Real Estate

South Harlem: ‘A Busy, Interesting Place to Live’


From her South Harlem condo, Michelle Thompson has an easy walk to her favorite waterfall in Central Park — easy enough that she can visit several times a week.

Ms. Thompson, 54, advises her clients to do the same — get outside and take the “stress out of your body” — in her role as the owner of Resistant Vision Coaching and Consulting, her third career after stints as a lawyer and a teacher of colonial Caribbean history, which is part of her heritage. She has been in her home for more than five years now, since buying the two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on Fifth Avenue, a few blocks north of Central Park, for less than $1 million.

Ms. Thompson is one of many buyers who have embraced the neighborhood in recent years. Although some residents resent efforts by the real estate industry to rebrand it as South Harlem, a separate area within Harlem, she said she has “no strong feelings” about that, or about the changes to the neighborhood, which is rapidly becoming more upscale.

“Everywhere you look, there’s construction,” said Amanda P. Jhones, a longtime resident who is a broker with Coldwell Banker Warburg, and also a jazz musician. The changes started 15 or 20 years ago, she said, “and I have to say, they are changes for the better. In the beginning, as you know, people were afraid to go here. Now there is a police presence, and cleaner streets.”

Despite continuing struggles with drugs and homelessness, she said, “the transformation is stunning.”

“It’s very much a neighborhood in transition, but I see that as a positive,” said Lane Rettig, 39, a manager at a blockchain start-up company, who was born and raised in East Harlem, where his father, a professor of psychology at Hunter College, found affordable housing. “I’m white, and my wife is Chinese.”

He and his wife, Lily Rettig, 35, a designer who works for Amazon, bought their first home last year after deciding to start a family: a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on the 10th floor of a building on Central Park North, paying $3.5 million. They have two patios, one facing Harlem and the other overlooking Central Park.

“We can see Billionaires’ Row on 57th Street, past the foliage,” Mr. Rettig said. While he works from home, Ms. Rettig commutes to downtown Newark several days a week, taking a New Jersey Transit train from Penn Station. He enjoys morning jogs along a six-mile loop in Central Park, and the couple, who have a 4-month-old son, like to visit the farmers’ market in Morningside Park on Saturday mornings.

Akia Mitchell, a senior director at a British advertising company, and her husband, Reginald Greene, a lawyer, recently started a family in South Harlem, as well. The couple traded up from a large studio in a brownstone to a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment that they share with their 8-month-old son, paying $3,200 a month. “Once I got pregnant, we wanted to live near Central Park but still be in Harlem, in a diverse building,” said Ms. Mitchell, 37, who is Black. “I grew up in Harlem, and I want my son to have some connection to Black people.”

Although the demographics in the area are changing — between 2010 and 2020, South Harlem gained 4,458 non-Hispanic white residents and lost 4,492 non-Hispanic Black ones, according to census figures — “there’s still a large Black population here,” Ms. Mitchell said. (According to the United States Census Bureau, the Black non-Hispanic population of South Harlem decreased to 43.1 percent in 2020, from 55.9 percent in 2010; the white non-Hispanic population increased to 23.6 percent from 16.1 percent; the Asian non-Hispanic population increased to 5.7 percent from 3.5 percent; and the Hispanic population stayed virtually the same, decreasing slightly from 21.1 percent to 21 percent.)

There are also lots of good restaurants, and in the summer, the streets are filled with music and activity. “Harlem is loud,” she said. “You’ve got to be OK with that.”

South Harlem has been defined in various ways, with varying boundaries, but a common definition is from 110th Street/Central Park North up to 125th Street, and from the western edge of Morningside Park to Park Avenue.

Central Park plays a large part in many residents’ lives, as do Morningside Park and Marcus Garvey Park. The handsome brownstones surrounding Marcus Garvey Park and on many other streets contribute to the neighborhood’s historic charm, as do the numerous churches, some acting as community centers and others drawing tourists in search of a gospel service.

The “main street of Harlem,” as it is sometimes called, is 125th Street, a commercial and artistic hub. Among its attractions: the legendary Apollo Theater, which has raised $63 million of a $70 million campaign for the first full-scale renovation and upgrade of the 108-year-old landmark building; the Studio Museum in Harlem, currently closed for rebuilding; and the popular Whole Foods Market, in a building filled with national chain stores.

Vendors in outdoor booths also line the street, and a Target and a Trader Joe’s are in the works, said Whitney Osentoski, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens specializing in new development. “Because of building codes, there are no tall buildings, and wide sidewalks,” Mr. Osentoski said. “People have space.”

They can also find good views, especially in newer buildings. Yiannes Einhorn, the principal of Grid Group, said his company spent two and a half years designing the 13-story building at 145 Central Park North so that every apartment has front and back views.

“We were excited to see a lot of projects happening,” Mr. Einhorn said of the area. “We saw a lot of restaurants opening, and a lot of vibrancy and stores and services. We saw it as a busy, interesting place to live.”

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Towers, a public housing complex that stretches from Lenox Avenue to Fifth Avenue and from West 112th Street to West 115th Street, includes 10 red-brick buildings, each shaped like an elongated X.

The median sale price of homes in the neighborhood has increased over the past three years, said John Walkup, a founder of UrbanDigs, the real estate data analytics firm. In May 2019, it was $1.078 million; by May 2022, it had climbed to $1.139 million.

But prices vary enormously. In a late October search of StreetEasy, the least expensive listings were mostly in Housing Development Fund Corporation (H.D.F.C.) buildings, which impose income restrictions on buyers. The lowest priced listing was a one-bedroom, one-bath co-op at 144 West 119th Street, for $365,000; the highest priced were two multiunit townhouses (one at 13 West 122nd Street, with seven bedrooms and three bathrooms, and the other at 274 Lenox Avenue, with three bedrooms and three-plus bathrooms), for $3.995 million each.

As for rentals, the least expensive was a one-bedroom, one-bath, fourth-floor walk-up apartment at 50 East 119th Street, for $1,899 a month; the priciest was a townhouse at 360 West 123rd Street with six bedrooms, six full bathrooms, seven half bathrooms, two kitchens and an elevator, for $20,000 a month.

Marcus Garvey Park has an outdoor swimming pool, a playing field, two playgrounds, a recreation center and a dog run, in addition to the 1,600-seat Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, completed in 2011. The outdoor theater hosts music, dance and theater events, especially during the summer. Other offerings, including aerobics classes and Zen meditation, continue beyond the summer.

On a smaller scale, StreetSquash, at 41 West 115th Street, offers not only squash lessons but also academic help, college access services and social-work aid to local students.

The busy Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market is a vibrant indoor-outdoor collection of stalls at 52 West 116th Street, just east of Malcolm X Boulevard. Wares sold by vendors include clothing, jewelry, African masks, crafts and artwork.

Although slightly past the neighborhood’s northern boundary, the popular Red Rooster Harlem offers a gospel Sunday brunch, and the famous soul food restaurant Sylvia’s is a few steps beyond.


Sahred From Source link Real Estate

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