The area above West 96th Street is comprised of many individual “neighborhoods” some of which include: Washington Heights, Morningside Heights, Inwood, Harlem, Hudson Heights, Manhattanville, Mount Morris and Sugar Hill. Harlem has an interesting and very culturally significant history. The area was completely independent of New York City until 1873. Most known for the “Harlem Renaissance” in the 1920’s and 1930’s Harlem has seen many peaks and valleys. The Harlem Renaissance showcased artists and professionals at a time when many people of different races were unappreciated for their talents.
The area of Harlem was first settled by the Dutch in 1637 and then abandoned on and off until 1658, at which time it came under the rule of Peter Stuyvesant. In 1664 The English took control of the area and renamed it Harlem. During the Late 1700’s Harlem was considered an elegant area to live in and consisted mostly of wealthy farmers and their families. During the later 1800’s the area declined and was taken over by the city of New York. In the early 1900’s with the advent of mass public transit, Harlem experienced revitalization. Many African American and blacks migrated to Harlem during the real estate crash spanning from 1890 through 1910, seeking better jobs and escape from the Jim Crow south.
The Harlem Renaissance created a center of black culture, jazz venues and artistic production. Even though there are had a large black population and the hottest artists were black, many clubs, restaurants and lounges were still segregated during this time.
Harlem is a Mecca for amazing architecture. It’s home to over 400 churches, the Dance Theater of Harlem, Apollo Theater, City College of New York, Harbor Conservatory of the Performing Arts, The Harlem School of the Arts, Lenox Lounge, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Museum of the City of New York, Studio Museum in Harlem and many more.
Harlem Real estate has undergone its own ‘Renaissance’ since 1995. Many of the existing brownstones have been restored to their original splendor; doorman/luxury buildings have been erected; 6-8 family townhouses have been built or restored. Prices have soared and the residents have seen a gentrification of the areas below West 140th Street and above 200th Street. Gentrification of the remaining areas has recently begun. Since the early 1990’s property values in Central Harlem have increased nearly 300%.
Until recently Harlem has been comprised of mostly rental buildings. In recent years, many more condos and co-op buildings have sprung up giving individuals the opportunity to own their own share of this historic neighborhood.
The Upper West Side is one of the most family-oriented residential neighborhoods in New York. Initially settled by upper-class Jewish families, the area has long been a welcome haven for young professionals and those with an artistic bent. Apartments in this neighborhood have ample access to plenty of stores and markets (including the renowned Zabar's on Broadway between 80th and 81st Streets), public transportation, great public schools, and two major parks.
There have always been a number of shops and restaurants in this region, and the strong economy in recent years has only contributed to their proliferation. Both Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues are probably the best examples of this trend. Each thoroughfare does brisk business on weekends, especially during the summer months.
Compared to the manic pace of the West Village and Midtown West, however, the area is relatively placid, but hardly devoid of excitement. The Upper West Side contains Lincoln Center, one of the most important cultural centers in Manhattan.
Five major performing groups are housed in the three main buildings that face the fountain, and the nearby Juillard School, which consistently graduates top performers in music, theater and dance, hosts a number of inexpensive and sometimes free productions throughout the school year.
For sunny Sunday afternoons, Central Park may seem like the natural locale in which Upper West Siders might choose to spend a Sunday afternoon. Nonetheless, many residents prefer the slightly less popular but just as beautiful Riverside Park. Riverside Park may not be as wide as Central Park, but it is considerably longer, winding its way from 72nd Street all the way to 159th. Despite the fact that the West Side Highway runs almost directly through its center, Riverside has become a favorite with locals seeking to get out of their apartments for a while.
Hugging the curves along Riverside Park's eastern edge is Riverside Drive, the only major thoroughfare in Manhattan to consistently deviate from the straight and narrow. The brownstones and apartment complexes that line Riverside Drive's east side are especially prized for their magnificent views of the park.
While it may not boast a park view, West End Avenue remains the neighborhood's most sought-after address. The street is lined with beautiful apartment buildings of varying sizes, each more picturesque than the last. And since most of the traffic in the area travels up and down Broadway, it remains relatively quiet no matter what time of day it may be.