percentage of our residents in 9/11, our area was given a cross made out of the steel girders from the towers.
My #1 suggestion is to get down to Queens, walk through it and decide which areas you like. I literally got my apartment by knocking on every door in the area, because I thought it was great. I finally lucked out. Newspapers seldom work, never do those 'list' things where you pay for a list of apartments, they are all a sham. If you have to go through a realtor, it's expensive but if you can't come down and check out the 'hoods' first, do use one.