Afterword: Moving Forward

Narrowing and expanding dwelling quests

What are the alternative possibilities? The answers can be enlightening anywhere along the way. The right time varies from soon after the onset, to affirm preliminary parameters, at any midpoint, to confirm the direction near to a conclusion, or to re-affirm a decision—even while negotiating on another property.
Whichever! The steps to discover new options, to decide between tradeoffs, or to consider a compromise: all similar for every search. Size-wise, can the bedroom or bathroom count be adjusted? Price-wise, scattered pockets exist throughout town. Some might be viable by dropping low-priority parameters or dwelling type or amenities or looking to nearby locations. Of the three primary parameters only location-wise could have a significantly different result without compromising the others.
It is worth a try, and could produce possible positive conclusions (and one may be enough), following as follows:

  • Bringing contrasts into sharper focus could clear up a preconceived notion
  • Adding insights may put a desirable tradeoff into perspective
  • Identifying an unachievable parameter to revisit the priorities
  • Seeking more affordable areas may well unearth an appealing property

The perspective acquired, at the very least, should help opened an eye to current marketplace realities when renewing the search (within the desired neighborhood). Still, when conducting a search prospective properties pop up too rarely, or not at all, the starting place is investigating another part of town. One good place to begin is by reviewing Navigating Manhattan’s brief residential descriptions and housing development surveys, and visiting re-re.info for a look around the Neighborhoods online, for the nearby parks, historic districts, and highlights could promote an expanded viewpoint

These notes weigh-in heavily when subsequent open house tours are planned, and as the refining process occurs. Assuming each property on the initial search list fits within the given budget, one helpful general guideline is to capture first impressions, all of  the following are passed through before even entering the unit:

Narrowing or Expanding Your Dwelling Quest

Okay! Everything has been tried (to a varying degree), conceivably what might work is taking an opposite approach: going far a field with an open mind. For the purpose of one example, let us say, Uptown Manhattan is that far-flung part of town. The advantages are there. Myriad dwelling types come in a wide range—from a floor-through to an entire row house, from a 90-to-100-year-old flats building, to an early luxury apartment house designed around a planted courtyard, to low-rise apartment houses, some with an elevator, others without a doorman. In addition, there are sleek, modern residential towers, and historic district-quality row houses waiting to be renovated.

In addition, since purchase price is a primary search constraint, more choices open up because, by comparison, this is a marketplace with a substantial discount from its downtown counterparts. With an extensive web of mass transit options, Uptown can be considered a possible fair exchange with close proximity to Midtown—but not living right there. There are buyers with generalized needs and aspirations who may find a viable alternative, and they may benefit by reading on.

Such as:

  • For a growing family, now lugging a child’s stroller up stairs and tricycle through traffic;
  • For a couple, wanting a park nearby now and looking to the future for their kids;
  • For young professionals, needing convenient restaurants and bars catering to their peers;
  • For buyers, looking for a unique personality in their neighborhood;
  • For outside-space lovers, seeking other than the projecting balcony option;
  • For investors, investigating a “gentrifying” area—where young families are attracted;
  • For investors, investigating a “gentrifying” area—where young families are attracted;
  • For buyers, with an eye to architecture details in the place they call home, or who are prepared to “do work” because they see the value gained.

Exceptional properties nearby a park or historic district do exist. It is also true that more options are surrounding a “yet-to-be-designated” row house cluster—say, off a wide plaza or on a tree-lined avenue or atop a hill with a vista. Indeed, properties in these reviving neighborhoods do increase in value—over time, of course—while they do, affordable living space is gained.

Starting Anew With a Clean Slate

Uptown includes all of Harlem, comprising a cross-section of diverse neighborhood alternatives. Beginning with its initial urbanization in 1850, and the appeal redoubled in the mid-1880s with mass transportation arriving, and the building boom continued for 35 years. It may be worthwhile planning a Sunday afternoon stroll along the significantly broader avenues, and passing by its designated landmark historic districts, rugged parks, as well as architecturally significant row-house enclaves.

For starters:

The fabled Hudson River view continues throughout Uptown Manhattan, and one short block from Riverside Park, between West 116th and 126th Streets, Claremont Avenue remains an intact 1907-to-1918-era residential and academic compound cluster.

The Morningside Heights Upper West Side extension—surrounding the Columbia-Barnard campus perimeters—provide a multiple- and single-dwelling type array, though less costly, may not be sufficiently less, especially when directly on or off Riverside Park. During the late 19th century, the avenues adjacent to Morningside Park were built out as luxury, flats buildings—most are still standing. For town-house lovers, due south, Mount Morris, surrounding Morris Garvey Memorial Park, at Fifth Avenue, between West 120th and 124th Streets is a single-family-home treasure trove to explore.

To the near east is Harlem’s new-millennium “Magic Triangle,” where the revival reclaimed an upper-middle-class district from decades of neglect. The area includes West 110th to 125th Streets, encompassing Morningside and Manhattan Avenues, Fredrick Douglass, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and Malcomb X Boulevards—inclusive of Marcus Garvey Park West—between Eighth to Fifth Avenues.

Furthermore, if quick access to either Midtown or Downtown is not tantamount, several Uptown Manhattan sections—as accessible as many Brooklyn neighborhoods—are a 15-to-20 minute subway ride beyond Southern Harlem. The express subway commute can be a convenient nearby station, so it is important to calculate which of the five subway lines suit—for example, the ones to travel to and from familiar destinations.

Central Harlem boasts miles of tree-lined-avenue stretches, with neighboring one-hundred-year-old, architecturally significant row-house strips. Those beginning at Central Park, in Southern Harlem and continuing north throughout Central Harlem, are:

  • St. Nicholas Avenue, which runs on a diagonal
  • Frederick Douglass Boulevard
  • Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard
  • Malcomb X Boulevard

When considering access to parks and green spaces as an important alternate attribute, then Uptown Manhattan’s nine open common preserves and common open areas (most complete with athletic fields) are exquisite examples of Manhattan’s rugged topography and natural landscape Each park was quickly bordered by resident-lined avenues

  1. North Central Park, extends along Central Park North) between Fifth to Frederick Douglass Avenue
  2. Riverside Park and Drive continues hugging the Hudson River shoreline.
  3. Morningside Park and Drive run from the West 110th to 122nd Streets.
  4. Marcus Garvey Park is a square between 121st to 124th Streets in the Madison-to-Fifth- Avenue block, and a half-block west as well
  5. St Nicholas Park, runs from West 128th to 141st Street, and includes the City College campus.
  6. Jackie Robinson Park is long and narrow, spanning West 145th to 155th Streets, between Edgecombe and Bradhurst Avenues.
  7. Highbridge Park is along the Harlem River, begins at Harlem’s north, West 155th Street and continues as a natural rugged landscape to West 196th Street.

Four historic districts and environs are notable and their preserved row-house architecture are deserving of special consideration. Astor Row, though, needs attention (literally!) as it remains a corrupt inconsistency of renovated, partially restored, dilapidated, and abandoned semi-attached houses—a virtual riot of interspersed juxtapositions. (Truly, one picture is worth 1,000 words.)

  • Mount Morris, at Malcomb X Boulevard’s east to Fifth Avenue, between West 124th and 119th Street, running to Madison Avenue’s west, is notable for its significant row-house-lined side streets and exemplary town-house rows, on Marcus Morris Park West, between West 120th and 124th Streets.
  • King Model Homes, a/k/a Striver’s Row, officially the St. Nicholas Historic District comprises two contiguous, row-house block fronts, on West 138th and 139th Streets, as well as their adjoining alleyways, between Fredrick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevards, is east of the commanding St. Nicholas Park.
  • Greater Hamilton Heights encompasses the Hamilton Heights Northwest and Northeast extension, which includes Sugar Hill (once Harlem’s premier neighborhood), between Amsterdam and Edgecombe Avenue, above West 140th to 154th Street; University of New York, City College campus on West 135th Street to West 140th Street; and West 141st Street, Hamilton Terrace, and Convent Avenue, with exceptional town-house and row-house clusters.
  • Jumel Terrace Historic District (replete with a colonial-era merchant-prince’s mansion overlooking Highbridge Park and Harlem River) is the northernmost Harlem self-inclusive area. This serendipitous reserve spans West 160th to 162nd Street, east of Amsterdam and St. Nicholas Avenue, and alongside the Jumel-Morris mansion are three apartment houses, and three distinct, significant row-house strips.

In addition, it is worthwhile investigating the Audubon Park Historic District area between West 155th and 16oth Streets, and the side streets west of Broadway to Riverside Drive’s east; the St. Nicholas Place Historic District extension; the shorter Hamilton 136th to 146th Streets, on a diagnol connecting Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue; and a Fifth Avenue strip between 126th to 129th Streets—where many row houses and apartment houses hold a few pleasant surprises.

Creating a Walking Tour Search

The area with as many exceptional surprises as designated landmarks, roaming off the beaten track is a possibility. Based on common sense, and within the flexible guidelines that follow, in a few hours it is feasible to walk along the grand avenues of Central Harlem. As you do, passing through the four Uptown historic districts and a number of significant town and row houses simply seem to appear.

Starting on West 124th Street, at Fifth Avenue, walk one short block west, and then proceed one block south to Marcus Garvey Park. This was once the Harlem Trotting Course site, extending from West 120th to 134th Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues. Note within the park, a neighborhood landmark remains. After the original Mount Morris Fire Watchtower burnt to the ground, this 1855, 10,000-pound bell was built as its replacement. The present cast-iron structure was designated a New York City landmark in 1967, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Take in the early apartment house on Mount Morris Park West, and the town houses on the West 123rd Street corner. Of particular note is the neo-Renaissance-style, 1890s park-side home, on the northwest corner of West 123rd Street. As remarkable still—are the high-stoop row houses, comprising 6-26 and 5-27 West 123rd Street, as the row continues to Malcomb X Boulevard. The blocks to 120th Street contain numerous late 19th-century single-family dwelling examples built-out some 40 years after the initial 185os Benson family farm sell-off.

Next, walk six blocks north, along Fifth Avenue and across West 125th Street, and then walk east, to nos. 15-29 East 129th, which are in the Madison-to-Fifth Avenue block. This distinguished grouping of architecturally significant brownstone row houses retain an exceptional rhythmic beauty, once emblematic of Central Harlem, and across East 129th Street, are three Italianate houses (numbers 12-16), with the stoops remaining.

A few additional notable sights include 17 West 129th Street, an 1865 farmhouse, a significant match to two suchlike free-standing white clapboard farm houses in the East 90s; and, on Fifth Avenue’s northwest corner, at 129th Street (as the extremity of row houses), This a charming reminder what this quarter once had been—an undeniable, lively, urban dignity.

Next, walk the one short block north to West 130th Street; Astor Row is on the south side, in the mid-Fifth Avenue and Malcomb X Boulevard. This is an interesting stop. Unfortunately, too many of these historic row houses remain in utter disrepair. Without a doubt, their design is most unusual in all Manhattan. Each of the 14 duos is set back, gated to a front yard, with a Victorian-style turned-wood porch, and agreeably acknowledge their unique rustic, rural charm.

Interestingly, the land, initially purchased in 1844 (for a mere $10,000), went undeveloped for 35 years before the row houses were begun in 1880, and completed in 1883. It was not John Jacob Astor however, his grandson undertook the project. Construction was overseen by Charles Buek who built 1020 Madison Avenue, at East 78th Street, in 1913—the last private house to be built on that avenue.

Next, walk nine short blocks north along Malcomb X Boulevard. Notice the scattered row houses, with stoops intact, between West 132th and 136th Streets, they lay to the east and west, in the Fifth-Avenue-to-Adam-Clayton-Powell-Boulevard mid-blocks.

The next (full) stop is the King Model Houses, dubbed Striver’s Row, which encompass both West 138th and 139th Streets in the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Fredrick-Douglass Boulevard mid-blocks. These landmark contiguous rows, with one rear continuous alleyway, are truly fascinating to roam about. Before examining the details, take in the variety, and their coming together to form a consistent whole, by a common architectural vocabulary, such as south-facing projections counter by north-facing indentions.

Interestingly, the uncompromised whole is remarkable given three eminent architect firms were responsible for the scale, colors and materials harmony. For example—McKim, Mead & White combined Renaissance-inspired austerity yet elegant, limestone parlor-floor entrances; opposite these seeming brick palaces , Bruce Price and Clarence Luce applied a Georgian model, of buff-colored brickwork and white stone ornamental detailing to create pleasing rhythms; and on the confluent, south block front, again via a Georgian-derived theme, James Brown Lord employed red-brick and brownstone exterior materials, as a deeper coloration, and then, when blending handsome wrought-iron balconies and understated stonework medallions, a counterpoint vocabulary developed, as a simple, dignified continuous façade.

Next, walk a bit farther west to St. Nicholas Avenue, which runs along St. Nicholas Park (home to the City College campus and George B. Post’s tower), and to the campus’ north edge, is West 141st Street, where the Hamilton Heights Historic District amalgam, begins. Situated on Alexander Hamilton’s estate—his farmhouse, the Grange, remains as is—this north central Harlem one-time Bradhurst family fiefdom was entirely rustic until the Ninth Avenue IRT Elevated Railroad nudged the northern city limits in 1880.

While there are several worthy early 20th-century luxury apartment houses, of particular interest (here or anywhere) are Hamilton Terrace’s plethora of architecturally significant, bow-front row houses, spanning Convent Avenues (208-298 Convent Avenue), as well as two noteworthy town-house rows, along north and south West 141st Street, in the Convent-to-Amsterdam Avenues mid-block. And the Sugar Hill Historic District includes the St. Nicholas Place extension, which is short and sweet, and so are the Landmark designation notes on their importance:

“The use of uniform block fronts of equal heights provides a strong cohesive
element, while individuality of approach prevents the area from succumbing to
monotony. The basic simplicity and elegance of the houses supports this dominating
sense of quiet refinement.”

There are four subway stations just a few block walk. But there is also a leisurely, scenic bus route is the number M5, which starts on West 178th Street and Broadway. It begins an 11-mile journey to New York Harbor. The route charts Riverside Drive south from West One-Hundred-Thirty-Fifth Street, on West Seventy-Second Street, crossing two blocks to Broadway, it continues south on Broadway for 11 blocks, circles Columbus Circle, then by traversing Central Park South to Grand Army Plaza and turning south, it becomes a Fifth Avenue bus. At Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park, the M5 heads east along East Eighth Street for two blocks, and then returns to Broadway, and continues due south for the last two miles.

Or

If that seems too much to take on—because of time, weather constraints, or disinterest in walking the distances—stroll around a condensed Midtown (presumably somewhat more convenient) as a substitute tour. Navigating Manhattan assists to discover extraordinary pockets among Manhattan’s 52 blends of historical or architectural diverse and neighborhoods. For example—Murray Hill Historic District has an enormous dwelling varieties juxtaposed within a compact, four-block-by-two-avenue-square area. This includes:

  • The Morgan mansion
  • Numerous remarkable historic town houses
  • Significant row-house blocks
  • Notable pre- and post-war luxury apartment houses on Park and Madison Avenues
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Park Avenue club headquarters converted to residential usage
  • An early corner French flats building, on East 39th Street, at Lexington Avenue
  • A livery mews, Sniffen Court, on East 36th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues

L’envoi

Now that you are here, the finale is to kick-back in order to take a step back, before going full circle to begin at Step One. Before setting your search parameters, the Personal Planners items, (in Additional Helpers), take all the necessities into account—from a seller or buyer prospective). Completing the info, including financial aspects, will cover ownership and dwelling type, isolate the part of town and multiple-family services and amenities you would prefer.

You discovered tips and hints throughout our guidelines, and if you have a stick-to-it mindset—an affinity for fact-checking and attention to details, that right mix of intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness while exploring, and pain-staking tenacity throughout the hunt—then your time and effort put in will make the magic difference. And it will come to pass, when you come across what it is you want, you’ll sell or become a Manhattan property owner. Good Luck.